The Footman’s Intent

She saw the footman

standing next to the house

to its right

bearing a lantern

to guide the traveler at night.

I don’t like it,

she told me as I laid her to bed.

I wondered what went on

in my six-year old’s head.

Why be frightened, my dear?

What is it that causes this fear

of an object so innocent,

so mundane?

Why did dark thoughts

dance through her brain?

I drove past that statue again

one night alone

and I saw what she saw

under the light of the full moon-

a lurking thing beside that home

a thing of the past, a relic

left in the weeds to roam,

its body bent forwards

ready to creep towards the house.

To do what?

To sneak in

silent, like a mouse?

So small and quiet

in a place where it did not belong.

I thought-that thing, if possessed, would be strong.

Yes, now I understood

what my child’s eyes had seen.

In the light of the moon

from that statue did gleam

something wicked

with a sinister intent

standing silently beside the house

ready and bent.

 

 

#FullMoonSocial Tonight! — Translations from the English

Big full harvest moon tonight. Let’s celebrate with another #fullmoonsocial! Any time after the moon rises (7:30 pm in my neck of the woods in Virginia) compose and post a poem and tag it #fullmoonsocial on WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I’ll try to keep up and re-post all the tagged poems I can find […]

via #FullMoonSocial Tonight! — Translations from the English

3 Things You Should Never Say to a Chef

There are three things you should never say to a chef. I know because I’m married to one…a very good one.

Let me give you a little backstory about my husband. He was born and raised in Rome, Italy and moved to New York City when he was twenty-one to train under the tutelage of his uncle, a well renowned chef and restaurateur who owned upscale restaurants in Manhattan. He then moved to France where he received his formal training at le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Upon graduating with honors he worked at many upscale restaurants throughout Europe before returning to NYC to work as an executive chef. Over the years he has won numerous awards and been featured in many magazines.

My husband and I met in early 2000, the dawn of the celebrity chef, the era of Iron Chef and Bobby Flay jumping on cutting boards.

Chefs were it. Everyone wanted to date a chef. I on the other hand could give a shit less. As a former ballet dancer, I was highly skilled in the art of not eating and contentedly subsisted on cigarettes, coffee and martinis.

I think the fact that I was not a “foodie” is partly what attracted him to me. He was constantly pestered by chef groupies. With me however, it was never about food.

The whole chef scene was not and has never been for him. He is quiet and dignified. Forget the recent MarketWatch story claiming that personal chefs, a gig he also had for a while, are some of the most arrogant people out there. My husband is humble. Make no mistake though. He is a highly skilled artist.

We have been together for sixteen years now, and the way people speak to my husband never ceases to shock, irritate and amuse me. Over these years I have learned that people take a very different approach when speaking with chefs about their work than they do with other professionals.   First of all, there seems to be an assumption that chefs want to constantly talk about their work and that anyone is free to approach them at any time to talk food. There also seems to be the notion that everyone can do what chefs do. I cannot tell you how often my husband gets cornered at the grocery store, the beach, on the sidewalk by people who want to talk food or, better yet, talk at him about food.

Of course my husband is very polite. He smiles. He nods. He gives up his time. But let’s be clear. He does not enjoy these conversations.

If you do want to talk to a chef about his work, here are three things you should never say:

You should watch insert name of Food Network star here.                                                                   Really? Why? Would you recommend to your psychiatrist that she watch Dr. Phil? The thing about celebrity chefs, with the exception of few, is that they cannot do what real, working chefs do. Yes, they can whip a nice beurre blanc on television, but can they serve 250 dinners, perfect dinners, in two hours? Can they ensure that the temperature on each filet mignon is correct? That the rare order comes out rare and not medium rare? That the medium is not served medium well? Most probably cannot. Can they make art while managing the kitchen staff? Can they handle the business end…budget, ordering, inventory? What can the celebrity chef teach the chef of over twenty years? New techniques? Trends? Truly expert chefs do that already. They continue to read, study, eat out, travel and learn. They do not need a television star to teach them.

