Art Inspired By Art 2: Artists Around the Internet Inspired by Betsie Withey, Textile Artist

Continuing yesterday’s post with more Art inspired by Betsie Withey’s Art . . .

Witch’s Gift
By Livia Langley

She whispered
As her fingers caressed
My hair, tied
Her velvet-soft soul into it,
“Is the whole of me.
Do with it
Whatever you wish.”
My witch’s smile was
Overflowing with love,
And as honey and moonlight
Dripped from it,
Nectarine-tasting tears
Slipped from mine as I
Pressed my velvet-soft lips to hers.
What would I have done
If she had not accepted them?
Much as my heart wanted to leap
Out of my ribs, my tender flesh,
And into her throat,
I could not give her my heart, my soul in the same way
Without tearing, crushing, burning, and breaking hers
In the process.
It never came to that.
It never will come to that.









By Fran Wilde
Author of Updraft, Cloudbound, and Horizon

In my dream I have a gown
of thistles and moss lit by fireflies.
The hem swooshes a wooded path
as bats swoop the gloaming.

My shoes are felt and berry-bound
they mar no ground, they break no quiet.

And in my hair, flowers ring the seasons’ changes as I circle the earth once, thrice, fifty times, more. In my dream, my gown wears thin

and I patch it with spider’s webs
and morning mist.

In my dream I keep walking, my felt shoes spare,
my feet hardening to earth.
But the fireflies linger and dance
and the flowers go to seed
and when I reach the place where I meant to go?
My gown trails winter with it, and the mist swirls
And one purple petal falls to the snow.


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Betsie Withey Brings the Mystery to Westerly: Perelandra and the Living Hat Exhibit

Dear World,

In honor of Betsie Withey’s debut as one of three Featured Artists at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery of Westerly in July, I asked some of her friends and fans to send pieces inspired by her art, or even just their favorite pictures of themselves wearing her art!

I’ve also, as you will see below, KIPPED DIRECTLY from Betsie’s FACEBOOK ART PAGE ITSELF! With her permission, of course.

Betsie, at ACGOW. “Putting it together” as the song goes.

This friends & fans project–last minute as it’s been–has gone, as you can well imagine, ABSOLUTELY SPLENDIDLY

Of course, much has depended on who was home JUST NOW and at leisure to write me poetry and flash fiction all in a rush, and send me their favorite Betsie flower pictures–etc–but I’ve been very excited about the response so far.

Hopefully, I can keep adding to this blog as they keep coming in!


There’s Betsie again, and our other roommate Jessica Wick–poet, authoress, editor, Goblin Queen.

The show opens the first Friday of July! July 7th! 5-8 PM! Other featured artists include photographer Deborah Napalitano and watercolorist Lizbeth McGee!

Perelandra, my large textile art dress is back on display! With a skirt of now 900 free motion embroidered leaves, it is an ever-continuing labor of love.” – Betsie Withey

About the Artist:

Betsie Withey creates fiber art, knitwear, and large scale textile art/sculptural dresses and hats.  With degrees in both Fashion Design and Fine Arts, Betsie creates magical clothes and accessories.   Her inspiration comes from nature, including all manner of leaves, flowers, roots, and other organic shapes, as well as from folklore, fashion and costume history.

“Here is a design I made specifically for the show: a new philodendron leaf scarf made of all the deep, jewel-toned jungle green silks I could find!”


“An abundance of colorful, patterned, textured leaves.”




Fire in the Fiber
By Carlos Hernandez
Author of The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria

Pinch the air, and pull.
The spasming thread between
your thumb and finger is made
of the quiet everyday lightning
alive in every green in the world.
It jumps like a cat by the tail, the thread.
With a flick you toss it into your
open palm, and there, sizzling
with the life you borrowed from life
it settles into the shape of your imaginings:
a leaf-seeming, a flower-not-quite,
fungus-felt bright with its alien reasoning.
None live themselves, for only gods of death
bother with breath. Instead, you make the living
pause, and blink, and remember that
this world that will kill them is beautiful.


