Gene's photos 10-3-13 008Welcome to my writing blog. Here you will find my latest demented stuff as well as books, short stories, essays, and poems written and published over the past forty years. Please note that all material is        © Gene Twaronite and The Twaronite Zone. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

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The Bathers


The Bathers, William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1884, Art Institute of Chicago. Public domain image


The wall above my desk
cried out for something—
a seascape perhaps,
full of Neptune’s fury.

At last I found it—
the perfect painting
by a Frenchman
named Bouguereau.

Attractively framed
in large format,
it looms over me
as I fish for inspiration.

True, there’s not much
sea in my seascape,
just a little patch
of blue on the right,

mostly blocked by two
lovely naked ladies
in the foreground
enjoying the beach.

I could say they’re my muses—
in a way that’s true—though
the inspiration they offer
is hardly poetic.

No daughters of Zeus
or Mnemosyne, these
are women of earth
whose every curve I adore.

I feel that I know them.
By the wry looks on their
faces, it seems they know
my thoughts as well.

They remind me who I am—
a creature of lusts and dreams,
grounded by the tingle
of flesh and blood.

Originally published October 2015, at Wilderness House Literary Review  http://www.whlreview.com/no-10.3/poetry/GeneTwaronite.pdf

Impolite Conversations

Gene Twaronite's The Absurd LifeIt seems that whenever we set out on a family visit, my wife takes me aside and reminds me about not discussing certain topics. “What good does it do?” she’ll say. “You can’t change people’s opinions. You’ll just get all hot under the collar. Just relax and be sociable.”

“So what should I talk about?”

“You know! No politics, religion, environment or health stuff.”

“Can I at least talk about philosophy or economics?”

“Hell no. You start talking about the meaning of life and the nature of good and evil, and people get uncomfortable. And you know where any talk about economics will lead. It’s capitalism versus socialism, the 1% and the 99%. You want to start a war?”

The only things left are sports and TV, and even those can lead to trouble. “What’s with their left baseman? He’s got dreads down to his knees. And their catcher’s wearing a prayer shawl and a yarmulke. What are you, some kind of bigot? Speaking of bigots, did you see the Donald last night? Man, what a buffoon! Hey, don’t knock Donald. He makes a lot of sense. I don’t see you making billions of dollars.”

You can always talk about the weather. “Say, wasn’t that some storm last night? My house is underwater, and they say all of Florida will be soon. Well, at least it put out the wildfires. Do you think all these things have anything to do with …? Don’t say it! Say what? You were going to bring up climate change, weren’t you? Actually, I was going to say that it might signal the apocalypse, as revealed in Revelations.”

Maybe I’m being nostalgic, but wasn’t there a time when we could simply talk about things without risking the total meltdown of civilization? Today, there is no real desire to listen and consider anyone’s opinion but one’s own. We launch our talking points like missiles, hoping to score points. “Oh, that was a good one. She got you there.” Instead of trying to digest what people say, we’re too busy thinking about our next clever retort. We ask questions only to embarrass or put off guard anyone who dares to challenge our cherished beliefs. We push our opponents’ buttons and laugh as they get flustered.

Have to admit, I’m not always a polite conversationalist. I grow impatient with small talk. I want to suck the marrow out of you, to know what it is you think and feel down to your bones. As far as I’m concerned, the only topics worth talking about are those which inspire, ignite, or anger us, which may explain why I don’t receive a lot of dinner invitations.

I miss some of the family dinner discussions we had growing up. Not that they were always civil. I do recall a lot of yelling, but no hitting, biting, or scratching. There would be something in the news about some politician, labor strike, or cultural fad, and we were off. The conversation might veer toward diets, as for instance the time my younger sister became a vegetarian. I remember pummeling her with questions. “What’s the matter with meat? Eating meat is natural. What are those canines for, if not to tear flesh? You have to kill something. How is killing a carrot more ethical than killing a cow?” There was much laughter around the dinner table, at my poor sister’s expense. As I look back on it, though, beneath the sarcastic veneer, there was a desire to know and understand her reasons. She must have got through to me. It was not long before I, too, became a vegetarian.

Our family was fortunate to have an official discussion referee. Whenever things got too hot in the dining room, my mother, holding a plate of steaming pot roast, would enter and give us all that look. In a grim voice, she would say, “Nutilk!”—the Lithuanian word for “shut up.” Then she would smile and tell us to eat.

