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diebenkorn pt 4

In 100, by Nora on November 5, 2019 at 10:54 am

the cracking-paint shabbiness of haight street and telegraph avenue; of musty incense sticks sold by aging free-lovers, their splintery white hair and beards stuffed under knit caps or ponchos; of amoeba peppered with neon sale-price tags on slightly scratched CDs; of beat poet-era bookstores stuffed with concrete poetry novellas perused by the be-fleeced and be-flanneled: those were the city senses of my childhood. ten years now i’ve been losing that parched, pastel smell behind the contradictory bougieness and rankness that is the bowery and atlantic: impossible stilettos, sweating-hot trash bags, newly-chromed corporate slickness and subway-dense diversity warring and interweaving thornily.

diebenkorn pt 3

In 100, by Nora on November 4, 2019 at 3:31 pm
my beloved new york grid plan hides something chaotically male and european: the rigidity and rightness of geometry, the evil rationality of the enlightenment, which allowed the triangle trade to weave the “old world” and the “new” irrevocably together. we are told: men plus science equals the enlightenment; science plus women or people of color is witchcraft.
in california, the breathtakingly longitudinal camino real is the single-mindedness of catholic proselytization, pioneers bursting through gaps in the sierras, the forceful importation of chinese to build the railways at all costs, eisenhower freeways built for deploying missiles and the car-drunk american dream.

lafayette ave nov 3 noon

In 100, by Nora on November 3, 2019 at 11:38 am

the steady loudness of the watching crowd floats through my window from lafayette avenue, from early morning through the afternoon. the marathon runners are a never-ending stream of new york humanity, urged on by kids and friends and strangers and running enthusiasts, by signs and gatorade and slices of cantaloupe and a tambourine. an aging black man, his bib tacked to the back of his inexpensive black vinyl wheelchair, pushes himself backwards with one foot; two helpers in neon vests walk alongside, shielding him from the stream. a little bed-headed child holds out his cardboard sign and they high-five, joyously.

diebenkorn pt 2

In 100, by Nora on November 2, 2019 at 3:53 pm

even the low-slung scale of the houses in this leafed brooklyn hamlet was dragged across the water with its first white settler inhabitants. the lenape were here first, and didn’t mind that first couple, marking out a little farm. the farmhouse’s squatness came not from their own rosey-cheeked memories, they being a pirate named Joris and a prostitute named Catalina, who outfoxed their life of squalor by volunteering to colonize Manahatta. so they traced what they had seen from a distance back in amsterdam, smaller and lower than it needed to be, play-acting middle-class comfort through step-gabled peaks and brick.

diebenkorn pt 1

In 100, by Nora on November 1, 2019 at 2:08 pm

Soon, I’ll be switching out stately, tastefully reticent brownstones for ticky-tacky Victorians the colors of the drifting dawn-tinged fog. Today, as each block revealed itself in smooth, rust-brown brick mansions, training wheels for the petit bourgeois, those Europe-facing, those pirate-descended, suddenly, absurdly, the grid aligned perfectly with the ever-present Chrysler, across the East River in Manhattan. Soon, I’ll be huffing up impossibly inclined blocks under the stacked and perched little wooden houses of the newly gold-rich, the manifest destineers, and when I crest, unfurling below will be the Pacific, not the end but the unending, relentless connection to the world. 

100 words, 2 days late, 30th submission

In 100, by Nora on December 2, 2018 at 9:25 pm

I’m 2 days late to my last 100 words, the 30th submission because that’s the number of days in november, and I realized that numbers don’t count in the word count (numbers as a word does, because it’s a word, but not, say, 30). I had been counting on someone to send me some words, like 100 count roughly, because he said he would send 100 and then I wouldn’t have to count it myself (of course, the computer counts it for me, there’s an algorithm) and now it’s almost midnight and it’s two days later but I think it still counts. counting on that.

granddaddy boyd

In 100, by Nora on November 29, 2018 at 9:45 pm

The last Boyd with any means, Granddaddy Boyd, lived in his old age with Little Aunt Fawn. And he wrote long letters to Big Aunt Fawn (it was unclear whether she was older or physically larger), mewling that cruel Little Aunt Fawn wanted the house, that she was trying to poison him. Big Aunt Fawn replied that he was senile and paranoid. Two weeks later, Granddaddy Boyd was found dead in the gloomy shade of his front porch, with a broken glass and a few partly-muddled mint leaves, the julep dried and sticky on the warped Louisiana cypress boards.