I make the best insert name of dish here.                                                                                     Really? What then are you implying? If your veal roast is the best, then what about the chef’s? I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think that yours is the best; in fact, I think my buttered popcorn is far superior to my husband’s. However, I don’t feel the need to tell him.

You must come to my house for dinner, so you can try my insert name of the dish that you implied is better than the chef’s.                                                                                                            This happens. My husband has sat in homes and dined on many of the “best” dishes in the world. And guess what? He tells his lovely hosts and hostess that their dishes are, in fact, the best. Don’t delude yourselves. Your dishes are not the best. I have never heard my husband to claim that his dishes are the best. Your arrogance does not become you.

So before engaging in small talk with a chef, think for a moment. Ask yourself, “do I want to talk about my job right now?” Would I assume my attorney, my doctor or my child’s teacher would want to talk about work when she is on vacation? Please, this is not to say that chefs are antisocial. Speaking for my husband, I can say that he’d love to chat with you…about anything other than work. And please, do not hesitate to invite him over to your house for dinner, as long as what you’re serving is not the “best.” I can assure that it’s not… and that he would prefer to eat an overcooked burger and chips and enjoy honest conversation, as long as it’s not about food.

 

 

Can you blog and still be a decent person?

img_2812-writing

Lately, I have not posted much on my blog-not because of a lack of ideas or motivation.  I am not blocked.  I have written plenty of pieces.  It’s just that much of what I write is about the people I know-my daughter’s teacher, people I meet at the park where I take my children, family members, friends… My draft folder is full of pieces, some of which are not fully flattering representations of the people in my life.  I am afraid to share this work because I don’t want to hurt anyone.  Well, that’s partly true.  The other part of it is that I also don’t want to face the consequences of calling people out. So what happens is that I write and never publish.

As a writer I am feeling the burden of self-censorship.  When I hold back, the work is not true, not authentic.  When I let go and write without restraint, I feel uneasy, guilty and fearful that I have been hurtful and cruel.

This brings to mind a novel I read over the summer-Elizabth Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton.” There is a moment in the story when Sarah Payne, a writer and teacher tells the title character, “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write a piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”  If this is true, which I suspect it is, how do you write and remain a decent person?

Do you sacrifice feelings and relationships at the altar of good writing?  Is telling your story worth it? 

Blogging is a particularly tricky business because it is so personal. Usually, family and friends follow you. They read your posts and know who you are writing about.   Yes, I suppose that you can change the names of the people and places to protect their identities.  Really though, if I write about a teacher who gives too much homework but am careful to change her name, people who know me, who know my children, will be able to figure out who I am talking about or, given that I have two children, will be able to at least narrow it down to one of two people.

And while we’re on the subject…How do I write about my children and not steal their stories?  Of course our lives are inextricably linked, but aren’t their stories theirs to tell?  How much right do I have to discuss their lives, their struggles, their mistakes?   I do not feel that just because I am their mother, that I am in any way entitled to use their lives to further my writing. At what point am I stealing what is theirs?  The internet is full of mommy bloggers.  Sometimes I read what is out there and I wonder what their children will think when they grow up and read the stories their mothers posted about them.

Can we as writers find a balance between speaking truthfully and protecting others?  Should we?  Or should we just tell our stories, the truth as we see it?  Should we release ourselves from the shackles of censorship? If we do, can we still write and be decent people?

 

Weeds

IMG_2368 Weeds 2

You were so beautiful once.

Both delicate and strong.

No storm

be it wind nor snow

could harm you.

No drought nor torrent

could quell your spirit.

Nothing could destroy you

until the weeds slowly encroached upon your ground

and invaded your place

your peace.

IMG_2374 Weeds 5

They sprouted up

taking root

upon your roots

IMG_2371 Weeds 3

and weaved themselves

around you

through you

above you

IMG_2376 Weeds 4

and strangled you

like thoughts

dark and fearful.

IMG_2373 Weeds Pic 7

Thoughts as real as weeds

strangling the rose bush.

 

 

 

 

Silver Buck Moon

I saw you , Buck Moon,

holding court with the stars.

