Monthly Archives: August 2011

getting paid, or, in honor of Virginia Woolf

The words out of the mouth of the physician who has just fingered a small bump behind my ear are some of the most expensive I’ll ever hear: $200 a second, I think, or hour, or per syllable; the insurance will fight with me over whether this was a necessary visit, but not whether it was an expensive one. We know it was expensive. The cost is a cost, justified whether the bump is cancer or calcium.

Words of worth or just words of price–what is the difference, really? I ask my class of business students: how do we value things? Our shoes? Ideas? Art? (I wait on art, bring it in carefully at the end, a foreign dessert at the end of a familiar meal; afraid of their rolled eyes, giving up before they’ve started, grappling with vaguery, I talk about song lyrics, movies.)

Are value and price distinct? I aim the question at a quiet boy in the corner and as he stutters for an answer, I let my mind wander. What is my dollar worth for the words I deliver? For X dollars, I talk to people as they fall asleep in a classroom, make intricate triangle doodles on the sides of their papers.

“Consultations on your cash situation, even this–ironic or not–will run you a high bill. Any thoughts, anyone?” The boys in the back are trying to look up a pretty girl’s skirt. The pretty girl is texting from a sleek, black phone. The text message costs 5 cents per send. No one has an answer.

And then it occurs to me, that day, and many following, until the idea is soildified and it’s become a mantra and then a philosophy and I cannot back away from it anymore. For 5 cents at least, I will write. For the worth of my words, I will make something. Because a paycheck and a deadline will produce a finer stitching, will encourage a precision of hand, language, intellect, prose that can enliven: I will sell my work at the highest costs, at any cost, at cost.

Perhaps, then, Virginia Woolf may stop screaming from the heavens that we, writers, we, women, are poor. And we’ll have pennies as answers for counting.


let’s all make up words, like

yull: n., v., adv., prov., psa., punc., hyp.,

  1. to go at fast speeds
  2. to fuck, skeet, or trust Urban Dictionary
  3. to drink with a man named Jerry
  4. to declare yourself a rapper in the hopes of abstaining from rapping, as an artistic choice
  5. numine et virtute
  6. a shoe worn by successful women in the United Kingdom
  7. a cleat worn by unsuccessful men in the United States
  8. a fashionable hoof piercing worn by wealthy camels in the United Arab Emirates
  9. oxyhydrogen, when used in welding
  10. oxycotton, when used in West Virginia
  11. with vigor
  12. ask a silly question and you’ll get a silly answer
  13. better late than never, unless you are a sailor
  14. blessed is he who does not rest between FIFA matches, nae to eat, nae to sleep, nae to do naught but procure drink and take a woman to his bed
  15. ∂å˜ ¥¨¬¬
  16. when I was sixteen I began to forget words; the internet blames the internet, but I blame Typing Tutor and cigarettes and nuns and recess
  17. to score a goal literally, figuratively, metaphorically, astronomically, vicariously, redemptively, easterly, woodily, or against a bear
  18. an empty Four Loco can
  19. any member of your extended family you would hang out with anyway

now please use your word in a sentence

The New Black and Blue

Hardly practical as camouflage,
nor particularly fashionable; sure,
they might work together as part
of your general ensemble, but

purple and green make for
a rather garish combination
(although I suppose that in
a world where people wear

underwear over their pants
everything is fair game).
Neither are they colors that
strike fear in the hearts of

men (super, or otherwise).
But still, so many villains
(specifically super) defer to
these shades when planning

their outfits, as if this carefully
calculated appearance could
somehow distract their enemies,
and bring their evil plans to

fruition. Perhaps the emerald
hues reflect their desires, while
shades of violet emulate the
grandeur to which they aspire.

Or perchance it’s a pact among
these superpowered malefactors
to make their allegiances known,
so when setting off on vile schemes

the protagonist knows where to go.

I’ve Got a Feeling

When you gonna wake up, baby?  C’mon,
play that funky Dixie land, pretty mama,
come and take me by the hand.  I wanna hold your hand.
Last night I heard the screen door slam—
I can’t even rewind the tape machine to hear
your drunken reasoning; it sounded thin
upon listening.  Sure, I can accept that
we’re going nowhere, but one last time let’s go there,
even if we’re just dancing in the dark.  This night’s
the perfect shade of dark blue.  Rain falls
angry on a tin roof.  Freeze-dried amends,
scalding insinuations.  We sure are cute
for two ugly people.  Put your hand
between this aching head and this aching world.
We’ll make them so jealous, we’ll make them hate us.
By the way, I’m trying to say I’ll be there, I’ll keep you
my dirty little secret.  Can I be your memory?
I’m hanging by a moment here with you.  It’s been
one week since you looked at me.  Baby,
you need to come home.  Can’t you see?

Seafood Is The Cornerstone Of Any Healthy Diet

At some point even the dusk had faded, and darkness again hunched throughout the living room.  Various screens emitted the only illumination around Flynn.  The nostalgic crackle of light coming from some lesser Bogart film on the muted Vizio barely reached the sunken couch.  Coated in a blue glaze from the laptop stationed on his narrow knee, he refreshed his inbox again, waiting for the reply he knew had to arrive soon.  Just off the ground, his hand glowed with a pure white, his phone’s app open in case webmail was, for some reason, delayed.

He heard the front door open and the buzz of the kitchen light igniting.  Porter had come home early this weekend.  He cmd-R’ed, hope filling the three eternal seconds the pinwheel spun.  His computer blocked the doorway to the kitchen, so he only saw Porter when the wide shoulders and thick neck emerged off to the side of the screen.  Flynn didn’t look directly at him.

“Dude,” Porter said.  His glasses held still as the reflection of the movie’s smoke-filled bar flitted across them.  “Have you eaten anything besides Goldfish today?”

Flynn glanced at the molehill of crumpled white bags beside the couch.  A few faint traces of hopeful aluminum stood out, buried somewhere in the rubble.  Seeing the phone in his hand, he flicked his bony thumb at the refresh button.  “I had Parmesan Goldfish, too,” he replied.


I make a practice of
avoiding eye contact
with precedence even
as it’s staring me in the face.

Red flags, I figure, can
always be put to use, even
if they prove unfit for
mopping up the aftermath.


Even though we’re parked on 6th street, I get out of the car. The whole way towards City Hall I worry about stepping on needles tainted with HIV or being shot from behind, a clean, hot bullet stamped into my skull. She follows me in the Suburban for as long as the road allows, Please stop, get in the car, you’re being a child. Please come home, until I veer onto a paved path that, too narrow, doesn’t allow for cars. It’s the path couples take as they walk towards the War Memorial to watch the ballet. The women link arms with the men. The men search the sparkly pavement with their eyes for items which might disturb a high-heeled procession. I’m not wearing shoes so there is nothing to get caught on: I’m 13 years old, slight and slippery in the dark, a fresh-water fish caught in ocean seas. Yes, I quite like to imagine myself something that could swim or fly, do anything but walk this path away from my sister, 17, bright and bossy, come to take me home.

It is San Francisco, 1996. I stand in the frigid July air without a coat, 30 miles from home. My feet are numb, turned white around the painted nails, stinging at the heels and ankles. Young trees planted to beautify the city poke their heads just above mine, and shiver as the marine layer settles over us. Children often learn that heaven is made of clouds, that, when you die, and if you are very good, you jump from cloud to cloud, eating grapes and visiting your dead friends, grandmother, childhood cat. But we are inside a cloud, me, the trees, my sister making circle after circle around the city square.

We’re already inside heaven: alive people playing dead. This is how cold it is in California.