Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Poet: Part 2

Without further ado, here is the second installment of The Poet. Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of this blog.

 The Poet
Part II

By Jessica Pherson

Francine’s poetry collection was a success. She titled it Shades of a Spirit and it was an instant hit in the poetry world, topping the bestsellers lists for weeks. In this day and age, poetry was nearly dead; only names of figures who’d been prominent decades ago still rang in the average person’s mind, like John Keats and Sylvia Plath, who were both long gone. Most people only heard such names in school, and quickly forgot them afterward – perhaps only dredging them up again on occasion for the odd trivia game.  Francine Gordon had become a household name, and she feared this would happen to her one day as well, all but forgotten until someone on Jeopardy asked the eternal phrase: “Who is Francine Gordon?”

Francine did many live readings, readings that packed bookstores to the brim. Readings after which the entire room formed a line to get an autograph from her. Readings that reaped tears and joy and applause.

At the end of one particular reading at a little bookstore in lower Manhattan, a gentleman with large, doe-like eyes approached her. The man’s eyes appeared large because he was staring at her in complete awe. His deep blue irises glistened with a veil of tears, tears of astonishment and admiration. His eyes were accentuated even more so by his dome-like bald head- shaved bald –and quivering moistened lips.

She remained calm as he walked slowly up to the table, as if each step was getting heavier than the last. Was he so afraid to meet her? He was clutching a stack of books- her books; collections of sorrow and serendipity. Finally, he was within a foot of the table and Francine flashed him a friendly smile. Forced, but friendly. The man let out a little whine and bit his lower lip, bringing the books closer up to his chest as he did so.

“Would you like me to sign those for you?” Francine asked him, somewhat cautiously.

He snapped out of it for a moment, and nodded his head goofily, then placed the books on the table top before her.

“Who shall I make these out to?” She then asked the man as she clicked the top of her pen.

“D-Donald,” the struck fan stuttered.

“Okay, Donald,” Francine said. She bent her head down to write in the front of each book, all the while the man just stood over her, mouth agape.

Once she had finished her task, she handed the books back to him and smiled, the smile that was becoming a trademark smile for her with lips tightly clenched. Her default expression for fans and polite exchanges. The man took them, then managed to stammer something out as he grasped the books tightly to his chest. “I-I just adore you,” he said.

“Oh, why thank you,” she replied. “I’m glad you enjoy my work, that means a lot.”

“Your work- no, your masterpieces, have gotten me through some tough times. I just want you to know that.” 

Francine regarded him for a moment, for some reason not sure what to say right away. She eye-balled him, with a single eyebrow raised, then said: “They have only created tough times for me.”

The man just stared back at her, his eyes still wide but this time more so in wonder rather than awe.

She should have been happy, and sometimes she was. But, still, she felt the cold hand of sadness on her back, a hand that poked then prodded then soon tightly clutched, unrelenting, until she found herself having long, sleepless nights where she would just stare and stare and do nothing but sit or lay awake in bed. Sometimes it was like she was not even in her body anymore; it was like her spirit had fled her and was drifting along aimlessly somewhere else in a world she could not reach physically. Those were the times when she just felt numb and her mind seemed to simply make a whirring sound that echoed between her ears. It was strange, yet familiar. Like how it would sound inside of a vacuum.

She did a good job of keeping it from Carmen and anyone else who might notice. She didn’t have any close family or friends, so it wasn’t too difficult. She would just paste on the plastic smile whenever Carmen would ask how she was doing or squeeze her shoulder in an encouraging way. Why should she be sad, after all? She had everything she wanted- a great career, a beautiful home, good physical health…

But, her personal life had always been dreary. She had never been very good at relationships. For someone who could so easily connect so deeply with feelings through written words, it was very hard for her to actually speak these words. This was why she wrote. This was how she released those feelings, feelings that would not and could not ever be spoken about to anyone. Yet there they were on paper for all the world to see. What a paradox. This often left her feeling lonely and isolated, yet also seemed to further her work.

The days went by and Francine’s star continued to rise. She was invited to be a guest on the Poet’s Corner radio show; she went to many parties where she was considered a “very special” or “high-profile” guest; toasts were made to her, and fan letters poured in faster than she could respond to them. Life was all one big blur of excitement that should’ve kept her happy and satisfied, but instead only seemed to drain and empty her all the more swiftly.

