ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Zack Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Kevin Berger
   Lawrence Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Leah Brown
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Tony Bush
   Zachary C. Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   HélÚne Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Terry Clark
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J de Salvo
   J. de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Marvin Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Ron Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amelie Frank
   Amélie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Vince Garofalo
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   William Harris
   Matt Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor D. Infante
   Victor Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gene Justice
   Gary Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Ashley King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Wolf Larsen
   Kasandra Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Marie Lecrivain
   Anne Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Lee Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   David McIntire
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Robert John Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Carl Moore
   Greggory Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Toti O'Brien
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Nina Orlovskaya
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Luke Prater
   Kristena Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
   Alison Ross
   James Robert Rudolph
   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
   Sonya Sabanac
   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
   John Saunders
   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
   Iftekhar Sayeed
   Frances Schiavina
   Kim Schroeder
   Carol Schwalberg
   Peter Schwartz
   Sondra L. Scott
   Ken Scott
   David Scriven
   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
   Tom Sheehan
   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
   Ferrari Silverpowder
   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
   Bobbi SInha-Morey
   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
   Carl Stillwell
   Bruce Stirling
   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Dee Sunshine
   Mani Suri
   John Duncan Talbird
   John Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
   Evan Walsh
   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
   Justin Weiler
   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   Leigh White
   J.T. Whitehead
   Claire Williams
   John Sibley Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Robert D. Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Jessica Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
   John Yamrus
   MÌesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Gregory T. Young
   Britney Young
   Omar ZahZah
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Anca Vlasopolos
February 2006
   

 

Traveling Solo

She hadnt traveled by herself in a long time. No, the truth was she had never traveled by herself. Actually, she had traveled by herself once, but not for pleasure or business. She had launched herself on I-75 South as if the car were a rocket with automatic controls, and her role were that of an astronaut-keeping an eye on the gauges, making sure all the needles and readouts were in the middle.

On that trip she went from Cleveland to Lexington after her fathers final dissolution. Like the house where he lived, Lindas father, Joseph, had weathered since his wifes death and the gradual abandonment of his three children-to college and a job in New York for his son; first to college and then marriage and a job for his oldest daughter, Linda; and to marriage right out of high school for his youngest daughter.

The farmhouse and the man declined gracefully for a long time. Joseph became gaunt. The house grew more hollow as his children each took something-a bureau, their own wardrobe, lace doilies and tablecloths worked by their mother and lying unused at the bottom of the stacked linen since Joe didn't trust himself to iron them with the necessary care for their preservation.

Then, the house began to shed the tuck-pointing that kept both the porch steps and the chimney bricks in place. Little by little, as Joe lost his thick hair, then one molar after the other, the house showed gaps where bricks had been. Roof shingles flew off in one strong storm, the adjacent ones afterward taking off in lesser winds. A bucket took its place at the foot of Jeans bed in her old room, and despite Jean and her husbands weekly offers of help to fix the roof, Joe told his youngest daughter that he was content to empty the bucket when it rained or during the spring melt. As a couple of sashes broke, bringing down the solid wood-framed windows so hard as to crack the glass in one and shatter the other, Joe shored up the openings with plastic in one casement and plywood in the other. Jeans husband, Bobby, had to help since Joes eyes had become so weak that he couldn't see to hit the nails.

In the year preceding Lindas solo venture on the freeway, the house and Joe crumbled visibly, causing lots of telephone consultations among his children. Jean, who lived on a farm about five and a half miles from Joes, was the one who witnessed for her siblings the deterioration of their father and their patrimony. Joe junior, still trying to make it as an actor in New York, was the least capable of visiting or helping out. Lindas salary, combined with her husbands, afforded enough of a cushion for Linda to assuage her guilt about not doing more for her father. She sent money for prescriptions, for doctors visits, for house repairs. Often the money came back, only to be swallowed up cheerfully by her husbands large, greedy kin. Joe kept refusing to take drugs, to be dragged again to the doctor, and most of all to allow workmen into his house.

The late-night telephone call shocked but did not surprise either Linda or Joe junior in their respective cities. When shed called around 10 that evening to check up on Joe for the last time in the day and the phone rang endlessly, Jean drove to their childhood home and found their dad sprawled on the kitchen floor, rigor mortis already set in.

Thus it was that Linda launched herself southward from Cleveland and reached in record time Joes farm just outside Lexington, among the hills of grass kept for the horses. Afterward she remembered little of the journey, either to bury her father or to return home, to Thomas. Naturally, things had not been right between her and her husband. Otherwise, she wouldn't have gone to Kentucky alone at such a time.

Now, three years later, Linda, just divorced, arrived in San Francisco in early April. Most of her students had gone to Cancun, Acapulco, or Florida. She had tried to send injunctions with them-pay attention to folk art. Try to see the ruins. Dont forget to sketch. Why should she stay in her apartment for Easter break? Joe junior had invited her to New York, but she and Thomas had been to visit him many times over the years, and now he was just settling in with a new partner. Jean, too, had asked her to spend Easter with them, for family sentiment, but Linda was weary of the whole notion of family at the moment. A friend from college, now teaching at the University of Toledo, asked her to spend a few days, to meet her extraordinary children, was how she put it, and that was just one of the reasons Linda had declined that invitation as well.

