The narrator’s father, who has only published one book, but a very famous one, says to his wife, the narrator’s stepmother:

My dear, you’re an ass. — p. 111

Poetry Monday: Jon Pineda


from the collection Birthmark (The Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry, 2004)

We’d been trying for months
when, one night, we heard
what sounded like a baby,
its cries sharpening outside.
Our neighbors had gathered
in the backyard & stared
high into one of the trees
where a young raccoon clung
to a branch bending slowly.
There were holes in the trunk
where its mother had nested,
& this one, no bigger than
your hand it seemed, flashed
its eyes in fear when spotlight
ricocheted through leaves.
I think about this animal’s
face, how it was taken away
from the tree boarded up
now, its mother long gone.
I take comfort in forgetting
the details & hold our son.

Jon Pineda was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and raised in Tideswater, Virginia. His poetry has appeared in Many Mountains Moving, the Asian Pacific American Journal, Puerto del Sol, and many other publications. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia.


Cassandra wants to be a writer. Thinks of herself as a writer. Even though the family is so impoverished, and the father who is a writer cannot support them. The family dines on cold Brussels sprouts and cold rice.

p. 95:

  • My hand is very tired but I want to go on writing. I keep resting and thinking. All day I have been two people — the me imprisoned in yesterday and the me out here on the mound; and now there is a third me trying to get in — the me in what is going to happen next.

Stay tuned.

Still Poetry Saturday: Helen Ivory


from Helen Ivory’s The Breakfast Machine (Bloodaxe Books: Northumberland, 2010)

In this house, everything sleeps.
Even the walls have relaxed
and the roof is too tired
to hold up the weight of the sky.

It is so long since the front door
has opened, the skin has grown over.
The postman has given up
looking for the letter-box

The girl in the room upstairs
Is a woman now. In waking moments,
she sleepwalks to the mirror,
takes a brush to the long silk of her hair.

Before she lies down again, she’ll notice
the bird skulls on the windowsill,
how cobwebs have laced them together.
how her face has grown sharp as a knife.

Helen Ivory was born in Lutton in 1969, and lives in Norwich. She has worked in shops, behind bars, and on building sites with several-thousand free-range hens. She has studied painting and photography and has a Degree from Nowrich School of Art. In 1999 she won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Others;

London in I Capture the Castle

Some forward progress, at least! Today self managed to see Bad Boys for Life, and liked it quite a bit, except for the action scenes, which were just your run-of-the-mill, generic action scenes. It was really nice seeing Joe Pantoliano again: he still has that trademark Joe Pantoliano way of delivering lines! And Will Smith is still cool.

She has made it to p. 77 of I Capture the Castle, which self is finding very, very beguiling (even though it couldn’t be more different from her last book: The Goblin Emperor):

It was three years since we had been in London. We never knew it well, of course; yesterday was the first time I ever walked through the City. It was fascinating, especially the stationers’ shops — I could look at stationers’ shops forever and ever. Rose says they are the dullest shops in the world, except, perhaps, butchers’ (I don’t see how you can call butchers’ shops dull; they are too full of horror). We kept getting lost and having to ask policemen, who were all rather playful and fatherly. One of them kindly held up the traffic for us, and a taxi-driver made kissing noises at Rose.

I had hoped the lawyers’ office would be old and dark, with a Dickensy old lawyer; but it was just an ordinary office and we only saw a clerk, who was young, with very sleek hair. He asked if we could find our way to Chelsea by ‘bus.

“No,” said Rose, quickly.

He said, “O.K. Take a taxi.”

I said we were a little short of change. Rose flushed scarlet. He gave her a quick look, then said, “Wait a sec.” — and left us.

He came back with four pounds.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Poetry Saturday: MIGUEL HERNANDEZ (1910-1942)

Rod Blagojevich claimed to Anderson Cooper that he was “a political prisoner.”

Here’s a real one:


from the collection Miguel Hernandez selected and translated from the Spanish by Don Share (NYRB, 2013)

The cemetery lies near
where you and I are sleeping,
among blue nopals,
blue pitas, and children
who shout at the top of their lungs
if a corpse darkens the street.

