Friday, December 25, 2009

Winter Landscape

dance of snowflakes
caws of crows
pallid sunshine
on your face
smiles and kisses
hands are gloves
Merry Christmas
sweet, my love

Dear Friends, better late than never...

I am thinking of you...

I hope that your hearts are filled with joy and I wish you to share it with your loved ones... now and always...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Geese, Winter

This morning
a late flock of geese
their timid V
on the cottony canvas
of heavens

I stood there
(with you on my mind
with you in my heart)
smiling foolishly
at such a wondrous sight
frowning in worry
at their lateness
will they still reach safely
that balmy south?

I had my feet in the grey snow
on the black ground
(and you in my heart
and you on my mind)
and some of my thoughts
up there
hoping for a trace
for an impression
of something that has been
or maybe will be
in another spring

Monday, December 07, 2009


My friends, I thought I should let you know about my whereabouts, just in case anybody started thinking I was dead. Well, I’m not dead but I’m not on this Earth either...

I’m on a spaceship, abducted – not by aliens – by an idea and a character. Bizarre things are happening there – and romantic...

So obsessed am I by this, so madly in love with my character, so deep in the entrails of this spaceship, that I can do little else. This trance is deeper than all the others...

I barely speak, I won’t read anything except for comic books, and I can only listen to certain music, much like the one written by Mark Snow for the X-Files.

So, I simply cannot descend long enough from this spaceship to get myself to write something for this blog – well, other than this post...

I don’t know where this trip will take me but I’m certainly enjoying the ride. I’ll try visiting you as much as possible and... I’ll be back sometime...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


“Come on, please. This is a good one.”

Couples fox-trot in a kaleidoscope of bright colours, of bare shoulders, of black or white dinner jackets, and sparkling jewellery.

“I don’t dance.”

His words fall like pieces of wet felt, a tiny, insignificant smack on the terracotta floor.


The music swirls in the supple waves of her hair, tickles her shoulders, goes down to her ankles, lionesses in the tall grasses, quivering with the anticipation of the rush. In her mind, she is away already. Only her soul struggles with the chill threatening to close again the fragile breach that the music opened in her prison’s walls.

“What’s the point?” he says.

How exasperating the act of pounding against opaque walls of inertia, of indolence, of plain ill will. A hopeless sea, crashing against an immutable shore, never destined to erode it.

“What’s the point of breathing?”

“Life, that’s the point of breathing.” Annoyed.

Oxygen taken to the cells by the blood. Carbon dioxide coming out. An exchange. Nothing poetic about it.

“Music is oxygen for your soul. Dance carries it.”

“Cut it out.” His voice is like a brick. “Not for me. I don’t have any use for such nonsense. Besides, we’ve discussed this before. I do not dance.”

Anger bubbles inside her.

“I can’t believe it. We didn’t even dance at our wedding.”

She notices him then, the way a mariner glimpses a lighthouse in the darkest of storms. Her heart stops, then flutters. A handsome young stranger, watching her. Surely willing to dance. She can see it in his serious eyes, in his rueful hint of a smile. How easy it could be. How impossible. Take his hand, lean into it, feel its warmth, its tender guidance. She dares another glance. He is right there, watching her quietly, the tiniest frown darkening his brow, the tiniest smile narrowing his eyes. What would she do if he came to her? Asked her to dance? Took her in his arms? She looks down at the sparkling silver, at the immaculate tablecloth.

“You’re crazy. Would you stop mentioning that stupid thing?”

The knot of regret and frustration is swelling up in her throat, menacing to reach the lakes of her eyes, to overflow them.

“But it’s true,” she says. “It ruined everything. I should’ve realised then…”

The stranger is still watching her, his gaze almost soothing. She desperately longs to be cradled in his arms.

“You’re overreacting, as always.”

“Why the hell are we even here?” Too pale a comfort found in a coarse word, when she would really like to scream.

You wanted to come. Finish your food now. We should go. This noise gives me a headache.”

No, she cannot leave now. She needs to prolong the illusion if only for another moment. She can’t possibly discard there, like a dirty napkin, this dream of absolute happiness. She needs to float for a while longer in the cocoon of that stranger’s regard, to feel… She wants to…

“Hurry up! We paid the nanny till eleven.”

She stands up mechanically, her legs suddenly leaden, the swirl inside her nauseating. She knows it’ll swallow her soul. Again.

As they walk out, she doesn’t look at him, the handsome stranger, for she knows that if she does, and if he's still watching her, she might, she will do something desperate, and she’s afraid to shatter this perfect dream.

Not yet. One day. Next time. Next time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thank You, Fireblossom!

I received this award from Fireblossom, a new friend in this remarkable blogosphere, whose personality and whose verse are as flamboyant as her name. Thank you, Fireblossom! I am deeply honoured.

The rules are: post seven bits of trivia about yourself. (That’s scary!) Then pass it on to seven people. (That I kinda like!)

