Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Ballad of Darlahood


The great hope, from old numbers,
is that I will be able to pick out my own tanker boots,
toe-nail polish,
and those in power will kiss my ass,
whose laws I spit
and dawdle.

Dingle me with laughing sandwiches.
Fear not the rape,
the masturbate.
Nothing is more powerful, lovable,
as tanker boots and toe-nail polish.

Such passions quibble around my heart.
Your rings and clams make no difference now.
Stones and tyrants,
the same thing.
The same dynasty exactly!
I'm famous now; I've joined the groups of gods
(in my flip flops and painted fingers).
Ha Ha! I was caught red handed,
a noose slipped over my neck,
a stag on my shoulder and a penny in my pocket.


Seven hearses in a row,
a cloaked frog in the gunpowder box.
I reached my hand in the velvet bag for my set of orange pearls.
I rev up the engine to the speed of a few angry Achaeans.

And we roll onward to sunset west,
and wait for the next space light to hit tombstones
across the South,
navigating through the sea.

We are blessed with red,
red, red, red,
and deep blue waters
and crystal doorknobs
and necklaces.

No more furies for the oldest of warriors.
The mansions are brimming with great grandchildren.
A painting casts shadows on the wall.
A bare foot steps on the marble stair.
A hand touches my cheek, my lips.
Pink lace drawers,
and pink lace crinolines.
I sit on the bed alone, and wait for my blessings to start.


I walked through valleys of rosebushes,
"I'll never see that house again.
I'll never see that house again."
Even though doors and windows were left open for me to crawl through.
"I could still be in the palace, even now".
I'll never see that house again.
So, do I damn my own good fortune?
Wrap my feet in binding slippers,
cut my fingers and prickle my breasts,
for the sake of trunk rooms and secret closets?
This is the Narnian descent.
The Narnian intent.

Kill all those palace usurpers.
Kill them first,
then toss the virgins out the window into cold, hollow seas.
Fiends and villains will swoop upon them,
pick them up
and carry them home,
to boughs in trees
with moss for sheets and leaves for pillows.

Old Man Oak, why do you want her so?
She holds the whole band of house pirates in her pockets.


If the prophet refers to one man that will come down upon her,
powerful he must be,
and callous
or kind,
depending upon the situation.

Apollo only knows what will happen once they fall asleep.
"Pray my champion, Godspeed inside me."
Frogs crept along the alleyways.
My yellow fog has turned to pink.

I come with prayers and offerings.

"O sweet Athene, I beseech thee to give me Apocalyptic daggers, swift and true,
and bullet proof vehicles with dark windows that can speed upon vacant highways
faster than sixty miles an hour.

I leave you with gazpacho color #51 red polish and Blue Lagoon #33.
Give me and my kinsmen best Armageddon wishes and set all good hoods free!~"

"This is the palace, stranger. She's inside.
But here is her king, her husband, and the father of her children.
What will you say to the man who found Darlahood in her overgrown tower and desolate city? What will you say to the one who uprooted her from one palace to set her gently in another?"

The Ballad of Darlahood, is a Gothic cautionary tale by Darla Nunnery.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chasing Death Part I - Karmann Ghia

Tina Harwell Waterson was my mama's very best friend all her life up to and there on the day mama died. They grew up together, worked together at the Big Orange Drive-In as car hops in shorts, jaunty caps, and roller skates during WW Two as teenagers.

It's customary for Southern children to address a dear, close family friend as Auntie or Uncle. We're trained to be polite, honor elders, and use Ma'am and Sir when addressing adults to show respect. That bent of courtesy, charm and thoughtfulness sometimes gets us pegged as "slow".

Aunt T knew the power of a buck so she cut me a break and let me start young. I got some of my appreciation for hard work, independence and owning your own business from working for Aunt T. I watched and learned from her shrewdness in dealing with the vendors she bought from, and the way she handled recalcitrant customers who had the audacity to not pay their bills or give her a bad check. She drilled the sense of pride in ownership into me many times saying, "You never get ahead or find total joy in making a living until you work for yourself in something that you love doing". I took that to heart.

