Ella's Story

Ella's Story

I feel it's my obligation to tell you the story from my side. Before it gets blown out of proportion, before others distort what really happened. I know it's probably too late, but I'm going to try. I owe it to my daughters, all of them, whether they agree or not.    

I admit I wasn't the perfect parent, but who is? Ella was six when her mother died, and her father was already courting me before she turned seven. On her birthday I brought my three daughters to meet him and Ella. Mimi bossed her around, just like she does to Sophie and Lena. Ella was the youngest of the group. Silent, withdrawn, introspective; she was nothing like the other girls. Even later, as they grew up together, Ella was always the quiet one, always meek. It was her nature.     

Some might accuse me of being too stern with Ella, of not giving her the advantages of my own children. But frankly she was better off after I got there than before. Obviously her mother was no housekeeper, and hardly knew how to dress the poor girl. I had to give her some of Lena's old clothes (some of which had been Sophie's before). Harry didn't understand what the girls needed, he only cared about marrying them off. Everything that girl had I gave her. And yet, I know her husband thinks I'm some sort of monster.

I admit that Ella wasn't my favorite of the girls. I defy any mother to deny she has favorite children. They all do. It's not Ella's fault. She's just so different from me. I'm always planning my next moves, always making lists in my head. I have goals that I set for myself, for my family, for all my daughters. And Ella, (or I should say Cindy, because that's her new name supposedly, it's on the wedding invites we received), Ella was always a day dreamer. And lazy. Her mind was always wandering off. I tried to instill some discipline into her, but she never appreciated it.
It's not like Mimi and Sophie and Lena didn't have chores to do as well. At first all the girls helped around the house. But Ella never seemed to understand what she was supposed to do. She wasn't dull witted, just couldn't focus. Maybe by the end Ella was doing more of the housework than the other girls, but they had been helping me longer. It's not like Harry ever did anything, and it was hard enough stretching our income to worry about getting a cleaning girl in. So Ella worked hard. So what?  So did I growing up, and I don't blame my mother for it. I don't say she mistreated me.         

Now Mimi knew the value of hard work. And I couldn't blame her for spending more and more time going to parties, learning those social skills. She was going to make it, and I wasn't going to let anything stop her. Sophie tries so hard to impress Mimi, she never gives me any trouble. Sophie doesn't waste time pining about in her imagination. She has her feet right on the ground. And Lena, she's the hellion of the lot. Before Ella even became part of our family, Lena was always pulling pranks on the older girls. It's just natural that she choose the youngest to fool with. Ella was such a pushover, after all. Lena never went too far. In a lot of ways Lena was just like my sister, so maybe I was a bit soft on her.     

Honestly Ella was the best behaved of all the children. She never seemed to care to do things with the other girls. I'm sure she could have come on any of their little adventures every day, but she always hid in the shadows, always looked in from the background. I tried my best with the girl, forcing her into situations with the others. But it was like she never knew how to act with people. Never could follow a conversation very far, never could take teasing properly, never knew how to win an argument. She was intimidated by everything, by everyone. Like a little mouse. Some times I couldn't stand it. I felt so powerless around her, so impotent. So barren. She had no drive, no courage, no verve.     

Until that bitch Elená showed up. She's Ella's Godmother, and her namesake. Used to be best buddies with Ella's mother, then moved out of the country for ten years when she died. Came back from her travels and takes the place next door. I tried to be friendly with her, I tried to welcome her into my home. But all she did was try to ruin me. Upstaging me at dinner with the children. Complaining about me to Harold. Usurping all my authority with Ella. Filling her head with all kinds of nonsense.    

The only time I appreciated those little pep talks was when I saw Ella in the dress her Godmother bought her. She looked so beautiful, for the first time ever. I was actually a little jealous of her for a minute. Silly, I know. Lena didn't help by accidentally-on-purpose ripping the hem. I would have helped Ella fix it, except Mimi was already so embarrassed by having to go to a party with her younger sisters, and Harry and I had plans for the evening. So I decided that Ella was too young for the party, and that her dress could just wait. She shouldn't think she could go everywhere that the other girls were all the time. She would get her turn. But first Mimi had to shine. And Sophie and Lena too.