So, in totally random order, I give you:

1. I keep a notebook – an old elegant notebook bound in red silk embroidered with arabesques of gold – in which I write the titles of all the books I read every year. It is a precious thing to me for it helps me recall moments in my life, and more than moments, feelings and nuances… I remember how I was when I was reading such and such book, what season it was, if I was content or sad… At the same time it brings me a feeling of anxiety or hopelessness when I see how little I can scratch of the vast surface of literature.

2. I’m in love with a certain vampire. ’Nough said. :-)

3. When I write, I fully immerse myself in my story. It’s so “bad” (or good!) that my pulse quickens, my vision blurs, my breathing becomes ragged, my head spins… I wonder what I looked like if anybody were to see me.

4. During my university years, I smoked. Not much, probably not more than ten cigarettes a day, mainly less. Strong ones though, mostly Camel. And then, a few years later I abandoned it. It was easy. One day I smoked, the next day I didn’t. I admit I was a bit disappointed. What? Can’t I even keep an addiction?

5. I love all life and believe that everything that’s alive has a right to live.
One day, as I was driving through a new development zone, where all natural life has been disturbed to make place to a bunch of overgrown houses, I saw a snake trying to cross the road. I can’t even think about it, let alone write about it. It was already halfway through the other half of the road when a car coming from the opposite direction just crushed it. My heart cringes even now, so many weeks later. I know that countless tragedies happen every minute all over this world, but it doesn’t mean that that snake’s is less important because of that.
Did I mention I’m a vegetarian?

6. Baroque music is among my favourites. Bach, Albinoni, Telemann, Marcello, to name just a few who take me from the peaks of joy to the abysses of despair, and back.

7. I like to drive and I like to drive very fast. I like the “high” that I get from this speed… Unfortunately, watching out for cops takes away some of the fun…

And now I get to pass the award on to other people. It wasn’t easy to decide upon only seven names. Some of you have it already, and if you don’t want to do the meme (again) that’s all right, but it’s just my way of showing how much I appreciate you. All of you are fantastic writers and amazing blog friends.



please pick up your award.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Talisman - Part 2 of 2

If you haven’t read Part 1, please do so first.

With only the round moon of nearly midnight as a witness, I lit a timid flame under the pile of deadwood I had gathered in the afternoon. The flame licked the twigs, started eating them, then crawled onto the thicker branches with maddening slowness. The wind toyed with it for a few seconds, spreading sparks, but the fire finally took. In the orange glow, new shadows rose to dance with the emaciated silhouettes of the trees, drawn by the cold moon.

I couldn’t believe I was there, behaving like a naïve teenager in my old age, instead of nesting in the quietness of my room. But I was doing it as a farewell to my aunt, and I used that thought to somehow warm my bones.

The instructions had been simple and I followed them dutifully, although emotion made my left hand even clumsier than usual. I spread the powder over the fire, hardly avoiding the sudden burst of flames. Then, in the foul smell that rose, I read aloud the text on the side of the box. I had glimpsed at it earlier, just to make sure I could decipher it, but still the guttural words of the dead language – in a voice that barely sounded as my own - brushed my heart with a strange foreboding.

It was an ancient Egyptian funeral incantation, written in hieratics, though not one that I had ever seen in the Spells of Going. A reversed, twisted utterance, meant to call forth the soul into another existence, not to ease its journey into the realm of the blessed dead. I have always laughed at superstition, but the thought that my aunt had in secret entertained such ideas was particularly disturbing.

When I finished, my mouth dry as if filled with sand, a grey smoke stirred in the flames. The wind played with it, allowing it to gain shape only to scatter it again shortly.

Almost deafened by my own heartbeat, I took the miniature coffer from my bag and managed to steady my fingers long enough to open it. For a stretched moment, I forgot to breathe.

Inside, on a white velvet cushion, there was a small hand, a child-sized hand, a gold ring with a tiny ruby on the index finger, the wrist bloodied as if freshly severed. Surely only a rubber moulding, the macabre prop of a prankster.

Under my rounded eyes, the hand twitched.

I almost dropped the chest.

Surely, only a trick of the flames.

Despite myself, I looked at my old stump, then at the child’s hand in the coffer, helpless before the tangled memory that rushed at me and threw me whole in the pit that had opened in my stomach. The county fair. The fortune teller Gipsy. The smiles and the money exchanged between her and Aunt Lilith. The ring the Gipsy offered the five-year old I was then. The car accident. My parents’ death. My crushed right hand that could not be recovered from the burnt wreckage. My tears for the lost ring. The recurring nightmare of my troubled sleep.

What strange, unwanted thoughts. I had no use of them.

I had a mind to throw the chest with its hideous content in the fire, when the hand twitched again. I gasped, intrigued, disgusted, scared. It couldn’t be. What was I doing there? Better to go home.

But in the moment I tried to snap the lid closed, the twitching hand jumped from the coffer. A shriek rose from the shadow in the fire, or maybe from my lips. I dropped the box and stumbled backwards, my eyes frantically searching for the hand on the ground, when I realized that it was on me, that it had somehow attached itself to my stump.

