Saturday, June 30, 2007


Somewhere on this road of life,
somewhere on this paved, clean, bright street,
on this harsh Matterhorn,
on this forest path, all tangled, all wild,
I stumbled over a stone, or a root, or a step.
I fell hard, from these stilts of illusions.
I lost my smile among dying leaves.
Down on my knees, I am delving for it.
I can’t tell them apart, my red smile, these red leaves.
I find only ants, and earth worms, and slugs.
How fine they look, even in my misery.
I am a hedgehog now, beware, I prickle, I hide.
Not for long,
not for long.

Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


When I drive my car, I feel free.
The motorway meanders just slightly, bed to a river of metal and exhaust. I catch a glimpse of it when I descend the spiralling ramp. The paving at the entrance from the service road is slightly ribbed, though probably due only to low craftsmanship and not on purpose, so the car vibrates noticeably and, as I press the accelerator, it makes me feel I’m on a runway, piloting an aircraft, and gaining speed for take-off.
I sneak between two lorries, or some other moving characters not considerate enough (and slow, for that matter) to free the first lane, and then I’m in the flow, passing it quickly to the fastest lane.
The sunroof is normally open, letting in the rush of noises with the cool air of the morning. I’m listening to music sometimes, mostly trance. Something like the Motorcycles’ “As the rush comes.” Not too wise to listen to it in a car…
The car is fast, hot-tempered. It pushes me in the back of my seat. I’m in a good place. I love it.
Every morning, very early, I have about fifteen minutes in this limbo of speed and concrete, in which I am nowhere but on the road. My home is behind, my workplace is not reached yet. I have no worries, no regrets, no expectations. Only dreams are sometimes allowed in this realm of pure adrenaline.
So, I might imagine Daniel sitting next to me. His hand, warm, strong, covers mine when I change gears, just slightly pressing with me on the stick. My heart misses a beat then. Not quite enough to distract me. He watches me, and I can feel his tender witty smile in the outrageous words he’s saying. Oh, Daniel…!
Speed is the stronger emotion right now.
A splendid high, and then it’s over – till the afternoon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Half an Hour

This is my contribution to Minx's small, but perfectly formed competition, a very short story inspired by a painting of Jack Vettriano's.

The Rolls arrived at 6 o’clock, sliding silently, and stopped by the kerb, underneath the street lamp whose fading light somehow fuelled the illusion that the night was still there. That night of all dreams, and all fall backs.

She didn’t flinch, did not withdraw. She held the steaming mug in her hands, as if its mere closeness were enough to thaw her freezing core, or lift her sinking heart. She cared little if he could see her from down there. She imagined him, behind the darkened windows, on the wide leather seat, his morning suit impeccable, his hands resting quietly at his sides, the crisp unopened newspaper next to him. «Financial Magnate Elopes with Prima Ballerina», that front page might show in a week or so. A tiny rueful smile curved her lips.

“I’ll be here at six,” he’d said, just as he was leaving her flat the evening before. His eyes had sparkled for a moment, so fugitively that it could be only an illusion. “But you must come down. I won’t come up.” She frowned at the lingering coldness in his words, even as he held her tight, hands on her bare shoulder-blades, lips on her neck.

At six fifteen, the rear window slid down and cigarette smoke spiralled into the cool morning air. He’s getting impatient, she thought.

Almost against her will, she breathed deeper, as if she could possibly catch a whiff of that smoke, wondering if he was looking at her through that narrow space above the tinted window.

“I’ll wait for half an hour.” So much like him, to speak in absolutes, give ultimatums.

Still time, to throw the peignoir aside, to slide into her worn jeans, maybe to call at him, foolishly, from the window, knowing that he would deeply disapprove of that.

Still time, maybe, to tell him about the plane tickets for Greece that she had bought as a surprise for him.

She looked around the room. Her red suitcase was standing by the door. The bed, in which she hadn’t slept that night, still held the shapes of their love, if not the warmth.

“I won’t continue like this,” he’d said. “I will leave them. We shall take the Channel train to Paris tomorrow.”

“Your daughter will…”

“I want you.”

So curtly.

… as another beautiful object, she had finished silently the sentence, just as she was making up her mind, right then, with the face of his daughter, wide eyed, and so trusting, floating before her eyes.