It had been thrilling to look up hotels online, check locations against the AAA map of San Francisco shed picked up at the local office, and to make a decision without knowing much at all about that city. Best, she didn't have to consider any of Thomass requirements and restrictions regarding the room: not facing the street (too much noise and bad air) but with a view, king-size instead of two doubles, if a bathtub then only a Jacuzzi; otherwise a shower stall with glass doors. He didn't like French bread for breakfast. The hotel should be able to provide plain yogurt and muesli without corn flakes. There should be a coffeemaker in the room. Linda found a bijou hotel on Powell Street, and she asked for a room facing outward, so she could see and hear the clangor of the famous streetcars that go by. It was a few steps away from Union Square, and it featured San Francisco sourdough French bread at every meal. For breakfast, she found, she could have a Mediterranean omelet, with sun-dried tomatoes, pitted kalamata olives, feta, and roasted peppers. And French bread. Once in the room she threw her clothes on one of the two double beds, without a care, leaving them all, stockings, unbuttoned blouse, skirt unzipped, in disarray on the bed cover, like a modern painting. She put on jeans and thin socks and sneakers, a casual black silk blouse, a jean jacket, slung her bag over her shoulder, and went outdoors to enjoy the noise and bad air of a true city.

Union Square was alive with the lunchtime crowd. A line out the door had already formed in front of the caf, and young people jumped over obstacles on their blades on and off the main area, where artists had large easels set up to exhibit their work. The artists themselves sat or stood under colorful umbrellas, sipping bottled water and dispensing business cards to potential clients. Linda went up to the easels, amazed by the beauty of the work exhibited so casually, in the strong sunshine, in peril from the rollerblading kids. She routinely went to art fairs in and around Cleveland, always full of hope, but usually disappointed by the repetitive and imitative styles of photography and painting. Among the potters she sometimes found someone whose work struck her as interesting, but often it was beyond her price range. As were these sepia tints and collages and paintings, but she could still enjoy them in the friendly air of this climate that seemed to kiss even the rag-clad homeless man stretching on a wire-mesh bench. She told the young woman whose photographs Linda liked best, These are magnificent. The artist thanked her and handed her a card with a tiny reproduction of one of the photos, an archway in chiaroscuro. In her ears, however, Linda still heard echoes, snippets of sentences shed wanted gone, dissolved, along with her marriage. Spending money on junk again. Never think of what appreciates, an investment at least-Thomass voice. Living for yourself, thats convenient. I guess thats more fun than having children-her mother-in-laws voice. Its always so hard to have anything for you; you vegetarians are so rigid-her sister-in-law now. She shook her head like a dog coming out of water. How had these voices managed to take the flight west with her?

She marched up to the flower vendor on the southeast corner of the square and looked the bouquets over, seduced in turn by the multi-colored flesh of the gerberas, the purple eyes from a spray of white orchids, the roses in rainbow varieties. How useless to buy flowers, for herself, to stick in a hotel room in which shed mostly sleep. She reached into her purse and pulled out a twenty. Give me these, and these, she said, pointing to hydrangeas and to a bouquet of larkspurs and broom and heather. Her arms full of flowers, she ambled on the Kearney side of the square, looking idly in shop windows. She came to an antique shop where the sales wares were displayed on tables near the entrance. The glass doors were propped open. Her Midwestern heart was charmed-a place where shop doors were open in April! Any time, really. After all, in Cleveland they would be closed tight against the cold, then tight again to keep the artificially freezing air in. She walked all the way into the narrow shop. The men at the fancy desks were Middle-Eastern, she gauged. Armenian, Arab, Jew? Who could tell? One was talking with a woman a couple of decades younger than Linda. They were looking up at a grotesque, huge chandelier that would not have been amiss as a prop in The Phantom of the Opera, as the fatal missile loosened onto the audience. The man was talking about its European provenance. The woman was talking about her cathedral ceiling. Linda eyed deep inside a showcase an art deco glass vase, leaves detaching themselves in brown and orange from the ochre background. Another man sprang to attention.

May I show you something, Madame?

I like this vase, she pointed.

He unlocked the cabinet, while she protested. I dont think I can afford it. I just like it.

Excellent taste, Madame. Its an authentic. It sells for $2,800. Its appreciated considerably in the last few years. A very good investment.

Linda was startled. The voices in her head had materialized. Was there no getting away? She stood, laughing, her arms full of flowers not exactly fragrant with the smell of nature but with a scent reminiscent of delicate glass. On her way out, she looked at a pillbox. It was an Italian enamel, knocked down, the sign said, from $32.95 to $6.95. It was exquisitely worked, a reproduction on its lid of two grave-eyed putti from some famous Renaissance painting whose name or author she just couldnt recall. She thought, this is just what Thomass mother would like. She fingered it, considering. On every trip shed been in charge of buying souvenirs for Thomass family, of remembering their likes and dislikes. Every time theyd say, Thomas, how thoughtful of you! This is just what I like. She put the box down, harder than shed intended, and she walked away, laughing, first in the shade, then in the resplendent afternoon sunshine, her arms full of flowers like fragile vases, feeling gloriously unburdened and alone.

copyright 2006 Anca Vlasopolos