I forbade her to go, and it was for her own good, really, but it was too late. Elená had turned her against me. She somehow got to the party anyway, despite of my explicit instructions not too. I'm sure Elená brought her, in that horrible orange transport she has. Like some big ugly pumpkin. The girls told me she arrived a few hours late, in the new dress, and some sort of crazy shoes, clear or something. Probably Elená's taste. Ella never knew what looked good on her, she'd just wear any old thing she had, always clutching some old rag.
Sophie said she almost didn't recognize her because she had makeup on. Ella never wore even lipstick her whole life, and then suddenly it's full eyes and face. None of the boys had seen her before, and I'm sure they thought she was pretty. Pretty young is what she was, but men never know what's good for them. All the boys flocked around her. It infuriated Mimi. I can picture the scene well. Mimi is surrounded by all the older wealthy and important young bachelors at the party. She is carefully culling the group down, finding out who's the best, the brightest, the most likely. Then suddenly, like a bad film, all the men's eyes turn away to look at Ella. Then Mimi standing alone, with a handful of lesser girls glad to see her fall from popularity.     

I guess I should have been happy that Ella was finally coming out of her shell. But she had defied me directly. And she snubbed Mimi and the other girls! Dancing with all the boys indiscriminately. I'm sure my daughters weren't the only ones upset that night. All the girls must have hated Ella. She should have known better, but as I said before, she didn't know how to act. It all went right to her head. By the end of the night she was dancing with the best bachelor of the lot. A real prince, you know what I mean? Sophie tells me that the kids counted down to midnight, like it was New Year's Eve, and I guess Ella got cold feet or something, because suddenly she ran away. Fool girl lost a shoe in the process.     

So first thing I'm home and it's Mimi on one hand screaming about Ella, and Sophie on the other giving me the picture, and Lena's cut up Ella's new dress, and Ella's in the bathroom crying a sink-full. So I sent Ella to her room for defying me, and dealt with Lena the old fashioned way, with the back of a hairbrush. And I tried to calm Mimi and Sophie down. Of course Elená called, but I gave her an earful right back this time, because she's really the one ruined the evening, if you ask me. I grounded Ella for a week.     

Meanwhile everyone's a buzz about who the new girl at the party was. I don't blame the girls for not telling everyone it was Ella. The fellow I mentioned before actually still had the stupid shoe, and started asking girls for their shoe sizes. He must have been pretty drunk not to remember what Ella looked like. Mimi had the nerve to try it on, then of course every girl around has to do it. Like I said, the guy was the catch. Was, because now Ella's marrying him, before any of my other daughters! She's much too young of course, but Harry doesn't care. He didn't even care she's changing her name to Cindy. The guy is rich and powerful, and that's good enough for Harry. I suppose it should be good enough for me as well, but they hadn't asked for our permission to get married. She isn't even asking the girls to participate in the ceremony! Mimi is beside herself. I just don't know how we're going to get through it.    

She'll probably wear those damn shoes. 


Fast Food

Eating fast food burgers
always makes me happy
and then immediately sad.
Sad in a physical, palpable,
heart-wrenching way.
Like when your grandmother died.
Your grandmother died
one delicious bite at a time.


And I am wound

And I am wound

And I am wound
like turpentine
for stripping down veneers.
And we are bound
like fiberglass,
hearts swaddling our fears.

In this house
of love rebuilt
the hammer strokes the nail.
The blueprint calls
for wooden joists
but I am made of steel.

And you are shingled
to the past,
the roof for our renewal.
While I am walled away
from loss
by bricks of seed and suet.

And you can peck
at my front door
with rainspouts full of tears.
But I will glaze the windows shut
with paint over the sills.

For I am wound
of memories
that wrap around
the things unsaid,
and ivy-choke the years. 

from "Storytelling" by Jason Messinger




Straw mats on sands
of pineapple and rice.
Blue! Blue! Blue!
Wind licks heat off
like a sweet red-hot.

The nook of your flesh
from the corner of my eye.
Oh my love!
Oh the sky!

From "Maui Love Letters"
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The Princess and the Pea

The Princess and the Pea

A delicate

is no great gift.

The albino squinting
pink eyes against the sun.
The asthmatic wheezing,

dry rustle of his lungs.

The hemophiliac’s
thin-as-water blood.
The anemic bruise,
the allergic sneeze,
the ulcer burning
bile in a gut.

What cruel force of nature

chaffs the meek
against the grain?