Christmas was always a busy season at my Aunt Tina's Waterwell Florist in Gibsonton, Florida. I had worked for her weekends and summers since I was fourteen, running errands, putting up the window displays, culling out less-than-perfect flowers, cleaning, selling the dry goods and cutting the cloth she also carried in the store. When I was older, I drove the big, white van with her logo on the doors to deliver flowers to hospitals and funeral homes.

I've never been scared of dead folks. I love hanging out in cemeteries. It's a family thing I'll tell you about another time. I learned early that it was the live folks that could mess you up. The dead just mind their own business in a solemn, quiet way. I didn't mind arranging the wreaths, floral casket blankets and sprays around the dead in the coffins. What DID bother me was funerals of children and infants. They always looked like waxen dolls in sleepy-bye mode, always false, always wrong no matter how much rouge you put on their pale cheeks.

There is something very disturbing with children dying - as if you'd pinched green rose buds off the bush before they'd even had a chance to open and show you their stuff. An adult usually has had some time to attend a few parties, have a passionate love affair, performed a task they really hate, hurt someone they cared about, and have Life kick the shit out of them a bit. So I dreaded delivery of funeral flowers to children's rites.

My first husband, Bobby was just home a month from the Vietnam War and decided that we should have a beige 1958 Type 14 Karmann Ghia with a black convertible top that he fell in love with. Cars are having an impact on my thoughts and dreams these days. Can you tell? Having owned two Porches - a Cadillac Gold 1958 Speedster Convertible with all the charm of a rolling bathtub and tiny windows, and a red 1962 coupe, Bobby thought the Karmann Ghia was the next logical step in trying to own every exotic vehicle still rolling on the tarmac. He bought it just before Christmas, 1968 to make up for lost time spent in the Army killing people in another country in the last generation's version of War on Terror. That one made as much sense as this one.

The Karmann Ghia was the car I drove to work. Bobby was still looking for a job with not very much luck. But I was working full time for Aunt T that Christmas Eve. I woke up very late, panicked, called Aunt T and told her I was on the way.

After loading my Christmas gifts for T and the folks I knew in Gibsonton on the back seat, I spent about 30 minutes digging out the seat belt from under the front seat runners of the car. They were installed after-market sometimes as most cars back then didn't have to have them until 1966 when Congress finally got behind seat belts with the Automobile Safety Act. They were mostly just a strap across your lap. The fancy shoulder part came about later.

Our seat belts had been bolted to the floor before the car rolled off the dealer's lot. The guys in the shop left them under the seat sliders after re-installing the seats in their haste to get 'er done. I don't know why I decided to put on a seat belt for the first time in my life - ever. I don't know why I chose that day to start being conscientious about auto safety and digging them out, but I remember the day and date vividly. It never struck me as really silly at the time to spend time pulling out seat belts when I was already an hour or more late for work. But I did.

Seat belt finally on and happily tooling down the road, I'm thinking of how pleased Aunt T will be with her gift from me - White Shoulders perfume. It was the only thing she ever wore. I am also thinking of the flower delivery to Stowers Funeral Home in Brandon for a little girl of about three who drowned right before Christmas we had scheduled for that day.

On 56th Street just after the curve, a pink Cadillac pulled out of old myrtle Hill Cemetery and headed north to my south. Now. A pink car is something that catches your attention - especially in the 1960s before the days of Mary Kay cosmetic doyennes rolling down the road in their signature pink reward cars. The Cadillac pulling out of the cemetery posed a problem because she was in the inside lane - mine - on the wrong side of the four-lane. School bus on the right of me full of children, beer truck (big) right on my tail, I could not brake or move over. So I pulled the car to the left onto the grassy median. The only option left for me .

