A preview to the newest book.
Standing here naked
Unprotected by clothes.
My foibles and failures
Childhood fantasies and hopes
Dashed and swept out to sea.
Still aching to identify
Of who, I’ve agreed to be.
Collipe called during the lonesome storm
Commanding a penciled scheme.
Hone just one perfect line that’s all that I need,
To encourage generations to dream.
Act One Scene One
Welcome to the world amazing phenomenon. You are the cutest, smartest and most perfect baby ever. A bundle of infinite possibilities, wide open, thirsty for knowledge finding wonderment in all that surrounds you. They believe you will be president, cure illnesses and stop wars. You are so precious they want to save your first poop in a pastel colored album. The big people have plans for you, so be careful. You are wrapped in pink or blue for the ride home and it all begins.
Scene two –
You astonish everyone as you learn at an incredible pace. In no time at all, you are laughing and touching the world all within your reach. You make the soft big person so happy when you utter the sounds of ma-ma, and she sticks a bow on your head. The big loud guy loves it when you say dada and he throws you into the air. You are pretty sure you can’t fly, but he believes you will. The third word you learn is NO.
They seem so proud, as long as you go where they want when they approve, they build new rules every day. She talks about your cute little outfits, but you would rather not bother. The clothing is important pay attention; it is part of your facade.
The thought of school is frightening, but you are ready to go. Pencil box, notebook and new clothes ready as you run into the next act. Be sure that you have all of the accoutrements of a proper pink or blue, “they” are watching. Telling stories, running, drawing, solving mysteries, if doesn’t fit, don’t worry people who know nothing will convince your controversial self that you aren’t good enough. Like a ship sailing around Humiliation Island you just want to fit-in and avoid crashing onto the rocks. So bury pieces of your unique wonder deep inside, you will have time later. While you are at it, be sure answer the teachers with what they want to hear. You don’t want to cause any trouble, and you need that grade. Here is hoping you are the genius they are looking for, because if your not-well never mind.
Time has gone by so quickly. You married, worked, saved; you mastered the masks that meet your expectations of a society that doesn’t always agree. As the conclusion of the final act approaches you sit alone trying to inventory how it all happened. Wonder, just for a moment “If I didn’t care so much about them, would I respect me now?” In this day and age, there are almost unlimited possibilities, but with that comes exaggerated expectations. Stop looking backwards at the opportunities you missed or threw aside, those choices can’t be changed now.
In reality you fulfilled a self-imposed role. No more pink or blue now you are wrapped in the invisibility of Ben Gay, but it isn’t too late. You remember where your childhood brilliance is buried, pull out that amazing self and strut it. “They” forgive the old almost as much as the young. You really only have to influence one person to change the world. It’s that easy.
By Toni Kief
No longer the spectator
Nodding on the side
Fueled by a drive
Battle for rights
Hand to your vest
Black marker prepared
Draw signs of protest
Sensible shoes and cozy hat
Confident of age old demand
Ready to walk, aching to run
We gather to make a stand
Demands expose personal grief
Sisters and Misters temper a rage
Messages of love and promise of peace
We each take the stage
Passion in the parking lot
Marching in the street
In a unified beat.
A grandmother not remembered
Lives in my face.
The green of my eye
The cut to the jaw, she survives.
A grandfather times many greats
Gambled on a lovely lass.
I share her laughter
And harbor his recklessness heart.
Little did they know a single incarnation,
Would survive past a hopeless era.
A crease on my forehead
Flat bone to my nose
Memorializes histories survivors.
The clan displays your genetic persistence
Yet innocent of the timeless membership
In a most forgotten tribe.
Journeys didn’t end with death,
Immortality whispers from an age of stone.
Family lives in honor of unknown ancient suffering
Building generations to a modern age.
Etched in strangers expressions
Continue with hushed connections,
Spilling stories often retold.
I share a voice – a face – DNA from the time of before
I, the last twig, of a branch concealed in many limbs
A small slice of a vast family tree.
I lie here quietly trying to keep my breathing shallow and silent. I need to steal a little more sleep so I can face the day. I can hear it lurking, creeping though my home searching for food, any kind of food that will fuel its mythic strength.
Cerberus, the three-headed monster has taken over my life. It is a very devious beast, selfish and exhausting. As long as there is salty or sweet food within reach of its lion like claws it won’t hurt me. I never know for sure, when it will raise its heads and demand I pay a toll.
