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I am revising my novel Pictures and decided to post this YouTube video of the chapter that was inspired by a photo that I found of Tina Modotti and Frida Kahlo.

Very shortly after I finished the first draft of my novel Pictures a year or so ago,  I heard from David Acosta (formerly known as Juan David Acosta) who invited me to be one of the readers at his new series at Casa de Duende. The piece that I read was a chapter set in Mexico which features the characters Frida and Tina.  The YouTube video, below, includes David’s wonderful introduction. If I were to rate this YouTube piece, it is definitely PG-plus.  It’s called “Ecstasy” and is influenced by lesbian sex, philosophy and LOVE.

You can view my reading on the YouTube video or read the piece below that.

 

 

Pictures, a novel by Janet Mason

(Chapter Nine)

January, 1927

 

“Oops,” laughed Tina, as she sat in the dinghy. She threw the rope again. Leaning over the side, she tied the rowboat onto some of the island’s thick vegetation.

Tina scrambled out of the boat and stumbled onto the small, square island.

“It’s okay,” said Frida. She had climbed out of the boat first a few moments ago and now sat cross-legged on the island. “The island is naturally spongy. Let yourself descend into it.”

As if to demonstrate, Frida started to sink.

She leaned back and stretched out. Lying on top of the vegetation, face up, she sunk slowly until she was barely visible.

Tina stretched out. She looked up at the juniper trees on the other side of the canal. The trees reached straight up into a sky blazing yellow and blue. The junipers looked like tall bottle brushes. Frida had steered their rowboat into a side canal where there were no other boats.

Tina kept sinking in the vegetation until she felt solidness under her. It felt like the island was built on a block of earth under the vegetation.

“Here I am,” said Frida.

Tina realized that Frida was lying alongside of her.

There was a rustling. Tina saw a hand and then a face. Tina pushed aside the vegetation between them.

The roughness of Tina’s dungarees rubbed against the light fabric of Frida’s dress.

“Don’t worry about touching me,” said Frida huskily.

“It doesn’t look like I have a choice,” replied Tina. “Not that I mind,” she added playfully.

They were in Xochimilco, a borough on the outskirts of Mexico City. Edward had told Tina that the islands were once floating rafts where the Indians raised vegetables and flowers. He also said the Indians had put soil on the rafts to plant seeds and that the roots had migrated from the rafts to the soft loam at the canal bottom.

Xochimilco was located of the southern shore of Lake Xochimilco. The canals were part of the far-reaching system of waterways that connected the districts that made up what was known as the Valley of Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest in the early fifteen-hundreds.

When Tina was here with Edward, they had just drifted by on a canvass covered boat and admired the islands. Edward had wanted to come back with his camera, but he never did.  Probably he had been afraid of dropping it in the water. Tina had wanted to stay, but Edward insisted they leave. Xochimilco reminded her of the canals in Venice. She had gone there with her father when she was a child, when they still lived in Italy.

“Don’t worry about getting wet — at least not from the canal,” teased Frida. “Some people say that they are floating islands. But a woman whose family was here for generations told me that the islands are man-made extensions built up from the bottom of the canal bed. They were originally made with wire fencing used to contain the soil. The vegetation will hold us. You may have noticed that the vegetation starts above the water-line so we don’t have to worry about the water crashing down on us either. Since the vegetation is thick, no one can see us — even if a boat goes by.”

Tina looked up and saw a veil of lacey green. Yellow sun dappled through it. She was lying next to Frida on squashed vegetation, but it felt stable. Frida wrapped her arms around her. Tina felt secure.

“How do you know that no one can see us?” asked Tina.

“I’ve been here before,” said Frida.

Tina decided that Frida was more adventurous than Edward.

“I heard that some of the juniper trees are bare at the top, because the mistletoe is taking over,” stated Frida.

“Mistletoe?  Like the mistletoe that we had at Christmas in Italy?” asked Tina.

“That’s right,” replied Frida. “Like me, Mistletoe is from Mexico.”

“Then I guess I have to kiss you,” teased Tina.

