Thursday, June 19, 2014


I always thought that, if the zombie apocalypse happened, it’d be like in the movies. Something that huge and terrifying, something like that—the world can’t just pick up where it left off, you know? There’d be years of hiding and fighting and trying to find a cure, and maybe there wouldn’t be one, and nothing would ever be the same.

I’d day-dream about it, sometimes. Dad always said I watched too many movies.  But I’d imagine myself, in some ratty, torn up outfit, leading a rag-tag bunch of orphaned kids, looking for a haven, living on old twinkies and stale soda that the looters had left behind because who drinks that Shasta stuff anyway?

I prepared, too, just in case, which is probably the reason Dad said I was paranoid. I kept a kit by my bed, with add-water dinners, and pocket knives, and a massive first-aid kit. I even asked Dad to teach me to shoot a gun, but seeing as how he’s a vegetarian-ex-hippy living in San Francisco, that didn’t go over too well.

I’m Rosemary, by the way. Rosemary Rose. What kind of parents name their kid Rosemary when they’ve got Rose for a last name? Not the point, yeah, yeah, but still, I promise it ties in, a little.

Back to the Zombie thing. I’d always imagined it like in the movies, and that show where the grass is always neat and trim even though there’s this crisis going on? It’d be forever. The end of the world, lasting years and years and years, and leaving this massive scar on anyone who witnessed it and lived.

It didn’t. Last years and years, I mean. It didn’t even last one. The Zombie Apocalypse, as they’re calling it, lasted exactly thirteen minutes, and I was smack dab in the middle of it.

Ok, back to my name, just for a minute. Rose, as in, Clan Rose, of Scotland, which is so tiny it’s a wonder they weren’t swallowed up, but they weren’t. Dad is huge into family history, so every year since I can remember, he’s dragged me to the Scottish Games at the Alameda fairground, an hour away from home. And, since he runs the Clan Rose tent, we have to get there at six AM. Yeah, yeah, I know, zombies. I’m getting there, keep your pants on. I’m telling a story here.

The Games are actually pretty cool, for a couple of reasons. Number one: Meat. Dad’s a vegetarian. I am not, and the Games have some of the best food, much better than mystery meat at the school caf. Scotch eggs, meat pies, bangers, turkey legs, even haggis, which is not that gross. Better than quinoa. Reason 2: if you grow up in SF, the only way to stand out is to be bizarre, which for me, means costumes and props, and the Games have great stuff. Bodices, Fairy wings, shoulder mounted robot dragons, enough buttons and patches to cover a couple tents….It’s kinda hard to run in a bodice, which was a problem with the whole Zombie thing—I’m getting to it, what are you, five?—but reason three negated that: weapons. Booths and booths of ‘em. Swords, maces, morningstars, axes, glaives…it’s sweet. You have to be eighteen to buy one, though. Still, everyone at the Games either has a weapon, or is within a few feet of one.

So anyway, I was at the Games, looking at earcuffs, already sweating because it was like 90 degrees at 9 AM, and I was wearing this bodice which was a little too tight, but still looked awesome. And suddenly there was all this shouting from outside the vendor building, real shouting. At first I thought that someone was already drunk on whiskey and had started a fight, but it wasn’t that kind of shouting, not the laughing kind, but the oh my gosh, earthquake/fire/Godzilla kind of screaming, the panicked kind, and people were rushing through the Young California Vendor’s building but not out the other side. They weren’t running from, they were running to, and they swept me along with ‘em, scattering pretty sparklies on the ground and I couldn’t even breathe. We ended up at this one booth full of swords, the kind that have real sharp blades, and the vendor starts shouting at them.

“No, no! Hands off!” he went, and he was this big scary guy in a bright purple kilt, all tatted up with biceps like my head. But he didn’t get a chance to ask what was going on as these people grabbed for swords and moms shoved their kids under tables, because then, then, they came in.

The Zombies, I mean.

I could tell they were zombies, even though their clothes weren’t rags and they didn’t have missing limbs (at first). It was in how they moved, stumbling, and the blood around their mouths and their skin--waxy and blue, like if they were underwater. And the way they were shouting for brains and flesh.

