Welcome

Featured

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.

Follow The Twaronite Zone on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TwaroniteZone?ref=hl

Trash Picker on Mars

My first poetry chapbook Trash Picker on Mars has just been accepted for publication late this year by Aldrich Press (Kelsay Books imprint). Though the title poem is science fiction, most of the other poems address more general themes, including nature, religion, mythology, popular culture, and feminism, liberally sprinkled with the usual dark humor. The poem “Trash Picker on Mars” first appeared in the online journal New Myths. You can read it here  https://sites.google.com/a/newmyths.com/nmwebsite/poems/trash-picker-on-mars

Small Talk

DSCN0535I’m one of those pathetic, lonely guys who still does his banking in person. Sure, I could do everything online, but then I’d miss out on some great conversations.

Take this morning, for instance. I was making a simple deposit at my local bank, and was gazing off into space with what I hoped was a look of serious contemplation when the teller glanced up from his computer and asked me, “So how’s your day going so far?”

The question startled me with its bold directness. It seemed as if the teller were trying to engage me as a real person, not just another of thousands of customers. And he wanted to know how my day was going?

I stared dumbfounded at the young man, who seemed as eager to hear my reply as if he were in a bar waiting for the punch line to a dirty joke. After several minutes had passed, his expression turned to concern, as beads of sweat and a look of panic appeared on my face.

You see, he didn’t just ask how I am, in which case a simple “fine, thank you” would have sufficed, but asked me how my actual day was going, which seemed to indicate that he wanted details. What really threw me, however, were those troubling last two words—“so far.” This demanded some quick evaluation of how my day was progressing at this precise point in time, as measured against my general existential standard of what a good day should entail.

Franticly I considered my options. I could take the easy way out and say that it was going great so far, but then come back at him with that grim reminder from the Don Henley tune about how “in a New York minute everything can change.” Make him think about the fragility of our daily lives and that “Nothing in the world lasts/Save eternal change.” (Honorat de Bueil, seigneur de Racan). Maybe my teller would start worrying about what his day had in store for him, furtively looking behind his back and searching his car for explosives before he drove home. That would take the smile off his face.

But I think what the young man wanted was a piece of me—some little vignette in the life of the real person standing across from him. Ideally, it would involve something more interesting than the fact that I had just picked up the newspaper and had enjoyed a great walk up Fourth Avenue, except that I had stepped on some gum and been nearly stampeded by a gang of college students late for class. So I thought of some possible replies with a little more pizzazz, as for instance:

“Well, in just the past hour, I’ve researched my next book, visited two porn sites, made an appointment for a colonoscopy, decided which organs I wish to donate in case of my death, and was recruited by three separate terrorist organizations, one of which promised me an extra dozen virgins in heaven if I acted NOW.”

Or I could take a more somber tone, tearing up and shaking my head sadly. “It was going so well between us. Just this morning, we talked about having our first child and naming him George (or Georgiana if it’s a girl) after my uncle, who died from a heart attack after mistakenly taking three Viagra pills when he couldn’t remember if he had taken them or not. I was so happy. Then my wife suddenly turned to me and began to sob uncontrollably. “It’s all been a lie,” she said. “I was going to tell you, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” Then she told me the truth. She—I mean he—was a transvestite, which now that I think about it does explain why he had to have his own bathroom.

Or maybe I should keep it short. “How’s my day going so far? Well, I’ve just been to my doctor and he told me that I have exactly two months to live, not counting any unused sick days or vacation time, and demanded that I pay him at the time service was rendered, meaning right now. And you want to hear the really sad part? I was stupid enough to pay him.”

In the end, I decided to be honest. “Please tell your corporate masters that my day was going just great until I heard that you’re raising my bank fees, and that my day would be going much better if I could get a little more interest on my CD’s.”

                                                       ©Gene Twaronite 2016

Native Earthling

DSCN0535I was a native, once. It was back in 1980 when I still lived in my home city of Manchester, Connecticut, and all the time before that from the moment of my birth. But on the day in June when I moved elsewhere I could no longer call myself a native. Automatically I became a newcomer, outsider, alien—doomed to spend the rest of my life staring blankly at “NATIVE” license plates and bumper stickers.