“You don’t have to. But you can if you want. My guess is that you do.”

Coming out in a growl, Frida’s voice sent a thrill through Tina. She did want to kiss Frida — and more.

“How did you know?” asked Tina.

“I see you looking at me. Besides, you’re always wearing dungarees. You know what they say about women who wear trousers.”

“Mmmmm,” murmured Tina. “Maybe you’re right, but what about Diego?”

“What about him?”

“You told me that you’re in love with him.”

“Mmmm…” Frida closed her eyes and ignored Tina’s question.

Tina didn’t know why she was worrying about Diego. She had modeled for him and they had been lovers. It was around the time that Edward left for good. Edward had thought the world of Diego. After Tina had secretly become involved with Diego, Edward seemed to start losing respect for him. One time she overheard Edward referring to Diego as “the elephant.” It was what people — including his so-called friends — called Diego behind his back. Tina wondered if Edward suspected she and Diego of having an affair. She didn’t feel guilty. Her body was hers to make love to whomever she desired. Besides, she knew for a fact that Edward had other lovers.  Diego wasn’t her type. She preferred men who were slender and slightly effeminate. But Diego was a great artist. And she could tell that he wanted her. That was always part of the allure.

She met Diego when she was photographing Mexican murals. Then she had befriended his wife Lupe. Lupe was pregnant and suspected Tina and Diego of having an affair. Diego said his marriage was coming to an end anyway. Tina felt bad about Lupe. But at least her affair with Diego had helped Lupe end a bad marriage. Tina lost interest in Diego about the same time that Lupe left. Maybe it was because she didn’t want him getting any ideas about settling down with her. She didn’t believe in marriage. It was just legalized ownership of a woman by a man.  Besides, even just being the lover of a great artist was overrated.

Tina met Frida through a friend who wanted Tina to see Frida’s paintings. Tina remembered being particularly struck with Still Life With A Parrot. Everything was perfect: the golden citrus fruits in the foreground, the slice of pink watermelon, the green parrot behind it perched on a purple guava fruit; the azure wall behind everything. Frida started coming to the small parties that Tina threw at her apartment. Frida had met Diego a few months after Tina had ended it with him. Tina could see sparks fly between them. Frida was beautiful and intense. Her dark eyes smoldered. Tina’s eyes followed Frida. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? Tina was surprised when she realized that she wanted Frida. It wasn’t the first time she desired a woman, but it was rare.

She thought her feelings would pass. Frida was young. She could still be anything. But Tina could tell she was going to be a great artist. She was petite — especially compared with the mammoth Diego. But she was strong. She had muscles like steel. She looked like she could endure anything.

 

On the small island with the plants growing over them, Frida lay next to Tina. Tina parted the leaves that had sprung up between them. Even with her eyes closed, Frida looked like magic. Tina moved her face closer. Frida parted her lips.

It would be easy to kiss Frida — too easy.  Tina decided that first she would repeat her question.  She wanted to make Frida wait.

“What about Diego?”

Tina inhaled a scent that was green: like lush foliage and the loam that it sprang from. The musky scent smelled like Frida.

Frida’s almond shaped eyes flew open. Her shiny dark hair was parted in the middle and pulled straight back. Under her high, pale forehead, lush eyebrows looked like the top arches on the wings of a black swallowtail butterfly.

Frida raised and lowered her eyebrows in one movement.

“So, I love him. That doesn’t mean I can’t seek pleasure with others. You are here now. I am Mexican and I am an artist. I believe in free love. I am not a member of the bourgeoisie.  Besides, Diego doesn’t have to know.”

“But what if he figures it out?” answered Tina.

“He won’t, believe me. He’s too preoccupied with his work. He is like most men. He thinks all women are for him. We have some pleasure for ourselves. I have no need to confess. I had enough of that – having been raised in the church. The priests want to hear your sexual sins — so you commit them twice. Once in the doing – once in the telling. The church knows this. They count on the fact that the telling is often better. When you suppress something and feel shame about it, it’s bound to pick up more energy. Confession becomes an addiction.” Frida’s lips moved closer to Tina’s.

