Monday, December 13, 2010

Wastefully So.

if you don't use it--you lose it, it only took 4 weeks for the vines to reclaim this disabled vehicle.

Snow covers summer sins and fall neglect, street silent and frigid, geese are gone; happy holidays! At a time when turkey leftovers hunker in the freezer till the dog is out of dog food, and the ham turns to salt and leather, I reflect upon the effect of abundance. No I don't have a dog, and I eat our own recycled fowl till Easter, thank you!. The material over-abundance is harder to deal with and not so pleasurable.

Yesterday, I noticed the impressive metal machines from Veolia waste management groaning along the neighborhood under the mass and weight of a sudden surge in curbside mounds of refuse. Refuse indeed, walking by the small hills of cardboard boxes full of garbage, I witnessed the usual disregard for possessions, a new word should be found for such—waste.

Electronics, appliances, lamps and brooms among the near new, and quite likely still usable items, discarded in expectation of some fabulous Santa person's generosity. All standing in the cold morning, cracking plastic in the dawn of obsolescence. Last year's microwave, never used gizmo, banged up game boy—oh well? Whose money was it anyway? No, not money—resources...

Yes resources, other people's resources blaring a decadent message for all to hear in the middle of the street. And no one to see that, cars veer aside to avoid the blowing paper, the baby blanket and the roast flavored tin foil on the pavement. Family secrets spill out of many a torn black plastic monstrosity, flapping feminine wares, and half used toiletries.

What harm? What business? No, no concern of anyone's, but it does end up jamming and clogging the whole living organism we call society—in the end. What one person consumes, becomes a unit multiplied by each and everyone—multiplied by the complexity of raw material, plus manufacturing, plus transporting in all phases, plus storage, plus distribution, then arriving at retail and accounting. Finally resting in it's not so final place, the object spends a more or less brutal part of its cycle, for more or less time in a home.

And then—the object of disappointment approaches its apotheosis as rejected matter, back to nature in its glorious trip through a big ugly crushing jaw, to some mysterious vacant hole in the ground, far away. It leaches heavy metals or plasticized residues into the ground water, burps gases back to the skies and dies in toxic decay. While somebody, somewhere is repeating the mining, the polluting, the trucking motions to reproduce a marketable, improved version of the same said gadget.

Does any consumer truly consider the impact of such busy practices, the enormity of mass production? And the personal disregard for the very source of such behavior? Well maybe not on the streets I pass. And according to the numbers I read on the planet's condition and availability of goods, not enough fully use what they want, what they buy and what they throw away.

The trouble with the away concept is that away is only as far as the curb...out of sight—out of care. Too much to do to worry about what happens to the fully plastic vacuum, the cadmium battery or the cleaning fluid. Gone and out of mind for most, and onto the next purchase. But where does that come from? Where does the money come from? And where does it all go?

In economic downturns, I would assume that more care is invested in nurturing the nest egg and appreciating the possessions. The running figures in day-glow vests carting glass and wood, plastic and metal know the extent of tonnage aiming for the landfills and the seas. Perhaps the repetitive gestures of their physical jobs hold nothing but the single purpose of providing for a family, but I feel sure that they witness the frivolity of waste in these dire times.

You don't need an environmental science degree to notice the occurrence of toxic damage upon the immediate neighborhood, any body of water near you can demonstrate the degrading quality of what was once deeply satisfying. Clear streams, pleasant back roads, healthful places. Okay, so the boy-scouts keep a highway mile clean, a local club dutifully scours the lake sides twice a year; but we can't hide from the oily fishing spot, the cluttered wood sides. Stuff everywhere. Our stuff, our junk...shameless collective overflow.

There is help, I routinely search the no-nonsense blogs for inspiration to use-re-use and re-purpose any item. Although experience and ingenuity work well together. It takes less time to make do than to make.
Here's a link to a real wealth of useful, ever widening information. This family practices what it learns. And learns to practice what is best. 

 stove fodder or collage? personal postcard.

Colder Than!

Colder Than...

Zero degrees outside and going down. well, i' m not afraid of peeping toms tonight...

Not that i would show fear in the event of someone lurking to satisfy a primal urge, but the poor fellow would

freeze his mustache to the window panes if he ventured out this fine Canadian evening.

No, i didn't say i live in Canada, rather the air from there has taken leave of the Inuit and moved southward

without papers. Wind chills snap the top of my head and bite like a tenacious wolverine, my gloves shake

and nip at my fingers, my sheepskin boots hug my deadened toes.