You only get one shot at being a native. Move away from your birthplace for any substantial amount of time and you are no longer one of the chosen. It matters not if you live in a new place for fifty years, even for the rest of your life. The only way to reclaim your inheritance is to go back home and say you made a mistake. And if your town is now underwater—drowned by a dam for the good that is always presumed greater—you are out of luck.

Natives often speak of their heritage with a sense of accomplishment, as if they had something to do with it. I was born here, says the native. I chose to remain … while you did not.

Well, pardon me for living, but just because you accidentally happened to be born in Scarsdale, London, or on the Mayflower doesn’t make you any better than someone born in Somalia, Bangladesh, or Haiti. Staying put is easy, especially if your native home isn’t currently being blown to smithereens or sinking below the waves of rising seas. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

I don’t care how royal, pure, or blue your blood is, or how your ancestors first cleared this land of native “savages” to make way for civilized white folks, at some point your genetic line had to come from somewhere else. This is what our species has always done, spreading outward from our evolutionary and cultural cradles to occupy all inhabitable spaces on the planet. We humans are always on the move.

There is danger, however, in too much movement. People who do not (or cannot due to forces beyond their control) remain in one place for a time miss out on one of life’s grand experiences—a sense of being part of a place, of sharing in its daily rhythms, of knowing that home is much more than comfortable surroundings.

So where does that leave me, a non-native son who has squandered his inheritance? I could try to go back to the life of my late father, a true native of our home city. Ironically, he had to briefly relinquish his claim during his last few years at an out-of-state assisted living center, though his remains have now returned to their ancestral soil. By choosing to stay there all his life, he knew and felt things about that “City of Village Charm” that I will never know.

But there are also many things that my father never got the chance to experience. The world beckons with possibilities. While some of us choose to be natives of one place, others like me cannot help but see each place as merely one aspect or extension of a larger home. Though I may dwell in and derive meaning from a particular location for a time, it can never be my full address. I am of this world as well as in it, a fact more real to me than the temporary happenstance of where I reside. My love for this native home transcends the love I feel for any one place, region or country. I get a lump in my throat whenever I see its portrait in space—a blue-white haven of hope amid the black emptiness of space—planet number three, home. Home to life. Home to mountains, deserts and seas, great empty spaces and great crowded spaces. Home to more wonderful things, creatures, and peoples than I will ever know.

I think I will stay here awhile. After all, I was born and raised here. No E.T. am I. Call me a native earthling.                                                                                                                                                                            ©Gene Twaronite 2015

Share a Gift of Laughter & Imagination

Gene Holiday DRAFT2-1For those looking for a fun gift this holiday season, take a look at my Books page. If you wish to purchase 5 or more copies of my books (in any combination), take 20% off the purchase price. This offer only available here. Please contact me at this website. Cheers!

Mastermind

We must be ever vigilant in the thoughts that go through our heads, especially in our reactions to current events. Here is a poem I wrote upon hearing of the death of the so-called mastermind of the Paris terrorist attack.
 
MASTERMIND

I saw the news flash on CNN —
Abdelhamid is dead—
and heard a voice inside me
rejoicing:
He is dead! He is dead!
His body mangled by bullets
and a nearby grenade,
he died not soon enough.
To call him mastermind
of the Paris massacre
makes him sound more important
than what he was—
just another cancer cell
in a metastasizing tumor.
Blind to everything but his belief,
he was master of nothing.
Relieved as I am to see
this murderous cell zapped
from the body of humanity,
I yet find myself looking back
at my thoughts, wondering
what kind of person it was
who could plot the deaths
of fellow humans as if
they were mere avatars
in a video game,
or whether he ever
looked up at the stars
and dreamed of a girl.
And I find myself wondering
what kind of mastermind it is
who this morning cheers
the death of a young man
who went so horribly wrong,
who once was human
before he blew it all up.