Tina inhaled Frida’s hot, sweet breath.

“Hmm, what you are saying makes perfect sense,” murmured Tina. “I always used to exaggerate my sins when I went to confession — to make them more interesting. I always thought the priests must be bored in those small boxes, just sitting in there and listening to people. Once I heard a priest snoring. I decided that I would give him a reason to stay awake. When I was a girl of twelve in Italy, before we moved to San Francisco, I made up a story for the priest about how I had to masturbate in order to go to sleep.”

“Did the priest tell you to drink a glass of hot milk instead?”  Frida snuggled closer.

“No, he didn’t,” replied Tina. “He didn’t say a word. I thought he had fallen asleep on me again. I kept talking. I gave him a very detailed description of how I rolled over and put the pillow between my legs and ground circles on it until I was lost in ecstasy. I think the priest liked hearing that from a young girl. But the funny thing was that I hadn’t done any of that. I had just heard my older sister moving around in her bed.”

Frida laughed and shifted closer. Tina’s denim clad thigh lodged between Frida’s legs.

Frida pulled her dress up and moaned.

“I’m getting wet,” she said. “But not from the canal.”

“But I am not done my story,” said Tina. “You will have to wait.”

She lifted her leg back so there was a small space between them. She thrust her hand into that small space and felt the wetness coming from the cotton crotch of Frida’s panties. She ran her hand up the front, feeling the outline of Frida. When she came to the elastic waist band, she slid her fingers underneath.

“Wait a minute,” Tina murmured. “I didn’t finish my story. I heard the priest breathing heavily. When he started breathing normally again, he told me that I wasn’t doing anything that other young girls didn’t do. But he said I mustn’t do it again. Then he told me to do twelve Hail Marys. I waited that night until just before I went to bed. I knelt beside the bed. I remember it like it was yesterday. A full moon was coming in the window. I did my penance — twelve Hail Marys — in my nightshirt. Then I climbed into bed and did exactly what I had told the priest. I ran my fingers over my sex. I pulled the pillow between my legs. Then I rolled over and made circles on it.  I must have been correct in my thinking about the mechanics of bringing myself to ecstasy.  The priest already gave me penance, so I did not feel ashamed as I made circle after circle with my hips.”

Tina petted Frida’s lush pubic hair. Frida was silky and wild. She writhed under Tina’s hand. Tina dropped her fingers down and put her middle finger into the wetness that was waiting for her.

“One more thing,” said Tina. She withdrew her finger.

“Please,” gasped Frida. “I want you inside of me.”

“Not so fast,” replied Tina. “I want to ask you one more question.”

“Anything,” moaned Frida.

“Anything?” asked Tina. “Let me think. Ah, I remember. If we don’t confess to anyone, then will it be our secret? When we look at each other, will we feel a current run down our bodies because only the two of us know this secret — only we know the pleasure that we bring to each other?”

“That’s right,” said Frida. “It will be our secret. Knowing that we share that secret makes it that much more pleasurable. The secret will always be there — when we speak to each other, when we look at each other, even when we are with our other lovers — maybe especially then.”

“Hmmm,” murmured Tina. “Especially then?”

“Yes,” said Frida. “That is part of why you want to kiss me. You are so beautiful that you are always surrounded by men. I was watching you with them and realized that you must get bored with men. You can have your pick of them, any day of the week, so what is the big deal?”

“Hmmm…,” said Tina, “so smart, so strong, so right.”

Her face shifted, just slightly. Her lips found Frida’s lips. Their lips parted. Tina started to put her tongue in Frida’s mouth. Frida was faster. Tina sucked on Frida’s tongue. Then she put her tongue in Frida’s mouth. Their tongues intertwined. Frida’s legs parted. Tina inserted two more fingers. Frida pushed her deep inside. Tina felt the lushness of Frida’s pubic hair on the palm of her hand. She slid her fingers back out. Then she felt the opening flower of Frida’s engorged clitoris and massaged it in circles. She felt the wetness that was Frida rain down. She plunged her fingers back in. The inside of Frida felt slippery and spongy. The vegetation pressed in on them. The wetness came not from the canal, but from their bodies, from the mystery of desire. Their faces parted.