I run on frozen snow to return from an errand, i didn't want to use the poor old car, it's too cold for that!

So what would a voyeur do out on such an eyeball stripping evening? Whatever he would believe he could

find within, he would be disappointed by the thickness of my snuggle-wear. As i would peel the

camp-ground certified polyfiber robe from my reluctant body, a smooth arctic vest would hide form and

revelation. As i would divest myself of this layer, another would spoil the view from the seeker; warmies

asunder, i would shudder in a generic no style gown of purest oft washed flannel. And turn off the light.

Oh, to save electricity of course, and wash in the dark, soap lathers better in front of the heater. Toothpaste

foams sweeter in the half light of the green phosphorus night bulb. And flesh stands firm against reviving


Too cold to push the lap blanket away, so i' ll commune with the laptop till the fireplace demands attention.

Below zero now, expected to be -29 soon, and i remember worse times in my temperate home in France.

When the hot water bottle froze at our feet on unforgiving mornings. When the blue stove ate all of a

summer's wood gathering in a brutal month. When we huddled in bed with mittens to read all day between

stirring the stew or feeding the fire.

Too cold to think, if you are chilling tonight, send a warm thought to stave off chilblains scratching at my

heels. The tall and stately ceilings of this fortress do nothing for the writer's soul, pure inconvenience in bad

weather. No use thinking of summer breeze and foreign beaches, imagination ill serves me in times of

body alert...i refuse to venture in the bastions of my cerebral ballast where i have stashed memories untold.

Too crisp out there to visit on such a night as this.

The last ice storm tore the electric pole and left many of us sans electricity. Oh, that means time to read the

orphaned books by candlelight, with gloves and scarves, the best of wintry fashion. The chickens have

hunkered into straw, the cat has found my lap, all's well in the Midwest where the buffalo roams in my

galloping heart and the coyotes are smart enough to curl up in the lair.

Woolen socks, now that's better.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The High Price of Beans

The Price of Beans.
My jaw snapped, sending a sharp stab through my tongue, suddenly thrown back to the now of it, I stood up and saw myself. The backpack was slung open in the morning sun, I stirred, grit in teeth and eyes rimmed with dried tears, my puny reality lay there for all to see. All flies and ants, all lizards and crows.

What was I, woman, mother, doing in a boxcar, in the rail-yards of East Los Angeles? The boys were awake, silent. They knew no one must see us- no one must know of a family living in the turn around. Compton was not the place where you dare sleep, or eat peacefully. We were rabbits in a land of wolves.

I signaled my sons to look around, explored the immediate surroundings and slid behind a wagon ...relaxed and hungry I then attended the day...We were to function and hide. One by one we picked beans from the carrier floor, in the cloth bag, five, ten pounds later, we gathered wood close to the tracks. Ever vigilant and aware, we had a pile of rotten boards, branches from a lone tree by the far tracks, discarded toys, handles and papers.

I had to cook the beans, the wood so dry, very little smoke escaped, clean bright flames jumped and fanned the fears, ever present around us. I had one gallon of water left, one pot, enamel, blue and a wooden spoon, two bay leaves and a sprig of artemesia I had picked earlier. The raw smell of legumes rose and teased, and scared me.

I took the last bit of salt pork, passing it under their noses, little button noses, smiling back and wrinkled in tacit knowledge...We were going to eat, real warm, real food. How much does happiness cost? A glance, a finger across lips, a secret.

Before the beans were done, we wiped our tin dishes, each, slowly, eyes watching every angle, we dodged and sank into the railroad car when a pick-up from Union Pacific veered at the end of the open yard. Soon to disappear in the vast sea of discarded and debilitated wagons waiting for repair or vintage status. A pigeon suddenly flapped and fear returned to make its presence known.

I killed the fire and brought the large pot inside, in the corner where view was blocked by the sliding doors, we ate, one bite, one slow, slurped spoonful at a time. One look and seconds were in order, a cup, plus another, and then we saved some. Sun was about to set when I heard scuffles, screams, shouts. Men' s voices came closer and closer. I had a choice—to run or to hide— I looked at the boys, stuffed with the first meal in two days, and I knew.

I motioned them to lay flat and silent in the dark recess, counted about how many cars were between the approaching trouble and placed my bag, my steele and me close to the open way. On knees, I peered, ready to leap. A few lights came on in the distance, the city was stirring for nightlife. Cars roared on the street, shots rang, bottles were thrown, muffled sounds of strife and anger.

