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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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This morning, I took part in Poetry Sunday, a Unitarian Universalist summer service that is a tradition. In my talk, I reflected on the nature of love and read from my recently completed novel The Unicorn, The Mystery. I also read a poem by Sappho and read my own work that it inspired (“Sapphics for Aphrodite”).

The YouTube video of my talk  is below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

 

 

There are many types of love. I explore the many types of love in the novel that I just completed The Unicorn, The Mystery which I am going to read from briefly:

 “The point I was going to make is that romantic love is far from the most important type of love,” said the Priest with his usual authority. “Christians believe that pure love—the kind of love that is selfless and creates goodness—is the way that God loves us. This is why the saying, ‘love you neighbor’ is so important. There are numerous references to this in the Bible. But the most important is from the Gospel According to Mark in which he says ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than this.

“This kind of love is called ‘agape,’” continued the priest. “Agape is the highest form of pure, selfless love. It is the kind of love that God has for us—and the kind of love that we strive to have for our fellow man.”

“I recognize the word,” I replied. “It’s Ancient Greek, from the time of Homer.”

The Priest narrowed his eyes.

 Of course, many of the great poets have been inspired by romantic love, especially the Greeks.  But some may argue–and I do–that love (regardless of the kind of love) is the inspiration for all poetry.

Sappho statue

 

 

One of the poets from antiquity who greatly inspired me was Sappho, who lived around 600 B.C.E.  Of course, she lived before labels but many of Sappho’s love poems were written to women.  And she was technically a Lesbian since she lived on the Isle of Lesbos, now called Lesvos.  Most of what is left from Sappho is in fragments. One of the complete poems that survived is her “Hymn to Aphrodite” which I’ll read now: 

 

On your dazzling throne. Aphrodite,
Sly eternal daughter of Zeus,
I beg you: do not crush me
With grief

 But come to me now – as once
You heard my far cry, and yielded,
slipping from your
father’s house 

to yoke the birds to your gold
chariot, and came.  Handsome sparrows
brought you swiftly to
the dark earth, 

their wings whipping the middle sky
Happy, with deathless lips, you smiled:
“What is wrong, Sappho, why have
You called me? 

What does your mad heart desire?
Whom shall I make love you,
Who is turning her back
on you? 

Let her run away, soon she’ll chase you;
Refuse your gifts, soon she’ll give them.
She will love you, though
unwillingly.”

 Then come to me now and free me
From fearful agony.  Labor
for my mad heart, and be
my ally.

 

Almost twenty years ago, when I took a pilgrimage to Greece, including a stay in Sappho’s birthplace of Skala Eressos, a beach town on the Isle of Lesvos, I wrote the following response to Sappho’s hymn to the goddess of love.  The title is “Sapphics for Aphrodite” —

 

Aphrodite, in your blazing chariot,
I do not ask to be loved by anyone
against her will, to be fled from
or to be pursued. 

I do not ask for anything that will
sever my breath with anguish; I do not wish
to destroy or to be destroyed.
I do not wish for 

anything other than for the stars to blaze
in my pulse until breaking, shattered, and
incandescent, I am consumed: the moon’s rays
intent upon me. 

Aphrodite this is all I ask of you,
you who hold the Fates in my hands,
and you, of the golden winged chariot, in
whose temple I burn.

 

The priest in my novel has a point. Romantic love can have its limitations.  But love is love – regardless of what it is called. And love can lead to goodness.

 

Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This morning, Sunday December 17th, I led a Unitarian Universalist service called Ringing in the Light.  I talked about my childhood memories of being touched by Hanukkah and my experiences in celebrating the Winter Solstice and with the Gnostic Gospels. You can see my words below on the YouTube video or read the reflection below that.

 

 

As far back as I can remember, the light beckoned.

The sun was a ball of fire in the sky.  The light changed into vibrant colors in the morning and the evening.  It filtered through the branches of trees.  The sunlight had, in fact, shined down and helped to form the trees.  So the light was in the trees (along with the rain and the earth).

Even when it was cloudy, I knew the sun was there. Sometimes I could see the ball of sun outlined behind the gray clouds.

light-tree

The first time I remember being drawn to the light in a religious context was when I was in elementary school watching a play about Hanukkah.

Despite its nearness to Christmas on the calendar, Hanukkah is one of the lesser holidays in Judaism. Hanukkah, also called The Festival of Lights, began last Tuesday at sunset and ends this Wednesday, December, 20th, at nightfall.

