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Build God, Then We’ll Talk

She looked at him pointedly. Amidst the fervor of the green room of the Empire Ballroom, he got the hint. Only a few people knew of their love affair – and if the rest of them knew, they played dumb.

They left in their respective tour buses for the budget hotel the record label sprung for them on the tour. As always, she got her own room, being a solo artist. She unceremoniously dumped her Gucci valise and oversized messenger bag near the dresser and waited. It was excruciating. Luckily, the feeling was temporary. A soft knock echoed in her ears, as the blood rushed to her head.

Opening the door, he stood there, an unmistakable and familiar look of lust in his dark brown eyes. She drank him in, electricity crackling through her skin. She looped her left index finger on his black skinny jeans, and walked back into the room, never taking her eyes off of him. He shut the door behind him and allowed her to continue her walk backward.

She sat on the edge of the bed, unzipping his jeans. Their lovemaking was slow, deliberate. She bloomed under his touch as she had so many nights before. He lost himself within her, forgetting who he was, suspending time and space, for just a moment.

They lay in each other’s arms on the covers of the bed, wide awake. He wouldn’t stay the night. It would raise too many suspicions.

He ran a hand over hers, enveloping it, squeezing it gently.

“Where do we stand?” he asked gently.

She looked up at him in surprise, willing her post-sex euphoria to remain high. “Why are you asking me this?” she asked, adjusting her head from its comfortable position on his bare shoulder to stare up at him.

He looked down at her gravely. “I need to know.”

“What the fuck for?”

“Because.”

“Don’t pull that childish shit on me.” She sat up like a rocket to stare at him. “What do you want me to say? I want you to leave Lisa for me? Write me a song instead, asshole.” She took his t-shirt and pulled it over her head as she made her way to the bathroom. She locked herself inside and sat on the edge of the tub to pout. She thought he knew where they stood. It was pretty obvious. It was just fucking. Nothing more.

Sighing he grabbed his boxers, shoving his legs into them, and sat against the cool wooden door. His back was still sweaty from their session together.

“Matilda. Open the door, let’s talk,” he tapped a drumbeat on the door.

“No,” she said haughtily.

“I need my shirt back you know. They’re gonna wonder where it went if I come back shirtless.”

“Just say you lost it in your walk of shame because that’s what I am to you.”

“No, that’s not what I said, and you don’t mean that. You’re more important to me than that,” he said.

“Am I? Am I really? So why the hell would you ask me such a stupid question?”

“Because I feel like what’s going on between is more than just sleeping together.”

“But I don’t want you to leave Lisa. She’s a great girl and I don’t mind sharing you at all,” Matilda replied.

“Why do you have to look at it that way?”

“Don’t tell me you love me, because I love you, but not that much.”

Talking through the door was being childish and ridiculous and she knew it. She unlocked the door and he couldn’t move away fast enough, he tumbled backward and fell at her feet.

“Hi,” he said, squinting from the overhead light.

“Hi back,” she replied, kneeling back down. He adjusted himself so his head was in her lap. “I’m sorry I locked you out. But it’s just sex. You have a good life. I don’t want you to ruin it because of what we’re doing.”

He sighed and looked up at her. “How can you say all that?” he began. “How can you look at it like ‘just sex?’”

She leaned over him to block the light from his eyes. “So it’s okay for a guy to be in control of his sexuality and fuck as many girls without thinking twice, stringing them along, and when a girl stands up for her, it’s not okay? It’s something that needs to be questioned? A double standard if I ever saw it.”

He sighed. “That’s not what I meant. You don’t have to be so damn analytical all the time.”

“Well, what did you mean?”

“I don’t know now.”

She leaned over and kissed the tip of his nose. “I think I’m beginning to. It’s okay. If you don’t want to see me anymore, that’s fine. I’m not gonna psychoanalyze you, or tell people about us. I went into this knowing I could let you go and not be hurt. Being your little secret is fine with me. I’m really not going to be upset.”

“That’s the thing,” he said, raising himself up to the sitting height to look at her face to face. “I dunno if I could.”

