the storycurator
stories about real life and creativity

a blog by jan doets


Shame likes an audience
and a red face
guilt runs deeper
and needs no audience
it works in the dark
and its face is lined with sorrow
one makes you cower
the other cringe
both have a place
on the Wheel of Suffering
and they alternate shifts
shame has the day shift
and guilt the night
one is a slave to opinion
the other to Original Sin

Stuart Dodds

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I have walked into a ring of enchantment
and cannot leave
your hair blown by the wind
your fragrance
your encircling arms

a rush of confusion and desire
a tidal force
drawing me in

could you not hold me further away
for a time
turn off this power you have
one night
so I can come to you?

let us start again

like the guests in the Buñuel film
when they return to their former positions in the room
and Bianca returns to  the piano
to a sonata of Paradisi

Bianca breaking the spell—
they are free
(for a while)
to walk in the open air

let us have the forbearance to go back
to that moment when we met
to the moment when this turmoil began


Stuart Dodds

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You said in the morning before light
you were visited by fear
with fragments of a dream fading slowly
fear like a thread
you did say “thread”

a filament glowing in the dark
showing the way—
Ariadne’s thread
a way in and out of the Labyrinth

there are those who have navigation charts and maps
with paintings of sea horses and dolphins
others have radar screens,
paraffin lamps and candles
and you have your fear
to light the way—
unparalleled light, unparalleled gift!


Stuart Dodds




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I don’t know if Marlowe helped my business
he was an ornament
reclining in the window
or walking slowly over the table displays
with a tiger’s gait

one of those day-time sleepers
his curiosity was aroused, like mine,
when a potential customer came in
greeting them with a winsome cry or a yawn—
he may have been too great a distraction—
at times, I think they came just to talk to him
the locals who rarely bought a book
even the travelers who’d been here before
and said “Where’s Marlowe?”
as soon as they were in the door

and now it grieves me to tell
poor Marlowe passed away

Cookbooks and self-help kept me going
children’s books and Christian CDs
I tried to upgrade
with Billy Collins and Leonard Cohen who sold quite well
but when I tried the plays of Shakespeare
(Ashland is just over the mountains from here)
Shakespeare didn’t move

Marlowe liked individuals who talked to him
and was scornful of crowds
one evening this winter, the pass was closed
and stranded motorists poured into the shop
a bookseller’s dream
the cash register sang while the town was covered in snow
it happens every few years—
just before closing, ghosts of the storm, they came
trailing cold air and breathing steam

when the commotion died down
and the last customer left
I found Marlowe under one of the tables
looking up at me with a steady, reproachful air
as if to say: “You’ve no idea what I go through.”

I found him by the river
fourteen years ago, a starving kitten—
I didn’t think he had any cause to complain

“Your only concern is for your own comfort,” I told him.
“You don’t seem to care whether I prosper or not.”

I couldn’t read his mind or know his feelings
I hope he didn’t suffer—
Tomorrow, I will hang a sign on the door:

Christopher Marlowe died last week after a quiet life of contemplation among the books he loved but was unable to read since he was a cat—the most wonderful cat in Siskiyou county.”


Stuart Dodds

Red Bluff, California

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Standing at his mother’s side
at the teller’s window
he turned to survey the interior of the bank
a sun-filled rotunda
pictures of sailing ships, schooners, East Indiamen
in the crowded harbors of another time

playfully and dreamily
he leaned against his mother
(letting himself fall back against her)
as she conversed with the teller
smiling when she turned to rebuke him
in a language I couldn’t place

I imagine them as constant companions
he on the verge of adolescence
a boy who is sure of his mother’s adoration
with lustrous brown hair and dark eyes
and an openness and humor
that will soon be replaced
with defensiveness and evasion
as the father takes over
casting his shadow across their lives—
the sailing ships gone
the air turned cold
the blue ocean changed to stagnant water…

as mother and son left the bank together
he almost as tall as she
with a certainty in his walk
she linked arms with him
drawing him closer
and for the moment
he was her man, her knight


