Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau architecture
pours directly out of my nightmares

I climb the curving, white Nouveau staircase
up through a heavenly hell
of swirls and arches bathed in light
Not wanting to touch the vining bannister for fear it’s poisonous

It all seems like something that shouldn’t have been
And shouldn’t be
A solidified fantasy
A fairy world
A sideways universe that possessed the minds of artists
I’m frightened
and sickened by it all

Art has its limit-
Or perhaps I do-
And I draw the line at living in something
Only meant to be seen out of the corner of the eye
It’s a step too far
Making reality out of dreams


The Smallest Part of the Word



I found the word in a dictionary when I was young and fell in love.
Etymology: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history. What could be more interesting in the world of words than tracing back their family tree? If words were people who had taken one of those tests to determine genetic origin, some of these words would be very, very surprised at who their grandparents were.

For example: Auburn.

The color auburn is to hair what the color hazel is to eyes: nobody has a hard, fast definition for it. Auburn is indescribable except that it has something to do with red, while hazel could be everything from a funny green, to a funny brown, to a funny grey (shorthand for “we don’t know what to call it” apparently). But the origins of the word auburn?

“Middle English auborne blond, from Middle French, from Medieval Latin alburnus whitish, from Latin alburnum sapwood. First Known Use: 15th century” – Merriam-Webster

Wrap your head around that.

One of my greatest writing weaknesses is the unwillingness to let a character go unnamed while I am writing her/him. It is difficult because I believe they should have a name they deserve-a name that is perfect right down to its etymological roots. It is the tangled family tree of word attributes, origins and connotations that makes me research names for hours and hours….and hours.

But, there eventually comes a point where I give up. I throw a name at my character  like an old coat and tell them to wear it until I can find them a new one. And it is at this very moment that my beloved etymology dictionary becomes a punch line waiting to happen. It may be weeks or months before I open my dictionary again, possibly out of boredom or perhaps in one more futile attempt to find the right name. But when I do, and I always will, I will look up the rented name I have saddled my character with and my jaw will drop to my knees.

For example: Cynthia

This really is a name I’m using in one of my stories and it really was a last resort. The name clanked around in my head demanding to be used even though I didn’t approve of it. It was so insistent, that I wrote it down to give myself some peace. The important part here is not only the name, but the story it’s being used in. My story deals with themes of beauty, art, and mortality and makes reference to the legend of Endymion (if any of you have already figured out where the connection is, please sit quiet and don’t spoil it for the rest of the class-or pass notes, that’s fine). I had been using this name for months before I went searching through the etymology dictionary again. This is what I found out:

“Cynthia- Latinized form of Greek Κυνθια (Kynthia) which means “woman from Kynthos”. This was an epithet of the Greek moon goddess Artemis”


To clarify the connection between the character name and my story, I will provide a brief summation of one version of the tale of Endymion: Selene (Artemis, Cynthia) the moon goddess fell in love with the shepherd Endymion and had his father, Zeus, place him in a state of eternal sleep so that he would always remain beautiful, ageless and deathless, and always within her sight in the cave where he slept.

Yep. Turns out my character got the name she deserved and I didn’t even know it. But Inspiration did.

The lesson here is the lesson I keep learning over and over: Inspiration is a funny thing and she has her own ideas. Listen to her.

X, Y and V: is for Vampire

“I am not the spirit of any age, I am at war with everything.”
-Louis, Interview with the Vampire 1994

“It’s gonna be the kinda thing to infect a generation.”
-Jason Dean, Heathers

They call it a Generation Gap, the time between one generation and the generation it gives birth to which is presumably just enough room to make sure the birthing generation has no hope of ever understanding the generation it fosters. I am generation Y…I watched my compatriots fall to the lure of Napolean Dynamite and saw the end of the apostraphe (it’s a “high comma” now, for those of you not in the know) for the youngest Millenials. I have never known a time without computers, televisions, scrunchies or cars and I have to wonder what effect that will have on my art.

My mother has a way of elucidating things. Freakonomics is a primer for the shit she could tell you, the connections she could make and I have a thing for vampires. Before you blow the whistle on my grammar, understand that this is relevant.

If you want to be a successful teacher, you must teach in a way your pupil understands. It won’t do you any good to jump up and down screaming at your class in German if all they know now is Swahili (lovely language, by the way)…you will never successfully communicate. The key is context, relevance, and interest (and this does NOT mean showing Casino to a classroom full of Hospitality students. I am not giving you permission to show movies in class, or to have your students build a pyramid out of sugar cubes when you’re lecturing about the Middle Kingdom). My mother understands this and has often used relevant moments as an opportunity to teach.