Tina felt guitar strings vibrating under her nimble fingers as they moved to an ancient rhythm. Drums beat in the blood that rushed through her veins. Tina and Frida writhed. They panted. Their bodies moved as one. They danced a primal tango.

Frida threw back her head, opened her mouth and moaned with an intensity that felt like the world cracking open.

 

To read more excerpts — including published excerpts and to view another YouTube video of excerpts from pictures, click here.

 

Tina and Frida

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I am posting  a segment of my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (just published by Adelaide Books — New York / Lisbon) and available on Amazon

A variation of this excerpt was published in the fortieth anniversary  issue of Sinister Wisdom.

The next evening, Tamar’s tent flap opened, revealing a triangle of soft light.

“Hello there,” said Tamar.

“Hello,” said a low voice.  

Tamar was expecting Judith and the voice did sound like hers — Amazon THEYexcept that it was low and hesitant.  Shy? Judith entered the tent. She pushed back the hood of her dark robe. Shiny dark hair spilled out.   Tamar had set the table with her best pottery.  Juicy red pomegranate seeds glistened in a small round bowl.  In another, black orbs of oil cured olives shimmered.  Chunks of white goat cheese sat on a small terracotta plate next to a bowl of fresh figs. Next to that was a small bowl of almonds.  Purple spikes of hyssop extended from a clay vase. Tamar had put Aziz outside for the evening, and she had swept the tent with brooms of hyssop. She had bathed earlier that day. Then she had oiled her skin. She even oiled the inside of her mouth. After she had spit out the mouthful of olive  oil, she  could  feel  her  tongue  slippery against her teeth. Shortly before Judith came, Tamar had lit the oil lamp but set it back further in the tent — instead of on the table — so the light was dimmed.  A goatskin of wine peeked out from behind the vase. Judith’s eyes flickered toward the table.  Her gaze returned to Tamar.

“How beautiful,” she said.

Judith had been coming to her several times a week for two moons now — since they started meditating together.  She never wore her silver necklaces. Even tonight when they were meeting for pleasure, she didn’t have them on.  She rarely mentioned her husband and sons.  Tamar had told her that even to complain about them was to give them power. Judith hadn’t conceived yet, but she was ready. She had been coming to Tamar’s tent several times a week.  She had told Tamar that every morning she set aside time to sit quietly and watch her breath.  Judith said the old voices were leaving her — making room for the new. Tamar had conquered the old Judith with love. She had assisted at the birth of the new Judith. This Judith was even more beautiful. Her long dark hair glistened like it was surrounded by shooting stars.  Her sea green eyes looked like an oasis in the parched desert.  They were deeper and darker than ever. Judith’s eyes were shaped like almonds. They were wide in the middle and narrow on the ends. They slanted up slightly at the outside edges.  Lines of smudged kohl rimmed Judith’s eyes. The low light reflected from the single strand of gold around her neck. For a flickering moment, she looked like an Egyptian princess from ancient times, a dark eyed seductress painted onto a frieze. 

RandN 4 stained glass….

Judith suggested that they have a toast. “The goblets are beautiful,” said Tamar. “And the wine is here to be drunk.” Then she filled their goblets. They held them aloft and clinked them against each other. “To us.” “To us.” It didn’t matter which one spoke. The feeling was the same.  Their eyes met over the rims of the wedding goblets.   They put the goblets down. They sat on the floor next to the low table on the double camel hair blankets that Tamar had folded. “Let me feed you,” said Judith. She picked up an olive, held it between her fingers.  Then she broke off a piece of the oiled bread. She reached out and fed it to Tamar.

Tamar felt Judith’s cool fingers on her lips. When she was done, Tamar fed Judith.   They saved the fresh figs for last.

“For my sweetness,” said Tamar.  She felt Judith’s warm lips on her fingers.