Suddenly steps ran, not far from us, someone yelling, someone hurting, my heart pumping, my feet cramping, a loud sensory landscape exploding, and my hand held high in silencing stillness. People murmuring urgently, going away, away to the gates, to the streets. Flashlights dying somewhere.

The smell of beans clung to the heavy night air, the boys and I hugged in a mass of warm bodies, sweating the waning fear from our pores—our secret. The headline claimed some unidentified male was found near the East LA turn around, we chose to move before being found. No shelter for us!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cabin Fever

No  Hunting sign on privy. Turn left at pheasant cage.

Cabin Fever

 As geese vee overhead and snowbirds flutter in the naked quince, i drag an old note with tight scribbles of

a lurching pencil and fading mind chronicling the ravages of neurotic frostbite.

this staccato poem has been performed in universities and between the black walls of cultural dives,

against spare musical background or guttural solo scratches.

here, alive and relevant, revised and insolent, a universal day by day tribute to indoor weather.

Cabin Fever

12 by 12:

White all over - heavy ceiling twelve feet high - the cold walls - sweating slimy lime - snow on the sill - ice on

the panes - cold on the news - smoke from the stone suspended in gray currents above stale air - pale -

pale white - pale gray - like your face - like my mind - do you like me?

11 by 11:

Gray couch - open to sleep in - blue blanket - you shiver - a chair - a desk - I ponder alone across the

linoleum we laid over the bare concrete - an insult to ancient walls - the spirits are restless - are you bored?

10 by 10:

The cat between us - I wish I were the cat - purring belly up - the radio speaks French - squeaks shortwave

noise then barks German - it’s dark outside now - you hang the shutters on the door - I close the curtains -

stuff rags in the cracks - shut - shudder - close - closer.

9 by 9:

Your tail just twitched - did you shut the stove lid? Today is Tuesday - yes, the thirteenth - mail must have

come today - I think - silence you read - a ball comes rolling across the floor with a cat on it - I grin as balls

fall off the holly twigs left over from would-be decor- do you love me?

8 by 8:

The front room shrinks as the gap across the floor widens - we inflate - Cerberus stands at the door

dressed in silent whites - can you hear me? - bladder calling - the back door is still there - the garden path

is frozen and the outhouse still stands - do you care?

7 by 7:

The house is reduced to one room - one wood stove - is this Alaska or Southwest France? A lush

temperate zone with a Scandinavian breath of fresh air - Ah, you stirred - fingers shaking - Eagle-Eye here,

watching for signs of life.

6 by 6:

Getting tense - radio wave off - cat on duty - outside coming in through the keyholes - white night moon

awake - coffee surplus - nerves astir - unspent - solitary confinement a deux - cozy fireside chats and other

impossible dreams - getting romantic - good luck.

5 by 5:

Seventh day like this - are there lots of divorces in Alaska? - do they bother to marry in the cold? - are we

in love still? - oh - you coughed - you are alive - you get up - find an English-speaking station - stir the fire -

you stir me - the stew smells good - I am alive!

4 by 4:

What? - what is it? - you can’t stand my constant writing? -  I don’t hate your constant reading! smile? - oh

okay -  is the air getting heavy? - is there any air? Air - I mean - full - the eyes - brim - the nostrils - soft the

sounds - did we die?

3 by 3:

Green eyes - still beautiful - I’m tired - going to be ugly - I can’t hide - can’t hide from your big green eyes

that hide from me - I am tired.

2 by2

Eat stew till I bloat - till my brown eyes bulge - till the last crumb – the last word - till doom.

1 by 1:

You and I alone - together - is it love? Is it sex? - is it nerves or do you need me at all? I cry through dry eyes

- kiss my chapped lips - quickly before the mailman finds our bones.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mind Over Meat

Upon entering a writer's venue, i feel as if i were caught up in a surprise bachelor party, and i can't find the

exit. I am a bit overdressed and undermade, no fluff, no glitter. Glamour does not enter my lexicon,

romance bumps against my sensitivities and sensualia is my not so secret. I shun the use of four letter

words, my f words range between feel and fear, i am not fond of the expression having fun. No, i simply

walked into the wrong medium at the right time.

Could the writer sense the different mental planes at work here? words like underused and lonely crop up

from the pool, not paranoid, not fragile. Ego, stored up high on the shelf; it knows that, left to my scribbling,

i may eventually express all within, instead of impressing all without.

This writing life appears a bit bloggish since i migrated my logorrheic efforts, the freedom of subject

choice seems, uh? Subjective. I am swept by the whoosh of overwhelming current. The best list carries a

large percentage of men exercising their bragging rights and women flexing their hunting muscles. So, a

cliche apart, i am neither male, nor huntress. Mind over meat, should i swim upstream or drown in the

current current?.