You were dazzling-

a cold silver queen

on a July eve.

Seated at the gates of eternity,

your radiant beams

like arms outstretched

touched the ground beneath my feet,

and I wondered-

if I were to join you for but a moment

to let you carry me to your realm

where I could stand at the entrance of eternal night

and look down to where I had been

and see the world

as you see it,

what would I learn?

To see it all from afar

would understanding come

with the clarity of a bolt of light

cutting through the black night?

And when I returned to this place,

how would it all be different?

 

 

 

 

 

Black Water Moccasin

Skinny, black water moccasin,

I see you

gliding beneath the surface

of shallow waters.

Your back skims the top

then you weave yourself

deeper into the green-brown water.

You weave yourself around legs

of oblivious waders.

You weave yourself around my heart,

which is now both pink and black.

Sometimes you pop your head out of the water.

Sometimes you pop up in the conversations

I have with myself

in my head.

You are a snarky little thing.

And you are clever

and you are angry

for so, so many reasons-

that you are a snake

(as if you had a choice in the matter)

that they think you are ugly

that they think you are dangerous

and  scary and cunning

and gross.

But mostly, you are angry

because they are right.

It is all true.

It is all true

and untrue.

Regardless, you don’t like them anyway.

Fuck them

and their arrogance

and their luck

and their ridiculous preference for shallow water.

And you remind me

that I also don’t like them anyway.

Fuck them.

It is all true and untrue

and you are angry

and I am angry.

You because you are not so awful.

Me because they have no idea how awful I am.

I am angry because

I wish they knew.

I wish they knew that as I am laughing and smiling

and chatting with them,

I chat with you

and mock their stupidity-

those vapid, dull, pretty, perfect shits.

You and I are pretty too

(in our own unconventional sort of ways)

and smart and cunning.

So carry on my somewhat creepy friend.

Swim the shallow waters.

Brush against their ankles.

They have no idea how close they are to you.

How close you are to them.

And I will carry on too-

carry with me my pink and black heart,

a duplicitous thing

talking to them, laughing with you.

They are too cruel to ever understand us.

 

 

 

 

Mists

If memory be a ship at sea

and the sea fog, time eternal

then let us hope

after we become shrouded by her cloak

and have sailed within her embrace

that when her mists are parted

and the sun casts her golden rays

those upon the shore

can see we are still here

that we have not disappeared

like vapor

into the great light.

 

 

 

 

 

My Grandparents’ House

In that house

remains my heart

as it was

so long ago,

and in my chest

I carry it,

that same heart,

as it is now-

worn and sad,

missing that part

that is there

in that place

which stands

inhabited by strangers

who have the audacity

to believe that house

is theirs.

Strangers

who live with my heart

beating still

for you.

*

Do they hear it

in the quiet hours

of the dark morning?

Do they feel you

who hold my heart

within your home?

Within those walls?

*

Are we there

still?

In the still of the night?

In the dark?

In the light

that chases ghosts away?

*

And if we are there still,

how can I be here

and you

so far away,

resting,

waiting for me to return

-home?

 

 

 

Reaching Limits

Unable to find the poetry as of late, I thought I’d take a crack at some short fiction….

Reaching Limits

By: Heather Nanni

Gretchen didn’t understand how anyone could drive that slowly. What would possess someone to pull into traffic at breakneck speed then proceed to drive precisely three miles below the speed limit? Just a few minutes earlier, Gretchen was relaxed and moving. Then this person pulled out in front of her- this person, who, in her small royal blue car, would periodically, and for no apparent reason, press the breaks, bringing the speed down to ten miles below the limit and then, again for some indeterminable reason, bring the speed back up slightly above the limit, only to drop it back down to three below. Why? Why pull out and then move so slowly and erratically? Why the urgency to interrupt the flow of traffic? Looking in her rearview mirror, Gretchen could see that there were no other cars in her lane other than the two that were directly behind hers. Why, given that this driver clearly had neither the intention nor the desire to move at the same speed as Gretchen and the two other cars, pull in front of her? The selfishness of it. It infuriated her.

