Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dear Abby

The fire smolders in the wood stove illuminating the bound letters of Abigail Adams on my lap. She penned these daily to her husband John who spent years among Parisians while she weathered winters and Revolutions American and other. Six years of letters, nary a sonnet nor an ode, yet she quoted Milton and Shakespeare like a child playing Für Elise from memory. She called him Lysander, her friend, as friends indeed it all commenced, and later correspondents were. She wrote so many more letters than did he, like today’s friend who cannot help herself from emailing thoughts as soon as they occur, untempered by any lack of response. Despite their early prim ardor, the letters feel platonic. No heaving bosoms, no Gothic castles’ secret stairways like in the romance genre of the time, so like today’s except in what then went unsaid. She wrote as if walled away behind brick upon brick of battles and politics and miles of Atlantic. Proximity would have prevented that – but then – the best we’d have of her would be a few stray invitations, or thank you notes, assuming even those survived. How is it that Jane Austen, then just a girl in Chawton wrote characters like Abigail, and even lived like her the days of parched habits and nights that led to solitary wakings. A sea apart, they pined patiently for passion while patriarchy and patriotism alike quieted their pulse. Yet Jane wrote satirically of insincerity and imagined answers to all lack. Was John a Mr. Knightley? The older, kinder, safer choice? Sometimes months passed between the sailing of ships carrying letters writer to reader, wife to husband. The news was old before it got there, and she too early born to have read Wollstonecraft, Fuller, Dickinson, Chopin, Woolf. She had no women’s lines to cite, no styles to imitate, to unbind her mind. (Yet Abigail put no stones in her pockets.) Unlike these activist authors she never broke convention, but to her husband dutifully wrote, and wrote, and wrote. My fire’s burning low. So many centuries of dying embers. So many women waiting for their heroes to appear from the hunt, the war, from exploration or conquests unimaginable from beside the hearth. Perhaps more than once she crumpled a blotted page for kindling. So I toss my first rough version of this poem among the coals and rise to get a log. This I can do. I see her in her gown, laying her quill upon the desk beside the inkpot, folding the letter, carefully sealing it shut with melted wax. I lift my ballpoint pen and reach for a clean sheet, more sustaining even in its near weightlessness than an email. As I wait now not for heroes but for words to come, I hear the water outside rushing madly, wearing down the banks of summer’s peaceful wandering stream. The wind rattles windowpanes, wailing wildly, then whispering, return, return, return. Lisa E. Paige Copyrighted Material 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008


Clearly unintentional spoonerisms and newly coined words are plentiful in this Great Age of Misspeak. But my followers (that sounds so like sycophants, but I assure you is not -- more my friends who are devilled by my alternating obliqueness and transparency) are requesting space on this otherwise so serious-minded blog to encourage readers to create and submit some that are both intentional and humorous. Note: Verbifying is strictly verboten (such hideous affronts to the language as the recent, "It's time to progress this country" come to mind). Some examples beyond "blog" to get you going: One of my family's favorite spoonerisms at home arose from years of squabbles among the children about whose turn it was to take on the nasty task of cleaning up after kitty. The end result: "It's your turn to clean the bat cox." Then there's the "portmanteau" word made famous by Lewis Carroll, such as "chortle," a combo of chuckle and snort. The persistent among us can actually introduce these words into the vernacular and experience great pride as they take hold. Although not my invention, I experienced delight many years ago in adding "frust" to my family's vocabulary (Definition: that annoying line of dust that you can't get into the dustpan with the brush). These well-blended words of course deserve a term of their own, hence the title of today's post. So, I challenge you to submit your suggestions by entering your brilliant spoonerisms or portmanteaus (and definitions!) as comments. An objective committee with vast linguistic knowledge and sharp wit will determine which will get posted. Due to the celebrity status of this committee, I am unable to share their names publicly. Keep in mind that whereas there is no requirement that these clever coinages be either scatological or ribald, neither is discouraged. To get you started, here is one born yesterday and deemed acceptable: Lamentainment: n. Story of one's life that is so absurdly pathetic and/or self-pitying that it makes others amused. Usage: Ron's repetitive recounting of his recent rejection provided lamentainment for his relations. (Note: Alliteration not required in definition) Related terms: Seflamentainment, exlamentainment (the former being sefexplantory and the latter close in meaning to the German Schadenfreude, but limited to the spontaneous if non-karmic laughter resulting from being privy to gossip re. the sufferings of one's ex-boy- or girlfriend, spouse, co-worker, or boss.) Reminder: to be considered, these blurds must be original and creative. Under no circumstances will you get away with either Bidenizing (yikes! I verbed!) or simple-mindedly gluing a string of words together as if you were a bureaucrat from Berlin. p.s. Please let me know if you want credit, by name or pseudonym (specified), for your submission.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


You are a mushroom, but not just any old fungus. The kind that, in Italian, is called Orecchio, which means ear. It’s because you look like one – a human one, that is. Yes, human, yet wild, and proud of both. But you’re not the kind of mushroom to preen under harsh fluorescent lighting in an organic supermarket aisle between 12 types of tofu and bread so wholesome that it tastes like bark. No. You are a ruffle on a courtesan’s neck, though leathery, and only casually adorning the dark side of a tree. Still, you are so powerful that forest animals both large and small fear you. You try to keep it quiet that you are dependent on that tree. It’s not weakness, no! You’re intertwined with other life! Oh, how you two together thrive despite the many menaces out there. You’ve learned you share your forest with a certain stealthy someone – another survivor of so much hazardous wasted talk that his ears have grown so fine-tuned he can detect the fairy footfall of a fawn behind the quiet rustle of autumn. He wouldn’t believe that you have oftentimes detected his expert hunter’s feet, nearly soundless on your carpet of pine needles. He approaches. You recognize him, but wonder: Is he friend or foe? Suddenly, unceremoniously, he slices you from all you’ve known, deposits you with some loose screws, a bottle cap, and other random effluvia that have found their way into his jacket pocket. It’s only fitting. He’s been outed; now you have, too. And you thought you were so well hidden there, in the early winter light so dim it may as well be night. The next time you see anything you’re tossed onto a counter, trimmed, washed, and shoved to the edge of a cold stainless steel vessel. You have no way to fight it. But would you if you could? It takes some humans a lifetime to know what you learned in a summer. You accept. You submit. You don’t take it personally. It is all you have been given, it is all you have to give. It has to be enough. For in the end, those who would have sniffed at you as dull, dangerous, or even deadly, will never taste your texture, never see the beauty of your lying there exposed, exotic, wet and shiny against the unmoved sink – sacrificed for flavors that are so much more complex than brown or gray alone – never run a fingertip along your sheen of tussah silk. Lisa E. Paige Copyrighted material, December 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Flying Lessons

The door slides open to an azure world. Loose strands of fear hang from my jump suit. A rush of empty space and drop in pressure blast my thoughts right open. Teetering on the edge between new birth and death, once sure I could only jump in tandem, I glance timidly, surreptitiously at the pilot. His slow smile says Close your eyes and leap. Several seconds later, I am floating, not falling, my eyes open to the miracle of all I can see. That’s when I shrug off my harness which plummets to the earth like the crutches of the healed, and for the first time, I believe. Dear sweet Jesus, Mother Mary, so it is like the story goes. What a surprise that in the end we all have the power to defy gravity. Lisa E. Paige Copyrighted material December 2008