While i tentatively sniff niches, i am establishing a novel route overland and overseas, seeking evidence of

intelligentsia. And yes i have found it, buried under piles of tantalizing and enticing tales, i follow the

comment trails and discover astute readers and co-writers of the thinking ilk. Talent is sure to carve a timid

path among the needful throngs.

When all the qualitative ratio has been entered, one site seems no better, nor worse than another, just a

different home for various styles. Entertaining or stimulating, most writers have so much to share in a more

or less literary genre. Discretion being a minor virtue and kindness a major attribute, it is best to refrain

from gossip in the ball court.

Pet names and clever-clever pseudonyms may empower the timid, they provide useful cover for the

vengeful and the revelatory. However, anonymity offers little justice to the serious writer. Hidden identities

detract from the boldness of truth. Truth, the wide spectrum lenses of authoritative vision. It sneaks under

guise of freedom of speech, under cover of freedom of information. It assumes shapes in the reader's

perception, mobile, malleable.

I found concerned moralists, caring religionists and passionate atheists within the ranks of the web. Shy or

loud, in praise or protest, each digging at the essential human crust, once formed of silence and now,

loosened upon the globe in incremental word count. Gone the limits of propriety, when women were kept

busy, men were enchained to the paycheck and ideas died in the bedsheets of boredom.

In my short time of crawling out of incomputerate existence, i have grown some pride in elbowing the

literate cyber-community, i have embraced fine writing and refined conscience, i have shunned the

cyber-sluts and the psychic leeches, no, no, i do not mean, these pretty little things dressed in pretty little

things. I mean predatory trollers of lost ideals. The ones who hunger for fragile emotional systems and

jeopardize relationships through veiled identity. yet, they have provided me with necessary perspective

and patience. For this i am also grateful. Witnessing human theater through a controllable screen has

given me wider vision of the universality of drama.

We all need the nourishing atmosphere of the masters of language who help us carry the culture to a kinder

level. Did i say kind? Whether written in a cathartic fit or an artistic fiesta, the object of the logos is to

dispense experience to the creative diaspora out there. So, engage the subconscious, be selfish!. When

at the quietest of moments, a thought comes upon you, find a pen, gently, so as not to startle the idea, for it

may never visit this way again, not in the same form, not in these very words, ever.

Verve will evaporate if you open your mouth. The tiny leaks of momentary glory will ooze the plot out,

piecemeal if you satisfy the questions with any answer about your writing themes. Sensuous or lyrical,

serious or satirical, show, don't tell?. So, mind hermetically sealed against vicarious seepage, keyboard at

the ready? i am eager to nestle among the quasi anonymity of the literary web-mass awaiting out there.

Meat, may provide you with empiric, sensory memory of the flesh, but the cryptic mind will decode the rest.

Dictate to your fingers, release the pressure of unspent enthusiasm, never to divulge the whole story till it

appears on screen for the intended audience. Thank you for relieving me of my cyber-social duties, for

deflating my pockets of guilt. Words can pull the ballast out of the writer's plexus. But, readers have the

power to restore the balance.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Confessions of a WM shopper

An article written for greenadine website—the mood is still relevant, and the need is ever-present. So here as a first column on the green side of this page...
confessions of a WM shopper.

Before a green wave sweeps my words away from the shores of reality, please allow me some introductory disclaimer here. I do hold some healthy distrust of all things commercial and refute the merits of advertising.
Now i do have a small household to maintain and though i can subsist on micronized economics, not everyone shares my minimalism. So, i shop, rarely, but yes i visit Wal-Mart. Me and the local Amish.

Everywhere i have lived, Wal-Mart has been the closest and cheapest store.Coincidence? hardly! i trust some demographics were at play. So, i take the back roads and slink along the aisles, choose my organic toothpaste, virgin soap and low VOC paint. then move over to the organic vegetables, the whole grain pita, and jar of olives.

Before this turns into an attraction for green shoppers, let's look at Mega mart's supply chain effect. As of Sept. 2007, the retail giant launched their first of many offensives on the Global War-ming front.
Their Great value brand of CFLs compact fluorescent lightbulbs, being a clear objective in the greening spectrum.The management clearly intends to supply sustainable goods at affordable prices.

They have the clout, the means and the connections to do so. Their large clientele will purchase large amounts of these products; which will create a wide ripple effect throughout the economy, and synergistically, the ecology.