“Sewing embroidered leaves on to scarves. I always love making things in bright colors, but I feel like making something brown and green next. Something with a color palette straight out of an enchanted forest.” – Betsie Withey


by Christa Carmen
AKA “Queen of Horrors: Rhode Island”

Inspired by Betsie Withey’s Venus Flytrap Headband/Clip/Embroidered Silk Fascinator

The girl slipped from the shadows like a wraith, squinting in the sunlight and shrinking back from the first of the revelers to come close enough to bump her, wondering why she’d made the journey into town in the first place.

She affixed a somewhat-smile to her face and stepped forward, if not to mingle with the crowd than at least to blend in with it. The first person to approach her, and comment on the unique Venus flytrap piece she wore pinned in her hair was a young girl, not much more than eight years old.

“What a cool headband? Did you get it here at the festival?”

She shook her head, trying not to scowl. “I did not.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“A faerie princess gave it to me.”

“A real princess?”

“No, not a princess. A faerie princess.”

She tried to put some distance between herself and the child, but when she turned to admire some succulents, growing from the spaces between tall wooden slats, there was the child again, stubborn, persistent, inquisitive.

“Could you take me to the faerie princess so that I could get an alien flower for my hair too?”

She sighed. “I cannot. Where is your mother? Shouldn’t she be minding you, keeping you from talking to strangers?”

The little girl looked around. “I think she’s talking to old Mrs. Pennywise. Besides, I’m eight now. I’m allowed to mingle with strangers in the park.”

She was about to comment that she did not imagine this was how childhood worked, when she was granted a view straight across the park, where a tall woman who resembled the child spoke animatedly to a bonneted old lady.

“Come with me,” she said.

“Where are we going?”

“I’m taking you to see the faerie princess as you desire.”

The little girl hooted with delight, and followed close behind, until they reached the spot where the sidewalk led again into shadow.

“Look down there,” she told the little girl, and pointed into the darkened alley.

“Where? Is the faerie princess down there?”

“She is.” She leaned closer to the little girl, gauging the moment when the child would stray completely into shadow.

“Closer,” she commanded. “Closer…”

The Venus flytrap threaded through her hair snapped up the child, dispensing with her in single swallow.

She straightened, and dusted off her hands.

“Very well,” she said. “It seems I won’t have to suffer the festival long to have found a suitable sacrifice for the faerie princess after all. She will be so very, very pleased. ”

And with that, she gave herself over to the shadows, the Venus flytrap whistling a jaunty tune atop her head.


Praise for Carmen’s OFFERINGS FOR A FAERIE PRINCESS: “It’s sweet. I liked the part where the girl was eaten.” – Carlos Hernandez, author of The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria.


Megan Swanson

Mother of 3
Master Knitter!



Of Perelandra and the Smile
By Elizabeth Paxson

The days of Perelandra ticked as
hour on hour fine leaves were stitched
Ms. Betsie Withey’s fingers pricked
to bleeding yet the dress took shape
leaf on leaf the form was draped
until her masterpiece was done,
a forest poised as if to walk
in tendriled glory filled the space
while an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile
danced upon the artist’s lovely face
and she replied,
just one more leaf!


A Rose in Horns
By C. S. E. Cooney

They say that roses grow from thorns
Though some might disagree
A rose might well arise from horns
As is the case with me



For more information on Betsie Withey’s art, visit her


Filed under Uncategorized


As I sat, contemplating the name “Lobotomy by Sneezing” for a new band name, after a particularly impressive expulsion of particulate, Hernandez is sitting across from me at the kitchen table, imagining out loud–in verse–“IMPRESSIONISTS! THE MUSICAL!”

A few minutes after I announce to Facebook that THIS was a THING, his comment pops up on my thread:

“You need more art lessons
to make more than impressions!”
the cri-tics say.

But I’d burn every canvas
if I painted their lame-ass
re-DUC-tive way!

They’ve studied art hist’ry
and think they know how to see
the whole of reality:
they announce, “Iife is Tromp l’ouie!”
and poo-poo creativity!