I find this roaring beast most charming, often funny, but it lies for no reason. It won’t brush its teeth or wash and comb its serpentine mane. It has the ability to tear me to shreds in moments, and it is aware of its power. Locking the door makes no difference as it crawls in through the cracks, filling my home with energy and desire. After days of silence, it lights my total existence with its continual thirst for knowledge.
When it is gone, I miss it. When it is here, I can’t keep up. I run full speed trying to keep it fed and distracted with anything that is shiny. It has the appeal of a toothless Muppet and the demeanor of Medusa. It is an amazing beast only calmed with three flavors of ice cream, which energizes it to run in multiple directions fighting with itself and anxious to be anywhere at any time.
Although at this moment, it has decided to be kind to me with 10 minutes of quiet before the next feeding. I really do appreciate that act of generosity. I love a monster and I will give it everything I own. Zeus, please bless my three amazing grandchildren.
The blinds opened to another sunrise and Ellen watched the whispers of light illuminate the fragile pink petals beneath the tree. The tree signaled the arrival of another spring and a quiet thought niggled into her consciousness. “How many springs will I have?” The eternal question was followed by the restless twitch of dissatisfaction. She listened in silence to the morning birds and felt the daily humiliation of an aging body.
Having arrived early, Ellen sat in the examination room and recognized how she has never felt she belonged. A natural born nomad from a small town, she waited for answers that had nothing to do with her real existence. There is no genetic explanation she always felt the horizon held answers or at least an exotic escape. Caramel colored eyes constantly searched the edge of possibilities for an oasis in the land of mirage, her suitcase always open.
She ignored the constant pain as she mentally catalogued her life’s addresses. Ellen found comfort in looking back instead of forward. She recognized the Midwesterners beat back the vast grasslands into neat rows of commercialized corn, erasing family farms. No trace of the buffalo was left; they were replaced with a conservative fear of reality and Denny’s restaurants. In Arizona she remembered the day and night battle to master the desert with stolen water and concrete. She chuckled that only crazies spoke of the lights that witness their futile war. Everyone else kept silent or denied the nightly visits.
The leather skinned escapees of the northeast hid in Florida’s rows of white houses. They cowered in conditioned air mocking the fantasy and tourist traps, which drew them to AltaVista Boulevard. Each new arrival turned a blind eye to the developers who gobbled up the swamps orphaning original residents in the race to white sands and skin cancer.
It was the northwest that filled Ellen’s glasses with ancient grandeur and a green reward from weeks of gentle rain. Every eye that could tear away from the computer screen was rewarded with the grandest nature has to offer and a call to the outdoors. A land too magnificent to be paved over by civilization.
The sound of the clinic brought her back to the present moment. They don’t need to tell her, Ellen knows she has run out of land and time. Her bucket list of unexplored locations fades, with the satisfaction of Italy, Central America and Ireland. Ellen returns to her present address, ironically it’s on wheels. She will eat a frozen dinner and wait to sleep with a prayer for dreams of inspiration. She ignores the new horizon she didn’t expect so soon. Years of looking for a home were really the journey she signed up for.
Painting by James Nelson, owned by Toni Kief
According to Faulkner, “Writing a first draft is like trying to build a house in a strong wind.” I am deep into a second novel, and I’m swept away. I’m stitching together five hundred word fictions into a complete narrative. I reorganize, write, rewrite, and wrestle Mildred into a story with a plot and a reasonable end. If I cover ten pages, it is a successful day, and I earn the cup of the good, English tea. This character lives with me, a woman older than myself, and she chatters during the day and late at night building her personal fiction.
Each night I beg the cosmos for inspiration, one clear thought. I doze and ponder a million possibilities. In the darkest hours, I awaken to throw my hands into the air speculating on what could be next scratching illegible notes on scraps of paper. What can she do to make the tale worth reading? A strangling fear arises, the story is improbable, and I’m stupid. Have I blundered in the wrong direction, wasting months and maybe years?
I work diligently, but in the past two weeks, the sun creeps into morning muttering a nagging list of three. I ignore the ideas, but they will neither fade nor quiet. I need an angle, a word, a twist of brilliance. I probe for anything to remove the clatter and release me to my manuscript.
Tonight, I must read for the writer’s group, and a vision dogs me. The unmeasurable stretch of plains with bison herds so large they disappear into the horizon. The massive heads are grazing and raggedy hides soaking up the sun, preparing for winter. The heavy hooves trample with no need for socks, no use for sandals, feet perfected by the environment. I see them plod on, rarely breaking into a stampede.
