Lust

Lust which turns mornings into nights,

Which turns the night into a whirlwind 

And that whirlwind heightens into a cyclone

and that cyclone gnashes skin against skin

until the air burns and what should be fleeting remains.

Lust which is two levels from greed

And leads one to sink into the pits of passion

And forced to swim in the aftermath

Though it burns the temptation to jump back in

is too damn delicious to resist.

Lust which breaks trust into question

And question raises to speculation  

And speculation confirms what fear has promised

When one falls prey to sin 

Will they ever see past the culmination?

Lust which breaks ties into trysts

And those trysts attract a thousand eyes

And the eyes loom over with hunger

The kind of hunger that never satisfies long

A wave that crashes just as the sand has dried.

La Mujer Muerte

The streets of the artist’s hometown were cold and quiet. A few dimly lit streetlamps were the only guides he had as he wandered aimlessly about, a little drunk and very sleep deprived. It was a quarter past three o’clock in the morning and he had no desire to return to his shabby, pear colored flat that reeked of rotten fruit and disappointment. Perhaps he would finally follow through and throw himself into the river. What a beautiful picture that would be. He closed his eyes and imagined himself submerging into the black water, weightlessly falling deeper and deeper until the icy release filled his lungs. His body would contort for a brief moment until he would stop moving completely.They would find his body the next day, floating face down on the surface, arms flailed out like a martyr. More importantly, he would never have to deal with another rejection again.

    Fernando had wanted to be an artist since he was a young boy. He often drew pictures for his mother to display on the refrigerator, something that pleased her very much. She was less pleased when he scribbled along the walls in crayon and after a few good spankings, he ceased the habit and stuck to paper.Every year for his birthday, he requested anything he might use from chalk, pastels, and watercolors. His father saw the pastime as frivolous and wasteful, but his mother always encouraged him, even going as far as enrolling in some amateur painting courses as an after-school activity. As Fernando grew up, he continued to improve and was heavily invested into his work. He captured nearly everything in his view, from the old, gnarled trees outside his bedroom window, the backs of his classmates’ heads during lessons, to the stray dogs that begged for scraps when he passed by on his walk home. In short, Fernando painted life wherever he saw it. 

Though despite the clichés, he was not the introverted type. In addition to his parents, Fernando was always happy to show off his drawings to his classmates and teachers, seeking praise wherever he could find it. When he was chastised for not paying attention, he would simply make the situation work into his favor. He painted over the old walls in the hallways, covered various spots of the building that was marred with graffiti, provided a clay sculpture of the planetary system for the science teacher, and even painted a mural of his graduating class during his senior year. Successfully impressed, the faculty boasted his talents, and his father finally eased off and for a while, believed that his son would prove him wrong and make a fine career of being an artist. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case.

    Though Fernando’s portfolio was sufficient enough to grant him enrollment to the local arts academy, the compliments and cheer he was once met with werereplaced with endless criticism. 

“This is too linear. You need movement!”

“Pretty but where is the meaning?”

“Where is the passion?”

“You lack focus, vision, conviction!”

    The words roared like a cumulonimbus cloud over his head and drove him into a depression that progressed throughout the course of two years. Seeing his peers thriving as his own work was demeaned as trivial hurt his soul. Had he burnt out all his creativity in childhood? Was he doomed to give up on his dreams and succumb to an average life? A colorless life? Some supportive peers, particularly a girl in his Art Fundamentals class, Natalia, tried to encourage himwhen he expressed his worries. 

“You’re being overly dramatic, Fernando. We’re here to learn. We’re going to get criticism all the time before we improve.”

    The memory of her painted pink grin brought a momentary smile to Fernando’s lips, but it quickly faded. How could she possibly understand his struggle? She was one of the top students in the course and didnot likely share the same worries that he did. Of course, his father was of no help, back to the same cynic he had been when he was a child. As the old man griped about the money he had wasted to send Fernando to art school, his mother tried to diffuse the situation by being practical. It was not too late to attend another school, she proclaimed, maybe explore options for a more stable career. Stable. How he hated that word. It was dull. As dull as his art had become. 