Stuart Dodds



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for Katharine

On a slow news day
or on a day when the community news pages
were driving me round the bend
I would go up and see Ralph on the editorial writers floor
or sometimes I would feel like flirting with him
he seemed too young to be writing the third editorial
(the first and second were reserved for local issues)
although he knew a lot more about world affairs than most of us
and wrote with an enviable flourish

he said if you wanted to trash someone, really take them apart
you had to read Cicero
especially the Second Philippic Against Antony
I said that wasn’t the most pressing need on my daily rounds
but I did admire Cicero
and I liked his commentaries on friendship and old age

at times I envied Ralph his job (the world was his playground)
as night city editor, I had more freedom
and I didn’t have the publisher breathing down my neck all the time
like those poor bastards on the fourth floor

Ralph called me once when the publisher left town
“If you want to come up, he’s gone for the rest of the day”
as if we were having an affair
what I liked about Ralph’s office, aside from Ralph,
was the superb air-conditioning on that floor
its carpeted serenity, its coolness
compared to the newsroom with fiberboard warrens and noisy fans
the fourth floor was The Sentinel’s hill station
and without Arthur, the publisher,
–a loud and overbearing creature–it was a divine place
I could talk to Ralph for hours if I had the time
which I never did

he’s not married, he’s single
which makes me wonder in a town like this…

returning to the newsroom
after our far-ranging discussions
I always had the sensation of coming back to earth—
on the wall above my desk is a sign that says: THINK LOCAL


Stuart Dodds

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We are in constant negotiations, he and I
he is the one that struts about
dealing with the world in his way
he takes his energy from me
and some of his ideas
and I can cut him off at any time
although it would be suicidal to do so
he is the doer and I am the dreamer
he thinks I am naive, out of touch
and I think he is a blockhead
all brawn and no brains

and there is, alas, another “I”
a darker, shadowy figure
draining energy from both of us
or replenishing it
whose features are clear in dreams if not in daylight
and sometimes even in dreams a presence only
a deceiver
who comes to us in all guises
whose power can be overwhelming
to call him an “I” would be setting limits
on a limitless creature
who ranges across land and sea like a dragon
and under the sea
who is formless and always changing
and has form too
miraculously human or bird-like
sometimes clothed and adorned
a He and sometimes a She

a camel-headed serpent of cobalt
struggling to free itself
from the Ming ceramic
quintessentially white
a carpet of thyme
a forest of kelp
in the silence of the deep

we live in the margins of this Other
(my active self and I)
fearing the chaos which is its element, a kind of ocean
and the beauty and naturalness that is also its element

we are at the seashore
facing the turmoil of the waves
there is a coolness in the air
and a risk we are called upon to take


Stuart Dodds

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It has been a relief
to admit to myself that I cannot trust you
it’s not a judgment
rather that from now on
I will treat you with the respect given to Nature
the storms that sweep through this part of the country
and the dry Diablo winds in October

no longer will I throw myself on your mercy
waiting for your opinion
keeping quite still
until I see a smile on your face
as though I could divine an agenda
a plan for the future

I will love you no less
for your being a mystery

released from fear and expectation
an admirer still
but knowing how you are
I’ll be free to court you

Stuart Dodds

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En el centro de San Francisco
en medio de un terreno en constructión,
fué recién descubierto
en una tierra mil veces milenésima
un arbusto de manzanita.

Florida, blanca, fresca,
sin mancha—la olvidada,
la casi desaparecida
manzanita francescana.

Fué como si en la tierra primordiál
hubiera sido despositado
por los Ángeles
un ramo nupciál.


The Miraculous Manzanita

In midtown San Francisco
on a construction site,
recently discovered,
growing on a multi-millenial
strip of earth, a manzanita bush.

Flowering in white blossom,
fresh and unspotted, almost extinct,
a manzanita francescana.

It was as if in primordial earth
There had been deposited
by the Angels
a nuptial bouquet.

Dedicado a Drake, el futuro poeta

 Natasha Borovsky        


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A windae seemed to open
all of a sudden wi’ nae fuss or effort
and into the gairden
bobbed and jinked
the grey folk and ither dafties o’ the munelicht
in an awfu scene o’ muckle joy
wi’ a violin dancing
a piano
lowping ower its path

Stuart Dodds

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