May 17, 2009

Breath by Matt Rader

Posted in poetry tagged , at 3:00 am by placeinthestars

by Matt Rader

From alveoli, bronchi, trachea—
speech cousin, gravity descendent,
as all things are eventually.

Tide plan. Moon thought.

The breather born in a split second
switch from water breath and uterine lung,
to lift, draw, expand, rush—

oxygen bloom in blood.

Breathing, we share ourselves.
Forced-air pant, helixed with dog hair and rat skin,
adenine, cytosine, thymine, from a vent
above our bed, we breathe the house-
genome, the long line
come cycle of life in the air,
translated to blood by lung,
then rivered through vein and capillary
to be used, and become use,
           addendum. In the morning
the room’s rank. Breathing,
send me back.

Refrigerator buzz. Mice-step
in walls. Sleep-talk.
Sound-as-breath, inference
only a breather could understand.
The crust swell of apple pie
pulled hot from the oven.
Blitzkreig of a popped balloon across the kitchen.
Sunset. Moonrise. Eclipse.

The gown of air sewn by fingers
as a rock lifts from the garden,
the drag
          and ribbon,
all arc and arm, trailing from hip to head,
shunting dry saliva-breath in a huff,
from lung to mouth to wrist to palm to tip of




May 11, 2009

you make me mellow

Posted in books tagged , at 8:51 pm by placeinthestars

Last night I finished reading Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon.

I enjoyed it – it’s a fairly straightforward adventure story set in a fantastical version of China, featuring the seventeen year-old heroine, Ai Ling, who goes in search of her father (who left home six months before on an errand to the palace and hasn’t returned) after a powerful man in town tries to force her into marrying him.

She has adventures along the way, meeting up with Chen Yong and his half-brother Li Rong, and finds out a bit more about her own past life.

I could have done without the various rape attempts, the characterization is a bit thin, and the ending is either a setup for a sequel or unsatisfying, but the world-building is vivid, with lots of cool monsters for Ai Ling to fight off, the pacing is great – it’s a quick, compelling, easy read – and I really enjoyed how much Ai Ling enjoyed her food, as well as the very tasty descriptions of what she was eating.

I would totally read a sequel if Pon chooses to write one.


May 9, 2009

Love Song by Anne Sexton

Posted in poetry tagged , at 3:37 pm by placeinthestars


I was
the girl of the chain letter,
the girl full of talk of coffins and keyholes,
the one of the telephone bills,
the wrinkled photo and the lost connections,
the one who kept saying–
Listen! Listen!
We must never! We must never!

and all those things…

the one
with her eyes half under her coat,
with her large gun-metal blue eyes,
with the thin vein at the bend of her neck
that hummed like a tuning fork,
with her shoulders as bare as a building,
with her thin foot and her thin toes,
with an old red hook in her mouth,
the mouth that kept bleeding
in the terrible fields of her soul…

the one
who kept dropping off to sleep,
as old as a stone she was,
each hand like a piece of cement,
for hours and hours
and then she’d wake,
after the small death,
and then she’d be as soft as,
as delicate as…

as soft and delicate as
an excess of light,
with nothing dangerous at all,
like a beggar who eats
or a mouse on a rooftop
with no trap doors,
with nothing more honest
than your hand in her hand–
with nobody, nobody but you!
and all those things.
nobody, nobody but you!
Oh! There is no translating
that ocean,
that music,
that theater,
that field of ponies.

-Anne Sexton

May 8, 2009

i am human and i need to be loved

Posted in books at 4:49 pm by placeinthestars

I finished reading Precious Dragon, the third Inspector Chen novel, on my commute home last night. I enjoyed it way more than The Demon and the City. It builds on those events and features characters we met in it (Jhai, Mhara), but has a lot more of Zhu Irzh and Inspector Chen working together, which is what I liked best about the first book and what was missing from the second, so I was really happy that they were together again. I enjoyed Miss Qi and Underling No, the Zhu family drama, and the dragons. Even Inari got to do something in this one, though I would like her to have a large, more active role in future stories.

possibly a spoiler?

May 2, 2009

i.e. by Levi Wagenmaker

Posted in poetry tagged , at 8:00 pm by placeinthestars

R.C. sent me this poem for national poetry month:


looking up from the sheet of paper
from which she’d read the lines
she attributed to me but
which I hadn’t written
she wanted to know the meaning
of the words she’d read
and which I had not written
but if I had that could not have
made them any more meaningful
she confessed herself confused
she was imagining things said I
and she protested that she could not be
since I was imagining her
and true enough I was
making her up from scraps of memory
relating to different persons at different times
la amalgamata
a creature from that book by Borges
in my book
confusion is a kind of fusion
between what is imperfectly understood
and what is wholly incomprehensible
because I had loved all those
who in part made up her constituent parts
I loved all of her and wanted
to make love to her
in many and imaginative ways
rather than write these lines
and so I didn’t
(write these lines that is)

~Levi Wagenmaker

take me to heart

Posted in books tagged , at 5:26 pm by placeinthestars

I finished Liz Williams’ The Snake Agent the other day. I enjoyed it a lot – I really liked Detective Inspector Chen and Seneschal Zhu Irzh, and their odd couple buddy cop partnership, and the set up of the Singapore Three, and the afterlife. I also enjoyed Sergeant Ma, the lords of hell, and the badger. Inventive and intriguing. Am already halfway through the second book.