When I asked my partner what Hanukkah meant to her, she responded that it is a celebration of survival, hope and faith.

The holiday celebrates the victory of the Maccabees, detailed in the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.

This victory of the Maccabees, in approximately 160 BCE –  BCE standing for Before The Common Era — resulted in the rededication of the Second Temple.  The Maccabees were a group of Jewish rebel warriors who took control of Judea.

According to the Talmud, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah burned for eight days.

But there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting. It was a miracle.

Hanukkah is observed by lighting the eight candles of the menorah at varying times and various ways.  This is done along with the recitation of prayers.  In addition to the eight candles in the menorah, there is a ninth called a shamash (a Hebrew word that means attendant). This ninth candle, the shamash, is in the center of the menorah.

It is all very complicated of course – the history and the ritual – but what I remember most is sitting in that darkened auditorium and being drawn to the pool of light around the candles on my elementary school stage.

I am not Jewish.  I say that I was raised secular – but that is putting it mildly.  My mother was, in fact, a bible-burning atheist.  Added to that, I was always cast as one of the shepherds in the school’s Christmas pageant since I was the tallest child in elementary school.

Also, I had Jewish neighbors – and as a future lesbian and book worm growing up in the sameness of a working class neighborhood — I may have responded to difference and had a realization that I was part of it.

Then I grew up, came out, thanked the Goddess for my secular upbringing, and celebrated the Winter Solstice with candles and music. This year, the Solstice falls on December 21st. The Winter Solstice (traditionally the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year)  is this coming Thursday in the Northern Hemisphere of planet Earth – which is where we are.

One of our friends who we celebrated the Solstice with is Julia Haines. Julia is a musician who has performed at Restoration.  She has a wonderful composition of Thunder Perfect Mind which she accompanies with her harp playing. You can find her on YouTube. Thunder Perfect Mind, of which I just read an excerpt, is one of the ancient texts of the Gnostic Gospels.

The Gnostic Gospels were discovered in the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi in 1945.  Originally written in Coptic, these texts date back to ancient times and give us an alternative glimpse into the Gospels that are written in the New Testament. They are so important that they are banned in some conventional religions.  And in my book, that’s a good reason to read them.

Reading them led me to think of myself as a Gnostic – meaning one who has knowledge and who pursues knowledge – including mystical knowledge.  The Gnostic Gospels have provided me with inspiration for my writing, particularly in my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, soon to be published by Adelaide Books. And they also inspire me in the novel I am currently writing — titled The Unicorn, The Mystery.

I am inspired by the Gnostic Gospels in part because they let in the light.  In particular, they let in the light of the feminine.

As Julia says in her rendition of Thunder:

I am godless

I am Goddess

So how does finding the light factor into my experience of Unitarian Universalism? Later in life, after fifty, I found a religion that fit my values.  I found a religion wide enough – and I might add, secure enough – to embrace nonconformity.

In finding a congregation that is diverse in many ways – including religious diversity – I have found a deeper sense of myself.

And in that self, I recognize that the darkness is as least as necessary and as important as the light.

As a creative writer, I spend much of my time in the gray-matter of imagination.

It is in that darkness where I find the light.

 

Namaste

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This morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration (in Philadelphia) I did a talk titled “Honoring the father as well as the mother.”  This talk was part of a special service on Earth Day.

You can view the YouTube video below.  If you prefer, you can read the piece below the video.

 

In the past month, my 98-year old father has been hospitalized three times.   Since I am an only child and a dutiful daughter, this has thrust me into a new chapter of my life – which feels at times disembodied and surreal and other times purposeful and grounded.

The night before one of his medical appointments, I slept in Levittown – the place where I grew up and is so much a source of strength to me as well as a considerable source of angst. I attribute my strong work ethic to my working class background. This is also the backdrop of two of my novels and partly of my memoir, Tea Leaves, about taking care of my mother when she was terminally ill.

In this conventional landscape, I found myself praying to a conventional God about my father. Now, I was raised secular. In the past four years of being a Unitarian Universalist, I have learned about traditional religions and at the same time deepened my spirituality through such alternative paths as Buddhism and yoga. I have always prided myself on being alternative.

To say that I have long had issues with patriarchy is putting it lightly.

