Sunday, March 31, 2013

New York New York

photo by ajagendorf25

Ah, the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps, the Melting Pot, the Empire City... I can hear it calling to me again... So next week I’ll be walking its streets, still in awe, still in love with it all... looking forward to getting infused with some of its enthusiasm... I’ll see you in a week. Happy Easter to all who celebrate it! Be good!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Music of the Night

 photo by gimrie
It was in Venice where I first noticed him, in the noisy crowd gathered around a fire juggler. A tall, slim man, in an unusual Plague Doctor mask, red adorned with gold, golden hair cropped short, no brim hat, no long overcoat. Just red nobleman clothes from another time. Renaissance, perhaps. Sheets of fire danced over the dark, stale water of the canaletto, cries and foolish laughter mixing with Vivaldi’s violins. He stood among the crowd, and yet apart. The gold on his clothes seemed real. The fire and his red cape reflected in his eyes. He watched me, as if he could see more than my eyes behind my brilliant larva mask, underneath my elaborate dress. As if he knew why I sought the night mostly. As if he could see all of my secrets.
He left with a woman. A Columbina dressed in green. A random woman, I thought, as I followed them with my eyes, with a pang in my heart, until they disappeared into a darkened alley. She wasn’t his match, I was.
I looked for him at the airport in Rome, when I was boarding the plane to Rio. Why would he have been there? But I could still feel him. Watching me.
Stupid, stupid, I thought, asking for another glass of champagne, listening to Alessandro Marcello’s oboes on my earphones. When I fell asleep, he was in my dream.
In Rio, I prepared for him. I painted my skin carefully in gold and green, to match my eyes, my waist-long hair, my scanty suit, the lavish feathers.
Down in the streets, in the colored night, I looked for him again, and for the first time I barely took notice of the wild rhythms of the banda. I danced, only because the visceral beat allowed for nothing else. The floats, the glistening bodies, the cries, the lights, all swirled around me, dizzying. So many faces, all different, all the same. The surdo was beating right in my ribcage, and it annoyed me.
When I saw him on the other side of the street, I knew he too had been looking for me. It couldn’t have been a mere coincidence. It was he, I knew it. Taller than the crowd, and still standing apart. This time, torso bare, lean muscles moving under smooth skin painted silver, white linen pants tied with a rope around narrow hips, gold hair, cropped short, a small, bizarre silver mask that made me think of a cruel jungle god. His beautiful mouth held the hint of a smile. His eyes glinted in the light of torches. Blue. Or green.
A group of dancers pushed in between us, with frantic moves, carrying me with them. He was gone by the time I escaped their wave.
Where was he? How much of a coincidence was our encounter? Was he a Carnival chaser as I was? Was he chasing me
I didn’t notice those men until they were too close. Until their heat, their smell of caipirinha overwhelmed me. Three of them, no, five. They had bottles in their hands. They had tambourines and bells to keep the rhythm of the batucada; those would have covered my cries even if my mouth hadn’t been too dry. The alley became darker, narrowed by garbage cans. The street with the lights and the dancing seemed suddenly, impossibly, far away. I had left my knife in the hotel room.
That’s when I screamed. That’s when something else happened. A blur. A wind.
It was he. I stared at him. We were standing and those men were lying on the ground around us. There might have been some blood. I swayed, my knees almost giving way.
He steadied me, one cool hand digging into my left arm. His silver mask resembled the Inca Sun god. Maybe he was a god, after all.
For a moment, he looked at me as if he wanted to say something. But then he was simply gone, swift as lightning.
I didn’t wash my arm that night in my hotel room. I lied on my side, with the imprint of his hand in the bronze paint on my skin, and longed for him.
I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Always finished the season in New Orleans.
Where was he? I didn’t see him, didn’t feel him the whole day. The whole night. Maybe he was still in Rio.
Time to go home. Wait for next year’s carnivals.
Away from Bourbon Street, people were scarcer; with the distance, a plaintive tune of jazz was dying slowly, as if that could ever happen in New Orleans. It was the sax… the sax always broke my heart.
I didn’t hear his steps, I just saw him. We stopped, maybe at an arm length from each other.
No masks this time. I knew it was him. Clad in black, blond hair, face beautiful and savage alike. A prince of the North. He stood one full head taller than I, and I was tall and wearing the highest heels. His eyes –I still couldn’t tell if they were blue or green- held the most unsettling mix of laughter, and promises, and death.
“You were right in Venice,” he said. “You are my match. I have been waiting for you. We are both of the night…”
He didn’t try to hide his teeth when he smiled. His fangs.
But he wasn’t taking. He was asking.
I stepped into his arms.
“Tonight we’ll listen to the music of your blood,” he whispered on my neck, his breathing cool, soothing. “And then we’ll have all the nights…”

This is for Geraldine's Woven Dreams prompt: music.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


When she played in the garden with her little sister, Gemma had to glimpse at the attic windows every two minutes. There were four high narrow windows in the eastern wing of the manor, exactly above Gemma’s bedroom. And there was somebody in there.

