Friday, May 28, 2010

Princess Shoes

She felt like a princess that night,
Cinderella, dressed in airy white,
fitting in, for once, with festive fools,
in borrowed jewels that sparkled
like the sapphires of her eyes.

She thought she could have danced the evening long
In flawless shoes that seemed, at first,
to fit her slender feet,
daintily displaying tiny toes.
Unpolished, but blessed with a child-like grace
she kept up with society's circling pace,
the joy of dancing filling all her thoughts.

Now, surfeited with sambas and foxtrots,
her feet feel flat,

Stepping out for air,
she finds her shoes stuck fast
in someone's snare.
She freezes, faced with selecting her fate--
If a prince should find and save her, could she stay?
Become a princess, richly shod each day?

Though fatigued, her feet don't hesitate,
swiftly slipping out to homeward flee,
to heal her heels,
set toes and arches free...
and retrace shadows of the swirling steps
on the safe, familiar floor.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Piscine Harmonies

Another Magpie Tale
Ding, dong!

Just on time.  Julie opened the door to see a man's legs and torso.  Then a head swung under the door frame, and a large hand extended toward her.

"Hello!  I'm Izzy, the piano technician.  Ah, would this be the patient?"

A petite woman, Julie was accustomed to looking up at people, but this was ridiculous.  How tall was he?  She felt much more comfortable once he was seated on the bench. 

Izzy easily opened the cabinet.  "I assume it has been a while since the last tuning?"

"Yes, a little while."  Julie and her husband had bought the piano from the friend of a friend several years before.  Since the last tuning, they had moved the instrument from coast to coast, left it in storage for a year, and let their children practice their lessons on it for three more years.  By now, even the kids could tell that the F below middle C did not sound right.  Why were Christmas carols always written in the key of F?  They had sounded terrible last winter.  Still she had perendinated, until now. 

Izzy checked out the hardware, then began his diagnostics, a fluent cascade of show tunes.  Julie looked ruefully at her own small hands, wishing they could play those chords, too.  Then she moved into the other room to do some quiet dusting.  She tried to name each tune he played in her mind.  "Moon River," "Singin' in the Rain," "Under the Sea," "I Made it Through the Rain" . . .  Wait.  That was not a show tune.  Was Izzy trying to tell her something?

The notes faded away, and Izzy called Julie over.  "I'm sure you won't be surprised that this needs some serious adjustments.  Has this piano suffered a catastrophic humidity event?"

"Humidity event?"  Every day was a humidity event back in Savannah.

"A flood, burst pipes, something of that nature?"

"Oh.  Not since we've owned it."  Though who knows how many hurricanes the poor instrument had weathered down South.

"Well, the evidence suggests that it has been repaired for that reason.  Considering this piano's likely history, I will need to use some special equipment."  Izzy reached into his toolkit, and Julie expected him to bring out a sophisticated electronic device.  Instead he extracted a small pouch, made of aquamarine watered silk.  Unhooking the clasp, he pulled out several small metal figurines and laid them carefully on the soundboard.  They looked like fish.  Intrigued, Julie sat down to watch.

Beginning an octave below middle C, Izzy played a C major scale.  The figurines immediately began wobbling, rattling against the soundboard.  When he reached that F, one fish flopped entirely off the board.  Izzy easily fished it out from behind the instrument, and started making some adjustments.  Up and down the keyboard he played and tuned, until the figurines were still.  Then he tried a C-sharp scale, again tuning until the rattling stopped.  Julie left the room again, letting the rattling notes wash over her.  D, D-sharp, E, he played every note in every octave, until the strings sounded alone.

Finally the showy tunes began again.  "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "(The Sun'll Come Out) Tomorrow," "Blue Skies."  The selection seemed much drier this time, and Julie had to admit that the piano sounded much better.  She thanked Izzy for his skilled service, but as he wrote out the bill, she had to ask.

"What are those little figurines?"

"Why, these are Tuner Fish.  They have very sensitive scales."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Junco Tanka

Beaks of bare, blind chicks
Stretch in great red rhombuses,
Still too weak to peep.
 Knowing soon they'll fledge and fly,
Parents faithfully provide.

Friday, May 14, 2010


This lovely Magpie prompt deserves better, but here goes:

A crockery salesman from China
Once stopped in for lunch at a diner.
When he ordered Flench Flies,
The cook batted her eyes,
And asked the gent, "Your plate or mine-ah?"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Through Her Eyes