She leaned over to kiss him, wrapping her arms around his neck to pull him closer to her. Her kiss was gentle. “You better go,” she said, pulling away to take his shirt off, “they’re gonna start to wonder.”

He nodded and pulled her towards him to hold her tight as if to say goodbye. She rested her head against his shoulder and held onto him fiercely. They both knew it was goodbye. Touring together on and off for two years made the sexual tension unbearable; six months of sleeping together didn’t make it go away.

The love affair was immortalized in Love Split Mystery’s song “Astral Plane,” one of the last songs recorded for “The Autumn Years” album. It became one of their biggest hits.

Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Page 337

In response to Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ’s Bomb Crater Sky.

Dad served two tours in the war,
a media circus of Ohio hippies and
escapes from Saigon via helicopter
Lit by the fireworks on the nightly news,
gilded in the blood of the conscripts,
photographed by Leica.
Building roads as a Seabee,
cleaning the mud caked on his boots with gasoline
The kids around the airfield
would bring active landmines
Held tight like teddy bears to their chests
Goofy grins on their toothless mouths
Knowing the GIs would give them chocolate
Your anxious, wakeful sky
sends shivers down my spine
My footfalls want to echo your restraint,
Tuned to a radio station only we can hear
Dad's diabetes eats away at his vision,
Takes away his license to live
My ateh said the diabetes was aggravated
by his exposure to Agent Orange
'Cause he served under the man
who first deployed it.
I love the smell of napalm in the morning,
A day you will never see,
Inside your earthen crater.
Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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Artwork from the Song Diaries era

The Song Diaries by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Of all the pop girls that I’ve listened to from the U.K., she has consistently put out high-quality music since she went solo from her band, theaudience, in 2001.

Hit after hit.

My favorite song of hers is If You Go from the “Trip the Light Fantastic” album. It’s sonic perfection.

There isn’t anything that she’s put on her albums – and I’m talking deep cuts like Let’s Get Physical – that haven’t found a space in the jukebox of my heart. That’s how much I love her.

Just as I was going through serious withdrawal after the release of Familia, she announced her pregnancy with Mickey and then hit us with the news that she was releasing The Song Diaries (paid link), orchestral versions of the hits from her back catalog, and a few surprises.

I watched her Instagram with bated breath, as she kept throwing out teasers of her in the studio, and her promo tour. I can’t wait to see her live. I’ll be one of the only Americans in the crowd screaming the lyrics!

The final tracklisting is loaded front to back.

(paid link)
  1. Groovejet
  2. Take Me Home
  3. Murder on the Dancefloor
  4. Move This Mountain
  5. Music Gets the Best of Me
  6. Mixed Up World
  7. Catch You
  8. Me and My Imagination
  9. Today the Sun’s on Us
  10. Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)
  11. Bittersweet
  12. Not Giving Up on Love
  13. Young Blood
  14. Love is a Camera
  15. Wild Forever
  16. A Pessimist is Never Disappointed
  17. Love is You
  18. Take Me Home (orchestral disco version)
  19. Murder on the Dancefloor (orchestral disco version)

You don’t need to be a fan of Sophie’s previous work to enjoy this album. I feel like it’s even a good introduction to her stuff. You get a little bit of every album era, but with the fresh sheen of an orchestral version.

Her vocals absolutely SHINE on every track. I could seriously sit here and tell you to listen to the restraint. She knows her strengths lie in her vocals, but she doesn’t lay it on thick, which is the trend in pop music.

Her creepy songs, like “Catch You” and “Love is a Camera,” are fantastic with the orchestral backing. That’s another thing that I love about her. She deeply explores stories that you don’t see in pop.

I love the spookiness and ethereal this version of “Move This Mountain” sounds. The original is an atmospheric love song, but the orchestra elevates it. I almost wanted the strings to be bolder. When they pause before the bridge (“take this chance/I won’t repeat it”), I wanted a cleaner drop before Sophie kicked in her vocals. The backing choral style vocals towards the end are pure frisson too, whew.