Wal-Mart is keeping tabs on suppliers via a scorecard. They are asking for packaging reduction of 5% by 2013. it sounds ridiculously dismal, 50% by end of 2010 would certainly impress me, and produce a healthier impact on the environment. But, the math is more complicated than first appears.

Product to package ratio--space utilization--distance traveled--package transport, all are factors in the computing and recording of figures involved. Further complicating the process of research and fact finding, trade associations and academics must meet and agree with each step and statistical configuration. NGOs and suppliers must validate the accounting and then return it all for speculation by the retailer.

Whatever happened to cow-barn--milk-bottle--truck to store- to basket-and home fridge.. no more waxed cartons, plastic islands and errant paper cups blowing in my yard. No need for long trains to haul tons of detritus out of state. And no more plastic bags needed to haul the single product sans clear plastic shell.

Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart announced his company plans in Jan 08, he means to cash in on the nascent wave of concern over the environmental condition. Not that i ever noticed too much concern on the faces or in the baskets of shoppers.. therefore that's where supply precedes demand--management makes the egg and the chicks will follow--good marketing as usual. perhaps finally aiming in the right direction.

From the top down, emphasis is renewed on ethical sourcing and fair trade, advancing ahead of predicted resource shortages and poor global economy. Out of necessity, the focus is shifting toward energy intensive products and energy efficiency. The whole strategy is concentrating focused effort ahead of foreign oil trade inequities.

Build it and they shall come around, with millions in tow. Turning green consumerism into green cash. It's amazing what the the profit margin can accomplish. Climate Change scientists have tried to steer the affluent polluters toward saner behavior, for years. And now the marketplace is taking over for the last fistful of dollars quick, before it all crumbles. You can breathe now, mega mart will save us from ourselves.

photo credits: Calvin Jones

From the Pier

From the Pier.

Seagulls dart about the remains of lovers,
the parts only a bird can sense.

Seagulls bicker over warm prints left
in sand, where bodies pushed boundaries
in the pale light of dawn
where soft sweat salted the skin, the mouth
the hands, eager to assume, to consume.

Beaks tear at phantom food
clack outrage at forgotten sounds
wings spread open with importance
heads reaching for the sun
mad birds of aftermath

scavenge the tears of one
and the spit of another

And i watch footprints separate

by nadine sellers 2008

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Bat , Two Chicks and a White Heron

A Bat, Two Chicks and a White Heron...

Evening come, wind at rest, mosquitoes and gnats ready. The one street light flickers on as if the distant bray of wild burros had sent a command. Sweat trickles along the spine to signal time to replenish. I drink from the warm water in a tall mason jar. The springs on the daybed by the cooler signal another life. Fingers gripping jar, i rise slowly.

Little brown bat shakes her head, ears flapping, she stretches one arm, then the next in a nearly imperceptible shudder. she yawns and scans the air, and curls back in her head down posture along the boards until darkness calls. i sit further into the recess of the evening, waiting, looking into the vanishing mountain for a change of the guard.

The Desert big horn have spontaneously disappeared from the ridge above. Like cardboard figures being yanked from an Indian backdrop. Hunger pulls the vagus string inside, yet i will not move. Ever changing, ever present, the crepuscular theater unfurls as surround sound and scene. I will the night hawk to show the figure eight mastery of moth catching by the mercury light above. From behind the bean vines i miss not a turn, not a whoosh of wing. I am moth and dark bird, white tip and crooked beak, alone among sleek flying mates. flapping the last dance of a short life.

Amargosa toads erupt out of sand beneath the datura, seeking moisture and insects in the early relief from sun. I am spotted skin and long legs, ready to pounce and feed, to hop and mate by the silent narrow stream below, left over from last year's rain. Egret flies up at dusk and danger past, his belly full of tadpoles caught as captives in an algal puddle. His neck folded, his eye alert in this last effort of day. I see the land beneath his slow wing, unrolling mass of tamarack and olive, drained by the slimy runoff of man's disrespect.

Behind me, the house groans, the springs wince, as i breathe ever shallow breath to stretch the evening out into peace, little bat turns her head my way, takes flight and skillfully turns to the light pole, she circles and designs scrolls against the enveloping blackness beyond. The many little hawks have vacated and bats arrive from the few trees along the ghost banks of the underground river. Some have slid from hot attics in abandoned minor's shacks in the canyon. I am air gliding, whirling, cascading and swooping everything that flies to the attraction of a single light on the edge of the ghost town. The floor hisses behind the door, i swallow the tepid water rolling in my mouth in silent liquid motion.