My front wheels and bumper caught the concrete curb of a turn around first and flipped end on end several times, hit another concrete curb at the next turn around and flipped sideways several more times. All in slo-mo, I watched dirt fly through the cab of the car, the roof peel back taking the canvas top and metal armature with it, the rear view mirror being lifted off the windshield and taken up and away right before the windshield disintegrated. I put up my hands in front of my face, which left perfectly smooth skin outlined in bloody pockmarks where the glass shards peppered my face and backs of my hands. I also felt the Karmann Ghia perfectly balanced on the top of my head with a crunch when I flipped over the concrete turn around. I kept saying "STOP! STOP IT" with each spin and roll as if words alone could make it so. When the Karmann Ghia finally stopped, I had an audience. The rolling had been lengthy enough so that the guy in the beer truck and several others were already stopped, parked and running towards the last roll that blessedly landed the car upright on what was left of the wheels on the other side of the road from where I'd started.

My left arm protruded at an awkward angle, my vision was blurry, looked like I was seeing the world through a fun house mirror, and obscured by something sticky, my feet and legs had pushed the brake pedal through the floorboard of the car where I had stood on them just to make it stop, and I had an enormous, horrible headache -the worst I've ever had. That was the only real pain at that moment. That was because my chin was resting on my chest, also at a very odd angle. The beer guy pulled me out of the car and was crying as he pulled a clot of dirt and grass and blood out of my mouth. I kept telling him that I was fine. He took off his shirt and put it over me since the sweater and bra I put on that morning was pretty much gone having unraveled into shreds exposing most of my torso. The good news was that I smelled divine as Aunt T's White Shoulders bottle had burst and coated me and the remains of the car carriage.

The woman who was driving the pink Cadillac continued on her way ignoring the fact that she'd just caused major catastrophe and put a really big hole in my day. Some boys from USF chased her down and forced her off the road before she could repeat the performance.

I don't like riding in ambulances. They came really fast. I guess the rollover took longer than I thought. The sirens blast above you and you sway and bob on the gurney. To this day, if I hear them close by I cover my ears.

When I got to Tampa General Hospital, I was told I had a broken neck and a concussion which was why I felt no pain from there down, several broken ribs, a broken leg and arm and my left eye had been forced out of the socket a bit when the skin was cut open and the bone rattled. Everything was bruised up inside and jumbled around like scrambled eggs. Outside was a dirty, bloody mess. I lost teeth where some metal pushed through my left cheek and broke them off at the gum line. After I'd been in the hospital a while, my mother found a piece of chrome antenna sticking out of the top of my head. They cut it off rather than pull it out of my scull and it's there picking up Cuban radio stations to this day. And alien radio signals via the SETI program.

And you know how your mama tells you to wear clean underwear because you never know when you're going to be in an accident? Well. Listen to her. I had on a pair of lime green see-through panties with black elastic and a spider on a web strategically embroidered that I acquired at my bridal shower. It was the day before laundry and they were the only clean pair left in the drawer. They had also shredded into silly little, lime green strings suspended by two strands of elastic. I asked the nurse to cut them off and throw them away so when the State Trooper who was in the waiting room came in to question me wouldn't see. Thank the Divine for nurses.

It took months of recuperation being strapped into a metal harness that gave my ramrod straight posture yet another notch higher up. Early in my recovery, I tried to take a bath one foot in the tub and the other one connected to an electric heater. I'm convinced to this day that the body and spine straightening jolt I received is the reason my neck healed without huge packages of excess calcium deposits.

Keith Olbermann on MSNBC tonight featured a new test method to measure the stability of vehicles in accidents with rollovers. This is where a vehicle flips over onto the roof once or more. I learned that rollovers in car crashes, while in the minority of all accidents, contribute the majority of deaths in all accidents by some 80%. That is, if you roll over in an accident, you have only a 20% probability of walking away alive. If the vehicle is a convertible without a rollbar, your chances are akin to a handslap stopping a bull elephant - i.e., almost none.

So. I feel that Death made a drive-by then for me. I knew I must have something important to do because I didn't jump on the back of his horse. Now, I don't mind a struggle to get myself together to leave, having to deal with an annoying, can't-get-away-from phone call, wake up late or procrastinate when the clock is running low on batteries and seems to give me all the time in the world. I feel it's someone looking out for my end run.