    As his drunken stupor finally led him to the bridge, the image of himself drowning plagued his mind once more. Fernando debated taking the leap, ending it all now before things could any worse when he heard some rustling in the bushes nearby. He groggily turned his head and wondered if he should investigate. After reasoning that he had nothing to lose, he followed the noise and pushed the green shrubbery apart with his hands. A startled yowl erupted from the bush and Fernando nearly fell back as a cat sped past him. Fernando exhaled, about to turn and go back on his way when he noticed why the creature had been lurking. A chill ran up the artist’s spine as stared down at the gruesome image at his feet. There on the ground was a dead woman.

    Her arms lay above her head, elbows pointed, and palms opened as if she had lost her grip on something. Her long legs were twisted and contorted like a spider, one of her high heels askew and nearly falling off her foot. Her thin, dark hair was sprawled across the grass and one of the straps of her dress hung over her shoulder. The most disturbing part was her eyes, wide open and in a permanently petrified state. Crimson lips were parted open, adding to the shocking expression on her face. The back of Fernando’s mind screamed at him to run and call the police and his stomach threatened vomit rising up to his throat. Yet, his hands appeared to move on their own accord, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone. He did not call the police. Instead, he opened his camera, turned the device horizontally, and snapped a photograph before running back to his apartment.

    Fernando did not sleep, working for hours to enhance the photo from his phone and transfer it onto his laptop. Once the pixels had cleared up and the haunting image was uploaded properly, he grabbed his sketchbook. His pencil worked furiously, gnashing at the paper so hard that it was a wonder it did not tear. It took a few attempts to capture his muse’s visage just right but once Fernando was satisfied, he went over the sketch with pen, making the image sharper. He worked well into the late afternoon. His hands agonized, knuckles bruised, and the pads of his fingers covered in lead and black ink. By the time he allowed himself a break, his desk was covered with scattered papers, each one portraying a different angle of the beautiful dead woman. Some featured her hands, her spiderlike legs, and her crinkled dress. The one that featured her horrified face was the one that Fernando chose to tuck into the folder of his canvas bag and present to his professor. 

Soon, “La Mujer Muerta” was reimagined into various versions. Fernando had painted her, digitalized her, drew her in graphite, conceptualized her, even used the abstract and cubist methods. According to his professors, he had reached a breakthrough, found his niche. Fernando had achieved his magnum opus, something that other artists had not accomplished until years into their careers. That never suited Fernando. Fame was something he had been chasing from the start. His impatience had not failed him after all. After the praise he had received thanks to his muse, Fernando took to making art from similar influences. His other pieces consisted of various withered plants, the inside of a condemned house, a fog covered scene from the cemetery, and almost as jarring as his muse, a bloodied animal carcass laying on the street. Nothing could compare to her, of course, but it was enough for his first gallery opening in the city.

   It was a glorious night to remember. The attendees consisted of his peers who had initially stolen his praise, his professors who once rebuked him now commending his keen eye as they discussed the dreadful pieces amongst themselves, and his parents, back to believing in their son. Of course, the question of where the inspiration came from was asked by many, just as it was when he first presented “La Mujer Muerta”. Fernando gave a well-rehearsed answer.

“She appeared to me in a nightmare. I was jolted awake and my mind wouldn’t rest until I brought her to life.”

   It was a very typical answer but believable enough to not raise any suspicion. Besides, the room was full of creatives who simply adored the dark and disturbed. The grislier the picture, the more attention it received. Fernando knew how to work the system and was confident that he had a bright future ahead of him. 

    After toasting with his mother and father, Fernando could not help but notice one patron who appeared less than impressed than the other guests. He approached Natalia, tapping her on the shoulder as she examined his favorite rendition of his muse, a Van-Gogh inspired painting which gave off the illusion that she might surge back to life at any given moment. 

“What do you think? Too ‘Starry Night?’” Fernando smiled, hoping to get her lighten up a bit.

    His former classmate turned and maintained the frown on her face as she looked him over in disbelief. 

“I think…that you went from overly dramatic to utterly insane.” With that, the young woman brushed past him, shaking her head at the nonsense that buzzed around her.