Yet, had he run over the street to her, had he at least come out of the car and look up at her window, she might have – even now - gone to him.

“Darling,” she whispered. “I will let you go…”

At half past six, the automobile started rolling down the street. She took a sip of tepid coffee and lifted her eyes to watch the rising sun. Plenty of time to catch the plane to Athens.

Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summer Solstice

Oh, summer breaks my heart with longing…

And this is by a Victorian poet:

Summer Days

By Wathen Marks Wilks Call (1817–90)

In summer, when the days were long,
We walk’d, two friends, in field and wood;
Our heart was light, our step was strong,
And life lay round us, fair as good,
In summer, when the days were long.

We stray’d from morn till evening came,
We gather’d flowers, and wove us crowns;
We walk’d mid poppies red as flame,
Or sat upon the yellow downs,
And always wish’d our life the same.

In summer, when the days were long,
We leap’d the hedgerow, cross’d the brook;
And still her voice flow’d forth in song,
Or else she read some graceful book,
In summer, when the days were long.

And then we sat beneath the trees,
With shadows lessening in the noon;
And in the sunlight and the breeze
We revell’d, many a glorious June,
While larks were singing o’er the leas.

In summer, when the days were long,
We pluck’d wild strawberries, ripe and red,
Or feasted, with no grace but song,
On golden nectar, snow-white bread,
In summer, when the days were long.

We lov’d, and yet we knew it not,
For loving seem’d like breathing then;
We found a heaven in every spot;
Saw angels, too, in all good men,
And dream’d of gods in grove and grot.

In summer, when the days are long,
Alone I wander, muse alone;
I see her not, but that old song
Under the fragrant wind is blown,
In summer, when the days are long.

Alone I wander in the wood,
But one fair spirit hears my sighs;
And half I see the crimson hood,
The radiant hair, the calm glad eyes,
That charm’d me in life’s summer mood.

In summer, when the days are long,
I love her as I lov’d of old;
My heart is light, my step is strong,
For love brings back those hours of gold,
In summer, when the days are long.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lost Babylon


He leaped at me
from the faded tiles of
Ishtar's procession.
His claws sank deep
into my flesh,
the dust of all illusions upon us.
"What seek you?"
he rumbled. "The brilliance
is gone,
the gold is ashes."
"One named Alexander," I said.
"He was once a god."

Copyright © Vesper L. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Is A Story?

The fragment that follows is taken from a book that I read and keep reading, and that I would recommend to anyone who needs and wants to get a better grasp on the craft of writing. It is Damon Knight’s “Creating Short Fiction”. As Algis Budrys said, “What Knight doesn’t know about writing the short story cannot be put into expository prose anyway.”

"Because fiction is an invention, the author has more freedom to make it esthetically satisfying than she does in nonfiction, and therefore our expectations of being gratified in this way are high. A successful story is or seems to be all of a piece—all in harmony, all saying the same thing in different ways, having its own steady rhythm, with nothing out of key, nothing inappropriate or irrelevant.

In a story we expect a quality of completion, of roundedness, which sets it apart from a sketch, an incident, or an anecdote. For example, this is a sketch:

A little boy, named Joe, who haunts about the bar-room and the stoop, about four years old, in a thin short jacket, and full-breeched trowsers, and bare feet. The men plague him, and put quids of tobacco in his mouth, under pretence of giving him a fig, and he gets enraged, and utters a peculiar sharp, spiteful cry, and strikes at them with a stick, to their great mirth. He is always in trouble, yet will not keep away. They dispatch him with two or three cents, to buy candy, and nuts and raisins. They set him down in a nitch of the door, and tell him to remain there a day and a half; he sits down very demurely, as if he really meant to fulfil his penance;— but, a moment after, behold there is little Joe, capering across the street to join two or three boys who are playing in a wagon.

              The American Notebooks of Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is an incident:

Bill was a sophisticated college junior, and I was only a senior in high school when we went on our first date. After the movie, he suggested we go to Green Hill Park—a local lovers' lane—to look at the stars, but I murmured some excuse.
I found myself liking Bill more and more, but on the second date I still refused to go "look at the stars."
On the third date I finally agreed. Bill stopped the car in an isolated spot. I closed my eyes as his face came close to mine, but I opened them quickly as I heard his voice in my ear. "Now over there " he was saying, "that's Sagittarius...."