Cliché? Maybe, but are you gonna argue with a zombie?

So I was right there, next to this glaive taller than I am, and I ignored the “must be 18 to touch weapons” sign and grabbed it, and then, bang, the doors burst open and there were more people, some zombies, followed by Not-Zombies, and it was like in Lord of the Rings or Narnia, this huge battle, right in the middle of the vendor’s building, and I was back to back with Purple Kilt. One of the zombies got real close, her arms all cankerous and blotched, and I swung.

Glaives are heavier than they look, so I missed her head, but I cut her pretty good, and it smelled sick. She staggered back and tried to grab me, and then some guy behind her with a sword took off her head. I’d never seen that happen in real life. Some guys came running in with a caber, the big telephone pole things that people toss, and used it like a ram, knocking into zombies so that people like my rescuer and Purple Kilt could get them.  I charged into battle, my heart like the pipe band’s rattle drum, hardly able to breathe I was so terrified. The tight bodice didn’t help. It was nothing like what I’d dreamed, there so much chaos, and blood…

It was right about then that I passed out. So much for glory.

When I woke up, it was nine fifteen, there were cops in hazmat suits everywhere, everything was trashed and I wanted to puke but I didn’t because I hadn’t gotten my scotch egg before all hell broke loose. They told everyone that no one was allowed to leave the fairgrounds because of contagion and there had to be a quarantine and stuff, so I booked it for the Rose tent where I found Dad, and he just looked at me, all covered in blood and hugged me.

“I told you so,” I said, because I had told him so, that Zombies were real and someday he’d be glad I was so prepared. He made this noise, like a laugh and a sob all together, and we just sat there in the tent with the other Roses who came to be with family.

They made announcements over the loudspeaker system, and my cousin's pipe band played Scotland the Brave while some General or Corporal in the army made a speech, about how this medical facility two miles down the freeway had been doing tests, and then, poof, Zombies, and they’d gone after the nearest group of people, us, and how certainly we had all saved the world by stopping the…yadda yadda yadda. It went on, and the bagpipes drowned him out a little.

Some soldiers, also in hazmat suits, came by to get our names to match to the ticket records so they could see how many people were dead, and told us that if we needed food or blankets, we could go to the big arena where they did the caber toss, because a plane would be dumping supplies there pretty soon.
“Like in an hour? You mean we aren’t on our own, left to fight for our lives?” I asked. The guy laughed.
“You watch too many movies,” he said.

The pipe bands competed, and the sheep dog trials. Life went on. There wasn’t much to do except go on with the Games, since no one could leave. People called family to assure them everything was fine, it was all over. I counted six news copters in the air, too, but mostly people on the ground just tried to pretend it was one of the staged, living history things. It got hotter, the ice-cream stands sold out, little kids cried….just like every year. The Young California Vendor’s building was off limits, but there were still places to shop. I got my meat pie--at twice the normal price, ugh—and bought a book. Unicorns. I was sick of Zombie stories.

So there it is, “how I survived the zombie apocalypse/ helped contain the zombie virus and saved countless lives, etc, etc, etc.” I got a medal, everyone at the Games did. Some people wrote books, about how if it’d been any other group of people but Scotsmen/women, the world’d have been doomed. I’m not sure about that, but it certainly didn’t hurt.  And let me tell you, it made one heck of a “What I did over my summer vacation” essay.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

To the girl across the aisle

How many children of Israel,
born into the Covenant,
fell away into Idolatry?
How many Converts
growing up faithless
found truth
and held fast?

Knowing this, that the faith
of the father influences
but does not determine
his daughter's,
how can you sit there,
across the aisle from me,
and call my mother
quote: So, so, so, so dumb?

How dare you claim
that she will fall away
into idolatry
because she was married
in her mother's living room.

You sit there and insinuate
that my faith is worth less
than yours,
is shakier not because
I have felt abandoned by God,
but because my father
didn't sit next to me at church.