    Her words stung at his pride but were quickly forgotten as one of Fernando’s professors approached with the promise of introducing him to a renowned art critic within the coming month. The rest of the evening was filled with laughter and conversation of sophistication. It was late when Fernando arrived back at his apartment. This time, the drab walls and simple furnishings did not bother him. He would not be there for long. As he lay back on his torn camel couch, Fernando closed his eyes and envisioned a grand upscale apartment. There would be laminated floors, a stone fireplace, a modern kitchen, and of course, wide windows and a balcony to overlook the city lights. His art would decorate the walls, framed and worth thousands by then. Yes, Fernando was certain that the life he wanted was just around the corner; however, the images of grandeur in his head were interrupted by a rustling sound.

    The artist opened his eyes, glancing around the dark room in search of the noise. He nearly passed it off as nothing before he heard it again, louder as it repeated. Thinking that perhaps he left a window open, he stood up to check. It soon became apparent that the rustling was the sound of pages turning, beckoning Fernando to his desk. He stopped and peered down at the sketch he had drawn months ago, of the dead woman’s hands. He furrowed his brow, thinking that he had stored the drawings away. As he reached for the paper, he was gasped in alarm. The once lifeless hands had animated back to life, unclenched, and reached out for the top of the page. 

    The artist fell back onto the floor and watched in disbelief as the ink outlined limbs sprung from the page, crawled out and grasped at the air. Arms soon followed, then a shoulder, until a head with unmistakably thin hair emerged. The artist was frozen in fear as he was faced with the startled expression he had mulled over and immortalized. His muse slithered from the page she had freed herself from onto the floor and crept like an insect towards the artist who had disrespected her. Fernando screamed and backed against the wall. He desperately scratched at it as if he might escape but the monster was at his feet once more. The ink had dissipated, and the woman was as three-dimensional as she had been when he found her. Her face remained unchanged and her head tilted with a crack as she stared at him. 

“What do you want from me?” Fernando shouted in his muse’s face, recoiling as she reached out a ghostly hand. 

    She gripped his head and made him look into her eyes. As she locked their gazes, floods of memories from that night flashed through Fernando’s head. He had not run home after taking her picture. No, he had dragged her lifeless body across the grass and concrete before dumping her into the river. That was why no one had questioned him. That was why she had been passed off as a nightmare. The worst part of it all was how easily he had buried his own secret. The shock brought Fernando back to reality. She was not the monster after all. He was. The artist opened his mouth to utter out an apology, but it was too late. The dead woman’s icy grip went to his Fernando’s throat, squeezing until he stopped moving. 

When no one had heard from Fernando in a week, a knock came to his door. The sound echoed across the hallway and remained unanswered as the artist lay on the floor, cold and quiet.

The Trial

    When Mateo was arrested for murder, none of us were surprised. Even when he was but a child, it was clear that there was something wrong with him. Children who throw tantrums, make messes, and scream when their toys are taken away are a blessing. You can tell that they are human and will grow into normal adults. The well-behaved ones, the quiet ones, are the ones to be watched out for. Because they do not openly cause mischief, they wait until everyone’s back is turned and the lights are out. 

    The first clue was when he was six years old. An earth-shattering scream echoed across the house and we all gathered into the kitchen. A dead bird lay on the cutting table, its eyes bulged out and feathered body akin to a deflated balloon. Poor Marta shook in the corner by the stove, recoiling and pointing accusingly at Mateo. The boy stared at the creature with an intense curiosity, examining it with the coolness of a forensic specialist who had seen countless bodies before. 

“Do not touch that, Mateo!” Miss Lidia screeched as she moved past us and picked up her son. As if the poor bird was pecking away at his body. 

    Marta was quickly dismissed as she tried to explain why the bird was there. The boy’s mother, of course, would have none of it. She always defended her son. Always. As she took him upstairs, we all proceeded to clean the mess and calm Marta down. She had been much smarter than the rest of us, resigning the following week. When Miss Lidia asked the reason for it, Marta asserted that she could no longer stand “to look at her little monster and his wicked smile”. She saved herself from a long bout of trouble while the rest of us were plagued with the danger of a cherub-looking menace and the mother who believed he could do no wrong. It was only a matter of time that we were called to testify to his crimes.

