Archive | June, 2012

How Happy is the Blameless Vestal’s Lot. The world forgetting, by the world forgot.

29 Jun

Blessed are the forgetful: for they get the better even of their blunders  – Nietzsche

I forget things.

This morning I forgot my keys when I left for work. I kissed my husband goodbye at the door, and then had second goodbye at the window (it’s a silly thing – don’t ask) and then headed up the street, Michael Kiwanuka in my headphones when I realized that I didn’t have my keys. I ran back to the apartment but the window was closed. I had to frantically ring the doorbell, startling my husband, probably inducing a heart attack in my cat, just to get back in.

I forgot the comics I wanted to bring to read today.

Once I forgot my father’s birthday. Poor guy.

One of my  first memories involves attempting to fashion fairy wings out of wire hangers and paper in the hallway of my childhood home. But I had to be nearly six then. That can’t be right, can it? Most first memories begin at 3 or 4. I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor of the kitchen reenacting my kindergarten (or was it first grade?) recital for my Grandfather. Drum sticks tapping out a pattern. A song about a pussy willow.

I see pictures of myself, from holidays or parties and I think, Yes! I remember. But I don’t. I just know this picture of the tow-headed little girl. Not the moment the picture was taken.

I forgot what people from high school look like. It’s a vanishing. First the faces go, then the names. I stare at the pictures in my old yearbook and there’s just….nothing.

I forgot people from college…also whole events in college. I have to be reminded of these things by others:

“Remember, junior year? After the Ani show?” And I nod. Sure. Sure. That was great, I say, but there’s nothing there. I smile and nod. I fake it. I laugh when I’m supposed to – praying for a spark of recognition, something to pull it all into focus.

Since formal schooling ended, things have gotten stranger. I can’t track years. I have to count back to remember when we moved into our current apartment.  Count back to grad school. If I graduated grad school in 2006…wait, was it 2006? When did I travel the country? 2007? When did I  move back to Brooklyn? 2008?

My husband knows how old my parents are before I do.

The last time the doctor asked my age, I forgot it. Panicking, I gave the wrong number. I corrected myself about ten minutes later. He cocked an eyebrow, tilted his head. I wondered if he thought I needed a CAT scan.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about memory too and I wonder if that makes it worse. I spend time trying to fill the blanks, pouring them full of energy and hope and need. Color and song and smell. Anything that might craft a memory.

I write stories about it. I have characters who’ve had their memories stolen. Replaced with false ones. Characters who keep finding themselves in the same situation, unable to recall the last time they were there or what happened. Unable to recall the people they once loved and would have died for.

Their lives, stolen.

Swaths of blank canvass.

I imagine a great cold ocean filled with partial memories bobbing just below the surface. Snippets of stories, flashes of color, individual moments of time:

The summer of my 14th year
The first time I saw fireworks
The last baseball game I went to
Last night’s dream
Love, even.
Kisses, maybe.

I think of them all bobbing out there, just out of reach.
And what about today? This year? When will it vanish? How much time has to go by before it’s lost in that sea too.

All those moments, the seconds, the minutes, the days that craft a life.  That tell the story of a single person, all of it…just floating.

It’s beautiful, really, like an unwinding of sorts.

Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d.

In the end, we’ll all just meet in Montauk.

“Joely, what if you stayed this time.”
“I walked out the door…there’s no memory left.”

I Have a Suitcase Heart

25 Jun

“They should tell you when you’re born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.”   – Gabrielle Zevin

I just got back from two weeks in Italy…a trip that was enlightening, beautiful, frustrating and evoking.

I love traveling. I love seeing new places, I love watching a country roll by from the window of a train. I love getting lost, I love getting found. I love eating strange food.

If I could do this full-time (like a few people I know did for two years(!)) I would. In a heartbeat. But for now, I’ll have to settle for small trips when I can.

Rome was a beautiful complicated mess. The history here is staggering.