Now for the relevance, the example, and the vampires…

The Lost Boys  is one of my favorite movies. One evening, it was on TV and prompted a discussion.

“See,” my mother says to me and my brother “this is the eighties, but these are fifties kids.”

And I look at her blankly and nod, assuring her that I am listening, but not that I understand. And she explains.

“These aren’t 80’s kids, this isn’t how we were,” she says waving her hand at David and co. “The leather jackets, the motorcycles, the secret hangout, this is  The fucking Wild One. This script was written by some kid who was little in the fifties and to whom Marlon Brando was the coolest thing. So when he tries to write about the cool kids of the 80’s, the edgy, dangerous, lawless, godless, lost boys, you get The Wild One. But they aren’t entirely godless,” she says. “Who is their god?”

She puts the question to us, looking to each one of her children, creating the peculiar sensation that we are in the most amazing and agreeable Sunday school ever. “Whose picture is hanging in the Lost Boys’ Batcave?” My brother and I are too stunned to remember, let alone answer. “Jim Morrison.” She nods once for emphasis and then shakes here head in disbelief. “Jim Morrison was not the role model of 80’s kids. He was associated with everything we hated about the 70’s, with Vietnam. No. Jim Morrison wasn’t in the pantheon.

This isn’t the eighties you’re seeing here, children,” she said nodding at the screen “this is the 50’s with late 60’s heroes and an 80’s soundtrack.”

And the conversation continued. “Now, there is Lost Boys 2. It is a terrible movie, but there’s your 80’s kids. Destruction of themselves and of their friends…they’re convinced they have no future because either the bomb or HIV is going to get them, but for some reason they’re still alive. They fear death but don’t want to die so they fucking cut their friends’ guts open and don’t blink when they get it back in spades. That’s 80’s kids. And they write it, the 80’s kid writes it, sets it in the Now and it has no-fucking-thing to do with the new audience. It has nothing to do with your people.”

My mother shakes her head at the television screen and I watch as a commercial for Portlandia drifts by reflected in her eyes.

My mind was blown. Through my mother’s analyzation of Pop culture vampires, I have just learned about the Generation Gap and how the values of the previous generation effect the newest one. Not that she hadn’t tried to explain it before, but this time, because it matched my interests, the concept clicked.

And I had a question. Considering the time it takes for the youngest generation to mature, inherit the earth, and start putting their own damage on it, twenty years from now what will the vampires produced by Generation Y look like? What tripe will they be passing off on generation, what, Z? ZPlus ?

“I know what your people eat up now,” she says in response to my question about the people I share a generation with. “Twilight. It’s not about family or friendship or camaraderie. It’s not even the gang/tribe mentality of Lost Boys. No one earns anything. Everyone is all powerful. Everyone thinks she’s (Bella) fabulous, everyone provides for her, everyone makes her decisions for her, she’s selfish and entitled. No sex before marriage, money is the measure of your value, creepy vampiric Mormonism. And that is what your generation has latched onto. But as to what your vampires will look like, what the vampires of your generation will be…”

The Three Dots filed in, the elipses, the “What”, the future…

“I don’t know,” she said after biting her lip in thought. “What is important to you? What is it that your generation doesn’t have that it wishes it could? What has scarred you? What’s lacking in your brand of humanity that vampirism might offer? And what have you been told is cool? What was cool when you were kids? All of this is going to determine how Gen Y vampires look, and god knows what that will be like.” She stopped talking and stared through the TV to the wall, but breathed in deeply when she remembered another contributing factor. “Oh god, and their parents!”

My mother made the delineation between my fellow Millenial’s parents and her children’s parents for more reason than the obvious. My schoolmates’ parents were Boomers, big time. The generation gap between them and their children was well-established, more of a chasm really. But that wasn’t true of my brother, myself and my parents. If you’ve been keeping track, you’ll remember I said my Mum is an 80’s kid, she found her double-digits between  Empire Strikes Back and The Little Mermaid. In short, she and my father are good, sturdy, fucked up, world-ruining, apocalypse-surviving, anarchy-supporting, death-of-the-future-bringing Generation X-ers (and I will forever be envious). They are the generation of Hackers, Reality Bites, Trainspotting, and Foxfire.

I’m Gen Y, they’re Gen X and there is no gap. We’re all children of the great big scary internet-based modern age.