preboarding, norman y. mineta airport, san jose, california, 8:38a

In 100, by Nora on November 28, 2018 at 7:09 pm
Old be-scarved (babushka’d?) Russian ladies pushing ahead of young couples with infants dangling from newfangled front-hanging contraptions called björnssonęnfantil
Gujarati interspersed with accent-free blips of “IPO,” “Sunnyvale,” and “computational linguistics”
Enviably (or rather, fetishized) racially ambiguous teens in leather Rainbow flip flops and standard-issue black North Face fleeces, though less ambiguously followed by their parents, who are stressed about the delivery of their Tesla
They appear to make high-top Allbirds now, in laughably diminutive children’s sizes, to fit the Vietnamese toddler whose grandmother is using a pink iPad as a phone to FaceTime her cousin in Ho Chi Minh City

mumma’s salad dressing

In 100, by Nora on November 27, 2018 at 4:32 pm

stand upright nearly 6′ with elegant silver-grey hair; mix:

10% women in your incoming yale class because you’re a 2nd wave feminist

40% of your career in business because disrespectful board-members caused you to get an MBA in 1980

a dollop of grainy french mustard

a dash of passion for comp lit to temper the acidity of having to administer the myers-briggs

get your master’s and PhD in counseling psychology at night with two children under 6, to emulsify effectively

refrigerate; this is your contribution to dinner that your husband will make while you drink a glass of California sancerre, because you fucking deserve it

It’s late night in a city, any city

In 100, by Nora on November 27, 2018 at 10:42 am

Late night in any city, and I have found myself in the twinkling presence of invisible populations that have come before me, amnesia’d intersections, facades, monuments, memorials. In one, there is no monument to those who willingly believed the Third Reich would raise German estimation after the Great War; another, no memorial to the Chinese laborers whose bodies underpin and underwrote their life-giving railroad, funnel of early San Francisco wealth. But the absence of memorials is not the absence of memory: oral histories are easier to ignore than hulking stone, but the un-monumental–quilt, diary–is harder to tear off a pedestal.

sunday market

In 100, by Nora on November 25, 2018 at 3:45 pm

faj, whatever happened to the oyster guy? the guy who looked like he walked directly into the ocean, gently prying the oysters loose with barnacled-knuckly hands, the one with one blue eye, maybe he was blind, whose stand smelled saline-sharp behind the netting, who would hand us a flimsy styrofoam plate with a dozen winking kumamotos through the little window, along with the sesame-oil-slick plastic squeeze bottle of proprietary soy-vinegar-shallot vinaigrette (fuck mignonette am i right?), for our weekly eight-thirty-am-indulgence, eaten on plastic chairs amidst flying vietnamese words and toddlers in patagonia? i dunno– i guess he’s not here today.

rage (this is a cento; another day behind)

In 100, by Nora on November 24, 2018 at 6:43 pm

μηνιν αειδε θεα, sing rage, muse(s),

rage in the feminine accusative; passing from the swimmer to the wave

verging upon the world of dream and metamorphosis

sleep being death:

For those condemned to death

And for those condemned to life

There is no better tonic than the moon (se puede tomar a cucharadas

o como una cápsula cada dos horas),

Le cose belle che porta ‘l ciel. We looked up

And once more we saw the stars

Animulae blandulae vagulae, little souls, gentle and drifting,

Let us try, if we can, to enter into death with open eyes…

a 1924 california colonial house

In 100, by Nora on November 24, 2018 at 6:33 pm

I was not communing with the colonial past as I scraped my knees climbing my straining olive tree. Adobe, round windows, curved doorways, wrought-iron lamps, echoing Spanish- and then Mexican-California, when el Camino connected the dotted missions of Jesuits (backwater of the bubbling Colonial apparatus): seemingly neutral spaces to a white girl, born into university-educated privilege, but spaces pioneered by the breaking hands of ohlone indians, whose itching garments were not their own, nor their days, whose nights were hemmed by glaring moments of submission, names lost, but whose hands left marks on the lives of a thousand thousand strangers.

twins pt 4

In 100, by Nora on November 23, 2018 at 5:46 pm

the young man, whose name has somehow been blurred and lost over the years, sat hesitantly across the large mahogany desk from the twins’ father, whose assured dominion over this smoky inner sanctum was complete. “listen, young man,” said he, mustache twitching, “i’m a very wealthy man. i can make all your wildest dreams come true.” “that is,” he said, “if you’re serious about my”–pig-faced, he meant– “daughter.” the young man, who was not so bright but rather sweet, said, “well, since i was a little boy, i’ve wanted…a filling station in montana.” and so it was. the end.

guest submission by F.S.S.