Carmen was pleased, and most of the worry in her eyes had disappeared. Francine wondered if her friend really knew her as well as she thought. Could she see through her fa├žade of happiness? Or was she too swept up in Francine’s success to notice anymore? Francine tried not to let it bother her, as she had enough on her mind anyway- albeit hollow void. She tried to use Carmen’s upbeat perkiness as an example of how she should be, but she simply could not replicate it.

One day Francine, Carmen, and three of their colleagues were out for a late dinner after a live reading at a prestigious benefit for young readers in New York City. Everyone was laughing and drinking and clanking their glasses together, slapping each other on the back, enjoying desserts, generally having a good time. Francine did what she could to blend in, but eventually it got to be too much. While a fellow poet, Leon de Venti, was telling a story that had everyone else at the table rolling with laughter, Francine sat silently, staring into her glass. She studied the little red straw sticking out and the glistening ice cubes within. At some point it registered: Carmen’s muffled voice calling her name. When she looked up, everyone was staring at her, expressions of deep concern and confusion painted across their faces. The laughter had died and all eyes were on her.

She figured she’d better speak up. “Hmm?” She mustered, but it was a sad attempt. Even her “hmm” drifted off back into her stare.

An awkward silence befell the table as Leon coughed and Delia Hanford shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Carmen spoke. “Frankie, are you alright? Can I get you anything?” She laid her hand on Francine’s shoulder.

Francine did not look, and just kept on staring, transporting herself into a world of infinite void. “No, Carmen, darling. I’m fine,” she said mechanically.

The others at the table exchanged worried, uncomfortable looks, and then it was Leon who called the waiter over for the check. Each guest put out their money due and then bid Francine and Carmen farewell, for they knew the fun of the night had now come to an end. Once they were alone, Carmen squeezed Francine’s hand, finally snapping her out of the trance.

“Francine, what’s going on?” She asked quietly.

Francine looked into her friend’s eyes then sighed deeply. “Carmen, I just don’t know anymore. Why do I feel this way?”

“What way?” Carmen replied.

“So…empty?” She tapped her long white finger on the side of the glass as Carmen searched for a response.

“How ‘bout I drive you home?” she finally said.

The two women paid the bill then walked the two blocks to where Carmen had parked her Town Car. They were silent at first, but then Carmen finally said, as if she’d been mulling over the proper words: “Describe this feeling of ‘empty’ to me.”

Francine was at a loss for words. The feelings she never spoke of simply could not be suddenly formed into sounds of actual words. Instead, she just started to silently cry. She let the warm tears slide down her cheeks, and at the same moment, raindrops began to hit the windshield.

Carmen was focused on the road at the time. She did not see Francine’s tears, and only called out to her. “Francine?”

“I don’t know how to put the way I am feeling into words right now,” she replied. “But, you have read my work, so I think you can figure it out.”

Carmen was silent, too silent. It was as if someone had hit the mute button to the volume within the vehicle. Even the rain was silent. Or did it just seem to be silent to Francine?

“I’m worried about you,” Carmen said. “I don’t want you to…do anything rash.”

Francine said nothing.

“Promise me you won’t, okay? She continued. “We’ll get you some help. We’ll call Dr. Berger in the morning, okay?” Francine felt her friend’s eyes on her as she waited for a response. Francine just nodded and sighed a deep sigh, then stared out the window all the way to her home in the Catskills.

                                    *          *          *          *          *          *

Carmen walked her in and asked her if she wanted her to stay over. Francine told her that would not be necessary, that she would be okay and that they would call her therapist in the morning and set up an appointment to help figure it all out. She must’ve sounded convincing, because Carmen did leave after about half an hour of watching her and bid her farewell, promising to call her first thing in the morning.

“Get some rest,” she told Francine as she pecked her gently on the cheek. Then she was gone.

As soon as she left, Francine sat down in her study and stared at her computer. After a while, she turned to one of the pieces of paper beside the computer and started to write a letter.

Dearest Carmen,

I cannot explain to you why I am the way I am, for I do not know why I am the way I am. I am as deep a mystery to myself as I am to you. What I do know is that you are my dearest and most loyal friend, and I highly value our friendship in my heart. You have always been there for me and have always been honest with me, and for that I thank you.
I am also grateful for your patience and understanding in these dark chapters of my life. The only regret is that I had to have the dark times at all, for I would better enjoy my time with you and the rest of this world had it not been always overshadowed by a gray cloud.