In her quiet, no nonsense way, my mother was telling us that we were still a family and to put away our differences. For her, la famiglia always came first. She saw the dangers of a divided house. Our country is not a family, of course, but as citizens we do, or should, all share a common allegiance to our nation—a nation of many voices, voices that have become increasingly shrill and unyielding. There comes a time when we need to stop shouting at each other and listen for a change. Sit down and break bread. Raise a glass of wine as you toast your differences. And remember to laugh. In the immortal words of both Lincoln and Jesus, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

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Sex Toys After 50

DSCN0535The cover headline said it all: “Best. Sex. Ever!” You might think it was an issue of Cosmo, but this was the latest AARP The Magazine. Though confused by the punctuation, I was hooked, especially by the subtitle: “Even in Your 70s—We Show You How.”

Excitedly flipping to page 56, however, I found no steamy pictures of attractive people enjoying sex or detailed instructions on exotic sexual positions. Instead, I found a frank discussion of popular questions by AARP “sexpert” Dr. Pepper Schwartz “about how to stay frisky after 50.” I did find the tip on sex toys mildly interesting, which noted that the Rabbit, the Revel Body Sonic Vibrator, and the We-Wibe “are all said to satisfy consistently.”

Well, I’m no “sexpert,” but I do consider myself a frisky kind of guy. After diligent, trial-and-error experimentation over the years, my equally frisky wife and I have found a few sexual toys of our own. You might want to give these a try.

As far as we’re concerned, forget the rabbit. For hours and hours of amusement, nothing beats a little rubber ducky in the bedroom. I’m not talking about those fancy battery-powered models—the kind that swim around in your tub and quack back at you—just a plain old yellow ducky that squeaks when you squeeze it. (This last part is particularly important. It’s amazing what a little squeak can do for your orgasms.) Just imagine all the pleasures you can bring to your partner with the loving application of a little ducky. For added enjoyment, try lubricating your ducky, or have it whisper naughty little things in your partner’s ear.

Still have that old Slinky toy lying around? Remember how it could magically move down a flight of stairs, end-over-end, and you’d run back up and let it go again all afternoon, never tiring of it? (OK, some of us are easily amused.) Well, forget the stairs. That same old Slinky can also perform tricks in the bedroom. Let it run down the gentle incline of your partner’s spine, seductively stretching and reshaping itself. You never know quite where it’ll end up.

Maybe you grew up playing with plastic dinosaurs. Maybe you still do. Well, why not bring those models into the bedroom for some Mesozoic love play? Use your little dinos as surrogate lovers to act out your most primitive fantasies. Just imagine the squeals of delight as your Tyrannosaurus gently nibbles your partner’s neck.

Maybe you played with dolls instead. Take it from us. That old Barbie and G.I. Joe can do wonders for your sex life. (Though boys usually preferred the G.I. Joe, I suspect many would have preferred the Barbie, if given a chance. How else is a boy to learn about the female anatomy? Then again, you really can’t learn much about a real female body from a Barbie.) If you tend to be shy, repressed, or lacking in imagination, dolls can be especially useful. Have Barbie and the little soldier act out new scenes and positions. Dress Barbie in a leather bra and panties and give her a whip. Have G.I. Joe, wearing his usual camouflage undies, try to fend her off, with flowers or maybe a bazooka. If you’re into kinky, dress G.I. Joe in a short pink miniskirt and Barbie as Spiderman. The possibilities are endless.

While I can’t guarantee these toys will satisfy everyone, they might help you loosen up a bit. They might even bring a little laughter to the bedroom, which is not a bad thing. Best of all, you don’t have to visit a sex shop to buy them. You probably have a few in your closet or basement. Or steal them from your kids. They shouldn’t be playing with sex toys anyway.

You can read AARP article by Dr. Pepper Schwartz here: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/info-2015/sex-questions-libido-stds-schwartz.html


How I Lost Miss Maine

DSCN0535For the record, I never really had Miss Maine. As relationships go, the time I actually spent with her was short. But for a brief glorious time, she liked me and I liked her. Did I mention she had been a Miss America contestant?

I’m not going to describe her to you. I can’t even remember her name. In a word, she was gorgeous, the kind of woman you can’t help but ogle as she walks across the room. But she was personable and intelligent, not at all like the doe-eyed, dumb stereotype of beauty contestants.

It was late in my senior year at college, and I was grabbing some lunch in the cafeteria when a female friend came up to me and whispered in my ear. “She’s new in our dorm,” pointing at Miss Maine, who for the purpose of this narrative I’ve now decided to call Doris. “She noticed you and wants to be introduced.” Apparently, I was not looking my usual wasted self. I shot a glance across the cafeteria and tried to look cool.