Then Judith put some pomegranate seeds in Tamar’s mouth. Tamar began sucking on Judith’s fingers. She was emboldened by the wine.  They had been taking sips from their goblets and refilling them. They were on their second goatskin. Judith pushed the bowl of figs away.

“I’ve had enough food,” she said.  She leaned in toward Tamar.  “But I could never have enough of you.”

Their lips met and it was good. This was the first time that Tamar had kissed someone — with the exception of the kisses that she sometimes gave to Aziz on his furry forehead or the kisses that she had given to Pharez and Zerah when they were small. This kiss was born from passion and tenderness. Er had been incapable of both.  Tamar was consumed by moisture. They were both made of water and light — like wild hyssop plants flowering in the arid desert.  A brilliant sash of longing encircled them. Tamar’s lips parted. Judith’s tongue slipped in. Tamar’s nipples tingled.  Her vulva opened.

 “I’ve never felt this way,” Judith whispered.

She opened her robe.  In the dim light, her nakedness gleamed. Tamar’s breath caught in her throat. She dropped her own robe and took Judith’s hand, leading her to the softness of the bed that she had made for them. 

She and Judith put their arms around each other. Tamar felt the silken smoothness that their bodies made together. She was not ashamed of her nakedness.

 

You can also read an excerpt of THEY, written as standalone short fiction, in the online literary journal BlazeVOX15

Another excerpt is in the recent issue of Sinister Wisdom — the fortieth anniversary issue

A different excerpt is also in the aaduna literary magazine  (this excerpt was nominated for a Pushcart Prize)

View YouTube videos of readings and performances of THEY by clicking here.

Text excerpts from THEY and my introductions presented at UUCR (Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration) can be clicked on below.

To read the text to the “Descent of Ishtar” and the introduction (where I talk about ancient Babylon), click here.

To read the text to “Forty Days And Forty Nights” as well as my introduction, click here.

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(I presented this novel excerpt at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration in Philadelphia where I am a lay minister.  The segment is also on You Tube. Click here  to see the video or you can view the segment below and below that on this blog, you can read the excerpt. (At the bottom of this post is another video link to YouTube featuring me reading from a different part of Art — and talking about the Saints.)

Unitarian Universalism is a faith that encompasses all religious/spiritual backgrounds (including atheism, agnosticism and Buddhism) in a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning”.)

 

This excerpt is from a novel that I wrote recently titled Art: a revolution of love and marriage.  The novel is based on the working class landscape in which I grew up and takes place in the seventies.  The main character is named Art and is based on a real person (who is not me). So here is a short excerpt from her story. The Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality is a good hint at the happy ending.

 Art, a revolution of love and marriage

Art strode from the counter, past the grill and the fryers and into the backroom.  She tore her yellow headscarf off triumphantly as she clocked out.  Then she put on her sweater and her padded royal blue jacket. She slammed the metal back door behind her.

The sun was setting. It was about ten after five.  Her brother was scheduled to pick her up at five thirty. Art stood behind the building. She put up her hood and looked up. The sky was streaked with violet.  Long white wisps of clouds unfurled like banners. A single bright star came out from behind a cloud.  She watched it for a moment.  It stayed in one place so she knew it was a star, not an airplane.  It was bright enough to be a planet: either Jupiter or Venus.rainbow love

She thought about the fact that the star was light years away.  Maybe her junior year physics teacher was right.  Perhaps they were made from the stars they wished on. Most of the atoms spinning around in her body were made from stardust. Art would never admit it — in physics class last year, she had just rolled her eyes along with the others — but the fact was that she did have dreams.  She wished that she could be with Linda forever. She wished that Linda’s mother would stop telling her daughter that it was a waste of time to study trigonometry and that she would stop telling Linda that her life was going to turn out just like hers. She stared at the star.  It was so bright that it seemed to be burning a hole in the winter sky.  She wished she and Linda could make a life together.  She wished they could get married.  She wished that they could even have a kid or two. But first they had to get through this last year of high school. Getting into the trig class would be easy compared to the rest.

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