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Sparks Online Issue 7
Sparks: A Magazine for Creative People
ISSN# 1077-4149
Editors: Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar
Copyright 1994  by Jim Esch and Stacy Tartar
All rights for each work contained herein revert back to the
author(s) upon publication.
Published in the U.S.A.
We welcome your submissions. Unsolicited manuscripts will be
considered for publication and returned, provided you have included a
self addressed stamped envelope. Send all correspondence to the
address below.
232 North Kingshighway #616
St. Louis, MO 63108-1248
Three Poems..........................Raymond Deffry Jr
But Anyway (a story fragment)........Jim Morris
Two Poems............................Anne Melone
Three Poems..........................Michael McNeilley
Breast Cancer in Her Coffee..........Ben Ohmart
NEW WORLD ORDER RECONNO'TER..........(h)ugh wynne
Three Poems..........................William C. Burns, Jr.
YAWN YENN YESTA......................Daniel Jackson
Perhaps The Trees Have Absorbed Us...Stacy Tartar
$8 for four issues of SPARKS, the print version.
Make checks payable to
Jim Esch or Stacy Tartar
232 N. Kingshighway 616
St. Louis, MO 63108-1248
by Raymond Deffry Jr.
after the tilt-a-whirl ride.
I became a guy who won a goldfish
for his girlfriend on a first date at a fair.
The two of us swam happily then
for the rest of the afternoon
in a comfortable cliche.
That night still light from kisses
she slid the fish and the water gingerly
down the thin neck of a clear vase.
She called me -- The fish has a home
and looks happy, she said.
But that's not why I called.
The fish sat on her windowsill.
Its vase distorted it, made it seem bigger,
as if the bottom was a golden bulb.
During the day, the fish's shadow
moved across the wall of her room
and we imagined an ocean of shadows.
We fed it often and it grew.
We wanted it to feel wanted,
a clue in a mystery of wants.
She gave me a goldfish key chain.
Its painted metal clicked against itself
like it was tapping on glass.
Sometimes, wide-eyed and half-smiling
she'd ask, what's wrong? I became someone else.
Everything, I'd say, except us.
And sometimes she stayed in bed awake
on dark mornings and watched the goldfish
swim in small circles in the gray water.
She always hoped it would look at her.
Sometimes she felt like she was the only one left
and she was sure she had to tell me.
I wanted to say something. But I didn't
want to ruin it. I still liked her.
And words make problems that weren't there before.
She called, the first time in months.
The fish is too big for the vase.
Take it out. I can't, she said.
It's too big to fit through the neck.
I imagined the fish pressed up against the glass
watching its shadow still on the wall.
Why are you calling me? I said
and felt strange saying it and waited
through a long silence for an answer.
But, she stammered, but its our fish.
No, I said, its yours, and hung up the phone.
It felt like breathing underwater.
I couldn't imagine how anything
could have continued -- could keep on growing
in such a suffocating silence.
at some point during the twentieth century, driving on a bridge
with your mother and she tells you that sometimes she thinks
about swerving but never does, of course, you think of it later
when a loud chainsaw begs for your hand in a splattered marriage
of a blunt chain bracelet and familiar flesh and bone.
But you never accept. And sometimes you have dreams you don't
remember of blood-knotted car wrecks but it haunts you and you
know it. And you think how the tossed body would look crumpled
and limp on top of a hunk of cold rock next to the road. And
the knife and blade know your name and you want to look away
but can't from the ten o'clock news and your car accident that
killed three that aren't you and the clip of the open heart
operation that questions the sanctity of your own chest. And
the eye whispers pluck me and the head desires severedness and
the neck will never miss it. It just seems so easy, too easy
to turn the wheel and never miss the ground.
It's something no one
ever had to teach the child
who just did it one day
arms outstretched
he gains speed
his hands get heavy from force
then light and awkward
as he slows and stops
and watches the whole world spin
without him or with him
like a centrifuge this separates him out
as his legs crumple
and he laughs at the carpet
BUT ANYWAY (a story fragment)
by Jim Morris
But Anyway was looking around in back of his house, in the weeds and
small bushes that lined the creek that ran through the yard.  His
dog, Balboa, ran up to him from behind, barked, and asked what he was
doing. "I'm trying to find the ball", said But.  "I've got to find
the ball, and I might as well start looking here".
"Where did you lose it?" asked Balboa.
"I don't know", said But.  Then after a long pause he continued,
"I'm not even sure if I ever had it, but it's high time I got it
under control".
Balboa didn't bother trying to follow this, but instead tried to
change the subject.  "I've been spending a lot of time up on the hill
overlooking the expressway".  Even though But Anyway did not seem
interested, Balboa explained further. "There've been tons of car
fires recently; it seems that more and more people, when they finally
get moving up to speed, going in the right direction, sure of
themselves, Boom! -- their car catches fire.  It's really strange".
Just then, the ground began to shake and the sky darkened.  But
Anyway and Balboa looked up to find their friend, the tyranosaurus
rex, standing over them.  "Get out of my light!" cried But, "I'm
trying to find something".
