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…
when suddenly– everything was honey! dripped golden, licked sweet everywhere were tongues, everywhere bees buzzing, perpetual summertime hovering your lips pollen- kissed, your dimple gold- dusted, and even your clothes honeycombed, stitched with stingers
but that was then, in the beginning
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 grief
all we spoke of were owls (wereowls) spoke in whispers whispered your name
there were diamond oceans, too as you plumbed the depths of Neptune gems of dream then, gems of memory philosophers and cinnamon sticks, tricks with time, tricky women wizard nations whirling in thunderheads of birds
now (even now), the red shift and the blue belong to you cardinal and titmouse, poppy and iris fire opal, Eagle nebula all reorder themselves according to your fountain’s stroke
this is how you bend the light, my beauty, this is how you stride the sky
every year, a new virus of loveliness every year, ascension rocket propulsion startled arms outflung in hurtling spirals encompassing 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
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!
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.
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.
When my book Desdemona and the Deep came out in July from Tor.com, 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 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.
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.