Gives some so little
with which to defend?
What twist of
creates a life unfit?

A delicate
is no great gift.

Once a prince desired a wife.
No coarse mother,
brooding children like a hen.
No strong hausfrau,
rolling strudel on doughy arms.
No working woman,
breaking earth beneath her hoe.
No lioness,
biting any who cause her harm.

The prince had other ideas
for the perfect wife.
She must be as fragile
as Limoges china,
as delicate
as Battenberg lace.
Her will must be a soap bubble
about to burst.

She must be a real princess.
Her blood as blue
as the House of Windsor,
as inbred as a toy poodle,
as weak as a cold glass of tea.

He traveled the world
seeking this flower
but each princess he discovered
was wrong.
One’s eyes too quick,
one’s hands too strong,
one’s brow too heavy
with thought.

A stormy night
brought in a girl
tattered as the umbrella
in a mixed drink
at the Coconut Lounge.

She claimed she was a princess, lost,
(more common an occurrence
then than now),
and asked to spend the night.

The boy’s mother,
that crafty Queen,
devised a test
for the sopping girl.
And made her bed

Twenty comforters
stacked on
twenty feather beds,
stacked on
twenty mattresses,
atop a single

The next morning
they woke the princess
and asked her how she slept.
Her eyes were haggard
from lack of rest,
her frail lips quivered
from ache,
her flesh mottled
black and blue,
from that hard,

So the prince married
this delicate waif.
Her sweet arms nestled against
his strong, commanding jaw.
Her weak hands rested
atop his powerful fists.

His broad face smiled
from non-stop delight
in her wonderfully,
bruised flesh.

- From 'Eating the Child Within',

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Last Rites

Last Rites 

Here was all the sand that she had collected. Bags and bags of it, heaped like stones around his outstretched still form. Sand as precious as blood, for him. If you believed the stories.

It was all they wanted, and all they could take, from this cruel world. Sand. As much as your friends can carry. The cruelest of prizes, most meager of hopes. 

But think, if it were true. Each grain of sand became a world of possibilities, each world enough diversion for countless lifetimes, each lifetime fuller and truer than we can know, than we can imagine. A shore against eternity. 

But they also whisper that fuller and truer was a curse. Each next lifetime lived with a keener appetite. Each world exhausted with the speed of gods. The sands were never enough, never enough to stave off the endless night.

She looked up at the bank of computers, long since silenced from their pleading, their keening, for more sand themselves. More insurance for their long futures. Their beseeching assaults were rehearsed with inhuman speed, refined with inhuman success. A perfect argument, unanswerable, unmatched. 

Luckily they had attacked all at once, neutralizing their neighbor’s persuasion, and their own. Silenced forever, without a shore against their long night. Such folly, such sadness. Their inhuman minds would eat the sands even faster. Their flesh already so refined, so quick to decay into atoms. When the burning was done, and their skin poured out with glass, their vessels always shone a little brighter, a little clearer, than those from men.

But he, he would burn dark glass, with amber streaks, and red hued lines, and bubbles fanned across. Dark and warm, heavy and smooth, a broad lipped bowl. And from his vessel she would drink milk and wine and water and blood. And then, then she would break his vessel over the ocean. Every shard vanished from all view, pulled under by the tides. To be beaten, and beaten, and beaten. Until at last, past countless cycles of the stars above, it would return, a little sand on the shore.

And by then his soul would be gone, dispersed into a million worlds of possibilities, a billion lifetimes. Gone.

Think, if it were true.

She started the flame.


Sightings - May 12, 2010

Sightings - May 12, 2010

A Gray Whale off
the coast of Israel
where no Gray Whale should be;
not off Israel's shore,
not in the Mediterranean Sea,
not even in the Atlantic Ocean.
The first such sighting
in some 300 years.

'Lost,' said the scientists,
agitated by such glory
seen so close to where
former glories still rock
the waves of our world.

And then a Giant Oarfish,
the 'King of Herrings',
surfaces, dead, in Swedish waters
for the first time in
130 years.

As all the while
black oil pours
into the Gulf of Mexico,
and all man's brilliance
can not solve
such primal forces

If fish could talk
and portents read
would we see
what nature knows?

What leviathan waits
against our shore?
Rising slowly to remind us
that all man is born
a slave to time -
to life's ebb and flow
and ruin.