"Oh. What's that", roared the giant.
"The ball", said Balboa, rolling his eyes.
The tyrant lizard was about to let out one of his ear-piercing
shrieks of laughter, when But suddenly cried out, "Hey, you guys!
Look at this!" But was pointing to a pile of old leaves.  Balboa and
T-rex looked at each other.
by Ann Melone
Mother said I don't believe in Murphy's Law while washing the damned.
dishes she's always washing those saucers when he wants to talk to
her about something Mother said. be more specific I don't understand
what you mean bastard. of a pot that is why don't you think that if
things will probably go wrong they usually do have chunks swimming on
the bottom oily scum on the top seven days a week of this. shit, oh
well she said the spoon slipped from her hand and he believes it.
when she tells him things never can end after. all this is not at all
Show me your bellybutton blush
your shy pit that soft crater
suggests the word creator inverse
The most obvious place
your gut you got
on the first day.
Stick a fat thumb in it.
by Michael McNeilley
The man who tattooed the giant butterfly on Cher's butt
has large, soft hands.
The backs of his hands
are covered with tattoos of stars,
the moon, planets.
Around his fingers are tattoos of
The dad of the man who tattooed the giant butterfly
on Cher's butt once accused him
of gilding the lily.
"Dad," he said,
"man, that's entirely silly,
to think of a butt
in terms of a lily."
Then he thought on it some more.
When the man who tattooed the giant butterfly on
Cher's butt crosses the street,
cars stop for him.
Men who know of his claim to fame
come up to him and ask
to shake his hand.
(That evening he sat there for hours,
carefully inking the lines of most intricate
butterflies, ribbons and flowers,
smoothing and stretching the skin, as though
bringing up something deep from within,
articulating his canvas as no painter thinks to do.)
If the man who tattooed the giant butterfly on Cher's butt
talks to you, don't listen.
He's a man who can convince a cat to fly.
You'll find yourself listening more than hearing,
and discover later you did
whatever he told you
(without remembering why)
and there on your arm you'll find
a red and blue filigreed heart
with your ex-lover's name
wrapped around on a beautiful ribbon,
never to come off,
because tattoos are forever and you can't
turn back time.
The man who tattooed the giant butterfly on Cher's butt
stands all but naked on an L.A. cliff
at dawn, looking out across the city.
His tennis shoes are laced through
to the very top eye.
Across his own butt is a tattoo
of his own hand.
shooting star
but it's been a lot worse
he thought
lying back in the hot tub in his yard
watching the stars above
trying to focus on
a dim pinpoint of light that
might be a satellite
high up
moving quickly for a thing
that seemed so far away
when the shooting star blazed down
out of the north
halfway across the sky
a meteoric white and flaming arrow
gone before a second had elapsed
and he closed his eyes
capturing the line of fire on his retinas
and imagined a blazing chunk falling
plummeting down from the depths of space
direct through the center of his chest
a black and smoking hole
appearing over his breastbone
leaving him dead in cooling water
floating naked into dawn
drawn up and back
with such precision and finesse
as to make the daily news
in every corner
of the world
the streets are full of poetry
the streets are full of poetry
though much of it
washes down the
the little kids by the
stop sign comparing
brightly-packaged condoms
like baseball cards
the well-dressed older woman
in a steaming old Caddy
facing calmly forward as cars
stream around her
voices screaming
filtering in behind the Mozart
as a man in a 3-piece suit
and a man in a 1-piece suit
tap on  opposite
the streets are full of poetry
as a man in a small black car
watches a blonde in a red
sports car in the next lane
trying to keep
pace with her
and talk on
his cellular
stopping and
while a woman in a blue
pickup watches him
from behind
silently smoking
as the rain pours down
the streets are running
full with poetry
misting up from the gutters
of afternoon rush hour
as I walk by
turn into the alley
unzip my fly and
Breast Cancer in Her Coffee
by Ben Ohmart
It was because the various managers were becoming unbearable that
Josu had the employee lounge all to herself that Tuesday afternoon
for her 15 min. break. So many disgruntles had quit, spitting in the
grills of lockers, and super gluing rogue nametags to the store
floor, and licking the child pictures displayed on every manager's
desk, during the past week to two weeks, since everyone'd been
required by policy to learn Mexican or at the very least Spanish to
cope with NAFTA and the many store branches wiggling out for the
pesos. She just sat staring at the one available channel blinking at
her; she couldn't blame CNN for her coffee habits, but what was wrong
with just scooping out her usual three lumps of generic Coffeemate
that was always kept lidded on the cruddy long table top? She didn't
have to look, it was normal.
Stuff tasted really strange, and it wasn't til she was vomiting on
the floor of toys and the open sneakers of little black kids that she
realized something'd gone to pot smoking. The ambulance put her on
the waiting list and a couple hours later, she was three pounds
lighter from the sweat and the wriggling passion was over for the
worse once the doc came back to the Post-Examination room. He made
her close a fist, look into his eyes, feel his muscle, gave her red
pills that came apart in her mouth before they lodged down her
throat. Was there hair or roots of hair in her mouth?
