Archive for February, 2012

Part 3 of My Southwestern Gothic Tale

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

{Although it doesn’t pick up quite where the last bit left off, here is the next big scene in “Casanegra”. Don’t worry, I’ll fill in the missing bits eventually.}

September brought the heavy rains and with them came Señor Akelarre, from Navarra, Spain. He was an old acquaintance of Beltran and Lupe’s from their travels before they settled in the States a few years ago. He was a mysterious man, olive complexioned, with short but thick black hair and dark circles around his eyes that looked like kohl. He looked to be in his late thirties or early forties but his mannerisms were weird and he carried himself as if he were from another time.
He had sharp angular features and was short of stature, but of strong sinewy build. He spoke both Basque, and Castilian Spanish but with his lisp and use of the voseo tense, compounded by my limited grasp of the language, I had no idea what he was saying most of the time. He was very serious and always walked around with a scowl so I did my best to stay out of his way for the duration of his visit.
Lupe deferred to him, addressing him as vuestra merced whenever they spoke, but Beltran seemed a bit wary of him and called him by his first name, Dimas, just to ruffle his feathers. A liberty he didn’t seem to care for but chose to ignore rather than make an issue out of it. We would go to the kitchen every time he began discussing business with Lupe, and have Maruja make tea for me and coffee for him then we would chat about the old days when he and Lupe first met in Hidalgo.
Once, from my balcony, I caught a snippet of a conversation between Señor Akelarre and Lupe as they strolled through the cactus garden after breakfast. He spoke about a nearby cave comparing it favorably to one back home in Spain, where he and some others would gather for some ritual or another. At least that’s what I think he said.
Listening to him speak reminded me of the time I tried to read a passage from my father’s copy of Don Quixote in the original Spanish. It didn’t look like the Spanish my folks used to speak around the house. It was only later that I was able to grasp the concept that reading Cervantes in his own tongue was akin to reading Shakespeare’s Elizabethan English.
Señor Akelarre kept to himself when he wasn’t conferring with my aunt, and tended to stay clear of me as well, although once and a while when I thought I was alone I would turn to find him staring at me from across the room. The biggest surprise, however, was when on one occasion both Lupe and Beltran needed to go into town to run an errand and I was left with Maruja and the mysterious Spaniard. Maruja was busy doing her thing in the kitchen and as far as I knew Señor Akelarre was in the guest room studying some old books from Beltran’s vast library.
Having nothing of any great importance to do, I wandered outside the house until I came upon the casita which contained the meeting room, where Lupe saw her clients. Even though there wasn’t anything burning at the time, I could still smell a waft of incense whoosh into my face as I swung open the front door. I crept into the dark den with its heavy curtains and dark atmosphere, which Lupe had me maintain to create an aura of mystery for the querent, and sat in her seat at the round table in the center of the room.
At first I just got accustomed to sitting in her place getting comfortable in her velvet lined chair and messing with the tarot cards. Suddenly I felt a pull to look at the crystal ball before me. Staring into it, I tried to clear my mind of all distractions. At first, all I saw was my own reflection straining through the dim light filtering through the gauzy curtains nearby. Eventually I was able to see beyond that and faint images appeared, bleeding through a white haze inside the ball.
I saw the house on a sunny day, with its desert flower and cactus garden and the colorful bougainvilleas spilling over the walls. Suddenly a black shiny disc appeared and began encroaching upon the sun causing the sky to turn dark as a thick black vapor engulfed the scene, the bougainvilleas melted into cascades of blood and the remaining flowers withered on their stems. Luminous images appeared on the disc; first a raven which blinked and cawed, then a bat which lapped blood from an infant’s throat as somewhere out of frame I heard a woman’s scream transmogrify into a coyote’s keening howl.
I stared in horror at the vision, trying to fathom its meaning when I was startled by a voice which spoke in perfect English, albeit with a Spanish lilt.
“Did you see something in the ball?”
I looked up to see a shadow emerge from a chair in the far end of the room. It was Akelarre, walking towards me with a smirk on his face.
“Surprised? Yes, I can speak English, as well as French, Italian, Romanian, Latin, Basque, and even a little German. It is a necessity in the Old World since we are all situated so close together. You should try learning a few more tongues while you are still young and your brain hasn’t settled into stagnation. I learned the majority of these languages when I was still young and my brain pliant. Unfortunately, I decided to learn German later in life when my brain wasn’t as flexible and so my grasp is tenuous at best.
“So tell me, do you have the sight? Can you see the visions in the ball? ”
As he approached me with his hand outstretched to grab my arm, there was a noise from the foyer.
“You will tell me what you saw, won’t you? You must…”
My instinct was to scream and run, but I was rooted to the spot. His thick hairy fingers grasped my wrist in a viselike grip, his big dark brown eyes staring into mine compelling me to…”Tell me what you saw!”
“Quita sus manos sucios de mi sobrina, canalla!” Beltran shouted as he burst into the room pushing his large bony palm forcefully into Dimas’ chest which sent him careening across the floor.
“Dominate Beltran!” Lupe called out as she rushed to the aid of the fallen man.
“Estoy bien, no hay cuidado. It was a…misunderstanding.”