My Life as a Sperm

DSCN0535In their ongoing memory wars, memoirists seek to go ever deeper into their pasts, uncovering astonishing details about their first years of life. One writer recalls the intimate conversation she had, at two months old, with her mother and the family priest about whether the soul can enter heaven with heavily soiled diapers or if God prefers prosciutto or pepperoni pizza.

Not to be outdone, some writers claim to be able to recall their fetal memories as early as 30 weeks after conception. The severely limited social environment of the fetus, coupled with its lack of a comprehensive vocabulary, does pose challenges for the creative writer. Let’s face it, there’s not a lot of partying going on, and your conversation with the outside world largely consists of kicking. One writer insists, however, that he first decided to become a rock ‘n’ roll drummer when he became habituated to his drunken dad’s late night pounding on the front door.

I must confess that I remember little from my earliest years, aside from bratty episodes when I would scream and cry in the department store to make my poor Aunt Mary buy me a toy elephant, or the way I could put on my “ain’t I lovable” act and con my dear grandmother out of almost anything. As for my fetus days, forget it—they’re a complete blank. But oddly enough, I do possess vivid recollections of my interior life just before conception.

True, there’s not enough stuff to fill a book. The whole thing lasted only a few days—just after I entered my mother’s womb—but oh what days they were! Looking back now, I have to say it was the most challenging time of my life, full of danger, excitement, and emotional triumphs.

I remember being a lonely guy at the time, despite the fact that I was surrounded by over 250 million other sperm. I dreamed of finding just the right egg to spend my life with, an egg who would understand me and not make fun of the fact that I was 175,000 times smaller than she was. I was determined to find her.

Up through the deep dark caverns I traveled, with only my raw courage to guide me. It was a perilous journey that few of us would survive. During the first few minutes, I had watched in horror as millions of my comrades died in writhing agony in the acid bath of the vaginal canal. Tony and Eddie—such great kidders—who were always good for a laugh. And who can forget George, who was always tripping on his own tail, or my best bud Frank? Damn, how I miss him! Then came that awful cervical mucus—like swimming in sewage—where many of the poorer swimmers drowned. So many good men died that day, and for what? The same reason I was there, still alive and swimming toward my dream. I was young and strong and knew that she was up there waiting for me.

My tail ached as I swam and jostled for position. On and on we swam, up through the cervix and uterus, in a grim marathon where only the strongest would survive. At that point, I was swimming on pure DNA. Though few of us who had started the race remained, I knew I could do it. As we got closer to the infamous fallopian tunnels, I could see some poor saps taking the wrong tube. Hate to admit it, but I was not sad to see them go. A few less competitors to get in my way.

Just as I was about to enter the tunnel, I felt her presence for the first time. It was if she were sending me a signal to guide me to her. I started swimming like an Olympic sperm.

Now the real trick in these marathons is to pace yourself. You don’t want to burn out too soon, and I still had one big obstacle to overcome.

So I purposely let some of the other sperm get ahead. Actually, I had paid them all off beforehand to pass the torch to me. The idea was for them to arrive at my beloved before I did and start breaking down her resistance with their enzymes. She was very sweet, but had developed a real wall around her.

Suddenly, there she was—the egg of my heart. The guys had done their job, and by the way that she looked at me I knew she felt the same about me. She was ready. In no time, I was in.

For a few blissful days, we traveled together down the fallopian tube. After about a week, the honeymoon was over and it was time to get attached in our new apartment. I wish I could remember more. I’m sure there were some very good times.

Galaxy Flight to Midnight

First they fled out of Africa,
seeking new sources of food
or maybe a change of scenery.
Then they fled the ice sheets
and dire wolves haunting their dreams.
From hunger and drought they fled
over the Bering Strait and beyond.
From religious persecution they fled
to a New World of unbridled freedom.
From war, famine, and disease they fled
to whatever country would take them.
They fled the whips and chains
of Southern plantations to live
in crowded cities of the North,
as others fled the same cities
from immigrant hordes and dark races.
They fled into gated communities
to free themselves from parties
and viewpoints not their own.
They fled into space out of boredom
and because it was the last frontier.
Finally they fled from the earth itself,
in their luxury starship cruisers,
all the way to the center of the galaxy
and a big black hole
that swallowed them up,
every last one.