Please forgive me if this hurts you; you are all I have. I hope you understand, and know that I love you very much.

Francine Esmeralda Gordon

Final Farewell

As the tide comes in, it must also recede
And this time my waters will not return

It is time for this jet of blood to be drained completely,
And for this waterfall of foolishness to come to an end

I am ready for peace,
I am ready for the infinite void
I am ready for the blades of grass to wave above my head
While I slumber in the soft, warm Earth

Cover me, O welcoming arms of The End
What comes next-
-if anything
I do not know

All I know is
I am ready to go

The next morning, Carmen called her as promised, but after three tries gone unanswered, worry grew inside of her and she decided to drive over instead. When she got there, she found the door unlocked. She called out, but got no answer. She checked the kitchen, the study, the living room, the back porch; her friend was nowhere to be found. A feeling of dread rose inside of her as she walked up the stairs to the second floor. She went to Francine’s bedroom door, which was slightly ajar. She called Francine’s name again, softly, as she slowly pushed the door open. She gasped hollowly when she saw her dear friend lying on her bed. She was face-up, on her back, with her hands carefully folded over her chest, as if she were lying in a coffin. She could’ve been in a deep sleep, but Carmen’s instinct knew better. She knew her friend had done it, that she had left this world for good. And even though she rushed over to Francine’s bedside and called her name and checked her pulse, she knew the EMTs who would later arrive would not be able to save her.

She had made sure this time; she had taken the right dose, some time ago too, probably shortly after Carmen had left her the previous night. Guilt overcame Carmen at first, along with deep loss and sadness, but then she knew it was okay. Her friend was where she wanted to be, and she would forever be without the cold hand of sadness on her back.

Jessica Pherson is one of the Founders of The Veillee and author of her own blog, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. She works from home part time for an eco-friendly jewelry company/retailer and is also a stay-at-home mom to Lily.

Learn more about Jessica by checking out The Matchbox section of this blog! 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Poet: Part 1

Good day, Veillee Readers! We are pleased to present the first part of another wonderful story from our very own Jessica Pherson. This time, she takes us into the heavy world of a chronically depressed writer, and offers a glimpse of the constant tug of war between light and dark that can exist within the poetic mind. 

Courtesy this website

The Poet
Part I

It was finished, and it was magnificent. My magnum opus, she thought proudly. She lay her pen down and leaned back in her chair. There was no better feeling than the feeling of satisfaction she felt after completing a poem. This was her best yet; it had to be.

This worried her though. The darkness would soon set in. How close to the edge would it take her this time? She let the thought bounce around inside the walls of her skull, then quickly rose from her chair and stood at the window, searching for the view that would help her escape her thoughts. She stood there, staring into the landscape of her backyard; it was a colorful picture of willow and sassafras trees with a lovely pond in the foreground. Rows of flowerbeds that would bloom again once spring returned, bringing the perfume of peonies, poppies, hyacinths, and lilies back to her senses. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on that, on the first fresh scent of spring lilies- her favorite flower. They lined her home’s entire foundations. She meditated until the exasperating sensation of worry passed, then went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of lemonade. She had freshly squeezed it that morning, then set it aside, deciding it would be her reward once she’d completed the poem. The poem that had been sifting through her brain for months, looking for its place in the cluttered room of her mind. She opened her refrigerator then took out the crystal pitcher and poured some of the pale yellow liquid into a deep blue glass she found in the cupboard. No ice, just a few sprigs of fresh mint from the herb garden on her windowsill.  She drank and found satisfaction again, delighted that she had chosen this as her reward.

Suddenly the phone rang, interrupting her peaceful calm and she thought for a moment that she would not answer it. But, curiosity got the best of her and she checked the caller ID, seeing that it was her close friend and publicist, Carmen. She answered it.

“Hello, Carmen,” she said coolly.

“Hello, Francine,” Carmen replied in her usual chipper tone. “How are things?”

“I’ve done it, Carmen,” she replied proudly. “I’ve finally finished it.”