In 100, by Nora on November 22, 2018 at 7:58 pm

If one hundred words are the limit
to describe with any substance
how it feels,
I then prefer biting my tongue
hard,
for I am afraid of excluding the tiniest details:

fish swimming in karaoke screens,
warm fig juice in bedsheets and breadcrumbs,
twin mermaids hiding in a gilded baroque sea,
and a helicoidal concrete staircase that was once destroyed,
so fucking mindlessly,
but that was eventually built once more.

And so,
if one hundred words truly are the limit,
surely prefer biting my tongue
hard,  

for silence,
despite all of its cruelty,
is at least equitable and unforgiving.

the air quality is good enough for a run, stanford, 21 nov, 8:12a

In 100, by Nora on November 21, 2018 at 12:01 pm

cresting the slick petrichor’d hill above the sleepy pre-thanksgiving campus, I can see the grounds of my elementary school. there are shiny solar panels newly crouching at the far end of the field, where we played truth or dare with the 4th graders when we were 5th graders, over the out-of-the-way plaque with the school’s name, as if the name were shameful. but it’s lucille m. nixon; they were trying to do the right thing: name the school after a woman, a poet if i remember correctly, not the kissingerian crustacean we all recognize. no good deed, am i right?

the things they left behind

In 100, by Nora on November 20, 2018 at 10:33 pm

they left behind trash in the form of discarded gift bags and receipts: $300 MXN for dark chocolate souvenirs for parents who don’t like mezcal. they left behind long hairs in the shower tiles, some half-white and half-brown, the stress of the year making itself known phenotypically. they left the memories of random numbers: the street addresses of classes, his house, the airbnb of friends. they left a half-drunk gatorade, better than water for post-karaoke indio-induced hangovers; plasticky-papered VIP concert bracelets; the shoes he likened to crocs because they were perforated. they left behind all these things and “they” were me.

shall i compare thee

In 100, by Nora on November 20, 2018 at 10:27 pm

and he — oh, he. is he my chrysler building? lethal curves ending in silvered, precipitous edges, spire in the rain-steam. but delicate, those edges make them vulnerable to prying winds; the softest breezes can lift flexible sheets of metal, so his bolts are set close together and firmly, battered in at dizzying heights by jews who crossed the sea fleeing the clash of feudal pogroms, who arrived only in time for a crash of another kind, whose names were changed, who never thought they would be so many feet above the ground, gripping a slippery, slick surface with their knees.

twins pt 3

In 100, by Nora on November 19, 2018 at 9:15 pm

on the eve of the twins’ 21st birthday a very strange thing happened. a silky card was left in the foyer followed, some hours later, by a young gentleman, upright in his Louisiana whisper grey suit, shoes shined, asking not for the beautiful twin, as was always the case with unnamed young gentleman walking up that Spanish mossed drive, but for the pig-faced one. the father, upon hearing this bizarre fact from tottering old Betsy, the housemaid, bounded rotundly and somewhat unbelievingly down the marble steps and ushered the young man into his tobacco-drenched inner sanctum, and bade him sit.

twins pt 2

In 100, by Nora on November 16, 2018 at 5:42 pm

as they progressed through adolescence and into prematurely-corseted, Louisiana adulthood, the twin girls moved through society in ways that couldn’t have been more different: the beauty a magnet for young, hair-dressed hopefuls; the porcine one a surface of refraction in the cycles of courtship, only attractive to those old, lace-covered old maids whose hearts thrummed with resonance at rejection, the coldest, sharpest feeling available in that humidity (if one chose to ignore their fathers’ livelihoods built on the backs of enslaved humans, which they always did, in torrid, dripping, self-fanning mental feats). And so by age 20, both girls were unmarried.