7 Minutes in Love (02-11-12)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 4, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

On Saturday, February 11th, Space 55 continues its series of “7 Minutes in…” with a Valentine-themed show called “7 Minutes in Love”. I was very excited to participate in the show and had expressed my interest in signing up to read, but work scheduling issues have come up since, which are out of my hands, and I cannot go. This came as a blow to me as several friends and family had expressed an interest in coming to the show and I had selected a different batch of poems than my usual Gothic stuff which was more in tune with the theme of the show. So, to make up for this, I have decided to just post what I was going to read and offer a little explanation to put them into context. What follows in a slightly more expanded version of what I would have said since there are no time constraints here…
In the early aughts, around 200-2001, I met and befriended a young lady named Alexa. We were both lonely and disenfranchised people who believed that we deserved better than we were getting in life and since misery loves company became fast friends, which raised a few eyebrows since she was 19 years old at the time and I was well into my 30’s. Even so, we bonded over our similarities, as we were both writers, with dark imaginations and rock & roll aspirations, and we both hated being stuck in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
We spent every waking moment with one another either in person or on the phone and pretty much ignored or defied everyone around us. Even though we were primarily platonic, there was much talk of love, marriage, and running away to Spain some day to start an artistic community. We went out every night, usually bar hopping in Hollywood (Florida, not California) and since we were discreet and inconspicuous, nobody gave us any trouble, except for the Hard Rock Café, who banned us for swapping drinks. When we decided to slow down for the night, we would go back to her aunt’s house, where she was staying, and drink Jack Daniels while watching TV, chasing the whiskey with orange juice shots to mask our boozy breath—not very effective in retrospect. Usually, every night ended up on the enclosed back porch where we would smoke cigarettes, listen to the Stooges, Johnny Cash or Whiskeytown and talk about our dreams, fantasies and loves or read our latest work to each other.
She would never let me leave before sunrise and would often hide my watch so I wouldn’t know what time it was and sit on my lap so I couldn’t get up from my chair to leave. Everything seemed sweet and idyllic until we crossed the line and got physical, then all of a sudden things changed and she became confused about how she felt about me and I couldn’t understand what the problem was and so things quickly fell apart. We tried briefly to “just be friends”, but when I couldn’t accept that nothing had transpired, she became mean and spiteful and we parted ways under a dark cloud. This haunted me for quite some time afterward and one of the ways I dealt with the emotional hurt was by writing poetry about it. Some of it was good and some of it was not; I hope that the selections I have chosen are among the former.
The first piece I have selected was written as a sort of playful (almost childish) tribute to my friend. Although her name is Alexa, she liked to use the nom de plume Polly P. Burns, bad pun fully intended (kids these days, I tell ya..LOL) so I refer to her in the piece as Polly. Actually, it’s really a song, for which I even came up with a nursery rhyme-like melody that I would sing to her in the car as we drove around Florida at night. The original title was “Paean to Polly”, but I later changed it to “Pollyphilia” after the “Hynerotomachia Poliphili” of Italian Renaissance writer Francesco Colonna.