As Gretchen thought about the driver in the blue car, she felt herself become hot, her pulse quicken; she could feel her right ear turn red. With great effort, she attempted to check her anger. She didn’t want to spoil her few minutes of driving. She entertained the idea that the person in front of her had a legitimate reason for going below the speed limit. She searched for a gray head, two frail, aged hands clutching the steering wheel to mitigate her anger, but there were none. If only the person were elderly she could perhaps understand this vehicular injustice…slow reflexes, poor visual spatial perception. But no. As far as she could see, the driver of the car in front of hers was a bob-haired, redheaded female. And there was something about the woman’s posture that told Gretchen that she was certainly not elderly. This she could neither understand nor tolerate. She banged her steering wheel with her fist. She screamed. Fucking just move!!!

She just needed to go-to press her foot to the pedal and move. It pained Gretchen to be constrained by the dictates of this driver, to be forced to put her foot on the break even though there was nothing but open road ahead.   As she approximated how far ahead she would have been had not this person pulled out in front of her, she seethed with anger. To her, anyone who could maintain this rate of speed was someone with low affect, someone who lacked passion, who lacked energy. Didn’t that person have somewhere to go? If she did, then why dawdle? Low affect. Low energy. She couldn’t relate. Everything about Gretchen moved quickly. She talked fast; she walked fast. Her mind raced. Never could Gretchen rest on a single thought; rather, she was always trying to keep up with a barrage of happy thoughts, disturbing thoughts, relentless thoughts racing through her mind, waking her up in the middle of the night, waking her up in the morning-racing thoughts resulting in a racing heart which beat into the mattress at the most rapid, unnatural and dangerous speed. Only movement could ease her mind and, somehow, rescue her from those thoughts that pulled her deeper and deeper into that midnight zone where she became stuck, unable to breathe, and from which she feared she would be unable to surface. Driving-this was an activity that released her captive mind. But this person in front of her…this person didn’t give a shit. It was her world and it moved at her speed, and everyone else could just go and screw themselves. She was a selfish bitch. How else could you explain her, the bob-haired redhead, The Bob, forcing everyone to drive three miles below the speed limit?

Gretchen just didn’t get that kind of person, the kind of person who was indifferent to the rest of the world.   Gretchen had a hyper-awareness of her surroundings, something she attributed to her acute senses. Anything in her periphery was as visible as if it were standing directly in front of her. Scents, unnoticed by others, where to her strong and pungent. She prided herself on being able to identify the age of a home by its smell. Water that years past, and before the installation of the sub-pump, pooled in in the corner of the basement, the grease of sweaty palms touching doorknobs, insect remains moldered into carpets- all revealed themselves to Gretchen’s nose. And getting a full night’s sleep was nearly impossible, given that she awoke with the slightest sounds-the cat jumping off the chair, the stirring of her child in the room next door, the turning on of the furnace when the temperature fell below 74 degrees. Gretchen was aware that the vigilance to which she paid attention to all that surrounded her was beyond the realm of normal, but on the opposite end the spectrum fell this person, The Bob.

As she was forced to press the breaks again for no apparent reason, Gretchen thought back to the previous evening. She was hurriedly picking up a few items at the grocery store when she found herself stuck in a narrow isle, cornered between a man who came to a dead stop to look at his shopping list and a display of cookies and pies. The man, at first, appeared unaware that anyone was behind him. He certainly would have moved if he knew that he was holding someone up. Gretchen stood patiently, convinced that the man was oblivious of her presence although she questioned how it was possible that he didn’t hear her, considering that her shopping cart had a very squeaky wheel. Finally, the man put his list into his pocket and took three steps forward. When Gretchen resumed walking the front tire of her cart gave out a piercing squeal. Now that he knew she was behind him, she assumed that he would feel badly about holding her up. She was relieved. He knew she was there, and they were moving again. She had places to be, a pace to maintain if her night was not going to fall apart. To Gretchen’s dismay, however, the man moved ahead approximately two more paces and then stopped-dead, took out his cell phone and placed a call, all the while Gretchen standing behind him. The anger that had been percolating now came to a full boil, and the sudden urge to just shove the asshole in front of her became almost uncontrollable. Gretchen contained her anger and softly said, “Excuse me.” The man made no acknowledgement other than to move his cart ever so slightly to the right, giving Gretchen barely enough room to squeeze through. She muttered “prick” under her breath and proceeded to finish her shopping – nervously, concerned that the man had heard her call him a prick and that they would run into each other again. Gretchen loathed confrontation, but she was so angry, so very angry, and as she completed her shopping, she became angrier just thinking about what had happened.   She worried about how she would react if she were to run into the man a second time, so she kept her head down and moved as quickly as possible, hoping to finish her shopping and get the hell out of the store without having another encounter with him.