Oh, the terror when I shook my arm and couldn’t loose that child’s hand, that foreign hand! The numbing coldness of the iron tendrils piercing my wrist, holding it in a metal vice.

I pulled. I pushed. I scratched. I turned, seeking a tool to help me. A stick broke on it. In desperation, I started striking a boulder. Nothing. Nothing.

Nothing but the suffocation from the panicked struggle, from the thickening smoke.

Under my eyes, it started growing, a beautiful white hand, with silky skin, no longer a child’s hand but a young woman’s, the one I could’ve had, the ring, already too small, cutting deep into the index finger.

And then, a whisper whirred from the fire, from the wind “…dear girl…” the howling of a ghostly wolf over the moor “I’m returning your gift…” a fluttering of soft wings “we’ll always be together… I’ll be your talisman now…” a shuffling of leaves “… as you were mine…” the drumming of my blood “dear girl…” growing, twisting whispers “pull me out, dear girl… dear girl… pull me out…”

Against my battered will, I approached the fire, leaning closer, my right hand extended as if to caress the flames.

“dear girl… pull me out…”

The heat was painful on my eyes yet I didn’t lower my eyelids. There was something in the smoke, a distorted face, with miniature features. “pull me out…” Was it only my hallucination? Was it really the dark soul of my aunt balancing on the brink of hell, struggling to avoid an eternal damnation?

“pull me out…”

An arm of smoke extended from the fire, long, shaky fingers seeking the unnatural hand. One final usage of the talisman, to pull her out of Hell.

Her fortune to be passed onto me. Has she meant good fortune in addition to material one? A few more years, better years for me, luckier years for me, with Aunt Lilith always there… at an arm’s length… So tempting…

“dear girl…”

Why not?...

As I reached into the fire, I realized I could move the hand, that I could control the fingers that hadn’t been mine for sixty years. I made a fist and plunged it into the flames. The shadow-smoke contorted violently, perhaps from the pain I could not feel, perhaps from trying to grasp the hand that I would not open, and an inhuman shriek pierced the night, reverberating in my heart. I endured it, until there was nothing left but the charred bones, even beyond that, until the pain took my consciousness away.

No handshake, Aunt Lilith.

* * *

For some more Halloween fictional tricks and treats take a look at:

Bernard's Return of Demon

Charles Gramlich's Hunter's Moon

Fireblossom's Five Wolves

K.Lawson Gilbert's Once We Were Cats

Laughingwolf's H-5... 1, H-5... 2, H-5... 3, H-5... 4 and H-5... 5

And my older Little Halloween Triptych:

The Flying Dutchman


A Mother's Gift

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Talisman - Part 1

Aunt Lilith was taking her last breath. If I were to add “finally”, I would be considered ungrateful, but I couldn’t help entertaining that adverb, somewhere at the blurry periphery of my thoughts.

The houseboy who came to fetch me was livid and panting, and seemed to have somehow lost the cheekiness with which he habitually addressed me. Was he perhaps acknowledging in me the new Mistress of the house? I threw a shawl over my achy shoulders and followed him as best I could, though didn’t force my injured leg overly.

When I reached her bedroom, her doctor came to meet me and I knew then, by his countenance, that I was too late. He resembled a grimy carrion bird, his complexion sallower than usual, his narrow shoulders stooped under the brown jacket.

The canopy bed, on the far wall, was lost in the mist of light filtered by the heavy curtains. I limped to it, passing covered mirrors (does the soul go into mirrors?) on ancient massive commodes, the sickly sweet odour of medicine and dried flowers almost overwhelming to me.

She lied on burgundy sheets, serene in her eternal sleep, still unbelievably beautiful and youthful looking. Even in death, she hugged tightly the small mahogany chest that never left her.

“She gave me this for you,” the doctor said, handing me an envelope.

I had no expectations now, more than I’ve ever had. Aunt Lilith has treated me fairly well, though barely above a housemaid. I have been tolerated, not loved. Provided for, not nurtured.

An old maid with one hand. An orphan who became a burden for her vivacious aunt.

At ninety-five, her organs failed her but she’d been lucky to have a lucid mind and physical independence up to the very last moment. Come to think of it, luck was something she’d had plenty her whole life, and with a capital L. I’d never really thought of it, but it had been present in all the circumstances of her life.

She’d lost her husband at thirty-five, in the car crash that had also cost my parents’ life and my right hand. But her husband had been a nuisance and, through his death, she avoided the divorce she’d been planning and inherited his whole fortune. She’s never remarried and has never had children of her own, but took many lovers, one richer and better looking than the other.

Throughout the years, she has miraculously escaped fires, car crashes, bankruptcies, epidemics that have thoroughly destroyed the other people touched by them.

I haven’t been that lucky. I lived, it’s true, when my parents died, but the price of my survival had been a life painted in shades of grey, a life of infirmity and renunciations.

What could she write to me? I opened the letter.

