Poetry Tuesday: Air

In honor of seeing Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba last week, here’s one of his little ditties, of which there must be thousands.

The air
pregnant with rainbows
shatters its mirrors
over the grove.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: When at the rising of the sun my nymph

Luis de Gongora, Spain, 1561-1627

When, at the rising of the sun, my nymph
Despoils the verdant field of flowers,
As many spring beneath her white feet
As she has gathered with lovely hand.

Wavelike is the breeze that flows
With fine gold, in illusory elegance,
Stirs the green leaves of dense poplars,
With the red light of breaking dawn.

But when she wreathes her lovely brow
With the various spoils in her dress
Putting an end to gold and snow

I swear her garland shines far brighter
Than flowers, and seems more star-like,
Formed of the nine orbs that light the sky.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Love Constant Beyond Death

Francisco Gomez de Quevedo y Villegas, 1580-1645 Spain

Perhaps whatever final shadow that
the shining day may bring could close my eyes,
and this my soul may well be set aflight
by time responding to its longing sighs;

but it will not, there on the farther shore
its memory leave behind, where once it burned:
my flame the icy current yet can swim,
and so severe a law can surely spurn.

Soul by no less than a god confined,
veins that such a blazing fire have fueled,
marrow to its glorious flames consigned:

the body will abandon, not its woes;
will soon be ash, but ash that is aware;
dust will be, but dust whose love still grows.

;o)

Book Reviews: Stolen Books, Storms, Living Dolls, and Medusa

As I walked out with the gorgeous blonde, I said, “If you guys don’t hear from me by tomorrow. . . tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter.”

A Murderous Storm
This is a murder mystery in the northern part of Germany—wasn’t sure if it was Deutchland or Dutchland for a while—told in first person, where in the first scene the three fishermen are listening to and talking about Johnny Cash; that was pretty jarring. To make it more strange, the three shrimpers are a retired doctor, a retired lawyer, and one guy who might actually be a fisherman, or just typical muscle. Anyhoo, they pull a body up in the fishing net, and the cops don’t want to do the work, simply calling it an accident, which offends the first person lawyer, especially when the victim’s sister asks for help and she’s too hot to say no to. This leads to a conspiracy involving a huge corporation and a big-time merger, and a dirty corporate guy who can’t handle his war-criminal “bodyguards.”
The story had some entertaining moments, though how some of these characters survived is beyond me. I think the author might have made the cops TOO stupid, unless of course they’re actually that corrupt. The main character’s daughter shows up, which will be good for some plot points later, but basically shows just how stubbornly stupid one person can be, though the acorn was too lazy to roll too far away from the tree, considering just when you think it’s all over the protagonist gets into trouble again. My favorite character was actually the dog; I think it was the smartest living thing in the story.
The best part of this novel was the settings; though I’ve been all over Germany, even relatively close to where this takes place, the starkness of the landscape described here is not something my camera has photographed. It’s different on the resort island, which is one of those places like Mackinac where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed. But most of all, the portrayal of the storm, and finding the victim in the middle of it, was the highlight.
3.5/5

Slush Pile Brigade
An Australian novelist, said to be second most popular author in the world, steals a manuscript from the slush pile in his agent’s office when he has writer’s block. He picks the right book, because he turns it into a best seller, but more importantly he picks the wrong book, because three years later the writer who was plagiarized comes looking for an apology, setting into motion a chain of events that brings death and destruction to everyone’s world, especially the agent’s.
The protagonist loses his job and girlfriend–she actually brings a new guy to same restaurant he always took her to–not cool, girl. He snaps and is forced to run from the police to Noo Yawk, where he plans to confront the agent, and the author who happens to be in town. Before it’s over his deep-CIA father, a Russian mobster, his three best buds, and the girl from his past that got away are sucked into the conflict as well.
Though Noo Yawk is one of my least favorite cities, the author showcases it lovingly, citing some old famous buildings as well as plenty of Central Park; my favorite was the walk through the dinosaur area in the museum, which fit the conversation perfectly. Big twists abound, like when he find out his father’s involved in the whole mess. The first half is more comedic than anything else, and it’s fun to read the shenanigans, in a butt monkey kinda way. But then it gets serious spy in a hurry, with people dying or being maimed, and some maybe dying or maybe not.
There was one part that annoyed the hell out of me. Not wanting to spoiler—is that a real verb?—suffice to say that the protagonist finds himself in trouble that wasn’t foreseen, but ends up surviving it differently than we were led to believe. Perhaps the author merely wrote in the wrong body part that exploded, but how he survived wasn’t explained, and as you can see I’m still irritated about it.
Some of the dialogue by the lesser members of the brigade is somewhat over-the-top, but mostly it’s well-written, with some descriptions shining, like, “But it wasn’t really like laughter at all. . . more like Kodiak bears groaning while shitting.” I do hate the author for that last twist, though. . .
3.5/5