Park bench, noon, Thursday, La Juarez, Ciudad de México

In 100, by Nora on November 15, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Teenagers — he with a beat up guitar case, she in a childish tracksuit-like private school uniform. They are breaking up, trying to lean away from and toward each other at the same tine. They hug, with the conciliatory warmth they’ve seen in movies that is probably (definitely) beyond their years. She walks away, willing her hand to stay by her side so he won’t see her wipe a tear. He leans all the way back on his bench, breathing out slowly, with a hand over his eyes. Then he, skittishly, jerkily, snaps up his case and jogs after her, grinning.

twins pt 1

In 100, by Nora on November 14, 2018 at 11:15 pm

once, after a deluge unlike anything ever seen before, two twin girls washed up on white, wooden, dripping porch. the wealthy couple who lived there had always wanted children, so they took them in. there was just one problem, which only became apparent as the two little girls moved from basket-bound infancy to toddling flouncing-dressed knock-kneed terrors. for though they both discarded their patent-leather mary janes and scrambled up the mossy-barked trees and hung from the branches, dappled shade winking on their scraped, skinned shins, one was very beautiful, and the other looked, in every possible way, like a pig.

Skin smells 3

In 100, by Nora on November 13, 2018 at 5:37 pm

Mennie was so light and cool, baby powder and lemon (sweet pliant Meyer) and Diet Coke. An old, but insistently clean, grey sweatshirt, a flannel pajama set, slippers, fully arrayed as she sang to me lullabies of her native Carolinas, the repetitive, onomatopoeic ones in which someone always forgot they had a wife and children and never returned. The longest, silkiest hair thicket in a soft white armpit, the with the married-in milk whiteness as opposed to our bloodline olive. The tips of her fingers tapered and bent backwards just slightly, illustrating her words: “just a knuckle in a huckbucket.”

little moon boy

In 100, by Nora on November 12, 2018 at 3:34 pm

there once was a little boy, living in a shack in bogaloosa, louisiana, amidst 12 little brothers and one older sister, named elizabeth. every night gulped in the moon’s cold, craggy surface, so unlike his mossen, crowded, dripping bayou swelter. i will fly there, someday, beyond, he said. his mother, his brothers, the sodden, drunken men his mother brought home, they all said — you’re no moon boy, wake up. but elizabeth said: close your eyes, find your feet on a big slice of lemon, around you the cream of night, and, soon, your feet will land on that moon, my love.

churritos

In 100, by Nora on November 11, 2018 at 2:48 pm

Eating day-old churros in my roma norte airbnb, my first silent-alone moments since sunday last, the day-before sweetness soaked into the just-perceptibly spongier flesh of the goodies I bought hurriedly in the parque del bosque in between a sunny visit to a historical castillo-museum and taking an uber to meet him, to take another uber to a working-class neighborhood in the far-north of the city, to a restaurant known for its perfect pozole, over which we exchanged a perfectly balanced and seasoned conversation which makes today’s churros shocking in their ability to make me smile for no reason at all

poetic penance

In 100, by Nora on November 11, 2018 at 2:32 pm

i missed a day again

which reminds me that i have other work to do that i should have

done, emails owed like a stopped slinky not snapping back, holding its end while the other side is like nora, we are waiting on your thoughts on this corporate art collection’s themes and how they relate to art:

(innovation, synergy, people-oriented, collaboration)

literally? eyes twitch trying not to roll

and in penance for my delinquency, i’m writing

a poem. which makes my insides squirm like sour-sugar candy worms almost as much as the topic it should be about which is

love

google maps out of its depth

In 100, by Nora on November 9, 2018 at 8:06 pm

swiping surreptitiously through google maps in another-city-another-country, one wants to look at home, only casually tapping yelp, because one already knows one’s own neighborhood, one is a local; if not yelping to double-check fellow locals’ thoughts on a neighborhood joint, one is in fact just adding one’s own data to google, which is helpful to other users, like tourists which one is definitively not. but even so one is a little thrown off by google’s discombobulated cultural relativism: not all restaurants in italy are “late night food,” and just because it’s mexico doesn’t mean every spot is a “mexican restaurant…”

aprendiendo en la fuente

In 100, by Nora on November 8, 2018 at 5:08 pm

After 8 hours of intensive language instruction, on the 3rd floor of a deco-style building in the colonia muy fresa la condesa, slipping back into my mother tongue is like breaking the elastic meniscus of a body of water after holding my breath for record-breaking minutes. Cada día I gain more lung capacity, siempre disfrutando the bizarro-world of immersion, but the cold, fresh air that hits my throat is when the pace of thinking and the pace of communicating become one, my words transferring from my brain to the page like a silvered, viscous pedazo de pensamiento going into Dumbledore’s pensieve.