"Now don't get upset," doc started. "There are treatments, it's not
necessarily as -"
"What?" Josu yelled at the wall. "What are you talking about, right
now? "
"You've got a variable of breast cancer. Lump. It's chronic. It's
irreversible, but then it's concentrated, and then and still slowly
moving." The woman began to cry and doc thought it was time for more
of his muscle. "Okay?"
She left unpaid since she couldn't afford it. She must've circled
the city because by the time her blurry eyes came out of the sky, she
stared at the same subway stop at her work's corner. Josu looked at
the building that did this to her. Thought on the vertical window
eyes that looked like a Peter Falk fly, fingered the entity til her
middle digit caught an overused cramp. Only thing that came to her
mind was the average worker concern, the exploitation, but it was a
first for her. She cried on the handrail leading into the dark sub
station until she fell off both emotionally and physically.
Her head found stone pillows a few times on the roll down, and by
the time she met her first guitar player working on Kiss' "Beth",
Josu knew she had to sleep with every man she could find.
It was Thursday before her apt. was given up and initial deposit
returned, and stereo equipment sold and bank account raided, so that
she had the gas money and bucks for some high cleavage garments to go
cruising the clubs. Names like The Frame in Olive Sauce, People Funk,
Cunny Club, Darts and Butch. Men were conquered quickly and
successively while she was dying. She'd hitch on a stud in
big-shouldered shirt or jeans that looked like they'd been raped and
through full eyes made the meaning obvious. Dick would bring her
away, lock the front door, they'd go at it until they reached the
bed, Dick would spout off, and Josu's wicked face went unchecked in
the nastiness of the moment. If Dick coughed sometime when she was
putting the stopper back in her legs, it threw just another sparkler
in her fire. A fire built solely on revenge.
Maybe a guy would come out of the norm and show an ounce of caring
before shooting to put the sty in nasty, but she'd just think about
the disco spot, Elf's Ears, she raided on that past Saturday - those
with their open shirts to the knees and hairy balls hanging
lucratively out for the point of teasing - and she'd make up for the
courage of hatred in one quick fuck.
Josu breathed heavier as the weeks of this went on, and her name
was vastly becoming an underground  legend. She felt her strength
slipping and sometimes she'd have a layer of one of her eyes peeling
away, but it didn't stop her from taking appointments. Men bragged
that they've never paid for it, and when word of this social program
went 'round, nothing could stop every second of the day from being
point and dick less. When she got her e-mail number for a computer
service, she made it clear that all noon and 6 p.m spots required a
spot of food before sheets parted, and there wasn't a loin who
thought a large Pizza Hut supreme delivered was too high a price.
But soon the pop woman had to leave her shirt on, because of the
armpit lumps, so Josu settled the many arguments this created with
simple scissors to the front of her blouses. Nipples hard, hatred
gleaming, she bonked another regiment until she had to be
A couple days left. Josu really wanted her old doc; she'd feel his
muscle now, and he'd pay the fee! But he didn't come, and there were
always calls for her - the Navy sent flowers and wanted to know when
she could take the S.S. Field Queen - but no visitors. Some guy
offered to hire a computer sitter to structure her appointment
calendar til she was up on her back again, but Josu lost interest in
free enterprise, closing her eyes at a last contemptuous laugh at The
Feed and Grain Report the following early Wednesday. She would've
liked for her last thoughts to be wading through the tons of male
flesh cursed into death's waiting list, or the faces of the trusting
John Thomases urging her to make that sound like a eagle coughing up
something who'd soon be buying Rogaine by the bucket, had it been
true. It was only too bad breast cancer wasn't a sexually
transmittable disease.
The funeral was called off on account of only clergymen showing up.
No one counted the kind office ladies who from repetition brought
coffee. The day was bright through the scattered clouds when she went
under. She continued to be screwed.
by (h)ugh wynne
(for Bob Avakian)
weekend, uptown, arthouse hipsters....
SOHO, NOHO, caffe-latte-sippers....
lotsa pride in LEXUSdrivin'..hwy Trooper bribin'..usin' PBA
winin', dinin', LIMO'ridin', dressd-t'-th'-9's..attend xclusv'
wellgroomd, wellheeld, wellschoold, lib'ral-leanin'....
wellread, wellbred, dillettantes in d'sign'r-jeans 'n'....
co-opt th' latest dwntwn trends 'n' turn it inta their own scene
wear haut-couter without fray'd ends..affect Bohemian..but press'd &
bourgeois dandies refer t' cinema as film, the faux-pas term is
pretentious egos need to be gawk'd at..wearin' GUCCI....
aristocratic, all-assumin', cavalier....too choozy....
back-bitin' not consider'd gossiping..much rath'r call it
What say you Friend?...ev'n tho' these prigs are all th' same....
maybe there's just 1 worth savn' may not be totally in vain....
t'ignite some light within 'em..unloose 'em from their chains....
let 'em make a new beginn' 'em th' degradn' game they'r
show futility of static wheels that spin..'n'....
wipe off th' grin that they've been grinn'n....
remove from them their underpinn'n....
redirect these yuppie lames....