I present you with the apparition, and I feel released. I waste two more hours trying to understand trying to make the vision fit my story, and I realize it never will, and I plod on.
?? – 1632
Society has had a difficult time executing women. That doesn’t suggest they didn’t do it, just suffered over the choice and then BLAMMO! Jane Champion was just the beginning; the only thing we know for sure was she was hanged in James City, Virginia, 1632. Her crime has been forgotten, but her name lives on. There is a huge variety of misdeeds that could have taken Jane to the gallows. Even though the laws regarding the death penalty varied from colony to colony, the Laws of New England had not been drawn up yet.
Margaret Hatch hanged in 1633 for murder and in 1638; Dorothy Talby was strung up in Salem Massachusetts for the killing of her 3-year-old daughter, Difficulty. We will not enter into the expectations this mom had for her daughter. The youngest person hanged in America was Hannah Ocuish who was 12 years old and was described as a half-breed Indian girl. She was executed on December 20, 1786, for the murder of a 6-year-old girl whom she had beaten to death during an argument. This could have been avoided with the invention of time out.
The New York Colony instituted the Duke’s Laws of 1665, which made several Puritanical offenses punishable by death. In the repressive society young women, black slaves, and the very young were at risk, they were seldom allowed a defense. There is a certain amount of wealth and social status mixed with a religious message resulting with the harshest penalty. Our modern society is still working on equitable punishment.
566 women were executed from 1632 to 1900 by various methods, not limited to hanging. The majority was for murder, witchcraft, improper behavior, hiding an illegitimate pregnancy, striking a parent, and denying the true God. Women’s executions constitute approximately 3% of the total since 1608, but the statistics are changing. The instance of violent crimes by women is escalating at an incredible rate playing havoc with the age old statistics. Not what was expected with female empowerment and equality. Getting the vote in 1920 was to change American justice, so maybe the next step is to use the vote. We have come a long way, baby!
How about a couple recipes?
CHICKEN AND SCANDALOUS DUMPLINGS
5 c. chicken broth
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 c. chopped onion
6 half-chicken breasts, skinned
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 2 C Frozen peas
1 tsp. salt Fresh ground black pepper
1 1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp.onion salt
1/4 c. minced scallions, including green tops
3 tbsp. chilled butter or vegetable shortening
2/3 c. milk
In large wide soup pot or deep skillet, combine broth, carrots, celery, onion, chicken, poultry seasons and bay leaf. Bring to simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes while making dumplings.
In bowl, combine flour, baking powder, onion salt, scallion, and butter. Use your fingers to work ingredients together until butter is about the size of small peas. Add milk and stir just until a soft dough forms. Add peas to simmering chicken, and then drop dough by rounded tablespoons into simmering stew. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes until dumplings are cooked through. Season with salt to taste and generous grinding of black pepper.
1/2 cup soft butter (one stick)
1/2 cup sugar
2 T grated Ginger or lemon rind
1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
1/8 Tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons milk or cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour-sifted
1 cup dried fruit (cherries, apricots, raisins, up to you), chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter with sugar, then add ginger or rind, salt, egg, and milk. Blend well. Add flour. Mix in dried fruit. Chill dough for about one hour. Use a small scoop to form small rounds. Place the rounds on a greased cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. Cool on a rack. Recipe yields three dozen cakes. The dough can be used to make larger cakes to serve for breakfast or brunch. Use an ice cream scoop to create six or seven mounds on a cookie sheet. Bake them for about 25 minutes until light brown. Split the cakes and serve them with butter and honey.
Under my mattress is a pea
Just the smallest disturbance I could easily ignore.
Another mattresses won’t stop the irritation.
I roll to my side and lull to rest,
But my backside pursues the lump.
Just another middle of the night
Tossing and turning in the smallest hours
As the clock ticks 2- 3- 4.
The single legume harasses my calm
As I fail to command a quiet mind.
The pea yelps at my slumber, robbing my rest
Begging for attention in the silence of night.
It laughs as my mind, hurls ideas into the never.
Plots twist and are lost, songs never sung, paint dried in tubes.
A thousand answers to a hundred questions.
All lost to the murdering numbness of comfort.
Creativity is a pea, a tiny seed
Under my mattress and it nags like a bitch.
With a repeated turn of phrase
The subtle combination of sounds Seeking-Sea King
a whispered plot revelations bizarre.