But friends, they’re not right
about the nature of light.
They’ve com-PLETE-ly missed

that the eye must arrange
from our eyes to our brains
like Impressionists!

The eye, dot by dot,
gives importance to what
we can see or cannot;
And thus it’s our lot
to perceive in gestalt!

So to our fine critics,
whose ideas, like emetics,
make OUR gorge rise,

we say keep your traps shut
and do shut the fuck up
till you DON’T spout lies.

But now open your eyes
to the wondrous surprise
of the pigments and dyes
that your retina descries
in the world, color-wise!

Yes, let us be all color-wise.
Yes, let us be all color-wise!”


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This Morning? Children of the World, Being Awesome

I read two great articles today, and I wanted to point your attention to them:

One, Irish News, features a piece about refugee children in Greece collaborating to make a book of fairy tales with Brazilian journalist Debora de Pina Castiglione and her sister Beatriz.

I just went and bought the book on Amazon.

The other one, also about awesome young humans, features an ALL GIRLS TEEN ENGINEERING TEAM called DIYgirls (!!! OMG !!! THEY HAVE A WEBSITE!) creating a solar-powered tent for homeless people. This was on NPR, all praise due.

These articles filled me with a fierce hope.

And now, if you will excuse me, I must go read more about DIYgirls, Making Cool Stuff with Science.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

WisCon 2017: In 2 Distinct Parts

Cons. First you put your foot in you mouth. Then you put on a concert.


Our caravan arrives in Madison early Friday afternoon. Finding the hotel was tantamount to negotiating a labyrinth. Registration, bathroom, so on.

Out in the lobby, there is a sudden hubbub of greetings and lunch invitations. I hear someone call my name, I turn and greet my friend . . . But not by her name. By the name of another friend. Yeah.


Worse, I panic. And when she says, “Don’t worry about it,” I’m all like, “No, but I know your name, it’s . . . ” (I have known her for going on five years at least; I’ve been to her readings, watched her on panels, read her articles. I’m a FAN!) “It’s . . . ”



Anyway, I’m an idiot. I felt awful about it all weekend. I would not have hurt this woman’s feelings for the world; I’d’ve cut my tongue out first.

It’s the sort of thing I’m afraid of happening ALL THE TIME. And then it does. The proverbial ax! THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES, snapped free of its dental floss.

It’s different when you’re my grandmother, and all your children AND grandchildren are sort of interchangeable, and you EXPECT to be understood when you call someone “Rosie-Mary-Sho-Therese-Danielle-Suzie-Claire” at any given summoning.

But when you’re not a supercute Mima who is nearly 90 and the Italian Matriarch of four fine generations, it’s just a big ol’, as I have come to call it, FLUSTERF@&K. My ears felt like they were underwater and so did my lungs, and I got all clammy, and maybe in another universe I drowned or something. Or at least SOAKED MY HEAD. As I deserved.

Episode 1 GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Even now, thinking of it, I want to go hide in my closet. Preferably with a chocolate bar and a good book. But no, that would be rewarding execrable behavior… DOH. I die. Cleaver, meet spleen.)


After that, a few of us went out to lunch, so that was all right.

I didn’t eat anything at that DIVINE Nepalese restaurant, alas. This, because I had about 3 billion tacos for breakfast.

But I did get to sit by Amal El-Mohtar (one of this year’s GUESTS OF HONOR) (I mean, anyone who’s reading this will know that already, right?) (but she’s my friend so I’ll say it again in all caps . . .  THE GUEST OF HONOR: MY AMALFACE!) and go over our setlist for that night. This was great, because, um.


Total rehearsal time? 35 minutes.

Photo Credit: Katie Redding

Earlier, in discussing with Jessica P. Wick (my roommate, Amal’s best friend) how best to plan a concert one didn’t know one was even doing until a few weeks ago, and with the GUEST OF HONOR no less, Jess suggested that I do everything in my power to lower the pressure on Amal.