Nahhh....I don't think so..that's a fool's'd never be no
they're too goddam'd conditon'd..blind'd th'th' wisdom of a
you can lead a horse t' water..we've all heard that tir'd rap....
t' their misfortune they all b'LIEve in "NEW WRLD ORDR"....
they'd rath'r die than to relinquish their b'lovd'd class-system
Xploitative Businessmen, double-dealn' sleazy-slimers....
prominence pretendn', status-seekn'-social-climbers....
upward-mobile, broadway showbill, thinkin' they'r so noble..never
knowin' they'r malign'rs.
champin' at th' bits 'n' tryn' t' sink their mitts in, imported
Rhinewine spritzn' twist-o'-limers....
rightwing radio TV tawk show windbags....
speech write, incite, pick fights 'n' ego-brag....
about their views, on ethnics, commies, 'bortion mommies, GRRRls 'n'
affectin' candor, propaganda, tawkin' slander...worshipin' flags....
silver tongued salesmen push worthless products as they fuel....
their one-way economy.. force feed it down th' throats of workin
stiff 'n' mules....
they're just like donkeys chasin' carats onna stick..they slobber &
they drool....
eyes glaz'd over, mesmerized, sacrificin' their own lives..for
securities & jewels....
an epiphany just visit'd me.. that we should get 'em all....
this has to be..divinity..listen..we take 'em to..get this.. "poetic
justice city hall"...
turn 'em on t' their own lies..indict their system & their ways....
insert a little irony.. put some pressure on without no more
force feed 'em back their hypocrisy ..make 'em smoke a magic "J"....
but that's just wishful thinkin' wouldn't be no good....
'cause they're too fatuous t'see th' prospect of a brotherhood....
you can lead a horse t' know th' end t' that....
but those bleed'n-frigg'n dupes 're hitch'd t' New World Ordr....
they've got th' game down pat....
defense-CONtract lobbysists bribe pentagon officials....
amateurs 'n' hobbysists build model war-head guid'd missles....
marine 'n' army chaplains comfort soldiers with epistles....
these bringers of black-death, disguised..never seem t' wet their
izzit CONtradictory when christian soldiers follow jeezus....
cryst once turn'd his other cheek t' VILE'lence....
did that not  rENDer guns themselves t' pieces?....
amerICHHa invades 3rd worlds still.. make cryst' xistance all but
nil..where's that leave us?....
murder their own flock in war..oxymorons, that's for sure....
while pray'n that war ceaases....
armament investors make clean getaways.. why can't we list their
they're makin' bloodsoak'd profits ev''s time they stood th'
make their addresses public rec'rd..brand them with th' mark of
take ollie norths 'n' gen'rel sec'rds..send snakes like these back t'
th' swamps from whence they came
y'know man...we should gath'r all these scum....
load 'em inside their own cann'ns...blast 'em all t' kingdumb
xpose their d'ceptions & their lies t' people everywhere....
bar axcess t' their media circus..t' tribunals with 'em all....
in front of judges that 're fair!....
but there's not enough altruists for that deal t' ever work....
ad & pitchmen-mad's'n Ave.-mold our opinions..turn people inta
wall St. piedpipers pros'l'tyz US..we genuflect t' these young
it's hard t' make th' crooked straight..t' make th' sick ones
tough  t' stuff horseshit back in th' horse..y' gotta smell th'
t' whoever here is drivin'.. I don't care much for SLAYridin'....
besides this sled is slippin' slidin' straight towards hell....
let's show th' dis'nfranchiz'd now..determine th' bereft....
t' not conSEEl th' as t' view it right t' left....
track down th' WELLthy & th' gentry..not let 'em vanish inta
history's clefts....
& we begin t' kings dealt aces free..unfoldin' all th' th'end th'end the whole d'scovery is all property is
but let's not cover toomuch ground, it might confuse some here among
let's go back as far as say...CHRISTopher columbus....
1st of all who gave him the right t' plant his flag in some1 else's
th' spanish queen he represented?' holy see & all his guard?....
this country's phony..was invented..a fair statement..eas'ly
grasp'd..'n' not too hard....
unless 1 feels spain could steal 'n' had if she had
some magic credit card....
like spain deserv'd what wasn't hers-use that premise-that's just
I'm not reserv'd-look out y' curs-prepare t' grimace-as I take your
land & make it mine...
I'l wear a giant crucifix..say god sent me..treat you kind....
I'll wait 'ntil yr guard's way down-smash you 'til yr blind....