              Joan P. Fouhy, in Reader's Digest

The following is an anecdote:

The story goes that Mrs. Vanderbilt once demanded to know what Fritz Kreisler would charge to play at a private musicale, and was taken aback when he named a price of five thousand dollars. She agreed reluctantly, but added, "Please remember that I do not expect you to mingle with the guests." "In that case, Madam," Kreisler assured her, "my fee will be only two thousand."

              Bennett Cerf, in Try and Stop Me

Finally, this is a story:

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door...


As you can see, the sketch is merely a vivid bit of description; the incident is something that happened, and so is the anecdote, with the difference that it is attached to a real person who is mentioned by name. The story, although it is only two sentences long, is complete by implication and is charged with meaning in a way that none of the others are."

Thursday, June 07, 2007

No Other Kind...

Writing is a drug to me, my addiction to it descending beyond any rehabilitation.

When I write, I am there. I plunge head on and immerse myself fully in my story. I become totally obsessed with it. I see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Most of the time, I am a woman, but I was a man in three of my stories. My perspective changes accordingly, and also the way I put the words together, or so I was told.

I once read about Anthony Quinn, about how deeply he entered under the skin of the character he played, so intensely in fact that, for example, when he was filming “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, he used to walk around hunched, all the time.

Obviously, I do not claim a craft such as Anthony Quinn’s, but the spirit is probably kindred.

Writing gives me incommensurable pleasure and plenty of sorrow at the same time.

I soar to the highest elation when I live the story. But I am also haunted by it. I might, sometimes, wear a haggard look, and, on my face, there might dance a kaleidoscope of all my various feelings. I’m in a trance. The real world represents only fugitive episodes of coming out of this trance.

Then, I feel utterly drained when I finish it, most desperate that it’s finished, and horribly exposed if somebody else reads it. An intimate piece of my soul is out there for the eyes of a stranger – even if it’s my best friend. Worse, a life of mine is out there, completed, lived.

Yet, after a while, all the dread is diluted, dispersed, almost forgotten, and I’m back at writing again. Back at living another life. Playing again. Happy again.

Writer, if you read this, do you do the same? Are you there, among your characters? Do you live in there? Are we sisters or sister and brother into this sweet bitter addiction?

Monday, June 04, 2007

Blast From the Past

Just before the weekend, I received an e-mail from an old flame from the university days.

Ours had been a romance that hasn’t got anywhere beyond going together to a few student parties, or to a few beers, and a lot of thinking and dreaming. When I was in love with him, he was reluctant, and then, when he seemed to be very interested in me, it was too late, I was already with the guy who was to become my husband. Ironical, as life always is.

We haven’t seen or even spoken to each other for many years – there were several thousand miles, physically, in between us, at some point, as there are even now. I’ve never since thought of him as a lover or anything remotely like that, although he has always been special to me. There is some sort of a connection there, a sympathy that goes beyond a regular friendship.

Then, five or six years ago, we discovered by chance that we where in the same town again and he paid us a visit. He knows my husband too, very well, because they were high-school classmates. After that, we kept in-touch occasionally, through e-mail mainly, exchanging news and pictures, not deeper thoughts. He’d moved far away, for work. There, he got married about two years ago and had a baby last fall.

Then, on Friday, he suddenly drops this semi-bomb. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. Seeing you again had an effect on me. On one hand, I was glad that you were doing fine and that you looked great, on the other, there was some melancholy… (If you don’t know why, ask me and I will tell you…)”

Of course, I knew why and, of course, I asked him.

“I was thinking we were a good match for each other,” he wrote back, “and about why it didn’t happen. You are very special to me.” He was probably right, we are both tall, and smart, and beautiful…

I admit I was a bit shaken, and flattered in a way, rather than upset, and I thought of him quite a lot during the weekend, entertaining thoughts of how a(nother) life together could’ve been. Strange how the mind works. Words are powerful, words can create or destroy worlds, as anyone knows, they can change perspectives, even whole lives.

What’s the point of this, especially now? Nothing will change.

Besides, Daniel is the only one with whom, were he to ask me, I would rise to my feet and leave this very second.