    There was a claustrophobic cloud that hung in the air, laced with the sickening scent of leather and musky perfume. The room was packed with wolves in sheep’s clothing ready to protect their little lamb. The Delgadillo Family were the most prominent family in the city, slaughterhouse tycoons who had run a successful business for five generations in counting. They worshipped the God of Meat, preached his word, and built shrines to in his honor throughout town. Their church was located right behind their estate, a grand fortress that stood proudly atop of a hill overlooking the city. Perhaps Mateo was only a product of his environment. After all, what sane person could sleep at night with hymns of dying cattle ringing in their backyard? Even so, his crime was inexcusable. Joseph was a kind man and a good worker. He never bothered anyone and if he was guilty of any sin, it was gluttony. Though, that much could be said about anyone. The Delgadillo’s wealth was proof of that. 

    When the judge entered the room, we dutifully roseup and listened to him announce the trial. The dullness in his eyes could not be overstated. This was not a man who wanted to see justice served. He merely wished to get the ordeal over with as quickly as possible. No one cared what the prosecuting defense had to say, the trial had certainly been fixed, a reverse kangaroo court that was a formality more than anything. The defense attorney, however, a known friend of the Delgadillos, was quite engrossed in his goal, if only to put on a performance. He grinned as if he were about to dazzle us and made his opening statement, effortlessly.

“Your Honor, counsel, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here today to represent Mateo Delgadillo, college student, beloved son, and member of our community. He sits here today, wrongly accused of murder in the first degree. He sits here, in this courtroom, while he should be enjoying his summer, the warmth of the sun on his face, catching up with his friends and family, and eating heartily. Instead, he is being tried for a crime he did not commit.”

    The attorney slithered like a weasel to address the jurors directly, outstretching his arm towards his defendant, eyes glazed with a feigned sympathy. We all knew that money was his motivation, just as it was the motivation of the Delgadillos to maintain their high status. The unanswered question that boiled over in the rest of our minds was why Mateo killed Joseph. Still, the lawyer prattled on despite any moral obligation. 

“Members of the jury, Mateo was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He did not kill Mr. Jimenez. No, he merely discovered the body of an old man who had too much to drink. Mr. Jimenez, God rest his soul, had worked for the Delgadillo family for forty years. He maintained their beautiful garden, which has often been the place where I know many of us gathered for parties. Parties graciously hosted by the Delgadillo family. Sadly, as many of us also know, Mr. Jimenez was an alcoholic. A factor that was not held against him. Instead, he was treated kindly by all members of the Delgadillo family, including Mateo. A simple DNA test will prove that on the night he died, Mr. Jimenez had an alcohol level of .25% which would have undoubtedly led him into a stupor. After years of excessive drinking, his blood pressure would have increased drastically. His heart gave out and that is a fact. As for the blood on my client’s hands? Well, members of the jury, if you will recall, there is a statue of Jorge Delgadillo that is displayed right where Mr. Jimenez’s body was discovered. The defense has concluded that in his drunken haze, he tumbled and hit his head against said statue, causing the wound. Fast forward to my client taking a walk outside, discovering Mr. Jimenez on the ground, bleeding and unmoving. And now…”

    The defense attorney turned once more, this time addressing me, a would be witness, with an intense determination to destroy me. For I knew too much, and everyone knew it. 

“Those who have held a grudge against my client for years, want to accuse him though it is known that Mr. Jimenez had been dead for precisely six minutes before Mateo discovered him.”

    There was an angry buzz that filled the room, along with some growls from the wolves who sat behind me. Though the beige walls appeared to be closing in, it was not their snapping teeth that unsettled me. I finally looked at Mateo, seemingly unaffected by the commotion around him. What on Earth was going through his mind? There was no detectable malice in his eyes nor amusement. He only sat in silence with his head tilted back somewhat as he leaned in his chair. Every fiber of my being wanted to strangle him, punch him, bash his head in like he had to done to Joseph. I just wanted some sort of reaction so that I could justify his wickedness. Yet, he sat unbothered and silent.When at last the time came for Mateo’s plea, however, the shock from all parties jolted the trial to life.

    “Guilty.” Mateo asserted his answer clearly and calmly. The confident façade of his attorney had melted in a sheer panic. This apparently, was not according to plan. Even the judge was intrigued by this confession, showing an ounce of interest for the first time since the trial began. 

“Are you certain that you want to plead guilty, young man? You do this by your own free will and under oath?”