I love that she tackled “Love is You,” the disco track that was the sample for “Groovejet.” Her interpretation fits perfectly too.

I was surprised by how restrained “Bittersweet” sounded in this style. I think it’s the perfect yin to the uptempo disco yang of the original.

Her additional orchestral disco versions of “Take Me Home” and “Murder on the Dancefloor” are instant classics.

I Feel It Coming by Sophie

Her cover of “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd in the same orchestral style was such an inspired choice to promote the album too.

Fan or not, I encourage you to check out The Song Diaries (paid link), let me know in the comments if you will! And if you already have, what’s your favorite cut?

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Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Photo by Tom Rogerson on Unsplash

Boys in the Band

I didn’t even like the band, but my friends were dragging me along. Who am I to turn down a free show? The band’s name was Love Split Mystery. They were part of the post-punk revival, you might even call them emo with their shitty lyrics and bass lines that sounded exactly the same. It was payday, and my best friend Natalie called me before I left work. I had bills out my ass, and this paycheck was going to keep them at bay for a little bit longer.

“Ingrid, guess what?” Natalie said cheerfully over the phone.

“Wha?” I replied, trying to balance holding my lunchbox and purse, whilst unearthing my iPod and keys from my purse.

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Human Racing

Surviving is a verb
Living is too
Breathing, smelling, touching
Words that imply movement
I've not stopped moving
Since yesterday
Whenever that was.

Wish I could stop time
The rat race
Aging
Death
Sex
Taxes

Memento mori, Latin
'Remember you will die'
Keep that hubris in check
We're all born to die
A monied death
If you didn't buy it,
you're the product.

Can't stop, won't stop
We don't even know how to stop
Stop the ride - the human race -
Please exit through the gift shop.
Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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cover of the age of innocence by edith wharton

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The novel was published in 1920 about 1870s New York society. It’s fascinating how one look, one casual phrase could destroy a person’s entire reputation. I think that’s still true, but for the most part, we can start over somewhere else and bounce back. If someone is ruined (the Beauforts, more so Regina than Julius, highlighting the gender discrimination of the time), it’s unheard of.

The specter of New York looms as its own character in the novel, and all of its citizens play their lives out so spectacularly. Wharton paints this wonderfully manipulative underbelly even while its inhabitants breed their discontent as it has been done for generations before.

I honestly have no gripes. The phrasing, the pacing. It reads incredibly well today. What I think is interesting about it is that we see the novel strictly through Newland’s lens, so what he thinks he sees isn’t necessarily what’s there. Yet he spends the novel bashing how others can’t see what he sees, especially when explaining his mother and Janey’s favorite pastime: inviting Sillerton Jackson over for dinner for a gossip.

(paid link)

As the narrator, Newland is representative of how we treat people ourselves even in this day and age. We all wear masks. The one we choose to present publicly is generally vastly different from the ones we wear privately. No one is an open book, no matter how much they claim to be. Yet we judge everyone based on their public masks. It was ridiculous then and is now.

Wharton captures that unsettled feeling with the Madame Olenska character completely. She’s unaccustomed to American society, and she does things that piss people off, yet no one wants to explain why it’s inappropriate. I sympathize with her character completely.

Newland absolutely is a product of his background. I loved that he didn’t realize until the last moment that he was being played by May. He notes a few times in the course of the novel that he sees her struggling through the fog of her brain, trying to form an opinion. I honestly believe May knows exactly what she was doing. He said several times throughout the story that May is a clone of her mother, Mrs. Welland. Mrs. Welland knows how to play the game. Seeing May play it is par for the course if you ask me.

He spends the novel talking down about everyone and doesn’t realize that maybe they’re all feeling as stifled as he is. But they’re satisfied with their lot in life. They were born into this life. Why judge someone on that? I don’t denigrate him for that. However, as educated and as open-eyed as he claims to be, he really is as naive as the rest of them.