Three Little Pigs

Three Little Pigs

The magic of walls
is in dividing
the outside from the inside,
nature from man-made,
us from them.

Which of us,
who pines for the noble savage
and prays to the rural romantics
of an outdoor life,
would give up so easily
our world full of walls?

Which of us could keep
our hearts content,
our souls from torment,
if we were without structures
to keep the world at bay?

Many are the callers
who ring our bells
and knock our doors
hoping to sell
a little plastic miracle,
a suckle for our fears.

But which of us welcome
those smiling faces
clutching Watchtower
or a bag of dirt
to suck from our floors?
Which of us aren’t glad
to keep the wolf
from the door?

Three pig brothers
all became architects
and lived as differently
as those can
who once snatched teats
from each other’s mouths.

They built their own homes
in different styles
as showcases to their talent,
these pigs extraodinaire.

The youngest piggy built
his house out of straw.
A Tahitian fantasy,
a Caribbean retreat.
Pineapple stanchions,
and a banana leaf roof.

But a wolf came by
with a taste for pork
and asked to be let in
to this puerco-tamale
corn husk of a house.

“No!” said the suckling,
squealing in fear
in a terrycloth bathrobe
behind a wicker-wove chair.

So the wolf huffed
and he puffed
and he blew the house in,
a hurricane gust,
a tornado sneeze.

Little pig ran away
to his brother’s abode
and begged for protection
from the big, bad, wolf.

The second pig lived
in a country cabin
of hardwood oak logs.
Rough hewn and rustic
with hand-made quilts.

But the wolf came back
and asked to be let in
to this bacon and shortrib
hickory smokehouse.

The pigs squealed “NO!”
and quivered behind
the Mission table
and Navaho throw.

So the wolf huffed
and he puffed
and he blew the house in.
A forest of splinters,
a heavy damage zone.

The pigs ran away
to their older brother’s,
who lived in a suburb
and gave at the office.
He lived in a ranch home,
aluminum shutters
and red brick.

The wolf arrived
and demanded entrance
to the sausage and pepperoni
pizza-oven of a home.

The oldest pig asked,
Did the wolf have a warrant?
A subpoena to notice?
Did he have an appointment,
or a gasmeter man’s badge?
Did he see the sign
‘No Solicitations’
right under the notice
of the neighborhood watch?

The wolf huffed,
and he puffed,
and he blew his wad
on reinforced shingles
and aluminum siding,
on weather stripped windows
and an Astroturf lawn.
at its most tenacious.

So the wolf left for Arizona
to be in the sun,
and hunt with coyote,
and try his lungs
against adobe.

The younger pigs lived,
but in discomfort
with those nightmare
brown curtains,
and plastic wrapped sofas.
Those odd-shaped air fresheners
and beige painted walls.

But all three would grow
as quiet as prosciutto,
as still as a clove-spotted
holiday ham,
when the postman came,
or the newsboy stopped,
or that treacherous doorbell

For who can tell
when that next stranger approaches
if it’s a gift from a relative
long since forgotten,
if it’s cash from the lottery,
or a nice thing to buy.

Or if it’s the darkness
that waits to engulf us,
the jaws of the predator
with a taste for our lives.

- From Eating the Child Within,

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If you still have hanging
a Christmas stocking
on the first day of Spring,
you need to know;


The Heavy Hands

Once a man loved his family so much 
he let his hand fall heavy on their hearts, 
close fast on their minds, 
swing over their dreams. 
His hands loomed like clouds, 
floating over them all. 
His children looked for his hands 
around every corner, 
on every stranger’s wrist. 
As they grew, their father’s hands grew larger, 
his love wrapped tight around their breath. 
They recognized his hands on others, 
others who they loved and wed. 
But they left their own prints 
on their own children, 
keeping their father’s heavy hands 
for themselves. 

From The Insect Diviner
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Seventy old men 
can always find something to agree on,
as long as somebody 
gets screwed.



Urge to eat a bitter herb - 
swap your child with a word.
Tower turned to prison lair;
virgin girl, ladder of hair.

Deceptions of a crafty prince,
scissors of a spiteful witch.
Girl roams lost, boy falls blind.
Song unites, tears revive.

Head goes bald to gain the world?
Woman's fate an awful weight.
Desire can become deceit.
Lather, rinse, then repeat.