One of my earliest memories is when my father and I walked to the neighborhood pharmacy – which is still there but now sells convalescence and medical supplies for the home instead of the chewy  Mary Jane candies of my childhood – and for some reason I stayed outside.  When he came back out of the store, I was putting the imprint of my finger in the pliant grout around the store’s window.  “What are you doing?” he asked me.  I truthfully replied that the group of boys who had just been there told me to do this. “Never do what a group of boys tells you,” he said gruffly.  I must have taken his words to heart, because this is how I have lived my life.

And so in this conventional landscape, I found myself praying to God the father to help my father.  When I told my partner who I was praying to, she gave me a quizzical look – that comes rarely in the lives of the long married — that said, who are you?

A week later in the emergency room with my father again, I found myself again praying. There is much suffering in the emergency room. I could feel the pain around me – the squalling babies, the broken people wheeled in on stretchers, a gaunt and neglected old man leaning back, his mouth wide open.

I was sitting there breathing in and out. I was practicing Tonglen – the Buddhist practice of breathing in the suffering around you and breathing out peace.  But there was so much suffering around me – including my father lying back on his bed with a breathing tube in his nose.

Then the young dashing doctor came in. He kept shrugging and mentioning that my father was 98 – and that he could go home if he wanted to.   I could see him giving me a sideways glance.  I felt summed up as a big lesbian who his charms were lost on. More than that, I found his ageism appalling.  My father was in the emergency room because he had a hard time breathing.  (He is living with congestive heart failure.)

Fortunately, the nurse — who I liked — suggested that my father be admitted to the hospital.  As I write this reflection, he is still in the there. I am sitting with him – making sure that he gets the proper care.

My partner and I live our lives simply and fully as if every day is Earth Day.

Barbara is a drummer and we have attended many gatherings where it is chanted:

The earth is our Mother, we will take care of her.

This is true – the earth is our Mother – and I did take care of my mother.

But the earth that I sprang from is also my father – and I will take care of him.

 

 

NAMASTE

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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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“Light” a short fiction excerpt from my novel “Looking at Pictures” was just published by Five:2:One Magazine.  You can read a brief excerpt below which links to Five:2:One Magazine.

Light
(June, 1926)

On the left bank of the Seine, a boulevard wound around. It was lined with hotels and shops with tall windows and wrought iron railings. Tina turned down one side street and then another. Then she saw him again: the old bent over man with the large format camera on a tripod. He walked along the street like a crooked stick in his black cloth jacket. Tina hung back so he wouldn’t see her.

He stopped and set up the camera. Tina stood still and watched. He surveyed the scene in front of him. First he angled the camera toward the empty chairs on the street outside of the cafe. Then he moved it so that he was looking at the empty street in front of the cafe. Far in the distance was a street light. In front of the street light, black branches of a horse-chestnut tree filtered morning light. A dark wet spot glistened on the bare pavement in front of the empty chairs. The cafe owner must just have been outside with a bucket of water. The cafe would open in an hour or two. These chairs would be full of people having brunch. Conversations and arguments would ensue. The poor artists of Montparnasse would be renting tables by the hour because they couldn’t afford studios.

The old man seemed oblivious to what might happen — as if he were as captured by the moment as much as he captured it.

read more at Five:2:One Magazine…..

 

Looking at Pictures is the novel that I spent last winter writing. It gives us a glimpse into the loves and lives of well known artists and ordinary people, both queer and not, all of whom live outside the box.  It is a novel influenced by history — it takes place in 1926 — and by the people who lived in that time.  Many of the characters are actual artists, including fine art photographers.

This novel was inspired, in large part, by the work that I have been doing with Jeanette Jimenez on the archive of her father Alexander Artway (an architect and photographer who photographed New York City in the 1930s). The archive is extremely interesting and the photographs brilliant!

The first short fiction excerpt –titled Looking At Pictures — of my novel was published by devise literary and is partially excerpted below. Very shortly after I finished the novel last Spring, 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.

 

Fiction: Looking at Pictures

Issue 1.2

by Janet Mason

(May, 1926)

Tina looked at the image in front of her and wished she still had her camera.

She was walking along the deepwater port looking into the hold of a ship that had backed up to the cement pier. She could see both levels. Initially she assumed that first class was on the top and that steerage was down below.  Then she noticed that the people below were almost all women and children.  They looked like immigrants from Europe wrapped in their drab shawls and holding their squalling infants.  None of them looked up.

……read more at devise literary

 

Ecstasy“@ Casa de Duende:

 

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“The people responsible for electing ding dong…” — overheard (from an older white woman) at pizza parlor in Roxborough, a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

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