Being Covenant-born does not make
a child perfect, free from sin
or temptation.
I have seen temple marriages fall apart.
I have seen the children of two
 devote Members,
Holy as Angels,
turn to drugs, skip church
to smoke, worshiping
the Idol of pornography.
And I have seen two people
who love and support
each other,
who share values but not religion.

How dare you say that
the children of such
people, pure in love,
are ticking time bombs,
falling away into Idolatry,
that I will make all the wrong choices
and only bring grief?
I am not a miracle, exception to the rule.
My faith is mine, not because of my mother's,
not in spite of my father's.
It was mine to doubt, mine to choose.

And then, how dare you
simper, say you are
sorry that I was offended,
putting all the blame on me.
Because of course, I chose to be offended
when you insult who I am,
who my family is.
With unchristian ignorance
you chose to offend.
You do not apologize for your words
your implications, for calling my mother
quote: So, so, so, so dumb.

Call me what you want:
faithless, worthless
don't hide behind "I don't mean it"s
you only add when I stand up.
you meant it when you spoke about others
in my situation.
but my mother's faith
saved me,
she is my world
my best friend.
Call me what you will, 
but don't you dare touch my mother.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sky Stained with Smoke

tenth floor and roof                                                                                                                                                   

Blinded by smoke and tears
an Italian prayer on her lips,
she stumbles, catching her shin
on the  Green Street stairs.
A rough hand grabs her arm
hauls her to her feet.
"Tessie, move!" her rescuer says,
or she thinks he says, his words
are nothing like her Papa's.

He leads her and others up
not down, to a rooftop
where the sky breaks through grey air,
blue stained with smoke.
At last she can breathe
she looks at the faces of the others,
searching and not finding.
The next-door building's roof
is too far above this one
and Tessie wonders if
they have come here to die.
Then someone lowers a ladder
over the side.
Her burned hands throb as she climbs.

They all flood into this building, a school,
with flame free stairwells,
 but it is not until NYU students,
jabbering in English,
have led her to the streets
full of watchers pale with horror
that she realizes.
She asks, haltingly,
"Where is Vincenzia? Please,
she was on the ninth floor."
No one answers
as another body,
shirtwaist gleaming in the sun,



Ninth floor

"The doors open in!
No one hears her, just one more voice.
The ninth floor workers throw
themselves at metal doors,
screaming: Ratevet! Auidami! Help!

The flames are drawing closer,
like too hot blankets
and fear-sweat sticks Kate's shirtwaist
to her back, to her girl's chest
too tight to breathe.

Someone screams in Yiddish
and the crowd, hands trembling,
moves back just enough.
The fire licks at their skirts.

"Hail Mary," Kate whispers
against the hot air.
The doors shudder as girls pull,
the metal burning their hands.
They do not let go
but the door--

the door is locked.


March 25th 2011

Red ink on white
the Cornell website's list
of victims,
not blood on cloth, but
names, ages.
I have known the stories,
the numbers,
one hundred forty six dead,
too many to imagine.
Reading now for research’s sake
I'd tried to distance myself,
but my heart falters.
I read my own name:
Sixteen years old.
Suddenly these girls are more
than names on a list
more than digital ink.
I picture myself at sixteen:
unable to tame Italian curls,
Papa telling me the stories
his Italian Mama told him.
Perhaps she knew those same stories.
Perhaps she too fought
with her brother,
but loved him all the same.
Who might she have been,
I wonder. What dreams did she hold
in her heart,
and what prayers did she think

as she leaped?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sonnet for the Seven,

April 3rd 1911                                                                                                                                                            Evergreen Cemetery                        

The rain came down and soaked the streets too late
too late to stop the flames that caused such pain
for our city. And as we walked, the weight
upon our hearts did break the floodgate chain.

"Abide with me, Abide with me," we sang.
Half-million strong we gathered round and cried
with Jew and Gentile, all our voices rang,
remembering the day our daughters died.

But for these sev'n I only placed my stone
upon the graves, and others did so, too.
We could not let them be buried alone,
they had no names or faces that we knew.

So in this April rain, we vigil keep
and for their mothers, sisters all, we weep.