Tabatha
This graphic novel starts with an inept mailman, who gets himself into all kinds of trouble, actually being the scout for a group of home-invasion thieves. The actual first page tells you the story of Los Angeles’s full name—too bad I already knew it—but sets the tone nicely. One of their targets turns out to be the house of a not-stable Hollywood prop master and monster maker, except not everything is a prop. . .
What I thought would blow up into a monster story turned out to be much more psychological, with an evil Frankenstein twist. The three male thieves are pretty dumb; of course it’s the girl with all the brains. I did enjoy how the story delved into everyone’s fucked-up origin stories, which made what they did all the more understandable. No one is more fucked up than the monster maker, though, and the story treats him well enough that you feel some sympathy for him even while he’s tormenting his adversaries and sacrificing women for his true love.
Bruce Campbell makes an appearance!. . . almost. The artwork is good, but nothing special, except for maybe the hot chick with the Kermit tattoo. There’s some well-included extras at the end, giving a cute background on how the story was thought up—originally set in London, which would have necessitated a different opener—and containing plenty of unused drawings, even a recipe from the bad guy’s “girl.” Some genuinely funny moments keep this from sinking into too much despair, but it’s still as dark and horrifying as expected from the genre.
3.5/5

Turned to Stone
An art history mystery—rhyme!—taking place throughout Spain and Italy, this story delves into the provenance and magical powers of a statue of the Greek myth of Medusa, and how some people will do anything to possess it.
Oddly enough I found myself enjoying it early on despite not caring for the protagonist; Jaime’s too much of a jerk to be likeable. Of course that changes later as his character develops, but I never really got to the point where I liked him, and liked Paloma less for the fact she was infatuated by him. His best friend, on the other hand, is a hoot, a former photographer now a security guard who doesn’t find anything weird in dressing up like Batman in order to get the job done. There’s plenty of other characters, most of them just serving a purpose, though some of them coming back at the end to show they’re not at all as expected. I was a bit miffed that the author drew such a fascinating character as the new art expert—gorgeous blonde, of course—and then quickly killed her off.
The bad guys were well-drawn, although Rosa—or whatever her name happened to be that day—seemed to slide back, being a complete badass at the beginning and ending up rather useless by the end. There’s also the henchman who just won’t die no matter how much you best him or beat him up, always showing up at the worst possible time. We also get the evil genius behind the curtain, and how he’s destroyed his family in his quest for money and revenge, which almost makes me sorry for Rosa but not quite.
The reveal of why the piece is so important, about two-thirds of the way through, was fascinating and well done, the best moment art-wise in the book. But it’s the hilarious image of three people struggling not to fall off a motorcycle that will remain with me forever. . .
4/5

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: In Santiago

By Spanish poet Lope de Vega Carpio, 1562-1635

In Santiago the green
Jealousy seized me
Night sits in the day,
I dream of vengeance.

Poplars of the thicket,
where is my love?
If she were with another
then I would die.

Clear Manzanares
Oh little river,
Empty of water,
Run full of fire.

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: To the Bridge of Love

By Juan Ramon Jimenez, Spain, 1881-1958

To the bridge of love
old stone between tall cliffs
eternal meeting place, red evening
I come with my heart

My beloved is only water
that always passes away, and does not deceive
that always passes away, and does not change
that always passes away, and does not end.

