Out Here by the Lake

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OUT HERE BY THE LAKE it is black, blackest in the places where the sky and water meet and blend and blur into a single, smudged, and near unending charcoal line, drawn inexpertly and redrawn over and over itself. Out here by the lake the stones grind to rock and then to sand and on to grit that turns back to grinding stone again. Pounded by mere water, made silt by sheer persistence, the rocks of gray and brown crack, then halve, then shed and shed and shed until they have wasted away, anorexic in the face of ages. Such patience the water has, such resistance to the presence of the shore. Out here by the lake only the shore … Read More

Luck of the Draw

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NO SOONER has the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie been served than we begin the exalted family ritual: the drawing of the names. There’s a certain historic economic sense to this in a family of six siblings. When we were all little girls, it was hard to make that $1.25 allowance stretch five ways, so we adopted the practice of choosing names. Instead of spending a quarter on each sister, we bestowed a generous five of them on one. Those of us old enough to augment our finances with baby-sitting money could afford to go to the store and buy a gift that a sister might actually desire. The younger, penniless ones had to make stuff. Strange stuff. Odd things, crafted out … Read More

Ovations from the Stage

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THERE IS A STORY told about Pablo Neruda. In a concert reading in his later years, the Chilean poet stumbled while reciting a poem and lost track of the words. He could be forgiven; the man produced so many hundreds of poems that by the time he was an old man in the 1970s, he would certainly have forgotten a line or two along the way. They are gorgeous things, Neruda’s poems. Oh, not all of them. Some are mediocre, some tossed off over coffee, some presaged Rod McKuen. Many are excellent but bloody (he was a political creature in times of revolution and exile), but most are paeans to his lovers’ bodies, to passion, to desire—poems on fire, lines … Read More

Burst Bubbles

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SITTING IN THE ORPHEUM watching Riverdance, the shuffle-shuffle-ball-change suddenly came back to me. A 30-year-old seed of regret, along with a couple of tricky tap combinations, bubbled to the surface of my consciousness. It could have been me up on that stage. I, too, could have tapped my way across the country with handsome Irishmen. I could have shuffled off to Buffalo. But I blew my Lawrence Welk audition. I am breaking a code of silence, here. It is a rare friend who knows I once practiced heel-toe-heel-toe-hop-slide-slide for hours on my mother’s kitchen floor, lined up with my five siblings in order of height. I was the oldest, but not the tallest, so I had to stand second. I … Read More

Asking God to Sign In

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AS SECOND GRADERS at St. Raphael’s Elementary School, we had to leave room on our chairs for guardian angels. Sister Emerita patrolled the aisles, prodding our 8-year-old bottoms with her yardstick, scootching us over another half inch. Apparently guardian angels had big tushes. While Sister paced the rows of desks, I peered into the air next to me, trying to see my angel. Was it a he or a she? Could it fit on the thin slice of wood I was offering it? Would its wings spill over onto Gordon Gulzinski’s desk behind me? I saw nothing. I reasoned this was because I was not yet worthy. Perhaps if I refrained from coveting Cecilia Bramwell’s excellent new knee-hi stockings, maybe … Read More