     Everyone loved my roommate. Kate was beautiful; her long, blond hair waved naturally, her skin was clear, and her blue eyes sparkled. She was also intelligent and witty, and treated everyone with interest and kindness. I did not blame the guys she met for wanting to get to know her better.
     No one seemed to be interested in getting to know me. Next to my roommate, I was mousy, drab, reticent. The young men were certainly civil enough when they came to pick Kate up for a date, or when we invited them for Sunday dinner, but they focused on Kate. I tried not to worry about it. I was paying all this tuition to go to classes, right? Social life was not guaranteed in my acceptance letter. But the apartment was awfully quiet while she was out on the weekends. Occasionally I went to a concert on campus, but the staff in the student center gave me funny looks when I asked for only one ticket. So I would wander the student art exhibits, or do some recreational reading, or just study more. Near the end of the semester, I was on top of my assignments, but Kate was falling behind.
     After our other dinner guests had gone home one Sunday evening, Darwin was still droning on; Kate listened and smiled. I had finished washing the dishes, and was typing an email to my parents, when one sentence caught my attention.
     "I really can't waste my time dating girls who don't have blue eyes," Darwin announced, smugly. "I wouldn't want to pollute my gene pool."
     I raised my eyebrows. I had had a private theory that this might be the case among the male students we knew, but I was surprised to hear someone say it aloud.
     Kate, on the other hand, was incensed. She politely thanked Darwin for sharing our meal, and escorted him to the door. Then she started pacing the living room, fuming about bigots and gene pools. Apparently the idea had never crossed her mind.
     That night, we traded eyes.
     It was Kate's idea. "Let's test your theory. If brown-eyed girls are invisible, maybe you can get a date this weekend, and I can finish my term paper."
     I gazed sceptically at the azure orb she offered me. "I'm not sure blue is my color."
     "How many dates have you gone on this semester?" she asked.
     "Well, there was that one night when Ben and Jeff showed up at the same time to ask you to the same movie, and you persuaded them to double."
     "Is that really all? You need these," she said emphatically, and we made the trade. I lent her my glasses, too. It would not be fair to have to write a paper with a blinding headache.
     On Monday my face felt rather naked without the glasses. But it was refreshing to be able to see the blackboard and my notes without adjusting my specs. Soon I began to see even more.
     For the experiment to work, people needed to notice the blue eyes in my head. So when I went jogging Tuesday morning, I looked up and smiled at my fellow exercisers. My habit was to look down, hoping no one would recognize me. But now I saw that I was not the only one with ratty jogging clothes or a blotchy red face. And some of the joggers smiled back.
     After class Wednesday afternoon, I saw Andrea at her kitchen table in the apartment next door, and stopped in. She greeted me pleasantly, but seemed frustrated.
     "Did you do something different with your hair?" She was unable to place the difference in my appearance. I just smiled, and looked more closely. I recognized the calculus book on the table.
     "Are you having trouble with math?" I asked.
     "It's 'integration by parts.' I have to take the exam tomorrow, and I just don't get it."
     "That is a tough one. Here's what my professor showed me last year." I sat down and helped Andrea through the process. In half an hour, she was ready for her test. She gave me a friendly wave as I left, and promised to come by if she had any more calculus questions.
     Andrea did come over Friday evening, and I beamed when she reported her good grade in calculus. I blinked when she invited me to the campus dance, with her brother and his friends. I turned the blue eyes on them all, and danced more in one night than I had in the past five years. We talked, too, and I found that I actually had a few things in common with these cool guys. The blue eyes were working!
     I answered the door Saturday night to find Tommy asking for Kate. I felt bad; Kate liked Tommy, and would be disappointed to have missed him. But she had given me strict orders to not reveal her location in the library, so I looked him in the eyes and told him that she was out.
     "Are you and Kate related?" he asked after a moment's thought.
     "No, we're just roommates."
     "But you look really familiar."
     "I've lived here as long as she has."
     "Oh, that must be it." He started to leave, then turned around. "Do you like Mexican food? I have a coupon."
     So Tommy took me out for dinner. As he toyed with his chips and salsa, I saw that he was preoccupied. I looked at him sympathetically, and soon he was telling me all about his mother, and her chemotherapy. He worried about her, and the rest of the family. He was trying to decide whether he should keep going to school, or get a job near home and try to help out. I had had no idea that Tommy had such concerns, and I did not know how to comfort him. But I listened to his burdens, and soon he was smiling and joking again.
     Suddenly I realized what the difference was. I had trained my brown eyes look at books and art; Kate looked on the heart. Could I do the same with my own eyes?
     Sunday morning, Kate handed back my eyes. "I'm sorry they're so bloodshot, but I finished the term paper!"
     I doused the brown spheres with eye drops before inserting them again. "That's great!"
     "So, what about the experiment?" she asked. "Do blue-eyed girls really have more fun?"
     "Well, I learned that it's not so much about how you look as, um, how you look."
     "I mean, how you see."
     She did not understand, probably because it came so naturally for her. But I practiced her technique. A few months later, Darwin came by to announce his engagement to a blue-eyed freshman. Instead of dismissing him as a bigot, I took a closer look. In the girl's eyes I saw trust and security; in his I saw, behind the triumph, relief that he had found a good mate before beginning the rigors of medical school. Kate and I congratulated the couple sincerely. And after they left, we giggled about the surprising turns genetics can take.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Goldfish Lament

Another Magpie Tale

Take me out of the fishbowl,
Take me out to play.
Swimming in circles,
Day after day...
Is that all you think I can do?
Maybe it's true.

Take me out for a picnic,
Let me try pasta and steaks.
Swimming in circles,
Week after week...
I get so tired of flakes.
I'll manage somehow without teeth.

Let me smell the blue sky,
Let me feel the grass.
Swimming in circles,
Year after year...
Watching you live through the glass.
Is water so different from air?