From midway up the canyon walls, the unmistakable call of a burro threatens intruders on his descent into the gully to extract a drink of sinking waters. Angry brays echo from another trail, hooves send sharp slate shards and rolling stones down the steep incline. A female warns her young of impending kicks and savage bites. I am gray and brown, and jumping out of the way, hiding behind a vegetal screen watching the invisible coming to the impossible along the desert floor. I am mother of foal and nursing protector of health, i find the grass, the rose and the squash in sad front yards of mistaken species. The door hinge squeaks between violent honking and fights, i set the quart jar on the porch floor.

Two chicks peep timidly from a box, hanging off the edge of cardboard, they squawk for feed, cracker crumbs and grassy meal, They live between need and purpose, a short span at best. I am egg, i am fowl, feather and nourishment, i am here, and night closes the screen of consciousness in a ring of darkness. I am the lonely animal, preserving, prolonging, from the shadow where the one coyote will sense me long after the equines have had their meal of amaranth and bunch grass, the heron will sleep in the lone cottonwood. And i will find comfort in the donkey snorting in a dream on the flank of his female and young genie by the tree.

In the early hour when all are asleep, i will know the soundless pad of coyote. The bat hung on her board, the heron curled in his twigs up high, and the chicks in their powder box cage dwelling, all secure in the day done and the next not quite ready. 


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Michele Vassal Interview

previously published in Outsider Writer's Collective:
an interview of French poet, M. Vassal by nadine sellers

Somewhere in the South of France, a lady sits with white kitten on lap. She holds a cup of chicorée and lifts her pensive eyes toward the fading autumnal fog. This is the writer, Michèle Vassal, sitting at an old garden table the color of sky, lost on the Causses du Quercy. She feeds off the vibrancy of her fuschia robe, presently preferring a screeching palette to the " bien-sèance of cream and beige; though she does yearn for a white embroidered djellaba.

Her life, a poetic triptych, she collates the multilingual pages on a mystical journey, verse by verse. To quote her accomplishments would diminish the sensual quality of her sensitive vision; a fine sculpture which allows sparse lines and precise cuts to show the essential nature of a subject. This is where we find the selected daughter of Irish literature.

"Spat out on the shores of night
A girl like a shell"

Michèle Vassal takes us on a languid journey through languages and serves the polymorphous muses of past and present on a tapestry of elegance and passion. I enjoy the side trips which ultimately lead to a more accurate vision of the writer than any preconceived question. That's why i will not call them questions, but conversation.. The interplay between mood and mind. Brief phrases are not static, it's a virtual salon happening, not the great inquisition between us.

MV: I feel that my writing is born of exiles. That could be a starting point I guess.This is exciting! I believe that i would like to begin with cultural and linguistic background. I am so used to speaking my life through metaphor, paring down, condensing sentences.

NS: Michele, do you remember when your native language came to life for you as nascent poetry.

MV: Languages are the weft around which my life wove itself, from the guttural Algerian that is the backdrop for my earliest memories, to the Hiberno-English that I so love.
French, for me, was primarily the language of reading and by Gosh did I devour books, but it was also that of communication, of emotions and for what seemed a very long time,
those were mostly painful, which is why, I guess, I abandoned it so willingly.
When did the language come to life? It’s very difficult to pinpoint, honestly I don’t know, it is, hopefully, still an ongoing process. I remember age 7 or so, making little books, whose pages I bound with a red cotton stitch and on which I wrote poems which I also illustrated: invariably they were about stars, bleeding sunsets and princesses - I am not sure I have evolved that much since!

NS: Reading has formed a solid base under your movable spirit.

Gradually I fell in love with certain authors, Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Colette, Materlinck whose writings accompanied me from childhood to teenage. But my first real contact with poetry ( I exclude the compulsory learning of Lafontaine Fables at school) was with Rudyard Kipling’s IF regularly recited - in English- and translated my father when ever I indulged in unseemly emotional displays (usually around school report time). And so I grew up to the dictate “ you’ll be a man my son”, not only did I survive it but I even got to like it :-)
Then sometime around the age of thirteen, I read le Dormeur du Val and fell in love at first read with Rimbaud’s words, his style and of course ...himself. As the door to the secret garden of Poetry slowly opened, I ran in aiming of course for the more forbidden fruits of the “poêtes damnés” and never looked back.

NS: Can you relate to how the literature informed adaptability in your early travels?

