My Poem: "For Mrs Q" Live at Fireside!

I wrote this poem years ago, and it’s published in the last issue of Fireside that my dear Julia Rios edited.

This was also the last issue I narrated, and so you have MOI reading it to VOUS, should you desire such things.

I wrote it for my good and darling friend Stephanie Shaw specifically, and for my dark-eyed women generally.

Please click through to enjoy For Mrs. Q. It’s best read aloud. Perhaps with a glass of red wine, or an interesting beet juice mocktail with Worcestershire in it.

…I was going to work and saw a cardinal, bold in the last browns of winter — a cardinal, I thought, how red, how right, I will write and tell her that I thought of her, that I saw something dashing in the deadness and it reminded me of her, how her mouth leaves a lasting impression, like Nabokov, like a bright scar on the brain, how I always think of her in a red coat, with a red mouth, wearing turquoise Italian heels, carrying a yellow ukulele…

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Doctors Without Borders and Heifer International

I missed blogging about Desdemona’s Tithe for November, and I’m two days late in December, but here were our tithes:

Doctors Without Borders
Full Moon Tithe: November 12th

Heifer International
Full Moon Tithe: December 12th

Click through to read more about Desdemona’s Tithe.

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For Amal, on her 35th Birthday

it started with honey

when suddenly–
everything was honey! dripped
golden, licked sweet
everywhere were
tongues, everywhere
bees buzzing, perpetual
your lips pollen-
kissed, your dimple gold-
dusted, and even your clothes
honeycombed, stitched
with stingers

but that was then, in the

next came the owls

owls: with faces of
flowers, owls:
speaking in the tongues of suns and
moons, owls:
in their strega forms, hurtling
with the silent impact of

all we spoke of were owls
spoke in whispers
whispered your name

there were diamond oceans, too
as you plumbed the depths of Neptune
gems of dream then, gems of
philosophers and cinnamon
sticks, tricks with
time, tricky women
wizard nations
whirling in thunderheads of birds

now (even now), the red shift and the
belong to you
cardinal and titmouse, poppy and iris
fire opal, Eagle nebula
all reorder themselves
according to your fountain’s

this is how you bend the light,
my beauty,
this is how you stride the sky

every year, a new virus of
every year, ascension
rocket propulsion
startled arms outflung in hurtling spirals
more and more of what you love
you, who only grow in tenderness
your dark eyes
ever steady in their ready beam
like they were back your cradle years
before I knew you


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Housekeeping Post: Awards Eligibility for Desdemona and the Deep

Helllooooo there! I keep seeing these things pop up, and so: voila! AWARDS POST!

The only thing of mine that has come out this year (I think) is Desdemona and the Deep.

With regards to the Nebula word count requirements, I believe it would be considered a leeetle novel.

I think if it were to be considered for any other award–Locus, Hugo, or World Fantasy–it would be considered a novella (as it was written to be one), though I did a slip or two of the fingers in the editing stage and WHOOPS went my word count.

If thou’rt of a mind to do’t, go ye forth and READ my Des, and then–should she please thee, Phossy Gals et al–go on and give her a GREAT GOBLIN GOB OF VOTAGE RIGHT WHERE THE GOBBIN GETS GOOD!


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My Completely Idiosyncratic Reaction Upon Finishing Gideon the Ninth

i.e., I’m a big weirdo, and I keep getting weirder. Thankfully, Carlos Hernandez was there to bear witness, and so all is not lost but preserved for the archives.

Yours Truly,

C. S. E. Cooney


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Gaskell’s North and South

I am having TOO MUCH FUN reading Mrs. Gaskell’s NORTH AND SOUTH. I must go on reading despite a (medically contained) headache. I do keep jumping up to tell Carlos things I am noticing or reading bits aloud to him.

I first discovered Elizabeth Gaskell in my mid-late 20s, in my Chicago aerie, having been given (by my doughty Mima) a VHS copy of WIVES AND DAUGHTERS, which I finally watched one day whilst dying of the flu and supping myself silly on Mrs. Shaw’s Italian sausage soup—which is full of garlic.

Later, in Rhode Island, in my early 30’s, my mama Sita and I came across the Cranford DVDs at our beloved Westerly library.

Upon learning that both of these class-spanning, intellectually curious, women-complex series were based on books by the same person—a woman!—Charlotte Brontë’s friend AND BIOGRAPHER!—I sought out the books and read them.

I know, I know. I came to this knowledge late. I am ashamed of what I never learned in school. Surely this novel must’ve come as second nature to EVERYONE ELSE I KNOW.

Reading these books, I comprehended what the TV adaptions had hinted at: that Gaskell was what I’d been wanting for years without knowing it. Someone I loved more than Austen or the Brontës! Someone who was taking a complex look at societies in her time—all levels of society—how they mingled, how technology and industry were changing everything, the sleepy habits of centuries. Her characters embody the shifting landscapes; the landscapes are characters too.

I’ve always meant to make a thorough study of Gaskell, so if any of you know any good biographies…?

Recently, I watched the NORTH AND SOUTH series, which I’d been meaning to for a long time. I knew suddenly that the hour was upon me, for it involved a factory—I surmised from the previews—and a factory plays such a large part in my current wip, I WILL MAKE A RUIN OF MYSELF. I wanted some architectural visuals, with moving parts, so I sat down to it.

It was wonderful, wonderful—or so I thought! But about halfway through the series, I read a comedic article about all the ways in which the series failed the book—which really spurred me to get the book. (Yes, from the Savoy Bookshop!)

I still loved the series though, and will revisit it.

