Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review || Origin, a novel of suspense by Diana Abu-Jaber

     A few pages into Origin (Diana Abu-Jaber, W.W. Norton, 2007) I was aware of being immersed in a rare female perspective, one that felt like home.     

     The heroine of this novel of suspense and insight is Lena, an introspective and intelligent fingerprint analyst in the Syracuse, New York, crime lab. Lena is the greatest puzzle in her life. Adopted, her earliest memories are jungle and leafy, strange and so particular I found myself cheering for Diana Abu-Jaber for her daring choices in character and narration.

     Of course in a mystery nothing is as it seems, so Lena’s search for self explodes, morphs and astonishes. Her estrangement with her husband and flirtation with a detective wind, like quick-growing rain forest vines, into the plotline.

     And her involvement in identifying and helping solve particularly heartbreaking deaths, first thought to be SIDS related, draws her back into her past. As they say.

     But why did this feel like home? The suspense aspect of the novel absolutely works. This is a page-turner. Lena’s co-workers in the lab are mainly women, each a type not often given more than a nod in literature. They are unmarried or divorced, living quiet lives that aren’t “of desperation” but just lives. They have no more or less nobility and honor than the men who supervise. And to this reader, who has no more or less nobility and honor than the men who have supervised her, or the women who had been supportive or backbiters or heir to a Dantesque lineage of meanness and redemption, these women ring true, in a rare way.

     Most everyone in the novel is a bit of an outsider, a fair perception of the world. By not giving lipservice to received definitions of America or women Origin becomes a mirror of our culture. Sure. New.  

     Origin is an enomorously satisfying book.

Obama: Not Jesus Christ

Please, liberals, stop telling me you knew all along Obama was a politician -- your sudden awareness based on armchair foreign policy. Your reasons? Because he hasn’t been strong enough on Gaza. Because the bailout’s unfair. Because the troops have not been withdrawn fully and with apology. (No, he hasn’t; yes, it is; wouldn’t that be wonderful: And these situations were not created by Obama.)

Listen, friends. President Obama
is a politician. There was no white puff of smoke in the Vatican chimney on November 4, 2008, so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t elected Pope. He was, after all, a candidate for office, the Democratic candidate, to be specific; the candidate of the Democratic party which is -- whoa, mama -- a political party.

And though it is a bit of a miracle to have a black president, Obama is not a miracle worker. He is not a saint. Get this: Barak Obama is not Jesus Christ.

I am breaking this bit of news here and now, at My 3,000 Loving Arms blogspot.
President Barack Obama is not Jesus Christ. Or Buddha. Or the Prophet. The Prophesied Messiah. Or Shiva & co.

He is not even a baby boomer, and therefore does not experience the knee jerk reactions of so many of my fellow baby boomers who have the self-centered attitude he will be all peace and love as we were (my sometimes shameful generation that booed at incoming Vietnam Vets, preached green and then drove big cars).

So don’t feel good about yourself, Mr. and Ms. Progressive, because you knew it all along, that Obama was just a politician. He
is a politician. He can and will disappoint. And he is the best thing for this country, at least right now.

The minute a decision is made in the Oval Office you don't approve of, have the sophistication and grounding to know it is one of many decisions. It is bad enough for our country and culture to be exposed to comment after comment from ill-prepared and shallow newscasters.  We, as citizens and pundits of our domains don't need to add to the noise.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"St. Sarah Sarai Carrying the Infant Christ Child" is a *best of*

My poem "St. Sarah Sarah Sarai Carrying the Infant Christ Child" {originally published in Mississippi Review} is a *best of* {wheeee!} at www.bestnewpoemsline. I wrote the first draft at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It felt like a payoff for a near-lifetime of looking at art with a willing heart. Beliefs to be discussed another time or here at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blog Date: May 25, 2009

Day one of blogging was tedious. What to add? Who to notify? How much time should I spend-to-waste online?

And the photo:  It was taken by my sister (one of many).  Note to general public:  I started out with three sisters, now I have two.  Two is more than one.  I always keep a spare.

Otherwise, need to interact with world in more challenging way than purchasing coffee (a cup, thereof).

Farewell for now.  


St. Igneous on a Roll

Grabs her ankles, flames down the hillock to
thud, jarred, a millisecond.  Her miracle,
Metamorphic.  Once fire, now earth.

A saint’s gimmick inspires awe, medallions,
intercession with fate, that rock-of-ages
defying sensible choice.

Holy Igneous, pyrotechnically literate,
budge your big Sr. Sedimentary
sitting on life’s spark.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let Me Ask You This

Have you ever had sex,
you know, where your skin is
a window open on a night of
many weathers one and another
howling round your breasts like
the burning god of Moses?  Moses,
who’ll break stone tablets so
you get this night right.

Fast Love My Hair: a review of Larissa Shmailo's chapbook, A Cure for Suicide

Larissa Shmailo is poet who comes with warning labels, not about her—the warnings are those she issues.  Warnings about this sorry, greedy world of ours.  In the spirit of a quick-kill, Shmailo chooses directness over metaphor. 

“In the angry material world,” she warns in her poem “Scarcity,” midway through A Cure for Suicide, “There are men who are not/Men.”    

Whose imaginations never rise           
Whose imaginations squat           
Upon the positions of power.
That’s a reliable insight.  The cause of so much pain and destruction is an inability of the powerful to use their imaginations to enjoy each spark of life.  The short, layered lines of the poem serve as list and indictment.

Shamilo peers into America’s windows. “I have told you before, here at the doorway of a thousand /Unhappy homes…”  she writes in “Mapping.”  The poem begins with a wayward pigeon, “Like an addict in the morning’s trafficked street,” moves on to urban loneliness, and, by addressing the reader, envisions an escape route for anyone who cares to join the poet.  Two stanzas.  A way out. 

In the reality of her poem, “Abortion Hallucination,” there are snakes, in cars.
  “I didn’t want to fuck them twice.”  In this same reality there is triumph in later lines: “and the Nile gives up its life to me”

animals carnivorous and calm   
come home to me
two by two.
The poet as healer and enchantress, a poet who could be creating poetic incantation around a fire.  There is that witchy woman aspect to some of these poems.

Founder of the No-Net World, a loose web-linked consortium of spoken-word poets (, Shmailo brings the immediate drama of delivered lines to her work.
  I’ve seen her read and hear her sometimes rhythmic, sometimes telegraphed lines, in many of the poems, including “Skin.”

My tongue is bruised           
My nude is creaky           
Like a cabbage I sit and wait for you           
I stutter like an old goat           
Take me           
The fast love of my hair.
I’m up for that, for someone to know the fast love of my hair.  Shmailo may proclaim, in her poem “Scarcity,” that “Not all of you are wanted,” and she may offer lamentations, over and over in these poems, for those whose lives are little more than loose ends overlooked by HMOs and court systems.  

But Larissa Shmailo reveals that anger and lamentation are only
among the tools of her poet’s arsenal.  She also has a desire to make a real contact with other real human beings.  She needs to know us.  From “Personal”:  “what protest resists you/what neural net fires you/which siren desires you.”  She does not abandon.  Through this chapbook, which stands ready to serve as a companion through several cups of coffee, she insinuates herself into the reader’s life. 

47 pages, $7, Červená Barva Press  (