There was a pause on the other end of the line, but then Carmen suddenly knew what her friend meant. “Oh- no! The poem? You finished it? That’s great!”

“Yes,” Francine said, proudly again. “It is done and I am enjoying a cool glass of lemonade, and now that you’re on the phone with me, I feel compelled to invite you over to join me.”

“Oh, how wonderful!” Carmen went on. “You know, I will come by. I have a few errands to run today, but I’ll stop by your house first for a bit because I am dying to read it!” Then she was silent, they both were, having each acknowledged Carmen’s faux pas. She had said that word, why did it have to be that word? Carmen was now searching for the words to say and Francine was trying not to crumble to the floor.

“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry, Francine,” Carmen cried nervously. “I am so stupid sometimes! I just say things and…and I don’t even think!”

“It’s alright,” Francine replied regaining her composure. She had to, after all.

“Poor word choice,” she said. “But, I do really want to read it. I’m leaving right now. See you soon, hun.”

Francine said goodbye then hung up the phone, pressing the END button then letting the phone carelessly drop on the counter, allowing a low clunk to ring out in the silent room. She stood motionless, staring. Not at anything in particular, just staring. She took a deep breath, having realized she’d stopped breathing, then picked up her glass and went outside.

The air was still and the temperature warm with a slight chill in the thick air, like an ice cube dropped into a glass of warm milk. Francine pulled her cream-colored duster closed around her waist then sipped from her glass, although the sweet beverage did not give her the same pleasure it had just moments ago. She looked up at the cloudy, graying sky and watched the leaves of the sassafras dance like a wildfire in the slowly escalating breeze. Flashes of yellow and orange and red…

She sat down in a wire-framed chair on the open patio and leaned back, trying to relax, trying to calm her mind again and not think so damn much. Her mind was often her greatest gift and also her greatest enemy. She sighed, trying to hold back tears. No, no, she thought. Not now. You have so much to be happy for, why are you so sad? She tapped the nail of her index finger on her glass, a pathetic attempt at distracting her mind. It was not so easily fooled. She opened her eyes again and stared off into the distance, soon focusing on the lake. The water was so calm, it almost looked inviting. She imagined it feeling like a cool embrace were she to step into it, a watery tomb of solitude. She sighed again. Carmen would be there soon, she didn’t live too far away.

Francine did hear her friend pull up the driveway of her home quickly enough; she lived about thirty minutes away, but she was there in less than twenty. She had the slight look of alarm with a strong hint of relief on her face when she walked through the door. The dark, thick frames on her equally thick-lensed glasses accentuated her expression all the more. It was as if her eyes were saying, Thank God.

Francine decided not to comment on her friend’s worried look, and instead stuck a glass of lemonade into her hand as soon as she had set her coat and purse down. “Freshly squeezed this morning,” she said pertly.

“Oh, thank you, dear,” Carmen said, taking a sip. “Mmm, it’s delicious! Your talent is relentless!”

Francine merely smiled at the forced gesture. The cloud had set in further during her wait for Carmen’s arrival. It was always a downhill affair as soon as she had completed a piece of writing; first there was the satisfaction, then the pride, then the sadness, then the disappointment, then the battle, then…well, after that she just went back and forth, and then it would quickly become her trying to hold onto her sanity and her survival. It was always so fleeting when she was doing what she truly enjoyed most; it was her unsympathetic curse.

Carmen just stood there in the hallway, searching her friend’s stoic face for a hint at what may come of this meeting today. Francine just stared at the floor, a small and very forced smile on her thin lips. Her long, thin white hair hung over face like wisps of a willow tree. Her frame was thin, narrow, mostly hard edges. Dressed all in cream, she looked like a Nordic spirit stepping into the material world bringing forth some type of message. A message of what, though? Carmen smiled back nervously, then sighed.

“So, let’s see it,” she finally said.

Francine’s head snapped up and she looked directly into Carmen’s eyes, as if coming out of a daze. The light returned to her face and she smiled genuinely, and then beckoned her friend to her study. “Come,” she said, and headed to the other room.

The study was just around the corner from the kitchen, slightly hidden in a little nook-like area of the house. Its walls were a soft lavender and the curtains were an antique white. All that was in the room was Francine’s desk which held the computer, a lamp, a file box, and some loose paper and pens for jotting down quick notes; a shelf full of books and references; an original piece of artwork she’d found at a flea market years ago of a garden basked in sunlight; and another shelf that held a few scented candles and a vase of wilted flowers she’d forgotten about. They were dried enough to turn to dust at any moment.