“I do, Your Honor.”

“And you understand that if the jury agrees and you are deemed guilty, that you will be sentenced to life in prison?”

“I understand.”

“Very well then. Would you care to confess, in detail, to the crime you have been accused of?”

There was a long pause that commanded the room. We all stared at Mateo with bated breath, waiting for his explanation. I recalled how angelic he used to look, dark curly hair, chestnut brown eyes, and chubbyfingers. Though he was a terror, he had at least had a face more than his mother could love. Moreover, he had been able to feign some emotion back then, playing the part of the sweet boy his self-involved family believed him to be. As he grew into adulthood, his hair and eyes remained the same, he had grown less plump, but there was no longer a need to pretend. With the whispering wolves now muzzled and the weasel attorney at a loss for words, I could see that Mateo was man who had grown tired of charades.

“Honestly? I was bored. My family was annoying me. I wanted to get out of the house…and he was right there.”

Revelation

It’s that usual time wherein people take to social media to recount their thoughts on the year as the countdown for the close begins. 2019 in particular, is significant because it marks not just the end of another year but a decade. The year itself has been eventful for a number of reasons, mainly surrounding the chaotic political climate ( but that’s a discussion for another time).

Nevertheless, we are a society that tends to talk about ourselves, our own lives. This includes what we have accomplished, what we have missed out on, fond memories, and regrets. Those who know me know that I’m quite active on Twitter and I came across a tweet where the person asserted the realization that they would be leaving the decade as they started: single. This of course, had many likes and retweets as I’m sure many can relate. I certainly can. Normally, this realization that the universe kindly reminded me of would bother me. For a brief moment, it did. Then, I began to think upon the word “decade” and all that has occurred in my own, little world. It was then that I stumbled upon another realization. I’m not leaving the decade as I started.

I’ve grown, I’ve changed, I’ve learned. I started the decade as an unsure, uninspired student who had no real idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I’m leaving with a Bachelors Degree and close to obtaining my Masters, with a 4.0 GPA to boot. I experienced several jobs that I hated. I’m now on my way to my achieving my career goals. I started out as reserved girl who used to think that I was boring because I didn’t like like to party. I’m leaving with having tried things out of my comfort zone and discovered new interests as well as some new boundaries. I’ve traveled. I swam with dolphins, saw pyramids, walked on foreign beaches. I started with wanting a tattoo more than anything. I now have four. I wanted to go to concerts too expensive and too wild in the opinions of my parents. I’ve crowd surfed, been in the front row center, and got to meet one of my favorite bands backstage. I was left behind by a massive group of friends who didn’t think I was good enough to associate with anymore. I now have a small but tight circle who I’m incredibly grateful for. I used to fight with my mother almost daily. We now have an open and wonderful relationship. I started out not making my opinions known because I was told that my opinions didn’t matter. I’ve now been to rallies and protests where I was loud about my opinions. I only wrote poems now and then because I felt like they were lame and not worth sharing. I’ve written over 100 poems in just the past two years and working on co-publishing a book. I was a confused, mainly closeted girl. I’m now openly bisexual. I battled an eating disorder. I now accept that my body is not perfect but I’m comfortable with it anyway. I only had one boyfriend in high school and dated few after. I was cheated, emotionally abused and left heartbroken. I’ve learned from those experiences and have moved on. I’ve battled with suicidal thoughts. If I had given into those thoughts, I may not be here today. Now, I’m two years away from thirty. I now have my little brother and sister to live for.

I don’t know what the new decade will bring for me. I know there will be highs and lows. I know that there will be days where I’m going to want to give up. But that’s okay. Because I’ll pick myself up and keep going. I started the decade not liking myself. I’m leaving knowing that I’m a smart, strong, caring, loyal, passionate and pretty damn cute human being. I like me. And that revelation is amazing.