Originally published in Wilderness House Literary Review Fall 2015 (note: scroll down to second poem on page 3) http://www.whlreview.com/no-10.3/poetry/GeneTwaronite.pdf

My Interview with Terry Gross

DSCN0535I can say with considerable certainty that I will never be interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, unless perhaps I publish a string of blockbuster slasher/romance novels or become the first human male to give birth to a gorilla. Still, a man can dream. Here’s how it might go.

Terry: Today I am interviewing author Gene Twaronite, as part of our new series on writers you’ve never heard of. Hi, is this Gene? I’ll be doing the interview with you today.

Me: Yes, this is Gene. Wow, I can’t believe it’s really you! I’m so excited to be on your program. I’m a huge fan. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about ….

Terry: Yes, yes, let’s get on with it, shall we? Gene, could you tell us how you feel about the fact that you are currently ranked the nine millionth most popular author on Amazon, just behind Arthur Slobnick, who wrote a book of Christmas verse for his dog?

Me: Writing isn’t all about fame and money, Terry—is it OK if I call you that? It’s about expressing yourself, and sharing your words with others. It doesn’t matter how many books you sell or who’s heard of you. The important thing is that you’ve created something unique in the world. To quote a poem by Shel Silverstein: “Put something silly in the world that ain’t been there before.” And by the way, my rank this morning is actually 8,997,332, but who’s counting?

Terry: I’ve always loved that poem and yes, your stuff is pretty silly. So you don’t care that no one has heard of you and you make only a two-figure income? And please call me Ms. Gross.

Me: Sorry, Terry, I mean Ms. Gross. Well, sure, I wouldn’t mind selling a lot more books or receiving some literary acclaim. But it’s really about living an authentic life and putting your work out there. Long after I’m gone, my books will live on, bringing enjoyment to new generations of readers.

Terry: Gene, now don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s unlikely your books will live on if no one buys and reads them. They’ll just fade away in the cloud. You’ll be one more of the tens of millions of writers who aspired to fame and lost. Fifty years from now, no one will have heard of you. There will be no trace of your ever being here.

Me: Gee, Ms. Gross, you really know how to hurt a guy. Yet you say it in such an upbeat, caring voice.

Terry: Sorry, Gene—reality sucks. You and all the other authors out there need to hear the truth. You’re never going to be number one on Amazon. Stop living in a dream world. Maybe there are other things you could do.

Me: Excuse me, Ms. Gross, but when are you going to ask me about my books?

Terry: OK, we still have oodles of time to fill and as long as I’ve got you here, let me ask you about your first novel The Family That Wasn’t. Your main character John Boggle has this crazy hyphenated name: Bazukas-O’Reilly-Geronimo-Giovanni-Li Choy-Echeverria. Weren’t you worried about offending people with hyphenated names? It sounds like you’re making fun of them. Do you ever get complaints from them?

Me: Actually, I was trying to show why this family I had invented was so crazy that they insisted on keeping all those names. I wasn’t trying to make fun of anyone but these fictional characters. No one’s ever complained, but thanks to your question they probably will now.

Terry: Your sequel My Vacation in Hell must have been really tough to write. You show John Boggle being sexually abused by his fake Uncle Vinnie. The experiences you describe are so vivid. Tell me, were you ever sexually abused?

Me: You know, that’s the first thing my wife asked when she first read it. It’s as if she thought I couldn’t write such realistic scenes without actually having had the experience, and she’s my biggest fan. But no, to the best of my knowledge, I was never abused.

Terry: Still, you must have felt something as you wrote those disturbing sex scenes. I know that, as a writer, you have to project yourself into the life of your characters, to feel what they feel. Now you don’t have to answer this if it makes you uncomfortable in any way, but were you sexually aroused while writing them?