And now here she was again, trapped behind another selfish shit. She thought about how very different she was from these other people. Whenever Gretchen found herself holding someone up, she was mortified. She recalled a situation a few weeks back. She was stopped at a traffic light and had picked up her phone to check her messages. Somehow she managed to drop it between the console and the passenger’s seat. Quickly, she stuck her hand into the space between the two, desperately searching for her phone. Aware that the clock was ticking, that the light would turn green at any moment, that if she took a second too long she would hold up the line of cars behind her, she unbuckled her seat belt, leaned over and poked her head under the passenger’s seat. It took no longer than two seconds for her to emerge with her phone in hand, only to realize that the light had already turned green. Damn! The people behind her must be pissed. They must think she’s an idiot, or worse, a lousy, selfish person. She had to show them that they were wrong, that she was not who they thought she was. She was better than that. So she pressed the gas and tore through the intersection.   She weaved in and out of traffic, making it to the next light in record time. Yeah. They understood. They would forgive her the hesitation. It was an easy mistake-that pause when the light turned green. They knew. We all get distracted. They would forgive her.

But now she had to deal with the selfish asshole in front of her who, unlike Gretchen, didn’t care if she held anyone up. She didn’t care that Gretchen was in a hurry. It seemed that The Bob’s sole purpose was to slow her down. She just drifted along, and all caught in her wake were at her mercy. Damn these two-lane roads. Traffic flowed from the opposite direction. There was no opportunity to pass. Damn! Gretchen’s felt her chest tighten. Her breathing became shallow. Should she lay on the horn? Flash her lights? No. She wouldn’t do that. She didn’t want to call attention to herself. She would just drive as closely to The Bob’s car as possible, being careful not to tap its bumper. But she just needed to make sure there were no cops around. The last thing she needed was to get pulled over for tailgating. That would slow her down. More importantly, it would be embarrassing. What if someone she knew drove by and spotted her pulled over on the side of the road while an officer wrote her a ticket? What if someone from her daughter’s school saw her? No. That wouldn’t do. She needed to be extremely cautious.

Gretchen moved her car as close to The Bob’s bumper as possible, trying to push her along, to get her to, at a bare minimum, reach the speed limit. Of course, her attempts were futile. The Bob just ambled on, erratically slowing down, speeding up ever so slightly and braking well before there was a need. If only Gretchen could just push the car in front of her, attach it to the front of her car like a snow plow and force the fucking driver to move.

Gretchen wondered if The Bob was even aware that she was on her tail. As far as she could tell, The Bob never even looked in the rearview mirror-not once. She just continued driving three miles below the speed limit, periodically speeding up only to return to three below within a few seconds, until, of course, she approached a traffic light. Then, long before there was ever a need, she began breaking, bringing her speed down to an unbearably slow rate before coming to a complete stop for the light that had just turned yellow. Sitting behind this woman, coming to a dead stop, at a yellow light when there was clearly more than enough time for both cars to make it through before the light turned red was too much. Gretchen cursed; her heart beat a savage rhythm. After being forced to sit idly at a yellow light when she had someplace to get to, she had reached her limit. What she really wanted to was get out of her car and punch the bitch. That’s what she wanted to do. Instead, however, she laid on the horn. She laid on hard and long and angry. Only then did The Bob look up, but just for a moment, as if to check what the sound was simply out of curiosity.