I'll beat y' CENTSless, r'lentlessly, bash you w/ev'ry bludgeon I can
I'll render you d'fenceless..banish you t' where th' sun don't
that's how things got started long ago - right?....
what could be wrong with that?....
amerika was spawned from genocide 'n' larceny....
it's nuthin' new.. it's all old hat....
so if y' think what you have now is yours 'n' come through honest
if yr truly honest, measure by an honest yardstick 'n' y'all find
that NONE of us owns beans....
but if you think what you have now is yours..think back t' how th'
Indians were cleaned...
c'lumbus brought world order then..carnage that no god can mend....
swords kill'd then 'n' so did pens..feather'd diff'rent way back
th' U.S. eagle primp'd 'n' preen'd....
you may think you hear within this piece..moralyz'n & r'ligion....
y' might be right, y' might be wrong.. but we're all link'd - we're
led along like uns'spectin' pigeons..
remember fish swim all their lives never knowin' that they're
conmen b'LIEve in their own cons..well-wishers can't be trust'd what
they'r wishin'....
what's left there t' b'lieve in?..who can really say for sure?....
how can we end up even?..keep up & still stay pure?....
this h'rangue aint just pet peevin'..we could really use a cure....
but most people never list'n..cause in this informatoin soup they'd
they'r too busy workin' for a pot t' piss in t' notice truth is
hidd'n & is bound....
in laws always amend'd by legislat'rs language-double-tawk'd 'n' much
for betrayin' trust we lend 'm..they turn us inta cLOWns....
that have t' eat this shitfill'd sandwich daily..have t' choke it
but luckily-just symbolic'ly..or else our teeth would turn th' color
how 'bout you friend?..are you sadden'd at this free-f'r-all....
so hard t' tell the players with no program..difficult t' see it
but not hopeless alt'gether..t' PEACE a picture from a sketch....
t' try t' hold ourselves t'gether..while holdin' beack th' retch....
not recoil from all this xcess..from all this obscene wealth....
that liars, cheats, 'n' thieves accumulat'd..acquir'd usin'
so if 1 is t' free 1's self..1 has t' have 1's head on straight....
r'turn this legacy t' whom bequeath'd it..fuk around with fate....
r'ject this path of omnicide - box it in a crate....
too many deaths - too many die..we need a brand new slate....
stuff th' new world order up its ass....
take some true class....
stand up 'n' be for real at last....
y'll metamorph'cize yr hate
by William C. Burns, Jr.
Mine is but breath
Do I threaten you
by breathing?
Can I inhale the whole sky?
By what right do you
sequester the sky-blue dream?
Deny my life
deny my breath?
Why is it that we insist
on making the man sit
When we kill him?
What is it about
"You shall be hanged by the neck
until Dead?"
I guess
Dead men tend to twist in the wind
when they are hanging by a rope
An ugly reminder
you know . . .
not good for the kids to see
With a sitting dead man
We can pretend he's just sleeping
not really dead, just relaxing a bit
before the next show
At least when the druids
sacrificed their criminals
They tried to attach
some kind of religious significance
to it
Something I could barely touch
moved in the room
Something I could almost name
spoke in the dusty silence
Someone I almost knew
stood cloaked in the glittering motes
reaching for another place
by Daniel Jackson
My Christmas break began earlier than Neil's that year so Mom and I
were at home alone. Dad left for work early that day.
I sat on the family room floor with my legs stretched out under the
coffee table and my elbows propped on top. The ashtrays and the
centerpiece (a piece of shellacked, Cypriot driftwood my Dad had
preserved for my Mom upon their departure from Nicosia) rested on the
floor in order to make room for my art supplies. Mom stretched out on
the white satin sofa behind me. Family room furniture in white satin
is undoubtedly a contradiction in terms, but there is no contest
between form and function in  my Mother's eyes. Besides, what else
goes well with sculptured carpet in lipstick red? This is suburbia,
after all. The table tops were white marble, so they made excellent
art tables when cleared of decor -- or red ceramic ashtrays dependent
upon your perspective. Dad hated the whole scheme. He particularly
disliked the fact that the redecoration transformed the only
comfortable room in the house to yet another 'you have to genuflect
before you can enter' mausoleum. Little did he know that some of us
got to sit on the furniture and even draw at the table -- but only
during rare moods. Today was one of those
we-can-relax-in-the-red-room letter days.
"I can't think of what to draw."
"Draw anything."
"But I don't know what to draw."
"Here, let me show you something."
I couldn't believe my ears. Mom was going to draw for me? She must
be ill, or getting ready to leave again. No matter, I'd long since
learned to seize a moment even if I'd yet to hear the phrase carpe
Mom scooted under the coffee table next to me and took a pencil in
hand. I watched as she created a three-dimensional line box before my
eyes. I was in absolute awe of her talent. Show me how! Show me how!
For the next few hours Mom drew flowers and vases and boxes and
nonsense and I took instruction while adding 'artist' to the list of
credits my Mother had accrued in my mind. I haven't seen her draw
since then so her artowrk is still the sum of those masterpieces seen
through my child's eyes. I can still draw a three-dimensional box
with the best of them, so there.