Dear girl,

Yes, despite all the perceptions and the adversities that we, or rather you, have misconstrued over the years, you were my dear girl, my dear deceased sister’s girl, the one I couldn’t have and raised as my own child.

So, dear girl, no time to waste now. Death presses me – I know - and there is one last thing I must ask of you, one of immense importance for both of us.

After you fulfill my last request, you will be a greatly rich woman, but I trust that the wisdom you acquired during all these years of modesty will continue to guide your steps.

I am grateful to you for what you have given me – if you are surprised by this, be patient a little longer and you will have your answer.

What I give you now – what dr. Abramian will give you when the time comes - are my precious chest and a pouch.

On the seventh night following my demise, you must take them and go to the crossroads at the abandoned mill. You must light a fire and, precisely at midnight, scatter the powder you’ll find in the pouch over the flames and pronounce the words carved on the side of the box.

You will have no difficulty with them, I am sure, for you are such an erudite girl. (She must have meant they were written in some dead language – these had no secrets for me for I have been “buried” for decades in the museum’s Antiquities department.)

After that, and only then, I cannot emphasize it more, you can, you must open the chest.

I conjure you to do this and give me the last peace that my soul longs for. It is a small thing to you, but something of utmost importance for my beliefs. After that, all my fortune will pass onto you.

There’s even a special gift in there for you, my dear girl, one that I know you will appreciate for the rest of your life.

After all, we have always enjoyed longevity in our family so you will have many more years to benefit from your great fortune.

Your loving aunt,


to be continued...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October Chills

under the round Moon
tears of the gone rain
on dying leaves
like just as many diamonds
or eyes
of secret beasts
who read your soul
and wait
your heart
to falter
you hurry
your fears
under the round Moon

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Infernal Stalking

The night is wings of crows, flapping silently over my shoulders. A thousand whispers of leaves, or mice, scurrying at my heels.

Only three more streets and I’ll be home.

The wind is brother to hungry wolves. With iced fingers it seizes my eyes, tears my hair, dies quickly only to be reborn through another crevice between buildings.

An operatic voice rises behind me, too close, too loud. A tremendous bass-baritone from a tragic opera I vaguely seem to recognize. The voice is close, the instruments far, in a discarded dimension. Is it in Italian? Or German? Who listens to opera in these deep hours of the night?

I think I can hear my name. How can it call my name? The wind is meowing, mocking my ears. It must be.

Only two more streets and I’ll be home.

Again. My name. I hear it now with aching clarity. I chance a glimpse back, just as I force my march into a trot. The street is a valley of stone, with nothing animated but the white wings of abandoned newspapers, tumbleweeds blown on a prairie of asphalt. No car even sleeps by the curb. No window is alive, behind me, in front. Darkness has engulfed everything beyond the meagre streetlights. Is there a power outage?

Where does the music come from?

Only one more street and I’ll be home.

I pull my jacket tighter, unable to repel the chill in my heart. My name echoes wildly behind me, around me.

My trot morphs into a sprint, the soles of my sneakers slapping the sidewalk impossibly loud.

Finally. But my house is dark too. There’s nobody home. It takes an eternity to fumble with my keys. An eternity of operatic madness.

At last, the door shuts behind me, enclosing me in the cocoon of safety built by the familiar feels, and smells, and noises. The tic-tock of the grandfather clock, the clanging of a water pipe from the heating system, the sweet, humid smell of earth and plants. The absence of opera sounds.

The light switch is dead. I feel my way along the wall to the kitchen. A muffled humming permeates the door that leads to the lowest entrails of the house. What’s in the cellar?

Against all caution, against all hope, I open the door. A milky glow bathes the staircase. The opera music builds in a sombre crescendo from which the bass-baritone voice calls my name.

I have nowhere to go home.

I am home.

(photo from

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Beware of the Wolf Man!

He’ll stalk you when the full moon is out!

In one of our entirely too numerous trips to the dollar store, which now has increased – if that is even possible - its fascination upon my daughters with its display of Halloween paraphernalia, I picked up the book that you can see below.

I just couldn’t pass the opportunity to buy a book with such a title for one Canadian dollar (well, 1.13 after you throw in the taxes…).

It’s a children’s book, previously sold by Toys’R’Us for 2.69, according to the label on the back. Published in 1992, is was adapted from the Universal film “The Wolf Man” by Justine Korman and illustrated by Art Ruiz.

Why am I giving these many details about it? Because it’s a surprisingly good book. It’s a small treasure.

You can read the blurb from the back cover.

I’m not suggesting you go out and seek it, however, I must say that I loved it. It is written in a relatively simple language, for the intended readers, but it is well written, suspenseful, even scary. They’re not lying in the blurb…

“The Wolf Man” is a 1941 film with Lon Chaney, Jr., a classic of the horror cinema. Imdb gives it a rating of 7.4/10, which is very good. I plan to find it and watch it. From what I read, a remake’s been filmed, with Benicio Del Torro in the main role, but hasn’t been released yet.