“Pollyphilia”
I love my Polly, oh yes I do / No one’s as pretty or smart as you
We go out dining and play at pool / We muse on past lives and laugh at poo
We smuggle J.D. into your room / Chase it with O.J. to mask the fumes
We watch the X-Files and Lenny Bruce / Wax philosophic and get real juiced

Narrow hands just like an icon / I love her more than my bacon
Eyes of absinthe, green and cloudy / Lips like cushions, flush and pouty
Skin so soft and far complexioned / She’s as sweet as crème confection

Florida’s boring, but we’ve got smokes / Long Island Iced-Teas, sun-ups and jokes
We’ll go to Vegas and make our name / Then move to Madrid, grow old in Spain
I love my Polly, oh yes I do / No one can move me quite like you do
Verlaine and Rimbaud, that’s me and you / Here’s hoping this time things go more smooth

The next piece was right after the parting of ways and reflects my conflicted emotions over the whole thing. It is separated into two parts, the first of which is called “Fort Lauderdale” and deals with the relationship as I perceived it to be. The second part is called “Broceliande” and uses the metaphor of the relationship between Merlin and Nimue (a/k/a Viviane or the Lady of the Lake). Theirs was another May/December relationship that, depending on which version you read, was either genuine or a ploy by the young Nimue to use Merlin’s infatuation with her to glean as much knowledge of the Craft from him before she sealed him up in a tree. The two together are entitled “Decembermay”.

“Decembermay”
I. Fort Lauderdale

“Time does not exist here,” you’d say, smiling with lips pursed in pout
Whilst teasingly taking my wristwatch and sidling upon my lap

My protests you mocked and berated, with words of derision and flout
My bitter remarks met with kisses, the worst ones garnering a slap

You bit me and bussed me, but only to sate your whim
Never caring how it would affect me, though you knew it my heart’s desire

You laughed and made sport with your Manny, snuffing his passion’s glim
Changing a lover’s ardor to anger, amorous flames to funeral pyre

The Beguiling of Merlin, by Edward Burne-Jones

II. Broceliande
Piscean, watery enchantress, ardent, lubricious Lady of the Lake
Merlin assotted awaits you, though he knows your kiss means to quell
Nimue, bury me in your joyous garden, once curiosity is slaked
The loving cup you offer over-brims with a philter fell
Eyes of pale green luminescence, searing my soul straight through
Nipples like red Chinese lanterns on hillocks of new-fallen snow
I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, but know that I love you still true
In a place where time is suspended, tho’ forgiveness and love freely flow

This last poem, actually it’s a prose poem, deals with the letting go as filtered through the imagery of Classical Mythology. Think Homer’s Odyssey and you’ll get the idea.

“Bosom Serpent”
Your siren’s call drew me to your side, awash on a pelagic crag in the ocean.
I reached out to pull you onto my ship, but you latched on and dragged me into the deep
Overwhelmed, I was sucked into the undertow of your abject passions and sorrows
I strove for the surface, trying to pull us both aboard, but you burrowed into my breast planting your hungry mouth on my heart
My blood flowed like a fountain in amaranthine streams: a rivulet for each deceit, a cataract for every treacherous kiss
We struggled for some time, I perpetually pushing upwards, and you pulling into the current, making me swallow mouthfuls of salt water and sour mash
Finally, realizing the futility of my plight for one whom did not wish to be saved, I cut loose from your grasp and re-boarded my ship
Even though I traveled far from your lair, I felt you still, deep beneath my flesh, behind my sternum, clawing, gnawing, but only as a mnemonic phantom, inciting your memory with every strain I heard and every woman I saw
At my wit’s end, I made oblations to find the strength to finally cast you out and tear myself from your eidolon embrace
Now you may no longer hold sway in my heart, as I search for unmixt treasures and set sail for friendlier shores