See, Amal had to travel all the way from a different country, after finishing up comps for her PhD, winning a Nebula Award, and then trundling over to Madison to do all the GUEST OF HONOR things like be on panels and give speeches and PRESIDE OVER A HONEY TASTING. That’s enough to do on a to do list, and I didn’t even mention all the papers she had to grade.

So I put together a setlist called “Brim and Star.” The latter, because that’s one of my nickname’s for Amal (after Emily of New Moon) (and also because she’s a luminous body), and the former because it’s short for my imaginary rockstar name “Brimstone Rhine.”

The set list went like this:

OPENING SONG: The Grand Finale of Mister Fox

POEM: Apple Jack Tangles the Maidy Lac with a Red, Red Ribbon

SONG: Black Widow’s Waltz

POEM: On the Division of Labour

SONG: Lady Knight / Pale Lady

POEM: Pieces

SONG: Foxgirl Song Cycle 1

POEM: Song for An Ancient City

SONG: Sisters Lionheart

POEM: Winter Tree

SONG: Rose’s Garden

POEM: No Poisoned Comb

SONG: Medea’s Dragon

Photo Credit: Randee Dawn

POEM: Turning the Leaves

SONG: After the Rapture

POEM: New Ways

SONG: Daft Jamie


Photo Credit: Katie Redding

Other fine things?

Being on a panel with Amal and Max Gladstone, moderated by K Tempest Bradford, about collaboration. That was really funny. And the chairs were SUPER COMFORTABLE. The comfiest panel I’ve ever been on.

Photo Credit: John O’Neill

Until, that is, we had to start answering questions about the DARK SIDE of collaboration. Nah, okay, it was still great.

I also got to do a group reading–we called it THE FOUR MUSKETEERS–with Jeanine Marie Vaughne, Randee Dawn, and S Brackett Robertson.

Jeanine and Randee read excerpts from their novels (haunted dolls!) (warring Fae!); Brackett read an excerpt from a short story about trolls, tolls, and friendship; and I read from “Though She Be But Little,” forthcoming in Uncanny Magazine this July.

Photo Credit: Katie Redding


What with the delicious meals, catching up with John O’Neill and Brendan Detzner and Karen Meisner (I know we were supposed to nap, Karen, and I babbled instead, so thank you for your time, and I adore you), meeting new people or people I’ve only met on Facebook (walking with Amy Scheiderman to the concert!), the panels I managed to attend, Amal’s gorgeous reading (she read “Seasons of Glass and Iron”–WAAAAHHHH!!!–and then she and Max read from their collaborative novella–WAAAAAHHHH!!!–and it was so good. So great and good), and all the hours I got to spend with three fabulous girlfriends in our hotel room, it was a beautiful time.

Photo Credit: Katie Redding

Also, I bought an Elise Matthesen necklace. GULP. It’s called OUR LADY OF STORMS. It’s all labradorite. And it’s three necklaces in one.

I’ve been on major con burn-out since last year, so WisCon is the last con I’m planning on attending for the foreseeable future.

I may change my mind, but the deep relaxation I feel right now at the thought of never going to another one EVER AGAIN must be nurtured.

Gene Wolfe took me to my first con in 2002. I’ve been going for 15 years, some years to multiple conventions. It’s time, it’s money, it’s work–and yet it’s “supposed” to feel like vacation. And you know? I’d rather go on vacation. Go see a friend in one of those distant lands they live in. Spend three quality days with them alone, not surrounded and busy.

For this year anyway, I’m done with cons.

This was a bright star to end on.

Bye GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Murderbot, Murderbot, I LOOOOVE YOU!!! YES, I DOOOO!

JUST FINISHED ALL SYSTEMS RED (The Murderbot Diaries), by Martha Wells.

My Amazon review:


I think I knew I’d love Murderbot from the moment I read the word “Murderbot.” And then I read the first paragraph and was ineradicably hooked.

I’m already a huge fan of Martha Wells, and she’s one of those authors who just keeps getting better and better. (Who’d have thought I’d like another book as well as the Raksura books? BUT I AM SO GLAD!)