And in the meantime I can have fun with another “delicious” book for the season…

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Myself and I

photograph by Jo Whaley

I sometimes spend the better of my day
in silent conversation with myself
and any storms that happen on the way
I simply take and put them on a shelf
inside this lamentable closet of a brain
where weirdest things have long been stored:
romantic love, forgotten dreams, plenty of pain –
I might be sobbing, mad, but seldom bored.

They often surface on a whim
and sometimes, when they’re summoned, hide.
Nevertheless, they’re all inside
for I alone,
and for this paper, now and then.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ama(i)z(e)ing Apples

There is something about walking through a maze of corn that brings to my mind thoughts of dark, weird stories. Maybe it’s the forest-like feeling I get, even on a splendid summer day (make that end of September, but it still feels like summer...) , even with the happy shouts of children in the background, when I look at the crossing swords of green. A forest is a repository of eternal mysteries.

I haven’t read King’s “Children of the Corn” nor have I seen the movie, although I heard of both. In fact, just before writing this, I read a bit about them in wikipedia. However, the “Village of the Damned” type of story is not the kind that comes to my mind.

You can get in, but what if you’re not allowed to get out?

There is something menacing when you look at the sky from this perspective…

Finally, in the apple orchard…

Crunchy apples…

I wonder what their beauty’s hiding…

Hmmm, Halloween is coming…

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


art by George Grie at

It’s been almost a year since, yet I remember everything as if it happened yesterday.

It was a fluke my first encounter with Bernard, one of the rare mistakes Eddie has ever made when sending my mind back in Time. However, just as he recognised his error and wanted to pull me back, I realised we happened upon an amazing opportunity. The brain I had reached had almost no consciousness. It was asleep. It was dreaming.

For the first time in my historical forays, I wasn't just observing the landscape but was part of it. It was strange, and wondrous, and scary.

I glided at first, shyly, nothing more than a slight electrical perturbation along the intricate network of that mind. Beneath me, there was a city of glass and stone, of colossal depths and shadows. I could see clearly only the nearby buildings and some domed rooftops, glittering like mad mirrors under incidental sunshine. The rest was mostly covered in fogs or clouds, as was the sky, a gray, heavy shadow with rare flecks of brilliant blue.

There was something going on down there, in the narrow streets, and I found myself gradually floating downwards, fear of heights forgotten under the impatience of curiosity. When I touched the cement sidewalk, I had already created a persona for me, an invented visual being that represented the internal image I had of myself, only just the slightest bit more flattering, with my hair at shoulder length instead of the ugly two-day stubble.

It felt unnerving to be suddenly at the bottom of the shadows, strangely solid ground under my feet, unknown noises filling my mind. Wobbling on my dream-legs, I took a few steps on the street. Everything seemed very real. I could see the cracks in the sidewalk, loose journal pages and caked dust in the gutter, the rough texture of the walls all around me.

At the corner, I stopped. The streets had names, written on metal plates high up on the traffic light poles. It was the 48th Street with Fifth Avenue. New York City, I thought. Midtown Manhattan.

The noise was becoming louder. Now I could attach a direction to it. Suddenly it sounded like voices. I turned left to follow them. Out of nowhere, the street became populated. A musician, on stilts, started playing a strange melancholy tune on his saxophone. I had never listened to anyone playing live an instrument of any kind, and the sounds almost brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to get closer to him and, tentatively, I took a few steps. I stopped to look behind me and was startled at the sight of the street suddenly filled with people, walking in all directions. I waited for a while, alert, tense, ready to run away at the first sign that someone had noticed me. No one did.

My audacity sparkling, I went to stand straight in front of the musician. He was at least four meters tall on his wooden legs and had to move continuously to maintain equilibrium. He graciously managed to transform this into a dance.

“My name is Bernard. Who are you?”

There was no aggression in the tone but the unexpectedness of that loud voice made my heart sink to my suddenly frozen stomach. At first, I thought it was Eddie, playing nasty jokes on me, and I opened my eyes for a split second to catch him with a big grin on his face. Eddie was dozing off in his booth, his chin almost touching his chest. I switched back to the dream. The musician's face was shining white with thick make-up.


I suddenly realized it was a man who had spoken to me, standing maybe two meters to my left. For an endless moment I just stared at him, unable to utter a sound, not even sure I knew how, fighting the impulse to run away. I looked at the musician. He just went on with his music and his dance, oblivious to the rest of the world. I looked at the people on the street but they were barely more than colourful silhouettes.

The only real thing was the man beside me. He was in his late thirties, of medium height, and his blue eyes resembled the specks of light in the sky. He was amazingly handsome, in a way only darkened by his jet-black hair and his black coveralls. He smiled to me, kindly, with no impatience.

I abruptly realized it was his dream I had trespassed.

“I'm Zina,” I said tentatively, wondering if he could hear me.

“Zina,” he said slowly, maybe pondering the truthfulness of my response. My heart sank when he frowned and I was about to pull out but then he smiled again. “Where are you from, Zina?”

