Between pots of coffee

Shoulders and arms, bones carved from hickory, rawed by fire. I sleep between three and four hours a night. I don’t know, because time is mud. I sit at the kitchen table until Connie comes down, and she complains when the coffee pot is dry. She taught me how to make a fresh pot. Everything is on the counter: the filter, the Folgers, the measuring spoon. I make a second pot for her when I hear the creaking floorboards. I am mostly neat, but it takes all my concentration, and my hands are still clumsy. But I do it. She growls when there are grounds in her cup or when the floor is splashed. Then do it yourself, I growl back. Do siblings ever stop being children towards each other?

The hours between pots of coffee are long. Continue reading


Deep sleeper

To the point

She exhales the dreams from her lungs. I brush her hair with my hand, stroking it in short sweeps with my fingers, from forehead to crown. It is thick hair, and short, and the texture feels oily. Fingertips touching scalp, faint aroma of balsam and tobacco. Continue reading

Blind color

How many vulgarities of red in the passage to null? Harsh, undisciplined strokes of color overlapping and smudged, from cherry to maroon, blending, bleeding. The pain was negligible, eventually. Dark sparks of light, and then nothing but an afterburn of floating images, ghosts, shadows in an impermanent twilight, fading, falling, until even light became memory. Imprisoned colors released into darkness. Continue reading

The shopping trip

Supplies: Bread, milk, Cap’n Crunch cereal, rib eye steaks for four, vanilla fudge swirl ice cream. Oil paints, canvas, brushes, sketch book. Two six-packs of Pepsi, bag of frozen cauliflower, bag of Golden Delicious apples. Wristwatch battery, Excedrin tablets, cowboy boots, package of sun-dried tomatoes, set of four lead crystal water glasses. Continue reading


She nodded. “I scare you because I’m stronger than you. Probably stronger than anyone you ever knew. And you don’t know how to deal with it.”

And of course she was right.

But she was wrong, too.

I didn’t want to stay, and I didn’t want to leave. I was in that thin-aired place where I clutched at indecision, a place of vertigo emotions where one wrong gesture or word or movement would make me tumble. I needed Connie to decide. I was terrified I’d do the wrong thing. It’s easier to screw up when you’re young and think you have a measure of years ahead to correct (or erase) the mistakes. But when you hit the high-sixties, there are no do-overs, and every fuck-up might as well be stamped upon your forehead in India ink. Continue reading

The narcissist’s sister

So now what?” asked Connie.

We sat in her kitchen. The boys were in bed, a swatch of moonlight pouring through the window over the sink, a pale, gauzy, haunted light, and the only sound was the hum of the refrigerator. We sat opposite each other at the table, like card players, or ambassadors.

Now what?” Continue reading

Painting Rain


I painted “Rain” in a three-day blur of tequila and sinus medication. I knew I was living the stereotype of a New Yorker cartoon, and relished it. It felt like the my last chance, my only chance. I was nineteen years old and living above a garage, and the sounds of clanking wrenches and air compressors sounded almost musical, but a dirge… heavy, sometimes melodic, and slightly off-key. The apartment was hot and smelled like grease and tar. It rained for days and there were gasoline rainbows in the puddles. I was aching with homesickness and abandonment. I decided to paint. I knew it was inevitable. Photography was a big part of my life, but it was like a girlfriend I couldn’t quite commit to marrying. I wanted the passion elsewhere. So I set my Brownie aside, spent every nickel I had, and bought two canvasses and a cheap set of oil paints. And, of course, the tequila. I wanted to start in a drunken whirlwind, dismiss the doubt, and pour everything into a well. If there was any talent, it would show. If not… well, I still had the camera. I was good with it and it was good to me. I wasn’t starving yet. Continue reading