So, what will that do to my vampires? My work?

I have some faith in the part of me that is Y and a little, not much, hope for my comrades. Discussions between my brother and I have proved that, even between grade levels, the mentality of Millenials differ. And there must be a few of us who reject the idea that we’re all soulless, self-centered gamers and walk the talk too. After all, while large groups present statistical certainties, “the individual man is an insoluble puzzle.”

So, to measure the difference in the generations, I for one will be looking for the teeth marks they leave on the world. What will give the next brood of vampires a fang-on, as my mother says? What will they sink their teeth into, what passion will inspire them? Or will it be passionless and tepid stuff?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see; time heals all wounds, but it’s the ones my creatures will make that I’m more concerned with.

A Case of Envy

I stood in a great big white room surrounded by art and poetry and instead of admiring the work, I  shook with a terrible case of envy.

I was twelve, I think, and was here with my family in a gallery with glass walls that looked out onto the big glass and graphite grey city to celebrate my brother’s success. He had placed in a state-wide competition for writing. There was a ceremony, there was a certificate, there was money, and I was proud.

Until I was angry.

Only a year ago I had been invited to enter this same competition, to send my work off to the great Readers of Things and have them judge my fifth grade poetic work about how America is one big quilt of cultures. And I still remember looking into my teacher’s face and shaking my head, “No.” And she asked if I was sure, that it was a good poem, that I should try it and again I said “No.”

But lo and behold, here I stood more than a year later at a ceremony for the same competition with the same subject matter limited to the same grade level, READING MY OWN WORK.

Of course it wasn’t really my work. It written by some other girl, someone a year younger than me from some other school in a different part of the state-but we had done the same thing. It was nearly the same poem, word for word, with quilts and beauty and America and yay…It was the title that had caught my eye in the first place. But the difference between ME and HER, and it’s a very, very important one, was that she had entered the competition and then she had won. I had done neither.

I was…I don’t know what I was really…I was 1) Oddly comforted that her work wasn’t unique, then 2) Interested to know how many times these people had received the same poem and bestowed a prize on its writer 3) Bemused as to why they bothered with the competition if they received the same damn work year after year 5) In a sort of existential limbo where I wondered about the nature of originality and 6) I was mad/envious. This was my poem, this was my place, this was my glory she was basking in, whoever she was (I’m not even sure she was there for the ceremony). This was supposed to be mine.

But it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t, it would not be, I could not claim any prize or conciliatory prize, I had no ground here.

I burdened my mother with my mood. She empathized with me and apologized, and finally asked me why I hadn’t entered when I had the chance.

“Because I thought it was stupid,” I said bordering on tears.

“Well,” she said. “You can’t do anything about that now, honey, that’s how you felt about it. None of us could have told you otherwise. We couldn’t have told you ‘you should do this because you’ll be angry if you don’t’.” She looked down into my face and smiled that “my child is hurting, but learning something as well and it’s sad” type smile. “We didn’t know and you didn’t know, right?” She shook the hand I had put in hers as both reassurance and reinforcement.

I sulkily said “right” and frowned for the rest of the afternoon with this weighing on my mind. That was my place, I could have been here, had a prize, a certificate, a check. It could have been me. It should have been me.

When my brother received his prize, I did my best to smile and clap through this feeling of sadness, failure, frustration and indignation. My brother had done beautifully, he had earned a prize he deserved, he had claimed a place in the world of writing, a world most people didn’t acknowledge he had talent for, and he had gotten time in the spotlight. But I had not.

To this day, the memory makes my face set in some ugly expression, like remembering the taste of rotted food that I ate voluntarily. Because of it, I have entered competitions in hopes of proving my worthiness. I have developed a chip on my shoulder for others who succeed.  And I dream of the day I when I will succeed where I didn’t years and years and years ago.

And even as I write all these ugly sentiments down, I try to discover the moral of the story. I try to figure out where Mother Goose would shake her head and say I went wrong. I think it’s all summed up thusly:

“…you can’t practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.”
– Aunt Jet, Practical Magic 1998

Under the Same Moon

For my Moon Woman…

“The funny part?”

The human asked as it stared through the canvas to the wall

“After all the paintings and the engravings and models,

after every effort to mimic and every facsimile made in paint and ink and wood,

after every poem written to its heavenly shape

lauding its purity, its beauty, its aphrodisiac effect,

after making of it a lover or a mother or a curse,

after all these versions and interpretations of its form,

We’ve all been born and died under the same moon.”