Queer Eye for the Merchant’s Plight

One of the common observances in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is the implied romantic relationship between Antonio and Bassanio. Their passionate comradery and willingness to sacrifice for one another simply cannot be read as platonic. In his critical essay, “How to Read the Merchant of Venice Without Being Heterosexist”, Alan Sinfield emphasizes this point with several examples, particularly in the rivalry between Antonio and Portia for Bassanio’s affections. Moreover, Sinfield suggests that Portia’s internal quest to conquer Bassanio and therefore assert her dominance as a lover over Antonio, while not exactly homophobic, is heterosexist in nature. Due to the seemingly “happy ending” of the play, in which Portia and Bassanio resume as husband in wife in a hetero-normal relationship, it is suggested to readers that the relationship between the two men was not meant to be taken seriously. Thus, the ideal of homosexual relationships in Shakespeare’s work may be disregarded by the readers.

    From her introduction, it is clear that Portia does not wish to adhere to patriarchal social norms. In several ways, she effectively rebels against the trope of a woman being controlled by the men in their life. Not only does she successfully marry the suitor of her choosing but she also uses wit and determination to outsmart Shylock in court. In turn however, she abides by patriarchal customs to use against her fiancé, Bassanio, as well as against Antonio. Sinfield explores this notion by analyzing her guise as Balthazar. “It is to contest Antonio’s status as lover, that Portia, in her role of the young doctor, demands of Bassanio the ring which she had given him in her role as a wife.” (Marcus/Sinfield 273). In reality, Portia only asked one thing of Bassanio: to keep the ring she presented to him in their betrothal. After he fails to keep this promise, Portia could have easily severed the ties of their marriage. Instead, she turns the tables when she returns the ring to him, first by gaining it as Balthazar and then by giving it to Antonio. Though it appears that she is welcoming Antonio into her home, she is instead using her decided dominance over both men, theoretically atop them in a power structure.

    As Sinfield explains, just because there are no sexually explicit relations between Bassanio and Antonio, it does mean that there is no possibility of one. Antonio does appear to be more openly gay, as he shows no interest in any woman throughout the play. In turn, though Bassanio does express his interest in Portia and later marries her, their marriage is not immediately consummated. Furthermore, his strong feelings for Antonio are expressed, even in front of Portia. “Antonio, I am married to a wife, which is as dear to me as life itself; but life itself and all the world, are not with me esteemed above thy life.” (Marcus/ Shakespeare 290-293 IV.i). In this moment, Portia is neither disgusted or surprised by this declaration. Rather, she now has further motivation to maintain control over Bassanio. She does not dismiss Antonio nor scorn Bassanio for their relationship; however, she does disrupt it through securing her role as a wife, and therefore “disallows the entire seriousness of male love.”. (Marcus/Sinfield 273). If it were not for Portia, Antonio could have lost his life. In the end, both his life and his wealth are secured by Portia, leaving him entirely in her debt. If any relationship were to continue between him and Bassanio, it would only because Portia allows it.

    Patriarchy is addressed once more by Sinfield, who reminds readers that “patriarchy does not oppress only women; a patriarch is not just a man…”. (Marcus/Sinfield 278) Again, though Portia is not portrayed as overtly homophobic, her rivalry with Antonio reinstates the societal importance of hetero-normal marriage.  Afterall, marriages were meant for the purpose of producing heirs, something that cannot be done naturally in a homosexual relationship. “Because women may bear children, relations between women and men affected the regulation of lineage, alliance, and property, and hence offered profound potential disruptions to the social order and the male psyche.” (Marcus/Sinfield 277). Marriage was not for sexual pleasure but to maintain hetero-normal social constructs. If a man, could produce children, especially sons, they were distinctly masculine in nature. Though she broke social constructs to her own advantage, Portia willingly contributed to the ideal that men should only be with women.

    As a gay man himself, Sinfield focused on the homosocial themes within The Merchant of Venice. In his opinion, the best way to understand the play was to recognize that Antonio was in love with Bassanio and that his love was very possibly requited. In the era which the play was written, openly sexual behavior was seen as improper and moreover, the idea of serious homosexual relationships was disregarded. As Sinfield states, “gay people today are no more immune to racism than other people.” (Marcus/Sinfield 284). It is therefore important for readers, no matter gay, straight or otherwise, to not overlook the homosexual identities and behaviors in the play.

 Works Cited

Sinfield, Alan. How to Read The Merchant of Venice Without Being Heterosexist. 1998.

Shakespeare, William, and Leah S. Marcus. The Merchant of Venice: Authoritative Text, Sources and Contexts, Criticism, Rewritings and Appropriations. Norton & Company, 2006.