MV: I am not sure it did!
I traveled from a such a very early age. Adaptability, I guess, came from my family on my father’s side who were a rather intrepid lot - particularly the women. My grand-aunt Blanche, who partly reared me, pirogued down the Niger river, between hypos and crocodiles, all the way to Timbuktu to retrieve a straying husband. And I certainly owe my father, my attraction towards the English language. He was a pilot who had served in Britain during WWII, and I spent some beautiful time beside him, in the felted atmosphere of the cockpit, silent and immobile, amongst constellations of green dials, listening to arcane words answering disembodied voices.

The first word I memorized was “Roger”. I took it then, to be the name of some omnipresent guiding entity and thus, English for me, became the language of stars and angels.

"I am a woman dancing
Amber Kompolois
Around plane trees
Spiraling Betelgueuse
Under an appled moon"

Our nomadic path took us from Algiers to Benghazi via Nairobi and Phnom Penh and I collected words like some collect butterflies, pinning them in my, then, perfectly retentive mind, and used them like small spells, to make people smiIe and love me - I was a needy child - but words are divine and powerful. I always felt exiled and that feeling attracted me later to writers such as Camus but also to Pagnol because he spoke simply and passionately, of a land and a people, I desperately wanted to belong to.
Then of course came Ireland...

NS: You occasionally approach the subject of selfishness as perceived hedonism; individuals have been asked to stifle the self for the good of society, for too long now. Do you believe that anyone would benefit from subverting their innate love for fine poetry in order to please others?. Would it improve the condition of man to choose to spend time away from book and pen, just to dig more potatoes or shine the buffet one more time this week?

MV: In my case it certainly would. I am beyond untidy and hate housework - the buffet has never been shone. I am the archetypal ‘bordélique’, yet I yearn in vain, for order and minimalism in my life. But to answer you seriously: I am attracted by both Hedonism and Epicureanism which are not the philosophies of excesses they are often perceived to be, but quite the opposite. Hedonism comes from the Greek word for delight, and I think most of us, delight in a certain amount of altruism; so really, the notion of pleasure need not equate with selfishness. I believe the ‘good of society’ is intrinsically linked with that of the individual. I try in on a very small scale to live by Gandhi’s phrase “be the change you want to see in the world” and for me, that means an artistic way of life on one hand, and a more ecologically responsible attitude on the other.

NS: Anma is the given name of your old home which is in a state of retrofitting at present; can you place us in your wonderful hedonism and sense of ecology here.

MV: I am not a fundamentalist of either cause and do not want to proselytise (though I am tempted to do so here and to mention dry and composting toilets! 5 gallons per flush, 4.8 billion gallons per year in the US alone. It’s madness - Water is life!). In my youth, which unravelled under the long shadow of May 68, I believed Rousseau’s take on society - the good savage, man is good - society is rotten etc...I am not so sure anymore. But I do think that the Christian notions of sacrifice and guilt, instilled in us, particularly in us women, are destructive and dangerous, stopping individual fulfillment and denying us the happiness which should be our natural state. I feel strongly that religions and atheism à la Dawkins, are part of the tools of manipulations of the Powers that be, the goal being keeping us in fear. It’s so much easier to govern AND to sell, to terrified masses.
NS: From this salon of thoughts, I perceive evolving awareness; the natural conclusion of a life of observation, internal and external. What do Rousseau and Gandhi have in common? Their effect on the moral individual.

MV: Despite their different backgrounds and perspective, I find a lot of similarities between Gandhi and Rousseau such as their common view that scientific/technological progress is the bane of society and that progress corrupts human minds. They had similar thoughts on democracy as well. Sadly Rousseau’s philosophy was hijacked by the French revolution, in my mind , the most ugly and destructive period of French history. Gandhi’s pacific liberation of India on the other hand, is a wonderful example of what can really be achieved with non violent ways.

NS: The hedonistic artist may inspire joy in the fearful, but pleasure has so long been relegated to the basement of feelings by a repressed society, your poetry shows the way through the impenetrable mesh of social constructs. Let us swim in your sensuous waters for awhile.

MV: But back to pleasure. For me, it has a very definite spiritual dimension. Pleasure equates love and beauty or at least it should, and beauty, I see as the link that ties us to the rest of the universe. I perceive it as some common energy present in all things and all beings. Maybe its power is why 'it has been relegated to the basement' by social constructs. I have to admit that I am often governed by my senses if not always and that I generally give them a free rein. I need to touch, to breathe, to taste what I write, to find the essence of emotions, to translate the experience into words.

NS: Michele, you talk of pleasure and poetry in one long breath, we can hear the discourse flowing along all senses. Would you take us on a vicarious voyage through the surroundings which affect your daily life as woman, as writer.