I am glad that his romantic inner life is validated by seeing his own children live their lives, and what once would have been considered uncouth (i.e. Dallas marrying Fanny) is accepted without any criticism. It’s amazing how quickly culture and society are changed from generation to generation. We see this today. The world our parents grew up in is nothing like how it is for us. Our children will not live this life that we do. We may try to pass on values and opinions, but the future will march on, taking the good from the previous, and casting away the bad.

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Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Photo by Niclas Moser on Unsplash

40 Steps

“When does the new tour start again?” Nicola Allen asked randomly.

“In a month. After this last bit of appearances, we’re coming home for a bit. Why?” her best friend Christopher Donaghy asked.

“‘Member how you’re always asking me to come to visit?”

“Well, yeah.” He and Nicola had been best friends since high school. As the eldest member of Love Split Mystery, high school was a long time ago. He and Nicola had bonded over a mutual love of video games. Nicola was a professional game tester now, while Chris – AKA “C-Dawg” – was a member of the band, focusing his career on his second-most important obsession, music.

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remember me by mary higgins clark

Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark

Back when I was a wee little Gilly, my Ma got roped into a subscription for Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. This novel appeared in vol. 217 in 1995, when I was 12. I didn’t have the luxury of going to the library often as a child. It truly was a treat, because it wasn’t a thing that I was allowed to do.

My Ma never had time to take me to the library because she had other things to do, and keeping my rambunctious kid brother in line at the library was damn near impossible. Our activities had to be a joint event. If it only served one of us, we didn’t do it at all. She was also financially averse to library fees because I would forget when they were due. So how do you keep fees at bay? Don’t check them out in the first place.

That’s why I’m big on libraries as an adult. Don’t EVER take for granted that you have access to a library. The books I got at the school library were devoured before they left campus, so I never had anything to read by the time I got home. I had books of my own but they were rare and eventually fell apart from the rereads.

(paid link)

I distinctly remember doing a book report on Remember Me because I was enamored of the story! Historical events influencing the present has always fascinated me, as a reader and a writer.

Anyways, I recall my teacher politely telling me that I deserved the A+ grade she gave me ’cause I rocked that report. However, because it was a condensed version, I should strongly consider reading the real thing, and never to turn in another book report on a condensed version of a book, haha. To me, a story is a story, and it didn’t matter what form it came in. Still, I think that way in the physical vs. Kindle debate.

I had thought of the book off and on since I first read it, and I finally got around to rereading it. I think it could have used some fine-tuning in a workshop, to be honest. No rose-colored glasses for me.

And though I knew what was going to happen, I kept turning the pages.

After the novel ended, it made me wonder how suspense works a number on our brains as a genre. What about it propels us to keep our eyes peeled for clues, read between the lines when a character says something, and to maybe overlook how the plot unfolds.

Truth be told, I did enjoy the full version, and take my seventh grade English teacher’s word for it: don’t read condensed versions!

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Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean
Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

A Fairy Tale

One of our in-class poetry prompts was to take a translated poem and translate it in our own way. I chose Salma Khadra Jayyusi’s A Tale.

I have no father-in-law
I'm sure he exists
He sleeps, fucks my mother-in-law
(Hopefully she's a nice lady and will treat me well)
He showers, and is a good Christian.
A good Christian is rare in this country
Hypocrites, the lot of them
God knows the cross I bear
Would make the Virgin Mary cry
Wonder how many brothers and sisters
He fathered before my husband
Natural, illegitimate, aborted.
My husband has a 50/50 chance
of mirroring my father-in-law
A hypocritical Christian
An honest atheist
A good father to his real kids
A bad musician in the car
Someone is playing a game
In the house that I grew up in
The house where I thought
A marriage would free me
My castle, my abode, the place
I thought I'd never leave
Pry the deed from my cold, dead hands
The house where AJ scratched my cheek
My people are maids
My people eat bratwurst
My people make wine
My people run with the bulls
My people dance with dragons
My people conceal carry in the dark.
Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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This small but mighty podcast examines how words on the page sound different when the creator brings the words to life. Join me as I celebrate all the diverse emerging voices that I can find, and the industry folks behind the scenes too. Want to be featured? Submit your pitch!

It’s time to step into the spotlight.