I was still so surprised that we could interact in his dream that I barely managed to mumble, “Oh, I'm from… Ma… Manhattan.”

“I haven't seen you around,” he said, “I would have certainly noticed you.”

“Oh, I'm from… Downtown,” I said, ignoring the compliment and the heat flushing my real cheeks. “I don't come here very often. What's going on?”

He smiled, looking around, and said, shrugging, “Not much… There is a concert in Central Park. Would you like to come?”

I surely did. The legend that was Central Park had disappeared from New York City in the early 24th century, more than four hundred years ago, engulfed by the ubiquitous power of steel and stone. That much we knew, and still, preoccupied by historical events, we had spent most of our time in conference rooms and on battlefields, ignoring monuments of nature or of the human spirit.

He took my hand and I followed him, as surprised to be walking on green grass as I was at the warmth and solidity of his hand. A lively music filled the air, pouring from all directions, without an obvious source. I had never listened to such beautiful music, serenely overwhelming my heart with joy.

We sat on the grass, next to a huge oak tree, and watched a distant concert stage and people flocking towards it. Bernard was watching me intensely, and yet I could not refrain from revelling, almost childishly, no questions asked, in the feel of the moist, crunchy grass and of the hard earth prodding at my bones. I lay there, supine, for what it seemed like a very long while. I could feel the sun warming my skin, and the strength of its light through my closed eyelids. And each time I opened my eyes I would see Bernard and would recognize the unconditional admiration in his eyes. It made me smile, and while I listened to his dream-voice, and while I watched the now cloudless sky, my heart went to him.

He spoke of himself and other things, many of which I did not understand. He had an important job, very highly positioned, in an important organization, and used the dreams both to help him solve problems of his work and to relax from the daily stress. He wanted to know about me, and I told him just some general facts, that I was a mathematician, and that I grew up in Manhattan (though I avoided mentioning which Manhattan) and a few other things like that. Even if they were just half-truths and I had to choose them carefully, words came to me easily and I didn’t remember having had such pleasure speaking to someone before. My heart sang with happiness.

I could have stayed in his dream forever but then I remembered that one period of REM-sleep didn’t last longer than twenty minutes. I had to leave before he woke up and realised my intrusion.

“You will come back, Zina, won’t you?” he said then, and I could sense a mild anxiety in his half-question half-command. It was as if he somehow knew that I was a stranger in his dream, that he could not summon me at will.

“I will come back,” I said and ran away.

extract from “Going Home”, a novella

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yummy Weekend

I have no attempt at poetry or fiction for today, just something to tease your sweet tooth and maybe give you an idea for your Saturday or Sunday brunch.

We bought some of these on the street, in Brussels - one for 5 euros compared to 12 for the same thing in a restaurant - and we ate them standing, chocolate and whipped cream dripping on our chins and onto the sidewalk, just a few steps away from the famous Brussels landmark, the Mannekin Pis…

There is something for everybody here: strawberries, bananas, chocolate, whipped cream and combinations of these…

So, which one of these splendid Belgian waffles would you choose? I had the one in the upper right corner, with strawberries and whipped cream…

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


sweet thoughts of summer
asleep on the silent pond -
welcome autumn

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Of Swans on a Canal in Brugge

It was in Brugge,
this Venice of the North
as some call it,
that we kissed,
thinking of that other Venice,
the real one.

We were leaning over the
little bridge
on Leeuwstraat,
how sweet life would be,
seen from a tiny garden.

hand in hand,
we watched the young swans
lazily go by,
and for a long while
we wondered
why two of them were
swimming with just one leg,
and what a coincidence
it would be
for both of them
to have lost their right leg.
(Little we knew
at the time
that swans often
do that.)

My hair brushed your face
while the dog smiled at us
from his window –
master of his perfect
Flemish landscape.

Summer was young as we,
no ripeness of age or autumn
in the air,
no thoughts of death
as we have now,
just a ripple
on the water
here and there,
just the crisp wind
from the North Sea,
the warmth of our hands,
and the young swans
on a canal, in Brugge.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Musings at the Troll’s Bridge

What will jump at you
from beneath
this troll bridge?

One of your lovely fears,
to take its toll
from your shortening years?

Or is it just a grasshopper, shy,
as confused as you are,
hopping from leaf to leaf,

or a nervous young hare,
who makes your heart jump
and your eyes stare,
then sigh with relief,
then blink with relief.

But what if
it’s death herself
underneath that bridge?
What if?

Do you have
your answers ready?

Tell me, how will you
talk your way out
to the greener shore
paying too high
of a toll?

(And is it really greener?
And do you really have to cross it?)

The wind rustles a sweet song
and you say to yourself,
maybe it’s only a stroll in the park,
yes, that’s what it is,
no toll at all,
only a stroll.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Where I Am

September is a weird place. We’re having now a taste of a summer that has never happened this year and it feels like something that you really should have done in your youth and you’re doing in your middle age as a sort of compensation. In the garden, the tomatoes are still green, the one-and-only green pepper that I had now lies on the ground, nibbled by squirrels, and the grass is covered with red and yellow maple leaves.