That’s the Mouth of Truth – Bocca della Verita – stick your hand in there and, if you’ve ever told a lie, it gets bitten off. Priests used to help the rumor along by tossing scorpions in there. And if it looks familiar to you, it’s because of this:

Roman Holiday, one of my favorites

I have seen a lot of famous graves in my life (it’s a traveling hobby) including almost seeing Shakespeare’s but this one of Caesar’s funeral pyre is up there.

In fact, there were quite a few good graves on this trip:

Percy Bysshe Shelley

John Keats

– and in case you can’t read that it says: “This Grave / contains all that was Mortal / of a / Young English Poet / Who / on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart / at the Malicious Power of his Enemies / Desired / these Words to be / engraven on his Tomb Stone: / Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821″



AND least I forget, in the Galileo Museum, his FINGER BONE!

(And a tooth!)


Dante (though he isn’t really in there what with being banished and all)

And Machiavelli

Phew. Enough graves for ya?

How about the art…actually that’s Art (with a capital A)

The Sistine Chapel

Caravaggios – especially this amazing Calling of St. Matthew.

A whole room full of Boticelli’s including the Birth of the Venus, which I couldn’t photograph so you’ll have to settle for this:

The David (also couldn’t photograph so here’s the replica in the Loggia where the original sat for many moons until it was damaged in a riot)

The sculpture was by far the most amazing piece of art I saw in Italy (bear in mind that’s genius amongst more genius). The detail in the right hand alone was riveting.

Look at those veins! Marble. Amazing.

And the food:



Il Santo and Biscotti (which according to my husband tastes just like Christmas Eve)


and of course gelato

and more gelato

So if those are all the good things, here’s the bad:

Dear America – what the hell? Are we so self-righteous and depraved that we truly have lost all manners? I’ve never been so embarrassed of my fellow countryman in all my life. I certainly don’t speak fluent Italian but it takes a minimal effort to learn the basics. Hello. Please. Thank You. Goodbye. And how to order. Instead I watched rude Americans (or as they are known in Europe Ugly Americans) walk around demanding that people speak English to them, demanding service, loudly complaining, cutting lines.

Then packs of young American’s chanting “USA! USA!” outside of the Duomo, which for the record is a church. I may be a heathen and everything but even I know that’s just not right. Have we absolutely no manners? You are a guest in someone else’s country. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. You might actually learn something.

Direct quote overheard in the airport on our return:

20-ish year old male: “I don’t know Dad….it just sort of seems…like, I don’t know, but like….Europe is sort of….like….retarded.”

To which his father whole heartedly agreed.

Oh America, I hang my head in shame. We dub thee Ham-n-Cheesers, after the ignoramus in the cafe who couldn’t manage to eek out the words “prosciutto” and “formaggio.”


So to not end on a bad note here,  a picture of the Arno in Florence at Sunset.

And on the a similarly beautiful night as when this picture was taken, my husband and I passing down Ponte Santa Trina noticed a young girl who had climbed out over the bridge onto the large stone slabs that are part of the archway. She was sketching the Ponte Vecchio further down river. Later that night, he coaxed me down off the bridge (a drop of about 6 feet) onto the stone slabs over the Arno and together we watched the sunset. It was incredibly romantic. And they say marriage is a drag. Fools!

our feets out over the Arno

Okay that’s all for now. Time to get back to regular life. Writing. Living. Brooklyn. At least until the next trip. London (again?) Prague? Dublin? Who knows?


Miss me?

25 Jun

Hi! Did you miss me??

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile but I was in Italy which I’ll write about later once I have fully ingested all its crazy beautiful complication. But I will tell you that seeing the David, the Sistine Chapel, the home Galileo was born in and Keat’s grave is a humbling experience.

Until then, here’s a poem entitled Sir Guillotine Gives You a Painless Death from the fine folks at Citizens for Decent Literature.

And also here’s a chapbook by John Grochalski entitled In the Year of Everything Dying at Camel Saloon’s Books on Blogs Series which is full of all the beautiful and sad and funny poems that he is known for. Enjoy!


Paper Heart

6 Jun

Image via Tumbler

Many many many  thanks to Jersey Devil Press for publishing my story Paper Heart about a boy who can’t stop crying and a girl with, well, a paper heart.  Ah, young love.


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