This is a refreshingly frank, only partly human, first-person protagonist, up to its armored joints in a violent, complex, deeply stressful situation. It manages–by dint of wry humor, confessional asides, and old familiar habits (like watching a lot of entertainment media when it should be doing its SecSystem work–to keep us enormously entertained and concerned for the outcome of all characters throughout the story.

I loved it so much! MAY THERE BE MANY MORE!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

5 Faces of the Lord of May: Anniversary Poems for Carlos Hernandez

1. sungod

red to the touch
slathered in
no lake can
quench you
nor bog
cool you
see, the denim of your jeans is
burnt away
all your clothes are merely
scorch marks

2. jongleur

sing me songs of
i will shower you in
all my copper kisses
largesse to this populace
of one

tie up my ribbons
in the back
i will fasten on your mask
let us make our carnival
every day
a parade

3. ravenboy

caw-caw cartwheel
tumbleweed tumble me
caper caper play steal
frocktail feathercoat
wing sing tickle giggle
black-beak black-velvet
peck peck sand stride
glossy buss busy kiss
grin shiver fly

4. canaryprince

i meet the canary prince at a fairy hop, where he points up and says plaintively, “i always trust a dance hall with a disco ball, don’t you?” i happen to agree, and make him a curtsey as curtesy demands of me, declaring, “dare you dance?”

a canary prince, they say, dares the devil, fine as any fellow in yellow silk, and he confides, “i can moonwalk to michael jackson all the way out the door,” which indeed he proceeds to do as smooth as the silver pour of milk with which our queen cools her tea.

no one has danced so backwards since ginger rogers joined our fête–it’s splendid!–and i tell him so, taking up his hands and twirling him about, all his hollow bones light and precise like piccolo trills.

he is the smell of limoncello and green brocade; a topaz grows on his forehead where i kissed him last we danced.

“so you remember me?” i ask, and he murmurs that memory into spanish moss hung round with spiders, curtaining our private tenderness from their prying gaze.

5. magnolia

i think of you in the first blossoms
forsythia, dogwood, magnolia
the circus-hearted tulip, the bashful violet

you are the ever-flowering tree
the year-round blossom

those heart’s blood petals you scattered on my pillow
I remember them still
unbruised and fragrant
warm as skin

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

WisCon Schedule


Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Fri, 4:00–5:15 pm Conference 2
Moderator: K. Tempest Bradford, Amal El-Mohtar.
Participants: Julia Starkey, K. Tempest Bradford, Amal El-Mohtar, C. S. E. Cooney , Max Gladstone

Amal El-Mohtar has a history of collaborating with likeminded souls, from editing a poetry zine to performing with a troupe of writer/musicians to co-writing fiction and beyond. How is it possible to discover fellow travelers and co conspirators across space and time(zones)? What are the benefits of such long distance collaborations, and how do different kinds of collaborative projects come together?

Music & Miscellania
Fri, 9:00–10:15 pm Michelangelos

Participants: C. S. E. Cooney , Amal El-Mohtar

Come and enjoy a musical extravaganza concocted by bewitching sensations Amal El-Mohtar and C.S.E. Cooney. Their repertoire includes singing, musical instruments of undisclosed types, moderate mayhem and poetry.

The Four Musketeers (Reading)
Sat, 10:00–11:15 am Conference 4

Participants: C. S. E. Cooney , Randee Dawn, S. Brackett Robertson, Jeanine Marie Vaughn

The Four Musketeers come together to tell tales of trolls, pirates, fae warfare, haunted dolls, and shadowspirits.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

For Every Word You Speak, A Flower


for Julia Rios


sister, when you


it is spring


lilacs sunning at the



bumblebee, tender

trellising of



listen! there are


in your voice, my darling

mossy nooks and

depths of grape



a grin of maneless


gathers yellow

at your throat

you declaim in garlands



say on, O


of this kindly



convoke dew-

struck meadows of




Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ghosts in the Groove: A Long Day’s Journey Into Night and Other Weekend Adventures

All last week I worked on a SECRET PROJECT that I’m sure I’ll be allowed to mention soon (when? WHEN? I dunno. But SOON!). Monday-Thursday. At home, right there in my study. SELF-MOTIVATIONS GALORE!