I’m still around. I haven’t disappeared (yet) in any personal black hole. I’m writing a little bit, and reading your blogs as much as I can, but I just haven’t had that drive to participate much in anything. Even to leave you a comment, beyond the “wow” that usually first comes to mind, seems often an impossible task. I’m very grateful to all those who still think of me, despite my absence…

Mellow – that’s a word that comes to mind. I often feel like a fly, numbed by the night’s coolness, waiting for the Sun to warm its wings again, just a few more times before the dread of winter.

I’m trying to finish a story and one moment I think it’s great and the next moment I think it’s worthless.

School has started and, since it’s a complete novelty for my youngest, it takes a heavier toll on her. Her worries don’t let her sleep well at night, she wants to be with me all the time, and she keeps asking if I’m home the next day. When I tell her that I have to go to work, she says, “Would you like to go to work one day and then stay home twenty days?” Yes, I would like that, very, very much.

So, I leave you for now with a face to these words. At least you’ll know who you’re talking to.

The picture has been taken while boating on the moat at the Chenonceau Castle, on the Loire Valley, in France. I lost there one of the gold earrings that you see in the photo – I was quite upset by this. In this castle, there was a very strange room, all decorated in black. It had belonged to Louise of Lorraine who lived there, in perpetual mourning, from 1589 when her husband, King Henry III of France, was assassinated by the monk Jacques Clement, until her own death, in 1601. Imagine living there, in that black room, with its black tapestries and its sombre furniture, while outside bloomed some of the most beautiful gardens…

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Few More Tombs

In Paris, there is a place called L’hotel des Invalides, or more simply Les Invalides. King Louis XIV founded it in 1670, as a place to house and care for the disabled veterans of his wars. It is now home, among others, to the Museum of the Army and the Tomb of Napoleon.

The sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte, made of red porphyry on a green granite base, lies, at Les Invalides, in the crypt of the Church of the Dome, as majestic as once was this Emperor of the French. Napoleon died and was interred on Saint Helena but, nineteen years later, in 1840, King Louis-Philippe of France returned his remains to Paris. Within the sarcophagus, Bonaparte’s body rests in five successive coffins, made of tin, mahogany, lead, lead again, and ebony.

In the Saint-Gatien Cathedral in Tours, I was very touched by the sight of this tomb, that of the children of King Charles VIII and of Anne de Bretagne - Charles Orland, dead at three in 1495 and Charles dead at 25 days in 1496. For me, the monument captures the sweetness of childhood and conveys an even more acute pain at such an early loss.

In Caen lies William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

The Abbaye-aux-Hommes (Men’s Abbey) was founded by William in 1063 as penance for marrying within the prohibited degrees. For the same reason, his wife, Matilda, a distant cousin and daughter of the Count of Flanders, founded the Abbaye-aux-Dames (Ladies’ Abbey). She died in 1083 and was buried in the Trinity Abbey Church in the Abbaye-aux-Dames. He died almost four years later and was buried in the Saint-Etienne Abbey Church in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes.

William the Conqueror's original tomb, a magnificent marble mausoleum, was desecrated by Huguenots in 1562 during the religious wars. His remains were entrusted to the monks but a new intrusion of the Protestants scattered the bones of which only a hipbone was saved. In 1742, King Louis XV gave permission to the monks to transform the tomb into a simple sepulchral vault covered by a stone. In 1793, in the French Revolution, the tomb was once again desecrated. In 1801 it was replaced by the marble stone that we can see today.

In the Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral, painted many times by Claude Monet, there rest, on opposite sides of the altar, the heart of Richard the Lionheart (1157 – 1199)

and the king’s older brother, with whom he often quarreled, Henry the Young King (1155-1183), the second of the five sons of King Henry II of England and of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The Cathedral also has the tomb of Rollo (Hròlfr or Robert) (c860-c.932), one of Richard's ancestors, founder and first ruler of Normandy.

There are several places who claim to have the head of Saint John the Baptist, among them the Amiens Cathedral, the tallest complete cathedral in France. It seems the head was brought home by Wallon de Sarton from the Fourth Crusade in Constantinople. To whomever it belonged, it’s still an impressive sight peering at you from the ornate reliquary.

And last, but not least, there is the American cemetery at Omaha Beach…

They were not kings or, on the contrary, they were…

Monday, August 17, 2009


for Tante Paula, who could not linger

The night has taken you
under her wing.
I wish I could hope
all those stars
were candles
lit by heaven
for your beautiful soul
even sisters.

But it’s cold
and I fear
it is just

Friday, July 31, 2009

Stop! It is Here, the Empire of Death

At 3 o’clock, a man came out of the unremarkable black shelter and started counting the people standing in line. When he reached us, he said:

“You know, you might not get in today. Only two hundred people are allowed inside at any one time and the last entry is at 4 o’clock.”