No matter how fast she was, she caught the movement only with the corner of her eye. Every time she looked directly, there was nothing, only the reflection of the clouds in the sky or a glint of sunshine. Her sister didn’t see anything, but then Rosie was only five. But Gemma knew there was someone… some-thing in there. Watching her.

In the evening, when she tried to fall asleep, she could hear someone walking above her head, sometimes light, sometimes heavy, sometimes just a thump-thump accompanied by a squeaking that seemed successively near and far.

Sometimes Gemma would call Mum.

“I can’t hear a thing,” Mum would say after a minute of deep silence. “Maybe it’s the rats.” And when she tucked Gemma in, Mum would add, “Stop reading scary stories before you go to bed.”

Of course, Mum would say that. But that was because Mum didn’t know. Mum never heard the footsteps. It was as if whoever was in the attic knew when Mum was there and stopped. The moment she was gone, the pacing resumed furiously, as if in anger, the creaking of the floorboards so heavy sometimes that Gemma was afraid the ceiling would crack. On those nights, not even two pillows over her head helped her fall asleep.

“There’s nothing in that attic,” Mum said one day, holding Gemma’s chin in her hand, her eyes worriedly examining her face. “Maybe some old dolls of your Grandmama’s,” she said smiling, “or some ball dresses of your Grandaunt’s Rebecca…” Gemma knew that Aunt Rebecca, her grandmother’s older sister had disappeared when she was eighteen, but nobody found out if she had eloped with one of the handsome officers or had drowned in the march. Gemma was staying in her old bedroom, the most beautiful room in the house. “Come, darling, we’ll take a look together.”

Gemma clutched Mum’s hand all the way up the dark, narrow, winding flight of stairs at the end of the corridor. The air was stale yet the flame from the lamp Mum was holding flickered wildly. Gemma tried not to look at the shadows on the walls. She tried to think only of the sunny, bright afternoon outside, and of all the new blooms in the garden. Her heart jumped when she heard Mum exclaim,

“What is this? I don’t understand…”

The door to the attic was boarded with thick wood planks. And for good measure, a few more had been nailed to the first layer. Mum touched the planks as if still expecting to have a door there that she could open.

Gemma sat on the floor and put her right cheek and ear to the wood, her palms spread on the dusty smooth surface. The wood smelled of an herb, a sweet, nauseating smell, or maybe that was just how old wood smelled.

Then she heard it.

The raspy breathing. Waiting. Right behind the boarded door. Gemma knew Mum had heard it too from Mum’s sharp gasp right before she dropped the lamp. Oil spilled from it before Mum could pick it up and it caught fire, but Mum stepped on it quickly, almost setting fire to her skirts.

“Oh, God,” Mum said, taking a step back. “We could burn up here.” She grabbed Gemma’s shoulders, pulling her up. A black stain on the wood planks still fumed where the fire had lived shortly.

Behind the boarded door, something started squeaking.

“Is there someone in there?” Mum said, her voice clear and just a little shaky. The squeaking stopped.

Mum raised her hand and knocked on the wood planks.

An inhuman shriek rose in response and a blast shook the door so hard a few nails snapped loose. Cold, musty air brushed their faces out of nowhere.

Gemma and Mum threw themselves down the stairs, hand in hand, legs catching in their skirts, in peril of breaking their necks. They only stopped downstairs, in the hall, with the white marble shining in the afternoon sun.

“You will sleep with me tonight,” Mum said, holding Gemma tight, kissing the top of her head, again and again. “Tomorrow Peter will get some boys from the stables and they will open that door.”

But Gemma didn’t think that would be a good idea. She had an idea of her own.


Nobody knew what started the fire on the upmost floor of the eastern wing, in Gemma’s bedroom, but they all stood and watched safely from the garden, in the early hours of the morning. Luckily, Gemma and Rosie had been with Mum at the time. Or Gemma most of the time. The valets and the maids stood ready to intervene at Mum’s orders, but there was little chance the fire would spread below to the stone structure. The attic though, which, together with the bedroom below, was a late wooden addition to the old manor, was already ablaze.

Gemma watched the dark shadow at the windows, for once not eluding her, illuminated by the flames, and then she watched the windows explode under the overwhelming heat. Flames and smoke burst out, but from within them, Gemma saw a darker smoke emerge, a narrow, twisting, pitch black bundle of smoke, that rose spinning quickly as if with purpose then disappeared into the pink sunrise sky.  

This week at Woven Dreams, Geraldine wants us to think about attics

Friday, March 08, 2013


take five rays of sunshine
dip them in the sky
next borrow a leaf
from a daring snowdrop
brush your fluffy cat
dreaming in your lap
till you get some red
to the children’s laughter
to the robins’ song
find a little buzz
from a little bug
bravest of its kind
put them all together
-no instructions needed
only enough love
on your fingertips

this is how you weave
the tapestry of spring

This week, the prompt at Geraldine’s Woven Dreams is “weave.” I know I’m late, but you know what they say…

Last but far from least, I would like to dedicate this (almost) poem to all the girls in the world, young and old. Happy International Women’s Day!