disagreement

In 100, by Nora on November 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm

I’ve never been so good at combative, forceful, analytical argument: when confronted with a relentless intellect formed for piercing, my tendency to adaptability, to subjectivity, to teaching different minds and enjoying incongruous aspects of humanity, all cause my brain to crumple somewhat embarrassingly (for a bourgie-ass leftist daughter of professors) into a jelly-like form bedazzled with feminine “i feel’s” and irrelevant “historically’s” and petit-bourgeois “for me’s.” The hot tar of the antagonistic words, seething with the inadequacies of my arguments, splatter my face and heart, preparing them to be feathered later with the machismo-surety that a winner will never reconsider.

Skin smells 2

In 100, by Nora on November 6, 2018 at 7:10 am

Zelda was a muskier scent, somehow both dried and overripe, amidst ancient silk scarves and potted plants on her balcony below the Berkeley Rose Garden, where she talked Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde and Gilbert and Sullivan. She would cook us her two specialties in old burnt orange Le Creuset pots in her kitchen with the dark green painted cabinets: hours-simmered bolognese or tacos, as one would expect from a girl born in Brooklyn in 1932. That scent, just barely discernible in the layers of silk and elastic-waisted linens she instilled in me, refracts off the wooden jewelry she gave me.

la fantasma de los munchies

In 100, by Nora on November 5, 2018 at 5:48 pm

Yesterday, I went into the centro, being extra careful to keep safe the single key to my friend’s student-style studio, where he grows weed on the balcony and has only those condiments meant for late night tacos and mezcal. Returning much later, brain tired from French-cinema-with-Spanish-subtitles, the smell of weed was so strong that at first seeing an empty domino’s box and dirty dishes piled in the sink made immediate sense to my Californian senses. But then I remembered: my friend wasn’t due back for another day. Maybe in Mexico ghosts are just shadows of the people whom they haunt.

kitteh

In 100, by Nora on November 5, 2018 at 6:45 am

i am one day late with my 100 words and part of it was travel and part of it was not knowing the wifi but a significant part of it was the frisky whitee kitteh, splotches of brown and clear blue eyes, stepping on my computer purring sp hard causing me to spell incorrectly and her little pink padded foots add ersatz letters to random parts of the sentece i’ve already written, the purring harder every time she curls herself more fully into the crook of my forearms, unable to freely move about the keyboard how will i even press enter

Skin smells 1

In 100, by Nora on November 3, 2018 at 9:53 am

Da smelled of ropy leather but mostly the soft, worn Banana Republic button downs and his grey (before-they-were-cool) New Balance, strewn (as I was) across his khaki’d knee on the floral couch in the front room of their little dinky house in Berkeley. A gold tooth would glint as he told me another story of his childhood in the Deep South, his breath just vaguely carrying the no-nonsense medical mint of those orange toothpicks he absent-mindedly chewed on. He always smelled so clean and be-cetaphiled, sober thirty-five years, weaving his tale of swaying Spanish moss, murder, and biblical delta floods.

Trash can

In 100, by Nora on November 2, 2018 at 2:19 pm

The words on a city trashcan have been rearranged, like those magnet words on suburban fridges to form a few words in Italian: mantenere-pulita-nyc, maintain-clean-nyc. The city’s font is somewhere between comics sans and helvetica, trying to scrape off the antagonistic grime of the pre-9/11 city while claiming chicness, maintaining a balance without acknowledging the sacrifice it entails, a ballerina maintaining her figure. I like imagining these word-loving Italians in the denuded Barclays street late one unseasonably warm night, attempting to make their stamp on the city that pretends to maintenance, adding a little gratuitous trash to its slick surfaces.

Preparing for a trip

In 100, by Nora on November 1, 2018 at 11:54 am

It’s 69 degrees in New York City right now, because she is trying to win me back. She knows I’ve been planning to flee her seasonal-affective-disorder mood swings since she hurt me the last time. Escaping her clutches for most of January didn’t even put the hoped-for dent in the deadening, brittle 5-month winter. If anything, with mirthless laugh tears in her eyes, it made her crueler. She nuzzled into my neck with fabulous pillow-soft snowing nights, and then ripped out my jugular with strangled daylight howling through bullshit wind. This time, I know better. See you in February, you bitch.