MV: I am not an intellectual poet, more a tactile one, if that makes any sense. When I read poetry I want to feel first and foremost. And feel pleasure, I should add. Pleasure at the beauty of the emotions stirred ( the whole scale of emotions not just the happy fluffy ones) and that of the words, the images. I dislike ugly poetry. And I have to admit it that Charles Bukowski and his minions, don’t do it for me. Poetry for me, is like cooking, I expect the result to be intensely flavoured without losing the essence of the ingredients whilst still remaining simple and nourishing to the soul. I made a tomato sauce recently which was a perfect poem :-) - huge “coeur de boeuf” tomatoes, bought on a warm September morning, from an old woman at the Saint-Antonin’s market. It had a story, a richness of colour and undercurrents of southern herbs, garlic and olive oil. I made it with love and we ate it with love. And you know, it might sound silly but I came out “agrandie”, “improved by its creation.

NS: You offer a glimpse of your ancient home, of the aroma and taste. Your websites draw the reader into visual imagery of such character, that they provide a landscape for your sound and poetry . You live your art.

MV: We would gladly forget convenience to be able to scratch the dirt to find a truffle or watch deer graze nearby, such connection has been buried by cemented progress, and our essential alma has lost its strength in the process.

"I am a woman dancing
Under a panther sky
That scrawls shadows
on the hips of hills.

NS: Again we lapse into essential French, a natural ease. “Parfait, les truffes, les pierres, complet, comme je t' envie, ou bien comme je suis heureuse de te savoir sous l' aile de ton alma," Anma" cette ancienne maison dans le sud de la France.

MV: Je suis ravie que nous ayons eu cette conversation.

"I am a woman
My way home"

Michèle Vassal' s collection of poetry "Sandgames"was published by Salmon Publishing in 2000 in Ireland.
Nourished by the strife of exile on a background of sexual and religious metaphor, her poetry "chronicles a sensual and cruel reality". Earthbound: her upcoming collection is slated to be published by Salmon.

Here is where to find examples of Michéle's works:
The Cork Literary Review (issues 4,5,6) Podium 3, Samhlaich Chairrri, Cùm, The Stinging Fly, Books Ireland, The Kerry Anthology, Poets for the Millenium, The Sunday Tribune ( New Irish Writing), Leaves, Cosmos Review,The Café review (Portland USA) A Journey in Poetry (Salmon Anthology) Poetry Monthly International.
She received 1st prize at the Listowel's Writers Week( Poetry) and was short listed for the Hennessy/Tribune awards, New Irish Writing. Short listed in French at" La Fureur du Noir Lamballe, France) and in English (Fish crime fiction) for some dark and criminally minded short stories.

I am plugged into her MySpace site "EARTHBOUND" as i conclude this pleasant interlude. Michèle Vassal's voice carries mystical concepts beyond the foggy scapes, between dream and reality, to the mellifluous sound of the original compositions of Brendan Ring playing hypnotic Uilleann pipes and harp.


first published in Hobo Camp Review

Hunting Camp at Yucca Valley

A thrush sharpens its beak on an atriplex,
and suddenly, it is morning;
I push the sand with naked toes, and suddenly,
I am alive with need, waters beckon.
The thrush is in full song, the mountain in full rose,
children stir.

Hunger makes its usual rounds.
First the men grunt, then they sway toward the rocks,
shivering quietly in their long-johns and woolen socks,
they put their boots on in haste; no time to waste at dawn.

The grain ground up and boiled,
I prepare the gruel for the children
who groggily slither out of their bed-sacks,
one by soft one, vulnerable.
Coffee begins to boil on the makeshift grill.
I blow on my fingers in silent anticipation.
Gun propped up against the tent,
I watch for any movement, alert.

The men walk out of camp,
whispering position and angle of their prospective prey.
Now Sun is ready to return to hell in its quotidian chore,
to suffocate life down here by noon.

A last coyote silently lopes away
not far from the fading embers of our last fire.
A game quail marches by, in full breast and cocky plume,
to lead me away from its young.
At that moment I decide to let the carbine rest on its wooden pedestal,
a harsh token of my weakness.
Eye full of grits and fat;
Hunger subsides to conscience.
Let the men rip the air with their power in the mid-morning hush -
let them drag a heavy carcass home to the mining camp,
for me to butcher, for the children to grow.

One shot is all I hear:
Winter will be kinder
with a burro in the freezer this year.
with sincere apologies to the animal kingdom for the humble distribution of protein for healthy childhood development.
photo credit: Calvin Jones