I really wanted to be done by Thursday evening, when Hernandez would be trundling in from New York, and we got really down to the RAPTUROUS ADVENTURES OF THE WEEKEND.

Which included:

FRIDAY: “It crunched most satisfyingly.” 

An 11:35 AM showing of Beauty and the Beast at the Mystic Luxury Cinema! Julia Rios, joining us. She had already seen it, but she is a nuanced re-watcher, and it was Carlos’s and my first time.

An in-depth discussion ensued–what was impressive, what was missing, how it compared to both the animation and the Broadway musical iteration (both of which I am thoroughly conversant in).

How the moment Belle decides not to leave the Beast to the wolves is also the moment when she is no longer a prisoner, not truly. The shared love of books. The scene with the horse which I believe was lifted straight out of Robin McKinley’s book BEAUTY. The interestingly unhinged Gaston who manages to be just a leeetle too disturbing for a caricature. That moment with the wardrobe, when the youth, now dressed in a gown and cosmetics, instead of screaming and running like the others, smiles beatifically, and she urges him, “Be free!” Oh, and just . . . AUDRA MCDONALD!!! IN GENERAL! Yes, yes, and I’m probably not saying anything everybody else isn’t; I’m just late to the game, as usual.

The Mystic Luxury Cinemas, meanwhile, was beautiful. Small, with an old-fashioned feeling, and yet the seats were STATE OF THE ART.

I got good news in my email–some positive movement on my novel manuscript, nothing Earth-shattering or definitive, but movement AT LAST–while leaving the theatre.

In the general mayhem and dancing that ensued, Julia’s iPhone went FLYING, and then her heel went CRUNCHING, so we ended up piling into the car and driving into New London to drop it off for repair. Then we ate at the Olive Garden to celebrate.


Then we scooted back to Westerly for our First Friday open mic. It was, if I may say, just as fulfilling as the LAST ONE! Which had been the best thus far! We had barely five minutes left after all the wonderful readers/reciters to scoot over to the ACGOW and see the newest show, featuring Arlene Piacquadio and Kristie Foss. I LOVE ENCAUSTICS! AND POLYMER AND PORCELAIN!!!

SATURDAY: “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future, too.”

On Saturday, Hernandez and I went back to New London. Doctor Doctorpants was in need of PANTS, and Crystal Mall (we’d heard) was the place to GET THEM. We arrived early, just as the mall was opening, and had such good luck at the first store that we were out by 10 and a bit bewildered over how to wile the next five hours till our show started at three.

Oh, but I will tell you more of the show presently.

First, we went to Muddy Waters Cafe, right in the heart of New London. I knew the coffee would be really good there (for Carlos), and I knew they had sandwiches (for me). We had a delicious time eating and drinking. I read him another chapter of Bujold’s Memory. He’d mistaken his copy of Keramet Reiter’s 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement, which he is reading for short story research, for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is he reading to ME. So I said, “Read me a bit of 23/7!” I’ve already read it, because it was my honor to narrate it for Tantor Media last year. So he did, and it was just beautiful. Heartbreaking, but beautiful. That bit about the Soledad Brothers.

Then we stopped in at the Hygienic Art Gallery, just to see what was going on. And then we went to Ocean Beach Park, where we played video games at the Arcade and walked along the boardwalk and nature path. Then we went into the car, and I read him another chapter of Memory. (Yes, we like going on long walks and reading books. We’re like an ad. For something. Low blood-pressure, probably. Except–probably not, for we’re both highly excitable, and me, I have a temper. So it’s probably good I like relaxing things because otherwise my head would pop off.)

We had about 45 minutes left before 3–and our SHOW!!!–which was just five minutes away–so we hopped back over to Dev’s Bean and Bistro for a cuppa. Well, I had a cuppa. Hernandez had a diet coca cola.