From here to the cemetery everything
is blue, golden, clear.
Four steps away, the dead.
Four steps away, the living.

Clear, blue, and golden.
My son grows remote there.



Spring Arrives: I Capture the Castle

c. 1948: Rose and Cassandra are daughters of an impoverished father (he’s a writer, what do you expect) and he has moved them and their stepmother, Topaz, to a dilapidated castle in the country.

The author, Dodie Smith, is English but wrote this novel in Malibu (She’s long gone, in case you were wondering)

Self started this book six days ago and is only up to pp. 43 – 44. There’s hardly any drama yet.

“There’s quite a bit of spring in the air to-night,” I told her. “You go out and smell it.”

Rose never gets emotional about the seasons so she took no notice, but Topaz went to the door at once and flung it open. Then she threw her head back, opened her arms wide and took a giant breath.

“It’s only a whiff of spring, not whole lungs full,” I said, but she was too rapt to listen. I quite expected her to plunge into the night, but after some more deep breathing she went upstairs to try on her tea-gown.

“It beats me,” said Rose. “After all this time, I still don’t know if she goes on that way because she really feels like it, if she’s acting to impress us, or just acting to impress herself.”

“All three,” I said. “And as it helps her to enjoy life, I don’t blame her.”

The novel’s been inspiring her to spend more time in her backyard. The gorgeous weather helps. The scrawny lemon tree has five fat lemons.


Poetry Thursday: Csilla Toldy

Self met Csilla at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, which has introduced her to so many wonderful voices.

From the collection Red Roots — Orange Sky (Belfast: Lapwing Publications, 2013)


In Parc de Luxembourg,
hiding under fallen leaves —
A fountain — messenger
from a sea of amber — Verdigris.

Its well-stone, formerly
Neptune’s set of teeth, now
water-pouring standstill
tossing threat for dragons.

In its far angle a more
Humanoid structure,
a spun-into-form world-element.
It longs, broods and hovers —

above all that is left.

Csilla Toldy was born in Hungary. She escaped from the socialist bloc through the green borders at the age of eighteen in 1981. She now lives in northern Ireland.

Poetry Wednesday: Chitra Divakaruni

from Chitra Divakaruni’s ravishing poetry collection Black Candle (Calyx Books, 1991)

Bengal Nights

When foxes sing out behind
the bamboo grove and cranes’ wings
whip the black air white,
the child stops her games
and fills a bucket at the pump
and washes. Water flows through
her hot fingers like moonlight,
leeching away the salt.
She plunges her face into it,
opening her mouth
to its cool, rusty taste.
On the verandah the aunt
cleans the lanterns, polishing
narrow chimney-glasses with a blue rag.
The child waits, breathing in
the kerosene smell. The aunt lights
the first lantern. The child sets out
to bring the grandfather home.

One lighted lantern into the night
swings great curved shadows on a path
red as the massy hibiscus on every side
where the child dreams green whiplash snakes
hanging like tendrils, their jewel eyes.
The claws of night lizards
skitter over rocks. Vapors rise
from the pocked phosphorus skin
of the mosquito swamp. Water insects
cry into the hearts of elephant-ears.
The child sets down the lantern,
its oval shell of light,
throws out her arm and whirls
around and around in the blue
breathless air. Her skirt
flares hibiscus-red to touch
the world. In the wheeling
sky, star-studded bats hang
motionless on great leather wings.

Black Candle was Chitra Divakaruni’s first book.

Reading: I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, p. 26

Chapter III

  • When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it — or rather, it is like living it.
  • I dont intend to let myself become the kind of author who can only work in seclusion — after all, Jane Austen wrote in the sitting-room and merely covered up her work when a visitor called (though I bet she thought a thing or two) — but I am not quite Jane Austen yet and there are limits to what I can stand.

NOTE: Dodie Smith (1896- 1990), an English writer, wrote I Capture the Castle while living in Malibu in the 1940s. It was her first novel.

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