;o)

Travel Thursday: Jerez of my Dream, part 5

The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art was the only one in the world good enough to be compared to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which basically meant they only taught rich people and gave shows once in a while. With the place being next to the Palace, it didn’t take us long to walk there, even in her high heels, which she admitted she had to get used to walking in every time, let alone dancing in.
“But I’m fine now!” she giggled, and didn’t seem bothered when I didn’t say “Yes you are!”
Instead I went with, “Not after that last drink you’re not. And of course I did hear what that woman said to you, and more importantly what you said to her.”
I didn’t think she’d call me on that, for then I’d have to admit I was eavesdropping, but she simply blushed and hung her head, partly in shame and partly so I couldn’t see her grinning.
Stopping for a moment, I put my hand over her mouth; she fell obligingly silent, always being a good girl, as well as amused. “Wanna be a famous prima dona opera singer?” I whispered.
“Not especially,” she replied with a shrug.
“Do it anyway, all attitude. . . don’t say anything!”
Once there, I never broke stride as I gave the guard at the entrance a terse nod, holding the door open for her. She strode haughtily through it, pretending not to look at the suddenly-gasping guard. Enjoy it, baby, she thought, but immediately reverted to nice country girl and gave him a friendly “Buenas noches.”
“Good thing you wore those boots,” I muttered once we were inside, refusing to explain that, instead scolding, “I told you not to talk!”
She grinned, blushing. “Forgot. But why? What’s going on?”
“This is a show for special invited guests.” I put his arm around her shoulders and steered her, knowing she’d never remember which way to go. “Maybe we can get you off on mental incompetence.”
She chuckled and hugged me. “Afraid to admit it, but when I’m around horses, it’s usually true.”
“Don’t blame the horses.”
As I’d expected, soon enough someone challenged our right to be there, this one a bureaucratic jerk with a clipboard. “I do not know you.”
“You really need to get out more,” I smirked superiorly. “Everyone here recognizes the most famous actress in the world.”
“She is not on my list,” came the repeat monotone.
“Contact the people who actually know what’s going on,” I told the man sternly. “Then we’ll be more than happy to accept your apology.” I turned to her. “Let’s go, madame.”
She managed to hold the haughty this time until we were far away from the man– doing a damn good acting job, if I do say so myself!–before finally managing to look at me in something close to aghastment. “You need to give me acting lessons, mister!”
Making no reply to that other than a grin, I led her into the actual arena and found us some good seats. Reading from the flyer I’d been given, I translated, “A horseback procession celebrating the royal stud farm and the sixteenth century crossing of two Andalusian breeds, which gave rise to the superb horses of today.”
“Howz that different from what we saw at the fair?” she managed a good whine, wishing she could take the boots off for a few minutes.
“Top of the line horseflesh merchandise. Plus we get to sit.”
“Oh good!” She looked around and decided the people reminded her of those at Hollywood parties. “Not the actors, the behind the scenes movers and shakers. The money men and their trophy wives.” Then she grinned and waited for me to say something about her being perfect for that role.
Instead I went philosophical with, “Money can make men–and limber women–do strange things.”
“Limber, huh?” She had to keep herself from rushing into another fantasy, killed the thought with a Rush song. “Big money pulls a million strings.”
“Big money draws the flies.”
Grinning like a mean little kid, she continued the lyrics. “Big money leaves a mighty wake.”
“Big money leaves a bruise.”
“It’s the power and the glory.”
“It’s a war in paradise.”
“A Cinderella story.”
“On a tumble of the dice.”
She made a face. “We already did that part!”
The show started, and she thought of nothing else as she watched the horsies with a fascination that even took the self-proclaimed love of her life out of her brain. Luckily nothing happened to distract her from her happy place; she even gave what sounded like a sexual sigh of satisfaction when it was all over. Still clad in her tight green dress and honey-blonde hair up, plus the stilettos, she towered over most of the men in the post-show drinks room, either embarrassing or merely intimidating them.
Until she completely blew the mood–so to speak–by suddenly asking, “How do you say cucumber in Spanish?”
“Pepino.”
“Thank you.”
Not about to ask, I turned my attention, along with everyone else in the room, to a little stage in the corner, where two men dressed in centuries-old clothes began giving a fencing performance, unless it was a real duel over a girl or something.
