Saturday, February 08, 2014

My 'Made it' Moment

I wrote this short piece for Jenny Milchman's "Made It Moments" series ( and she published it last year -  thank you Jenny!

It's time I shared these words here:

Made. adj. Assured of success. The year was 1965, the place New York City, where a young lady of seventeen lives with her boyfriend in an apartment with an airshaft instead of a window and discovers she loves playing with words, letting them tumble on the page and jostle each other in strange juxtapositions, the weirder the better. Having emigrated to the Lower East Side from the Southeast Bronx she speaks a smattering of Puerto Rican Spanish and knows how to stare down a potential mugger in an empty subway car. Late at night, after a long day spent repairing damaged books in the New School library, she sips Chianti from a coffee mug and edits the poems she wrote on the Houston Street bus.

Six months later she comes home to her lover’s announcement that he prefers someone else, the lease is in his name, she gets the picture. “Oh there’s a letter for you,” he remembers and she snatches it out of his betraying hands on her way out the door, leaving it unopened for a week or so while she learns to breathe again and trust the air will not murder her.

The letter says we read your Bus Poems, want to publish all eleven of them in our new magazine named after a tragic nymph. How apt. She meets the editors who are delighted with her tender age. One offers to introduce her to Alan Ginsberg. When the magazine comes out it is beautifully bound, Niobe inscribed on the cover in large green letters, her poems interspersed with photographs of graffiti-spattered walls in the city she will eventually desert as abruptly as her boyfriend dumped her. She is destined to give up poetry to write mystery novels, but for the moment, she has ‘made it.’

 Stay tuned for a virtual trip through La Alpujarra and Ceuta, the places in Spain that inspired me to write Zahara and the Lost Books of Li...