We smiled at him, shrugged, and didn’t budge. For the next hour we painfully inched our way forward under the scorching sun. The line curved through the tiny park, where a rather crazy (likely homeless) woman was loudly scolding all the passing kids for disturbing the pigeons – my youngest daughter was discretely feeding them bread crumbs, and continued on the pavement under the blessed and much sought after shade of a linden tree.

As the fateful hour too quickly approached without the line having made much encouraging progress, the glimpses at our watches grew more worried. The man came back several times, counting again, not saying anything. We too started counting, fidgeting, taking trips to the entrance to have yet another look at the electronic counter that showed how many people were inside. 196. Come on, move, move! Still 196. Excruciatingly seldom, a few people were allowed in.

4 o’clock. There were five or six people still in front of us. A huge line behind us. Our friend and enemy came out again. Started counting as he allowed the trickle of the lucky ones to pass the gates. We were getting ready to plead or to protest, or both, when the miracle happened.

We were let in. Only two more behind us and that was it for the day. Unbelievable!

When the door closed behind us, it felt as if we were abruptly cut from the world of the living. Almost shaking with the emotion of our success, we descended the whirlwind of the 143 steps into the depths of the Earth.

Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort. – Stop! It is here, the empire of death

It’s probably time to tell you what I am talking about. It’s the Catacombs of Paris, the municipal ossuary that occupies a very small part of the huge underground network (280 km) of ancient quarries and galleries upon which the City of Lights dangerously lies.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the cemeteries of Paris – then a city still of a medieval aspect and of 500,000 inhabitants - were overflowing. For instance, the ground of the Cimetière des Saint-Innocents - right next to Les Halles, a public market since 1137 – had reached ten feet above the street level. Pestilence threatened from open mass graves and improperly buried corpses of thirty generations of Parisians. In 1780, a wall of the Cimetière des Saint-Innocents gave in, dumping many bodies into the cellar of a nearby house. Rather late, the authorities decided to condemn the cemeteries within the city’s walls and move all the remains to the underground galleries.

I cannot even allow myself to think of the ghastly work of those who moved the bones at night and rearranged them here with such a morbid meticulousness. What a surreal sight that must have been. History records the nocturnal processions of hearses, covered in black palls, going from the Cimetière des Saint-Innocents to the quarries of Montrouge, in the torchlight, and accompanied by priests. The blessing and the consecration of the Catacombs took place on the 7th of April, 1786. Shortly after, the remains from Saint-Eustache and from Saint-Étienne-des-Grès were also moved there. The more recent cadavers had to be covered in quicklime to avoid putrefaction.

At first, the bones had been thrown at random in an ancient extraction well, only noting the original cemetery. It was only later that they were arranged into the long walls of bones. It appears there are more than six million skeletons in here. They have no names, obviously, but among them are the writer Jean De La Fontaine, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French minister of finance under the rule of Louis XIV, Jean-Philippe Rameau, one of the most important French composers of the Baroque era, and even the revolutionaries: Danton, Robespierre, and Saint-Just, who were transported here directly from the guillotine. In here, all are equal.

The Ossuary has been open to the public since mid 19th century and even Napoleon III came to visit. There is a lot more to it than the 1.7 km that can be visited. Also, the rest of the underground network is prohibited to the public under the threat of heavy fines. But it seems that there are many hidden entrances and clandestine maps available to those adventurous enough or crazy enough… It’s easy to get lost in there…

As I walked the galleries lined with bones, I touched a tibia here, stroked a skull there, took a few pictures. You can certainly find better pictures on the Internet. I didn’t use the flash, not only because it was not allowed but also because it would have felt to me as an impiety, a transgression of a careless modernity into this subdued world of the dark.

They have been what we are
Dust, toy of the wind
Fragile like men
Weak like the nothingness.

It was a hallucinating walk inside a grave, yet, despite the macabre setting and the sombre inscriptions, it was not fear or repulsion but a sense of great peace that was conveyed to me, a solidarity and a strange reassurance for the fate that awaits us all.

In the next post, I’ll take you to a few tombs of kings…

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


indigo heart
indigo blood
cold, rarefied
smoke of illusions
into the nightmare,
the indigo night

indigo stars,
extinguished beacons,
guarding the flight
to the indigo chasm
darkness in glory
into the poor,
the indigo heart

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paris, Mon Amour

Je cherche ton âme
ou peut-être la mienne
autour de ces pierres
parmi ces visages…

I am searching for your soul
or perhaps for mine

around these stones,
among these faces…

Ant and angel,
I cradle the weight
of History

in my heart,
and wonder
which Louis
has just stepped
onto this old new bridge,
not so long ago,
in that blink of an eye
that measures centuries.

Forever in awe
I stand,

at your light
and your darkness,

knowing that,

beyond the beauty
and the arrogance,

beyond the grandeur
and the misery,

the trees are the same,
the pigeons,
the people…

Je cherche ton âme
et la mienne…

We are old souls -
and new.