As we drew, we chatted about the coming holiday and Mom teased me
with the list of possible gifts Santa might bring. Silly her, didn't
she know that Dad was Santa Claus and his workshop was the walk-in
closet in the big guest room? I could have offered to show her but I
didn't want to disappoint her so better not to speak of it. Besides,
how could she know, she hadn't been around for Christmas in years. We
always saved her gifts in the closet until spring, or summer, or
whenever she returned home.
At some point my Mother began talking about Christmas when she was
a little girl in Nicosia. Mom rarely spoke about her childhood. From
my Dad I learned that Mom was the middle of three daughters born to a
Cypriot barber and his wife, Gregory and Calliope by name. Calliope
died when my Mom was relatively small (between five and ten)? Then
Gregory had remarried and had two more daughters. Calliope died from
breast cancer. Maritsa was Gregory's new wife. My mother had said
just enough about Maritsa for me to surmise that she was the
incarnation of Cinderella's wicked stepmother. Maritsa was my sole
surviving grandparent (of sorts) and so far we hadn't met. My Mother
kept Maritsa away from us with a vengence (which wasn't difficult
considering she lived in Africa with one of her daughters). Going by
Mom's description, I was comfortable with Maritsa's exclusion from
our lives; she sounded positively evil. Cinderella had it easy
compared to my Mom -- at least she had a fairy Godmother to balance
the books. My Mother had no fairy and lost her father in a motorcycle
accident in her teens and this left her with only a wicked motorcycle
mama-type step-person. Poor Mom.
Anyway, today's story was about Christmas and even though Maritsa
was serving in Calliope's place, Gregory was around still to protect
his 'first' girls from the evil one. Gregory fared better in history
than Maritsa while not as well as Calliope. Gregory didn't come off
like Hugh Beaumont but he usually came off as crazy-funny-loyal and
mostly redeemable. I relaxed when I realized this wasn't going to be
a post-Calliope and Gregory tale; post-Calliope and Gregory tales
invariably resulted in our crying for those three, poor little
Cypriot girls fending off the evil, interloping wench.
As this story went, Christmas was approaching and the 'first'
daughters needed new shoes among other things. Practical gifts seemed
to reign in bygone Cypriot times. I was silently grateful that our
Santa's workshop-come-closet contained real Christmas gifts, read:
TOYS. So it went that Gregory bought little Athena the shoes she
wanted and on Christmas day said Athena was so overjoyed that she
wouldn't risk spoling the new shoes even slightly by so much as
putting them on her feet. I couldn't relate to being excited by shoes
so I certainly couldn't fathom being so excited that you couldn't
even bring yourself to wear them. Why do I get the feeling that this
story doesn't have a proper Yuletide ending?
Why, because this story doesn't have a proper Yuletide ending
that's why. Malevolent Maritsa took the damned shoes and gave them to
someone. I could have died. Who did she give them to? I haven't a
clue. I heard the words Maritsa and took in the same sentence and
started crying. What an awful thing for Maritsa to do to my Mother at
Christmas. How could she? I couldn't believe my Mom was still alive.
Through my tears I couldn't understand how she could be so calm about
this; I say we tell Oprah. Maritsa stole your Christmas shoes before
you even got to wear them?! I could have told you that not wearing
them was a bad move. Stupid kid: God, how did you let that happen? I
couldn't stop crying.
I did stop crying eventually, but only after my Mom convinced me
she wasn't going to die from the memory. I didn't stop thinking about
those 'hot' shoes though. Boy oh boy that Maritsa person better never
show her face around here, and if she does I say we hide all the
shoes and go barefoot for the duration of her visit. Does she steal
toys, too? I don't think I like her. Tell me again; she's not my real
Grandmother is she? Thank heavens.
A few days after I'd stopped sobbing about the shoes while still
ruminating over the shoe caper, Dad took Joe and me shopping for
Mom's Christmas gifts. We looked at clothes and jewelry and kitchen
gadgetry and bought a selection from each category. Buying real
Christmas gifts for Mom made me feel better but I couldn't help
thinking of those stolen shoes, and I couldn't think how to tell Dad
we should buy her shoes without having to repeat that story. If I
told that story in the store Dad might cry, and I knew I would. Just
thinking about it made me feel sad. Besides, while Dad was generous
he was mostly rational so he would undoubtedly mention Mom's shoe
closet and its irrational contents. I didn't care, we had to get her
at least one more pair of shoes -- pretty ones. The prettier the
shoes the better; we had to make up for Maritsa's meanness.
"Yes Buschka?"
"Can we get Mom a pair of shoes?"
At this my Dad threw back his head and luaghed while repying: "A
pair of shoes?! Buschka, your Mother has at least a hundred pairs of
shoes!" I knew he would say that. To make matters worse Neil was
rolling his eyes at me in disgust. Damn, this is not going well and
we HAVE to buy Mom shoes. Okay, and much as I hate to I'm going to
have to tell a condensed version of the dreaded shoe caper. By the
time I finished I was in Dad's arms crying in a store aisle as he
patted my back and said "Alright Busch, stop crying and we'll get
your Mother shoes. Please, if you'll just stop crying." Dad was teary
too and Neil was more disgusted than ever. I'm not sure whom Dad was
crying for, Mom or me; if I know my Dad he was crying for both of us.
