A Melon on a Stem

An extract from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Then we had the irises, rising beautiful and cool on their tall stalks, like blown glass, like pastel water momentarily frozen in a splash, light blue, light mauve, and the darker ones, velvet and purple, black cat’s ears in the sun, indigo shadow, and the bleeding hearts, so female in shape it was a surprise they’d not long since been rooted out. There is something subversive about this garden of Serena’s, a sense of buried things bursting upwards, wordlessly, into the light, as if to point, to say: Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently. A Tennyson garden, heavy with scent, languid; the return of the word swoon. Light pours down upon it from the sun, true, but also heat rises, from the flowers themselves, you can feel it: Like holding your hand an inch above an arm, a shoulder. It breathes, in the warmth, breathing itself in. To walk through it in these days, of peonies, of pinks and carnations, makes my head swim.
The willow is in full plumage and is no help, with its insinuating whispers. Rendezvous, it says, terraces; the sibilants run up my spine, a shiver as if in fever. The summer dress rustles against the flesh of my thighs, the grass grows underfoot, at the edges of my eyes there are movements, in the branches; feathers, flittings, grace notes, tree into bird, metamorphosis run wild. Goddesses are possible now and the air suffuses with desire. Even the bricks of the house are softening, becoming tactile; if I leaned against them they’d be warm and yielding. It’s amazing what denial can do. Did the sight of my ankle make him lightheaded, faint, at the checkpoint yesterday, when I dropped my pass and let him pick it up for me? No handkerchief, no fan, I use what’s handy.
Winter is not so dangerous. I need hardness, cold, rigidity; not this heaviness, as if I’m a melon on a stem, this liquid ripeness.

georgia-okeeffe-banana-flower-1934

Banana Flower, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1934

Melon, Gabriel Orozco, 1993

Melon, Gabriel Orozco, 1993

Advertisements

To be Read in the Interrogative

By Julio Cortazar

Have you seen,
have you truly seen
the snow, the stars, the felt steps of the breeze…
Have you touched,
have you really touched
the plate, the bread, the face of that woman you love so much…
Have you lived
like a blow to the head,
the flash, the gasp, the fall, the flight…
Have you known,
known in every pore of your skin,
how your eyes, your hands, your sex, your soft heart,
must be thrown away
must be wept away
must be invented all over again.
Julio Cortazar


A Curve Like the Curve of a Buttock

More from How to Be Both by Ali Smith, because it’s full of wonderful things:

“I feel the loss, dull the ache of it cause I had it, the place where his legs met his body, the muscular dark where his tunic flared up in the breeze as he went, I had it like telling the oldest story in the world cause there’s a very pure pleasure in a curve like the curve of a buttock : the only other thing as good to draw is the curve of a horse and like a horse a curved line is a warm thing, good-natured, will serve you well if not mistreated.”

Grete Stern – Dream Nº 16, ca. 1950

Dream Nº 16. Grete Stern. ca. 1950

Photograph showing unidentified male nudes on the beach Photographer Unknown null An initial donation of the papers of Tuke and Gotch was made to the Tate Archive by Mr Brian D. Price in 1990. Additional donations of related material were made in 1991, 1994 and 2002. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/TGA-9019-1-4-5-9-1

Photograph showing unidentified male nudes on the beach. Photographer Unknown. Date Unknown.

Ana Regina Nogueira from series Olhos n'agua

Ana Regina Nogueira from series Olhos n’agua

Martin Parr Lifes a Beach

Life’s a Beach. Martin Parr


The Red Room

the dessert, harmony in red, matisse

The Dessert (Harmony in Red) by Henri Matisse. 1908

Red Shift: Impregnation. Cildo Meireles. 1967-84.

Red Shift: Impregnation. Cildo Meireles. 1967-84.

The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation it contained:  yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion.  A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood out like a tabernacle in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of darkly polished old mahogany.  Out of these deep surrounding shades rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane.  Scarcely less prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I thought, like a pale throne.

This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered.  The house-maid alone came here on Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week’s quiet dust:  and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the red-room–the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur.

Mr. Reed had been dead nine years:  it was in this chamber he breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.

From Jane Eyre by Charlote Brontë


NGC Bocas Lit Fest

Trinidad’s fourth annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest is over, but no need to cry! Luckily, thanks to the great Festival Radio team, it lives on online. All sessions were recorded and are available as podcasts for streaming and downloading through our SoundCloud page. There you can find a fantastic range of discussions and readings by some of the Caribbean’s most celebrated and promising writers.

Today I want to celebrate the 2014 winners of the OCM Bocas Prize:

Robert Antoni: Fiction and Overall Winner for his novel As Flies to Whatless Boys
Kei Miller: Non-Fiction winner for his book Writing Down the Vision: Essays and Prophesies
Lorna Goodison: Poetry winner for her collection Oracabessa

Click here to hear them read from their work.

As-Flies-to-Whatless-Boyskei-miller-writing-down-the-visionGoodisonOracaCVR


Flying Love

by Oliverio Girondo

I don’t give a darn if women’s breasts are like magnolias or like dried figs; a complexion like a peach or like sandpaper. Importance equal to zero I give to whether they awake with a breath like an aphrodisiac or a breath like insecticide. I am perfectly capable of bearing a nose that would take first prize at a carrot show; but one thing is for sure! And this is irreducible. Under no pretext whatsoever will I forgive them for not knowing how to fly. Any one of them who doesn’t know how to fly is wasting her time trying to seduce me!

This was – and none other – the reason that I fell in love, so madly, with María Luisa.

What did I care about her lips in installments and her sulfurous jealousies? What did I care about her web-footed extremities and her looks that withheld judgment?

María Luisa was truly light as a feather!

From daybreak on, she flew from the bedroom to the kitchen, from the dining room to the pantry. Flying she prepared my bath, my shirt. Flying she did her shopping, her chores…

With what impatience I waited for her to return, flying, from some outing in the surroundings! There far off, lost in the clouds, a little pink dot. “María Luisa! María Luisa!…and in a few seconds, she was there embracing me with her feather-like legs, to carry me, flying, to anyplace at all.

For kilometers in silence we soared on a caress that brought us close to paradise; for hours on end we nested in a cloud, like two angels, and then suddenly, in a loop-the-loop, on a dead leaf, the forced landing of a spasm.

How delightful to have a woman so light…even if she makes us, from time to time, see stars! How voluptuous to pass the days among the clouds…to pass the night on a single flight!

After knowing an ethereal woman, can an earthly woman render us any sort of attraction? Isn’t it true that there is no substantial difference between living with a cow or with a woman who has her buttocks seventy-eight centimeters off the ground?

I, at least, am incapable of understanding the seduction of a pedestrian woman, and no matter how much effort I put into conceiving of it, it is not possible for me to even imagine that love can be made any other way but flying.


The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield speaks on change and stability…or something like that…

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and they’re pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat this time. Or the kid that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean you’d be different in some way—I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

From The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

catcher-in-the-rye-600x860