As I recall, we had a couple of dates and that was it. I graduated shortly thereafter and landed a residential teaching job at a private school in Connecticut. In addition to my teaching duties, I had a dorm full of teenage boys to look after. There was a big dinner and dance for all the students, and since faculty members were expected to attend, I decided to give Doris a call and see if she wanted to go. Amazingly enough, she said yes.

I picked her up at my alma mater, where she was now a senior, and brought her back to my school. It was early, so we went up to my room in the boys’ dormitory and had a couple of stiff drinks before dinner. During my senior year, I had taken up drinking in a big way, but now it was a full-blown avocation, especially during awkward social events as this night was turning out to be. A couple of times during the dance, we snuck back to my room for some more refreshments. I did not notice or care that she was not matching my intake.

What happened after the dance remains hazy. Suddenly we were back in my room, where after refusing my offer of a nightcap, she informed me in no uncertain terms that I was too shit-faced to drive her back to campus. Like a drill sergeant, she instructed me to climb into bed. Then she turned off the light and undressed, donning one of my shirts as a nightie. My kind of woman, I thought to myself. Just like that, I had achieved the goal I had long desired.

Alas, my night of passion was not to be. As I tried to snuggle up and put on my best night moves, she pushed me away with surprising strength. “You’re going to sleep it off for a couple of hours,” Doris insisted. There in the darkness, I dimly perceived the absurdity of my situation. Here I was—a lusty twenty-two-year-old lying next to a beautiful woman, and I was powerless to do anything about it. After making one last futile pass, I gave in to sleep. A few hours later, I was sober enough to drive her home in silence.

And what did I learn from this lesson? Nothing. I was still twenty-two and stupid. I confess there were many more such events in my life, though none so poignant as that dark, unfulfilled night. Fortunately, I am here to report that no one died as a result of my wasted youth, including me.

These days, though I still enjoy kicking back with a couple of glasses of wine after dinner, gone is my need to get hammered. Sometimes I catch myself looking back fondly on those old recreational drinking days, while at the same time wincing at the physical and emotional agonies they brought. I think of all the people done in by drinking and driving, and I am quietly thankful. There, partly out of sheer dumb luck but mostly for the grace and good sense of fellow travelers, go I. Thank you, Doris, wherever you are.

(Note: This piece marks the start of my new column “The Absurd Life.” Look for a new piece here every other Friday. If it’s not here, you can send me a polite comment to please get off my ass and write something. We writers need all the help we can get.)

Stop the Idea Killers!

When does personhood really start? Some say that it starts with the beginnings of self-awareness, especially when your new baby sister arrives and you suddenly realize the world is not all about you. Some say it starts with a viable fetus that can exist outside the womb. And some insist that it starts at the moment of conception.

But it really begins much earlier. For each of us is not just physically conceived, but mentally conceived as well. We literally begin as an idea. It may be the earnest discussion that precedes the procreative attempt, or merely the idle thought of someday having a child. It may be no more than the twinkle in your eye or the come hither look from your spouse. The very moment of this idea—the conception of a future potential reality that is you—is when human life truly begins.

It is a most precious thing, this idea. Nothing must interfere with its sacred goal. Every part of this conception, from the first hazy notion to the final design plan, must be nurtured and protected from all harm. And it must be accorded the full measure of human rights.

Recently, a number of states have tried to pass so-called Personhood Amendments to their constitutions to recognize the rights of the unborn zygote. But why stop there? By defining human personhood merely as the moment when physical conception occurs denies the far more important mental conception that precedes it. Without this first conception there is none of the other stuff. It is the exact moment of that thought which defines us in the most basic human sense.

And since the federal constitution along with the U.S. Supreme Court have the final say in such matters, state-level amendments just won’t “git ‘er done.” What we need is a federal constitutional amendment—one that goes all the way to that first moment of conception—a Conceptual Personhood Amendment.

Such an amendment would redefine those three important first words of the Constitution—We the People—as We the People, from our first idealized conception. This would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind just who or what a person is, and when that person begins.

But there are those who would deny these rights of the unborn. They claim that just thinking about having a child is not at all the same as actually having a child. For them only a real child will do. But what of the imagined child? In their bias for the real, these idea killers seek to nullify its existence. For them, only physical conception will do.

But just because the idea for a child is not acted upon is no reason to deny it full rights under the law. There are many reasons why some of us never achieve the physical birth our parents dreamed for us, and it is not the government’s or anyone else’s business to pass judgment. It is the idea that counts. The U.S. Constitution speaks for all of us—the born and the unborn, even the unborn thought.