How do you think my Mom got all those shoes?!
I felt better when we arrived in the women's shoe department. Dad
was still carrying me as I had navigated us to the heels (I was a
head taller than my Dad when held high in his arms). He put me down
and I headed straight for the reddest, tallest pair of heels I could
"These!" Neil was rolling his eyes again. (I hope they stick that
"Are you sure?"
"Theese!" I was adamant. In real life there is no red like the red
of these shoes. A four-alarm fire doesn't even begin to capture the
spirit of these bright orange-red, stiletto heels with the brass
toes. I'm sure only I saw the relevance of these shoes and I'm
equally sure that we bought the only pair sold nationwide.
Regardless, and even if they looked as if they should have a battery
pack for recharging, in my imagination these were the only shoes that
could ever possibly fade the memory of Maritsa's holiday heist.
Emotional scars require heavy makeup -- pancake works best.
"Okay, if you're absatively posolute." I loved it when he said
that; humor always indicated surrender on his part. I was so happy I
couldn't even remember what else we had gotten Mom but I knew we had
shoes -- red shoes -- CHRISTMAS SHOES!
The red shoes went into Santa's spare-bedroom closet and I rested
easier waiting for Christmas day.
It's Christmas! Quick, get the shoes. I rushed to my parent's room
and shook my Dad awake and then started tugging on my Mom's nightgown
(a definite no-no).
"Busch, don't upset your Mother; she'll come later."
"No. Now. Mom has to open her presents first. Get up Mom."
"What! What? Oh Buschka, I'll come later."
"Now! You have to open your presents first Mom -- pleeeeaaassseee."
"Okay-Okay, bunayumoo gory" (Greek for 'God, I hate this part?!) as
she glanced at my Dad with a look that said '...I said I'd have them
and you had to raise them; you have just violated your agreement to
rescue me from this crap and you will pay later...'
With that I rushed down the hallway to the front living room where
our little tree stood on an end table. I scooted all Mom's presents
together by one of the chairs and waited for Dad and Neil and her to
turn the corner into the room. Come on guys! Mom opened all her
presents except the shoes in my lap. I couldn't wait for her to
finish oohing and ahhing over the others so she could got to the
shoes. When the shoes were her only unopened present I handed her the
box and I must have looked crazy with excitement because Mom  glanced
at Dad as she took the package from me. She tormented me by carefully
removing each piece of tape (I hate people who don't know how to
properly rip gift wrap to shreds) and then folding the stupid paper
before lifting the box lid off -- COME ONNNN! Please, I'm dying here.
(Neil was rolling his eyes again but Dad understood and if her kept
doing it eventually they would stick -- so keep it up Neil). Just as
Mom lifted the lid off the box and exposed the flaming red shoes I
couldn't contain myself anymore and shouted:
"Christmas shoes!" and both my arms and hands shook with the
release of contained excitement.
Mom was stunned and I was crying again. I wasn't sad, I was reeling
in anticipation of righting a great wrong and I was shaken with the
arrival of the moment and my desire to rosy up a sallow past.
"He insisted we get these shoes," Dad explained.
"They're Christmas shoes!" I said again as I shook both my arms and
hands to the umpteenth rolling of Neil's eyes. I didn't want anyone
saying too much; I just wanted this to be a private moment between
Mom, Maritsa and history.
Mom sat quietly looking from the shoes to my Dad and then to me and
back to the shoe box. I made her put those shoes on right away --
just in case Maritsa surprised us with her first visit to the U.S.
Some people never change.
Later in the day we dressed for Christmas service. This was the
first holiday service the four of us attended in my lifetime. Mom
changed from a short dress to a long, flowing dress when I insisted
that she wear her new shoes. I thought she looked beautiful. I also
thought it was very intelligent of her to wear a dress that hid her
new shoes -- who knew where Maritsa could be lurking?!
by Stacy Tartar
I could write my best song and it would never be more beautiful than
that tree outside that window.
An attic window, an evergreen tree.
I'll call it a Pennsylvania Pine, though there's no such creature. So
what. What's in a name?  Maybe you can picture it. It's green, brown,
part hemlock, part Christmas tree. The needles are soft, flexible.
The Pennsylvania Pine is the most spectacular creature in the
neighborhood right now, more soothing than the song I've been
practicing, pretty without effort. Even during the miserable cloudy
days, the horrible winter days when even mist bites, she warms the
eye with her deep forest color. On happier days she pierces and
dazzles against the cold, clear winter blue. Brown, green, blue.
Simple as they are, these colors so often are enough to make me
The attic too is warm against the twilight winds, and the
Pennsylvania Pine is shimmering in a soft, late afternoon haze,
framed by the small window beside me, poised as if to comfort me as I
Surrounded by trees, a person feels something.