Me: OK, in the first place, it is perfectly possible to write about sex without getting physical. Second, I do find your question offensive. Is that something you ask all your guests? Did you ask Hillary or Bill O’Reilly about their sexual life?

Terry: Well, it does sometimes help to keep the conversation going. Sorry if I offended you, and no, I didn’t ask them that, but maybe I should have. Can just see the look on old Bill’s face. Well, I see our time is about up. Our guest was author Gene Twaronite. I really enjoyed talking to you, Gene. Could you tell us a little about your next book? Oops, sorry—out of time. Best of luck to you. Bye.

The Unillustrated Man

DSCN0535Call me a freak. Not a hippie freak, eco-freak, or Jesus freak, just a plain old freak. You see, I don’t have a tattoo. Yesterday I saw a geezer (i.e., someone older than I) downtown—he had to be at least 97—with a big red heart on his neck and the word “Alice,” which I thought was kind of sweet until I noticed just above it a raised hand holding a dagger. Some guys never get over their divorces.

A recent Harris poll found that 21% of U.S. adults now have a tattoo, and among the younger crowd it’s almost twice that. It won’t be long before Pope Francis has one—I suspect he secretly does—and there’ll be no unadorned skin left on the planet. Freaks like me will be eyed suspiciously. Why doesn’t that man have a tattoo? Is he trying to make a statement? It’s un-American, I tell you!

It’s not that I don’t think tattoos are cool. I am fascinated by the diverse and creative ways we set ourselves apart from the herd. When I see some young dude with green-streaked purple hair wearing barbed wire around his neck, twenty pounds of nose, ear, lip, and throat jewelry, and his skin adorned with the full complement of body art, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. How difficult it must be these days to achieve that perfect rebellious, insolent, don’t-give-a-damn look. It’s all about making a statement.

When I was a kid, the only tattoos I remember were those on the arms of my two ex-navy uncles. The rule was, if you were in the navy, jail, a carnival, or a gang you got one. But then, during the 60’s, tattoos really took off in this country as part of a cultural reaction to the values of the white, straight, middle class. Pretty soon, tattoos weren’t just for stoned out rock musicians or starving artists. Middleclass and upper class folks started sporting them. The rest is history. The prevailing culture simply swallowed up the protest symbol. Tattoos are now just something to do. When you see a tattooed politician, stock broker or brain surgeon riding to work on his Harley, you know the tattoo has lost any shock impact it once possessed.

It won’t be long before the tattoo gestapos find me. They’ll haul me into some back alley tattoo parlor and force me to undergo body art, and probably some piercing, too.
So I’ve decided to be proactive. Rather than allowing them to put some tacky tattoo of Mickey Mouse, Miley Cyrus, or worse on my arm, I’ll have a design all worked out. That way, when they come crashing through the front door I’ll have something to show them. They might go easier on me, knowing that I’ve put a little thought into it.

Being a poet, I thought I could have one of my little poems inserted under my skin in tasteful script, on a part of my body normally exposed. I don’t mind sharing my poems, but having to take my shirt off to let someone read a poem is too great a price to ask of my art. Of course, there’s always the risk of would-be poetry critics coming up to me and provoking a scene. It doesn’t rhyme. How it can it be poetry? He obviously took that line straight out of Frost.

Perhaps I could reproduce some famous paintings for my body art. I can see one arm sporting Monet’s Les Quatre Arbres (Poplars), while the other features Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. On my neck (my legs are too hairy) I could have Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. That would get some attention. I do worry, however, that the aging canvas upon which they are painted would sag and fade with time, requiring extensive restoration.

I need a bold statement, something that will really stand out. Since I live in Arizona, why not get a brand burned into my flesh. It needs to be simple and concise, something that tells who I am—maybe a little heart with the words “Irreverent Infidel” or “In Silliness We Trust.” For once in my life, I might actually get ahead of the curve. These days, it’s all about branding.

I invite you to join me on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/TwaroniteZone?ref=hl

The Bathers

The_Bathers,_1884,_by_William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_-_Art_Institute_of_Chicago_-_DSC09582

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