Flock Theatre, presented in cooperation with the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, is putting on Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night–AT MONTE CRISTO COTTAGE, where Eugene O’Neill’s family spent their summers throughout his childhood and early adulthood. It’s the HOUSE where the PLAY actually TAKES PLACE.

Both the original and the extended run SOLD OUT before opening weekend! LUCKILY, I was on top of things, and bought tickets a month ago! Both for Hernandez and me, and later, for Sita and me on the 23rd, so I get to see it TWICE!

Boy, though. After this first time . . .

It was very good, very fine. But as my friend Anne Flammang (who plays Mary Tyrone) said in an email, “The play is too too, if you know what I mean.” (Italics my own.)

But talk about a HAUNTING. I tell you, I am very sad that “haunting” has become such a blurb-y short-cut of a soundbite to describe things, because it’s the perfect word now, and I don’t know how often it is.

Imagine it: the most autobiographical of O’Neill’s plays. Taking place in the actual room where the whole play takes place. In the house where he spent summers. Talk about actors endowing objects with intent? The entire HOUSE is an endowed object! That’s the first “haunting.”

The second “haunting” is the text itself. It’s a play where we see a single day of a family’s life, and we hear, in excruciating detail, and in looped repeat, all the old grievances played and replayed, the cycles of explosive temper, periodic affection, connection, repellent rappelling off one another, careening into darkness. From time to time a revelation. It reminded me of that old Melville Davisson Post quote from Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries:

“…It is the dead who govern. Look you, man, how they work their will upon us! Who have made the laws? The dead! Who have made the customs that we obey and that form and shape our lives? The dead! And the titles to our lands-have not the dead devised them?…If a surveyor runs a line he begins at some corner that the dead set up; and if one goes to law upon a question the judge looks backward through his books until he finds out how the dead have settled it-and he follows that. And all the writers, when they would give weight and authority to their opinions, quote the dead; and the orators and all those who preach and lecture-are not their mouths filled with words that the dead have spoken? Why, man, our lives follow grooves that the dead have run out with their thumbnails!”

I think I read that quote in a Neil Gaiman book somewhere, but I don’t remember where. American Gods? Anyway. It’s like that–we’re watching ghosts, following their painstaking, painful grooves. And we’re right there in the room with them. They look through us, past us, but they cannot see us. Maybe we’re the ghosts.

The third “haunting” is memory. O’Neill is writing his memories, but the characters themselves are all feeding on and bleeding out memory. You feel the characters, in their present, are so stuck in their pasts that they, in fact, have no future. Mary Tyrone says, at one point, “The past is the present, isn’t it? It’s the future too.” And THAT, as Hernandez noted, “is ghost talk.”

Oh, I am sure DISSERTATIONS UPON DISSERTATIONS have been written about this play, and I’ve not read a one of them. I read it on the page once, and studied it a little, back in high school. I remember coming away with the thought that O’Neill has no subtext. Everything is spoken. At length.

It works better on stage, out loud. I should have known!

It’s more of a symphony than a dramatic structure. The movements. The themes. The leitmotifs. Those moments of furious crescendo, fading to the specter of pianissimo. It was like watching music adapted to a different medium. Music without music.

I liked the fourth act best. It burst out shining and visceral. The wounds were, not old scar and memory, but fresh and raw. I do not think it could exist separate of the bulk and weariness of the first three acts, though. I must gird my loins to see it again.

I think my mother will love it.

Sunday: “Some things just get better and better and better than they’ve already been.”

Yesterday, Sunday, we began our writing retreat in this house by the sea. I can see the waters of Watch Hill from my window.

Yesterday, I gutted the first draft of Desdemona and the Deep. I wrote an outline, and fitted all the newly shattered jigsaw pieces into the order they shall be reappearing. And then I’ll rewrite the whole thing.

Hernandez is busy working on a short story, and line edits for the first third of his novel-in-progress. Last night we went to the Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingston, where there was swordfish and jambalaya and scallops ceviche.

We are very happy.


Filed under Uncategorized