April 28, 2009

Shopping Urban by Jane Shore

Posted in poetry tagged , at 6:08 pm by placeinthestars

Shopping Urban
by Jane Shore

Flip-flopped, noosed in puka beads, my daughter
breezes through the store from headband to toe ring,
shooing me away from the bongs,
lace thongs, and studded dog collars.
And I don’t want to see her in that black muscle tee
with SLUT stamped in gold glitter
shrink-wrapped over her breasts,
or those brown and chartreuse retro-plaid
hip-huggers ripped at the crotch.

There’s not a shopper here a day over twenty
except me and another mother
parked in chairs at the dressing room entrance
beyond which we are forbidden to go.
We’re human clothes racks.
Our daughters have trained us
to tamp down the least flicker of enthusiasm
for the nice dress with room to grow into,
an item they regard with sullen, nauseated,
eyeball-rolling disdain.

Waiting in the line for a dressing room,
my daughter checks her cleavage.
Her bellybutton’s a Cyclops eye
peeking at other girls’ armloads of clothes.
What if she’s missed something—
that faux leopard hoodie? those coffee-wash flares?
Sinking under her stash of blouses,
she’s a Shiva of tangled sleeves.

And where did she dig up that new tie-dyed
tank top I threw away in ’69,
and the purple wash ‘n’ wear psychedelic dress
I washed and wore
and lost on my Grand Tour of Europe,
and my retired hippie Peace necklace
now recycled, revived, re-hip?

I thought they were gone—
like the tutus and tiaras and wands
when she morphed from ballerina
to fairy princess to mermaid to tomboy,
refusing to wear dresses ever again.
Gone, those pastel party dresses,
the sleeves, puffed water wings buoying her up
as she swam into waters over her head.


April 27, 2009

Knife-play by Fleur Adcock

Posted in poetry tagged , at 6:34 pm by placeinthestars

by Fleur Adcock

All my scars are yours. We talk of pledges,
and holding out my hand I show
the faint burn on the palm and the hair-thin
razor-marks at wrist and elbow:

self-inflicted, yes; but your tokens—
made as distraction from a more
inaccessible pain than could have been
caused by cigarette or razor—

and these my slightest marks. In all our meetings
you were the man with the long knives,
piercing the living hopes, cutting connections,
carving and dissecting motives,

and with an expert eye for dagger-throwing:
a showman’s aim. Oh, I could dance
and dodge, as often as not, the whistling blades,
turning on a brave performance

to empty stands. I leaned upon a hope
that this might prove to have been less
a gladiatorial show, contrived for murder,
than a formal test of fitness

(initiation rites are always painful)
to bring me ultimately to your
regard. Well, in a sense it was; for now
I have found some kind of favour:

you have learnt softness; I, by your example,
am well-schooled in contempt; and while
you speak of truce I laugh, and to your pleading
turn a cool and guarded profile.

I have now, you might say, the upper hand:
these knives that bristle in my flesh
increase my armoury and lessen yours.
I can pull out, whet and polish

your weapons, and return to the attack,
well-armed. It is a pretty trick,
but one that offers little consolation.
such a victory would be Pyrrhic,

occurring when my strength is almost spent.
No: I would make an end of fighting
and, bleeding as I am from old wounds,
die like the bee upon a sting.


from the ghost that guards her grave

Posted in books tagged , at 1:02 am by placeinthestars

I just finished The Nautical Chart by Arturo Perez-Reverte (trans. Margaret Sayers Peden). I didn’t dislike this book, but I felt the narrative strategy was gimmicky when it was revealed, and there was also a lot of claptrap about how women are mysterious and unknowable etc. etc. which made me roll my eyes a lot. And I get that it was probably more the narrator than Coy having all those ruminations, but they kind of got annoying after a while, spoilers

April 26, 2009

there’s love waiting for the both of you

Posted in books tagged , at 1:09 am by placeinthestars

I’ve just finished reading Georgette Heyer’s Black Sheep, and I enjoyed it tremendously. Abby is wonderfully non-missish and full of good sense and good humor, and I liked Miles and his pragmatism quite a lot. The plot is predictable, but never overly convoluted, and nobody acts like an idiot in order to make it work.


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