Francine clicked the mouse and pulled up the document for Carmen to view. She then ushered her publicist to take a seat and Carmen obliged, then got right down to it.

“Would you like some more lemonade?” Francine asked her, noticing that her glass was now empty. Apparently the lemonade was even better than she had thought.

“Why, yes I would, thank you,” Carmen replied handing her the glass then quickly returning back to the glowing screen before her.

As soon as she left the room, Francine let out a deep sigh as she trudged to the kitchen. Once she got there, she pressed her hands flat, palms down on the granite countertop and bowed her head. She started to lightly shake her head from side to side, a poor effort at knocking the demons away. Her hands turned into fists and pounded the countertop, gently enough for Carmen not to hear. “Get it together,” she whispered to herself. She slowly let out another deep sigh, then withdrew the pitcher from the fridge and refilled Carmen’s glass.

She waited a few minutes before returning to the study; Carmen was a fast reader, but she still wanted to give her enough time to fully analyze the work. When she did enter the room, Carmen was leaning back in the chair with her legs crossed and shoulders slouched forward, her hands folded under her chin with her index fingers touching her lips. She was looking down, deep in thought.

When she noticed Francine standing over her with the glass, she looked a bit startled, but took the glass gently, nodding a thank you. As she took a sip, Francine stood waiting anxiously for her response.

She took a long drink of the lemonade, and then said, “Francine, it’s amazing.”

“You think so?” Francine replied, unable to fight back the joy welling up in her heart. For now, the demons were kept at bay.

Carmen looked her right in the eyes. “Yes, Frankie, I do. This will be the perfect opening to your collection- or the perfect finale. This so comes from the depths of your heart, I can tell. This is what defines you, as a poet- as an artist! Simply magnificent, my friend.”

Francine felt a tear forming in the corner of her eye. She let it fall once it was ready and did not wipe it away. “Thank you, Carmen. That means a lot to me. I’m glad.”

“Oh,” Carmen said with a pinched whine, cocking her head to the side and removing her glasses, allowing them to dangle carelessly from her fingertips. “I’m glad you’re glad. You deserve it. You really have me worried sometimes, you know. I only want what’s best for you, not only as your publicist but as your friend.” She leaned back with a look of reminiscence on her face. “We’ve known each other for a long time, haven’t we?”

“Yes, we have,” Francine said, even though she knew she did not have to answer since Carmen was merely commenting. “Almost ten years now.”

Carmen nodded dreamily. “Yes, that long, you’re right…you have accomplished so much.”

We have,” Francine corrected, a look of sincerity in her icy blue eyes.

Carmen just smiled. She had such a handsome face. Not beautiful in the conventional way, but truly handsome. She had strong features and tanned skin like Italian leather, yet smooth with few wrinkles. Her lips were full, but not overly pouty, just very broad. A prominent nose centered her heart-shaped face, and her eyes were a very deep brown with heavy brows laying over them. She was somewhat petite, but still managed to take over a room with her presence when she wanted to. Francine truly admired her.

Carmen suddenly clasped her hands together. “Now, what shall we do to celebrate?”

*  *  *
(Tune in next week for the conclusion of Francine's story.)

Jessica Pherson is one of the Founders of The Veillee and author of her own blog, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. She works from home part time for an eco-friendly jewelry company/retailer and is also a stay-at-home mom to Lily.

Learn more about Jessica by checking out The Matchbox section of this blog!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Acrobatic Psyche

Hello, beautiful Veillee readers! Did you miss us? After a crazy March, we're happy to be back and thrilled to welcome spring. So get comfy, crack a window, smell the flowers, and enjoy this breezy piece of poetry from our newest contributor.

Happy April!

by gretelbean

i watch cool nights through this cracked window to look at old men dressed out of style with smooth insanities like blown glass on your face, faded and pale, as dulled faint stars, lightyears away, cartwheel slowly through the soft firmament of mute straining trees. 

alone, with a distant light, i carve this ruined face as i dwell in the most perfect silence the world never knew.

Gretelbean is a Brooklyn based multimedia artist. Check out her blog here!