In a forest, we may feel primitive terror or a primitive sense of
protection. Surrounded by so much height and cover, we may feel
blanked, negated. We are lost, terrified. The trees have absorbed us.
Or perhaps we are cradled, nested.
Perhaps we are home.
I'm home. Down among the trees again, not on top of them. Living
above the trees has been a new experience for me, a foreign
beauty--it's larger, more distant, more all-encompassing. But now,
sitting under this tree at this window I feel a personal, private
connection to this particular tree. I feel the heavy sway of its
branches, the moaning air, the creaking. I swear I almost feel
protected by this tree!  It seems to want to take care of me, feeding
me brilliantly filtered light and color.
Life can really change one's window view.
From a skyscraper, one
In St. Louis, where I live when I'm not home for the Christmas and
New Year holiday, I see much more sky on a daily basis than I ever
have before. I see far off horizons above the soaring treetops and
then a great canvas of liquid sky, filling with color, drifting with
clouds. I see it sniffle, drizzle, flake and twinkle. Nightly I
observe the mysterious divisions between day and dark unfold; I watch
the sun sink into a different drama each evening, baffled as never
before that the whole earth is forever spinning, journeying...where?
This sky, which is not human, not animal, is nevertheless alive,
growing all the time, tossing in shades of gray and blue, yellow,
orange, purple, green, pink and black, mixing more light and color
than I rightly know what to do with.
A view with so much sky is clearly macro- rather than microcosmic.
In it one sees more than oneself.
Whole neighborhoods appear. Washington University ascends in the
middle. Further on, the county seat, upscale courthouse town with its
government centers, business offices, malls, apartments and
mini-skyline that catches the earliest rays of sunrise and sparkles
at night. A little to the left, hidden in the trees, the Art Museum.
To the right, guilded mansions from another age. Gated, private
streets. A popular shopping district:  art galleries, antique shops,
coffeehouses, sidewalk cafes, bookstores, boutiques. Far to the
right, more hidden still, a ghetto as desperate as any in America.
Buses and highways head bring people from every direction. At our
back, three major hospitals. Hundreds, thousands of seen and unseen
citizens, neighbors, pass underneath my window. Above all moves the
Below, an entire human cosmos. The city.
In Media our windows fed us a smaller view, a view mostly of
ourselves. Our garden, our street, our neighbors, our cars. In the
next block, the courthouse around which we walked Lucy, our dog, each
day. We could see our neighbors as they walked into town, walks as
regular as the sunrise some of them. We passed by as they mowed their
lawns, raked their leaves, planted their flowers, chatted with one
another or with us, placed a stray newspaper on a step where it
belonged. People who moved away from our street left a void, even
when they only moved two blocks away, like Chip and Debbie, or a few
miles away, like Mark. No more familiar whistle or smile, no more
shout. We saw children, saw one or two of them grow up, some of them
already grown when they moved in. Their noise filtered through the
screens as we sat reading or watching TV. Sometimes they sounded
serious, other times shrill; something about summer twilight causing
them so often to erupt in peal after peal  of high-pitched laughter
(that made us wonder when their parents would call them in). Teenage
skateboarders with teenage-skateboarder- haircuts, baggy shorts, big
sneakers and XXL t-shirts whizzed through town, landing in the Main
Line Federal parking lot, practicing jumps and spins into the night.
There was the couple next door whose extra-loud shouting matches made
us eager eavesdroppers and embarassed neighbors. And then there were
the elderly whose regular presence in the town inspired a certain
calm and respect for life. I can still see the thin, stooped glide of
a certain gentleman who made his way past our door almost every day,
pulling his shopping cart on his way to Thriftway or Deals. On
Sundays he would slowly walk to church. And I can see the widow on
the next block, her tight gray bun trussed firmly in place, sweeping
off the speck of dust that had somehow escaped the morning's broom
and attacked her porch. I can see her wiping her car, a silvery '62
Chevy that looked absolutely brand spanking new.
Our windows in Media kept us connected to all of these aspects of
our neighbors and ourselves.
Media was once a town with a lot of beautiful trees, most of them
big old shady pin oaks. In fact, when we first moved there, the town
had exactly one hundred and ten more trees than when we left five
years later. That's because in 1989 the Philadelphia Electric Company
came and cut down one hundred and ten beautiful trees. For weeks the
murderous sound of chainsaws pierced the town. Every block filled
with the sad odor of wasted sap and sawdust. The result was that
dozens of streets were transformed forever. Where there had been
shade there was now scortching sun. Where there had been privacy and
cover, there were now exposed windows and crumbling red brick. The
town took on a shaved look. But the problem had started even before
PECO came and murdered the trees.
One afternoon we had a terrible thunderstorm and one of the tall
trees in our backyard, a tree that had been dead for some time, fell
over and destroyed our neighbor's back deck. Our landlord's solution
to this disaster was to cut down all but one or two of the other tall
trees in the backyard...transforming it forever.
It's entirely possible that the destruction of the town's trees led
eventually to our own departure.