Irreverent Musings on Nature

Print cover frontHere’s a new review of The Absurd Naturalist, posted on Amazon by writer, editor, and reviewer Don Martin. Like all authors, I enjoy reading reviews (especially good ones), but this one is particularly entertaining in the way it creatively weaves together some of my essays in a playful, irreverent tone befitting the essays. Thanks, Don!

on August 16, 2015
This handsome volume contains 43 essays tangentially related to the subject of naturalism, or if you prefer, the avocation of being a naturalist. I use the term ‘tangentially’ very loosely here, because I am just not so sure. Maybe if you stretched it a bit, but that would be fine because the stories are quite good.Where else might you read about the evolution of the toaster oven, and which naturally-selected physical traits you should look for when considering a replacement model? Or, have you recently considered the question of same-species marriage? No matter where you come down on the issue I think we’d all agree that procreation should be limited to an intra-species affair. When you start to cross-breed, say, people and cats, or maybe dolphins and polar bears, you can never really be sure what you’ll get. And the author treats us to what he claims is the first X-rated naturalist essay, which would be an oddity indeed! Unfortunately he strays badly afield and we never really get to the juicy good parts.Perhaps you may be considering becoming a naturalist yourself. Why you would ever want to do that I just don’t know, but no worries! Contained herein are two companion essays, ‘The Well-Dressed Naturalist’ and ‘The Well-Equipped Naturalist.’ Careful study of those chapters will allow you to at least pretend to be a naturalist, and do a convincing job of it, even though you probably have no formal training in the science and have certainly never studied it.And, of course, you’ll need to know how to keep javelinas out of your garden, which you can never actually do, so the best bet there is just to peacefully coexist with them. Which is not the recommended approach when it comes to packrats. Packrats mean an all-out war, man on rat, to the death! You will not win that one either. After considering the various animal species you will certainly, as a pseudo-naturalist, want to move on to the world of plants. And you’ll certainly need some legal advice on how to file wrongful-death lawsuits on behalf of your dearly departed zinnias. You know those ones. The ones who looked perfectly green and healthy at the nursery, but which suddenly expired of some mysterious ailment as soon as you bought them, brought them home, and lovingly planted them in your garden?

This book sits right on the line between humor and satire, and it sits there very well indeed. Good satire is becoming a lost art, and it’s refreshing to see someone who knows his way around it. I guarantee you that you’ll at least smile as you read these short essays, and I’d be willing to bet you’ll even catch yourself laughing out loud at times. They really are that good! The Absurd Naturalist is quite entertaining, and is very highly recommended.         Buy a copy here: Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-Absurd-Naturalist-Irreverent-Musings/dp/1502977281

Fish Bait

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.”
~ Henry David Thoreau

If I could ask the writer one thing
it would be this: what bait did you use?
Was it a simple hook and worm
impaled with your usual deliberation?

Or was it a fly made from a feather
plucked with due reverence
from the wing of a dead neighbor?

Perhaps you preferred a bait more primitive,
crouching like a raccoon next to the stream,
attracting fish to your hand through sheer will.

For sure you would not have used
one of those shiny metal baubles
favored by today’s fishing dabblers.

No, yours was the direct approach.
I see you not waiting timidly as the stream
passes by, but diving deep beneath
its rippled surface, meeting the fish head on.

First published by Poetry Quarterly summer 2015  http://poetryquarterly.com/poetry-quarterly-issue-22/

From Wherever

My short story “From Wherever” was just published by Bewildering Stories – a weekly electronic publication of speculative fiction   http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue629/from_wherever.html

Those familiar with H.P. Lovecraft will immediately recognize my story as a parody of the writer’s famous story “From Beyond.” Lovecraft had an enormous influence on many writers, including William S. Burroughs, Ramsey Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, Fritz Leiber, Philip K. Dick, and Stephen King. You can read his original story here http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/fb.aspx  

Shades from the Chasm

Gazing down At Bright Angel Trail, I see no angels here—
only shades from the chasm: hikers dutifully descending
into hells of their own creation, then plodding upward again,
as in a Doré Purgatory; naked terraces laid down long ago
like the backbones of ancient sea creatures; swallows darting
across the layers like thoughts too fleet to recall; splashes
of red in the receding scarps of canyon walls
like wounds of a bleeding earth.

Originally published July 2015, at Wilderness House Literary Review   http://www.whlreview.com/no-10.2/poetry/GeneTwaronite.pdf