I ended up having a really good excuse for being late to Aunt T's shop that day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

'56 Buick

I dreamed I was a 1956 two-toned Buick convertible last night, all chrome and lines and weight and portholes down the gills. I was hard to steer and a train to stop. Both are metaphors for me and my life. From one location to another, I gathered up wads and rolls of money and stash them in my car.

Steering one direction or another is not an easy task to get me to do. Neither is stopping. These are functions I must decide to do on my own. I am intractable.

We had a 1956 two toned Buick hard top when I was growing up. It was red and black. My sister Lynda and I would climb out of the bedroom window after my parents went to sleep and put it in neutral, pushing it from the carport down our shale driveway to go for a ride. I was 14 and knew how to drive. Donna Jean taught me in the 1952 Chevy stick-on-the-column daddy had souped up for my mom. He and mama would stand at the kitchen window and laugh as the Chevy lurched and bumped up and down the road while DJ tried to show me the finesse of using a clutch. And daddy had let me drive the Chevy all over the palmetto stumped back acre of our land before that. Lynn was 3 years younger than me and was always up for a good time.

Sometimes, Lynn and I would go to Harold's Drive-In on East Broadway in our part of town and buy just one cherry coke and share it. Those were the days when the cherry syrup had to be added by squirting it out of a deep metal soda well. Sometimes, we just drove around the roads in front of and around the house. Once, we heard of a party that was way too old and dicey for us and went anyway. It was over at the lake by the old Agricultural Fairgrounds off of Orient Road and Buffalo -- all woods then. I got the rear tire of the Buick sunk in a deep ravine which threatened to dump all the Buick's tonnage into the lake. Some really big highschool boys came over, lifted the car out of the ravine and sent us home. We were already headed that way since we saw that this party was way out of our league.

Daddy must have caught on after several of these late night cruises because our old fashioned windows were replaced with crank open Miama (sic) windows soon after the car lifting ceremony.

Me and Lynn had other rides as kids. Bobby and Billy Tilly purloined an old mule from the Cattleman's stock yard auction lot and hid him in the white sands that were behind our property. We -- all the neighborhood kids -- had spent the day fetching and toting grass and other edibles by the handsfuls to make him at home and gave him enough little red apples out of a sack in the refrigerator to give him a good case of the fruit-shits. We were delighted with the company of the mule.

That night, after bedtime, we snuck out of the window. This was BEFORE the Buick episodes by some years, so it really did take daddy a while to catch onto our adventuring. Daddy came in to check on us and picks up the story from here:

"I called for Diane and Lynda, looked all over the yard, and am about to run up the path to the neighbor's house when I see these two heads bobbing up and down over the tops of the palmettos in the moonlight. I get closer and could hear Diane singing 'Tennessee Stud' to the top of her lungs and Lynda joining the chorus.

Here they were, riding a mule that looked like it was a runaway from the soap factory."

Daddy sent us home after paddling our asses and tied the mule up in the yard. The Sheriff came and got the mule the next day along with rounding up Bobby and Billy.

When I was a little older, me and mama were headed out to the clothesline with baskets when here came the Sheriff with Bobby and Billy pushing a long race car across the back lot to the road. Bobby and Billy grinned at us and said 'Hey', and the Sheriff tipped his hat to mama, "Mornin', Miz Von". We didn't get to ride in the racer before the Sheriff found it hiding in the palmettos. The Tilly boys weren't very imaginative about their hiding places for pilfered goods. You could find just about anything missing from our end of town in the palmettos behind our property. And one of the Tilly boys were usually involved.

In my dream symbols, cars are always ME, my vehicle, my path, my next adventure. So I guess that I'm about to be set up stubborn on something in my life again. I don't know what it could be because I am currently filled with that inordinate bliss, cheerfulness, and contentment that is my normal state of being when not dealing with death, destruction, illness, or other aggravations of that ilk. Until I find out what I'm getting ready to ride on that requires hard steering and two feet on the break pedal, I'll bob along with the mule.