As she watched the thrust and parry–and giggled to herself at the sexual connotations she couldn’t seem to stop thinking of–the younger of the guys was cut on the arm and immediately hustled away by his opponent, which basically told everyone the thing was indeed staged and dropped some of the enjoyment off the whole spectacle.
“Well, he’s dead,” Katarina announced cheerfully.
“Just a little scratch,” the woman next to her argued scornfully.
“A little poison on the sword and he’s done for.” She turned to glare at the woman. “Ever heard of Hamlet?”
Trying not to grin, I patted her ass gently. She, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide her smile. Now feeling completely relaxed, she started working the room, searching out any conversations in English. She’d never considered herself a brilliant conversationalist, but she knew herself to be a good listener, lively and quick to both sympathy and laughter, and with these qualities–added to her great beauty–no girl could go wrong.
So her mom told her, anyway. . .
Finally tired of meeting people she’d never meet again, she gave me a look that he interpreted quickly and easily. “I think it’s over here,” I smirked, and when she realized my cover for her escape was the old watercloset excuse, she clucked and scolded me like a maiden aunt, at least until we were out of earshot.
Instead I led her to a quiet balcony; she would not have been the least surprised if I’d either been here before or had scoped out the place while she was working the room. Wait, didn’t he say he always looks for the emergency exits? Glad he notices other things too!
Unable to stop herself, she looked over the railing and saw a gentle slope about ten feet down, an easy jump in a hurry, even in heels. “Ah,” she grinned. “You found this during your security explorations, didn’t you?”
“No idea what you mean, supposed-romantic lady.”
“Yeah, sure.”
I smirked evilly, as if to say, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Her only recourse was to douse me with a smile, showing every one of her perfect teeth.
But then she looked out past her little green escape hill, at the sight of the barns/ warehouses/whatever they were, and instinctively wrinkled her nose. “This place is butt-ugly!”
“You’ve never seen your butt, have ya?”
She winked. “Waiting for you to develop the photos.”
“Well, trust me, it’s as beautiful as the rest of ya.”
“Golly golly gosh!”
“Mmmm, I love your innocent character.”
“Knew ya would,” came the un-innocent smirk. “Plan on ravaging me?”
“Not that first time, no, but if you want to play that one day, don’t use your lousy German accent.”
Ignoring all the connotations that didn’t have to do with her acting, she huffed, “I can do a great German accent!”
“That was Russian.”
“Damn! It’s harder than I thought. Show me.”
“Nah.”
“Why not?” That wasn’t whiny at all, right?
“I can’t be an actor,” he sighed. “Too exhausting.”
She looked smug, for some reason. “As true as that is, I have faith in you. Show me you agree by kissing me.”
“Not here.”
“So people see us, so what?”
“That would embarrass me.”
She snuggled closer. “I love it! Big man shy about kissing in public! You blush every time, it’s so cute! You’re blushing right now! It makes you appealing, you know.”
I thought about saying “I know,” instead growled at her, a mock carnivore rumble, and she squealed and hid her face in my chest. After a moment she pulled back and propped herself up with her chin on my shoulder to look at me, tracing the line of my nose, then my lips, with one finger. She obviously wasn’t the least bit embarrassed about anyone seeing us
“See how simple it is?” she whispered.
“That’s because you’ve done it so often in movies you can’t tell this is reality.”
“This isn’t reality,” she sighed. “This is paradise. . .”
On the other side of the corridor from the balcony we could look down at the ballroom, if that was indeed what it was called here. Smiling, I pointed to a man in a green tuxedo, whom she had seen and avoided like a plague. In fact, she shuddered as she asked, “Ever heard of a song called Marche funèbre d’une marionette? Classical composers were just as weird as today’s, if they wrote a funeral march for a puppet.”
“Ever see the Hitchcock TV show?”
“Yeah?”
“Remember the theme? That’s it.”
“That weird little march? Very cool! Really set the tone for the weirdness it preceded.”
For some reason she leaned over and kissed me tenderly on the cheek. . . only to be startled out of her mood at the shout of “Bella Americana!” from what sounded like more than one love starved/drunk guy. And indeed it was a crowd of them, scaring her. But at least they sound fun-loving rather than dangerous.
She did her best to be Hollywood-gracious, even signing autographs, until finally someone noticed how uncomfortable she looked under her façade of cheeriness. “You are indeed a special lady. Any time you need help. . . anything,” the guy added with a last glance at me.
She grinned and remarked, “All I ask is that you treat me no differently than you would the Queen.”
Which seems like the perfect place to end it. . .

;o)