Finally, the light turned green. Of course The Bob sat for about two long seconds before accelerating. Moving slowly down the road, Gretchen searched for opportunities to pass, points where the solid yellow line broke up, indicating that it was safe to move into the oncoming lane. Of course, when those moments arose, there were always cars flowing from the opposite direction, making passing impossible.

Fearing she would be late, Gretchen felt a nervous energy surge through her. Her body began to tingle with the mix of anxiety, anger and frustration. She needed to pass this person. She needed to move forward. She felt like those poor bastards who, after swimming for hours in the frigid waters of the English Channel, were forced to quit because they kept getting pushed back by the tide.   Why should Gretchen be made to feel this way? She left her house on time. In fact, she left early. She had someplace to be. Being trapped behind this person was unfair.

Finally, Gretchen noticed that, up ahead, her side of the road opened into two lanes. Here was her opportunity. Granted, the sign indicated that the right lane was for right turns only. No matter. She was going to do it. She was going to risk getting caught by a cop. She was going to risk looking like a maniac in front of everyone who was about to witness her maneuver. Since you could turn right on red, she was even going to risk holding up the cars that lined up behind her. She didn’t care. This was war, and she had to view anyone stuck behind her as collateral damage. Of course, the irony of holding people up didn’t escape Gretchen; she just had to push that thought aside.

Slowly, The Bob and Gretchen moved towards the next set of traffic lights. As they approached, Gretchen watched the light turn yellow then red. It no longer mattered. Soon she would extricate herself from this unbearable situation. This was it. The Bob came to a complete stop. Gretchen pulled to the right and moved up beside her. Don’t look at her. Don’t worry if she looks at you. Of course, another car drove up behind Gretchen. Her stomach turned. She hated holding the person up. She hoped that traffic would come through the intersecting street, rendering the right on red option pointless. No one came though, and the driver of the car behind hers honked his horn. Don’t look at him. Focus. Once the light turned green, Gretchen would have to move fast. Finally it did. Gretchen floored the gas pedal, driving past the light and pulling in front of The Bob. Gretchen felt a sense of euphoria. She likened it to the feeling an animal must have when it escapes from a trapper’s cage.

She looked ahead. Traffic seemed relatively clear. She looked in her rearview mirror. There, far in the distance, was The Bob in her little blue car, moving slowly down the road. Fuck her.

Finally, Gretchen reached her destination. She found a place in the school parking lot. Excellent. 2:48. She still had seven minutes before she had to walk up to the door of the school to collect her daughter at dismissal. Gretchen felt tired, drained from the drive to the school. She pulled out her phone to check her messages. As she was reading, Gretchen sensed someone pull into the space to the right of hers. From the corner of her eye she could make out that it was a blue car. Shit. No.

Yes. Yes it was. It was The Bob. Gretchen commanded herself not to, under any circumstances, make eye contact with the woman. At precisely 2:55 Gretchen, not wanting to be late to retrieve her daughter, got out of her car.   The Bob, of course, seemed in no hurry. As Gretchen closed her door, however, The Bob emerged from her car. Don’t look at her. Don’t look up. Then Gretchen heard the sound of another parent call to her from the direction of The Bob’s car. Shit. Could she just ignore the person, pretend like she didn’t hear her? No. The woman was so loud, Gretchen had to have heard her. Again, the woman called out, “Hi Gretchen! I haven’t seen you in a while. I guess you always make it here ahead of me.” As Gretchen raised her head to respond, The Bob caught her eye. It happened. They made eye contact. Gretchen felt the familiar and uncomfortable hot and tingly sensation throughout her body. Her face became tight and somewhat twitchy and then, not having enough time to attend to all her racing thoughts, she managed a stiff grin. The Bob, the imperturbable Bob, placidly grinned back. Gretchen chirped back to the woman four cars down, “Oh, I rush in, grab my daughter and rush out.” Then they all made their way to the school doors. The Bob, moving slowly, calmly. Gretchen, scurrying quickly, nervously. She had someplace to be. She had to get there. She had to move. She had to move. She just had to move.