And, really, the book is extraordinary. What a place to start from in the character of Margaret Hale: this sleepy, shallow, luminous creature—likable but SHAKEABLE!—whom pain and travel and curiosity and good sense must awaken. Childlike, and constrained to feelings of guilt and shame to find that not only is she growing up, but she’s more grown up than her parents! What an iron core she has, and doesn’t even know it yet. How I want to throttle her.


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Nerdy Nerdy Hot Sauce Post!

HOT SAUCE UPDATE: please put your own suggestions in the comments!

PHOTO 1: Carlos and I loved ALL these depicted, need to order more. ETA: ORDERED MORE.

Queen Majesty: (ALL their Hot Sauces ROCK!) Jalapeño Tequila & Lime Hot Sauce; Scotch Bonnet & Ginger Hot Sauce; Red Habanero & Black Coffee Hot Sauce
Pirate’s Lantern (I am on BOTTLE #4 of Pirate’s Lantern, hot mustardy, not sweet, amazing with lox)
Small Axe Peppers: The Bronx Greenmarket

PHOTOS 2-5: Our current “stable” of hot sauces: will order several again. Particularly the Apple Cilantro by Pepplish Provisions and the Charcoal Ghost (another Queen Majesty Hot Sauce: the best ghost pepper of all of the ones we’ve tasted.

Funken Hot” by Karma Sauce is Great! We really like Howler Monkey too! And we TOTES ADORE “Alex’s Ugly Sauce

PHOTO 6: BLECH! DID NOT LIKE, COULD NOT FINISH. Burnt or sour or weird-tasting. But the bottles are funny, so we are keeping them to make something later!

Tee hee. “Rectum Ripper.” Tee hee.

PHOTO 7: Next up to try! The HEATONIST’s latest Trio Pack!

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Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market: A Dramatic Reading

When my book Desdemona and the Deep came out in July from, Carlos and I conceived of the idea of doing an “Influences” video. Namely, a dramatic reading of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market.”

I got in contact with Omar Rayyan, the renowned artist, whose art I’ve loved for years (it’s all over our walls), and who recently illustrated a gorgeous edition of Goblin Market: also found here (Indiebound) and here (Amazon).

With the artist’s permission, I’ve used his illustrations in my narration.

It took a LOT LONGER to edit (being a total n00b in these matters) than I’d anticipated–even with Carlos’s help. Carlos has so much on his plate–the darling–but he found time to help me even with his second novel for Disney Hyperion due. HE COMPOSED THE SCORE FOR ME TOO!

I want to thank Kiri (AKA photographer Marie O’Mahony), who first read Christina Rossetti to me, possibly on the floor of my mother’s bathroom, when we were kids; somehow we often ended up in there, reading Shakespeare or long-form poetry. I think because both doors locked and we could escape my brothers?

I also want to thank writers, poets, friends, and goddesses Amal El-MohtarJessica Wick, and Caitlyn Paxson for running Goblin Fruit Magazine for so many years; I mention the magazine in the intro and outro both, for love.

Much love,

C. S. E. Cooney


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PAPER: An Ae Freislighe on the Eve of Our 2nd Anniversary

For Carlos Hernandez

I shall try a new form, I think. First: because it will amuse my beloved; second: because forms are hard–and because a level-up challenge seems particularly appropriate at this moment–this very moment–when I am at my ease, and he is sitting perpendicular from me on this L-shaped couch, racing time to finish the last chapters of his novel; third, because I want to.

Here are the rules to the Ae Freislighe form, (pronounced  “ay fresh-lee”) from which I have copied a little below.

  • Quatrain stanzas (4-line stanzas)
  • 7 syllables per line
  • Lines 1 and 3 rhyme together, but they rhyme as three syllables (xxa)
  • Lines 2 and 4 rhyme together as two syllables (xb)
  • The final syllable, word, or line of the entire poem should be the same as the entire poem begins (the poetic term for this is dunadh)
  • Poem can be as concise as one stanza and scale out as far as a poet wishes to push it

PAPER: Ae Freislighe

Autumn is our cityscape
Last-gasp roses, gutter leaf
Monster mask and witty jape
Hot wind, sly rainfall’s mischief

You, near, lounging: ankles crossed
Haircut I gave you grown out
Brows drawn, in prose-tangles lost
Coffee enough to drown doubt

Book: this pressure in your chest
Book: released and billowing
Book: your labor and your quest
Book: high-burning, slow-glowing

Soon I’ll read it page to page
Then–done, turned in, time for us
Work outlives us, age to age
Long after we’ve gone to dust

Tender, our shared history
Over the rest, gently drape
This scrim of dim mystery
Autumn is our cityscape


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Citymeals on Wheels

This month’s DESDEMONA’S TITHE is to Raices, and it comes due on the full moon–which is in about 11 days. That is coming, but it is not today’s work.

The other day, Carlos and I got a letter from Citymeals on Wheels. Perhaps it is because I have been writing to both of my living grandmothers more lately, and feeling the fragility of all our lives so keenly. I should have written them more often, for years. When Gene died, I regretted not writing to him more often, not calling him because I was never very good on the phone–though he was! Oh, I regretted many things.

Anyway, what caught my eye about the Citymeals on Wheels letter was that, included in the text asking for help with delivering meals to homebound elders during the holidays, was a placemat, with a line on it where one can sign one’s name. A beautiful sort of personal touch, I thought.

I approached Carlos rather tentatively and asked if we could maybe sign it in memory of his mother. A delicate question, you may well imagine.

He stopped what he was doing (making music), got up from his synthesizer, and hugged me. That was answer enough.

Emma would feed people. Emma always fed people. And so will we, in her name.


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