Friday, January 13, 2017

It Began In a Forest

I'd like to share an excerpt from my new novel, SARABANDE. This is a stand-alone piece and possibly my favorite example of pure writing in the book. It was the closest I could get to writing something akin to music. Anna, the main female character, is a world-renown cellist. During a performance of Bach's second cello suite, she imagines her instrument's beginnings:

It began in a forest, divided in maple and pine, working on stillness before the ax could cut free its song.

And while it waited, it listened. Absorbing the beatings of hooves and wings and keeping them tight inside the knots and rings. Distinguishing the answers of robins from the asking of the owl with all the eager pencils of its limbs. It learned to amplify the sound of rain with leaves and tent it beneath bark and moss and fungiform. It saw how the moon spelled the sun’s baton, how the insects were deflowered by darkness, how the hours recycled themselves in an infinite variation of the same basic themes. And it began to understand, as the years stretched tall its canopy, that music is made in the silences, too. In the sunlight speared deep inside a wood, in the spider’s light and fatal loom, in the rotted logs of yesteryears. 

It waited centuries, listening. 

And when, at last, the ax struck, it found some relief in the whelping of a wolf, some hills and hoofbeats away. Because it knew, though its vessels were clipped, its heart would pump again. 

The man’s name was Stradivari. The master, they called him. A close man, a concentrated man, with hands more patient than a monk’s. He knew the secret of making wood liquid. Of how to destroy one thing to make something more of its essentials. Where to frame the masculine tension of surviving around the female folds of creation. In his workshop, the hands were many, but his eyes had final approval over all he sired. And in May of 1712, he placed his palm on the apprentice’s shoulder and told him to step aside and watch. 

When Stradivari finished applying the last coat of varnish to the bleeding wood, he set it aside and took his first meal of the day. The meat tasted of oil and resin. Covered in its childbirth, the instrument drank from the falling light of day. 

Many owners laid claim to its pedigree in the years that followed, as if they could be lifted up by association. None were deserving of the gift. The cello sat, forgotten, in the great, empty houses of privilege. On occasion, it was violated by small children, its neck cracked by an Italian duke given to wild social displays. During one harsh winter, it provided needed warmth for a family of mice and remembered—like a memory scratching around in its attic—old roots in a forest floor. Approaching its two hundredth year, it was thrown out, rescued, at the last moment, from an estate sale’s wheelbarrow, its case warped by the rain, neck twisted like a strangled chicken’s. The woman wanted it for a decoration. Christmas lasted all twelve days that year. 

Thunderstorms were its only solace. At times the thunder was cracking enough to induce small vibrations—an echo of an echo—inside the ribs. 

Salvation arrived in the compact form of a Spaniard with sharp eyes and a physician’s hands. A man so deserving of the gift that the instrument sang for him with as much humility as its long confinement had earned. The Spaniard listened and nodded, placing his ear against the snapped neck, hearing the pure flame of its throat before its song could splinter. His name was Casals, he whispered, touching the wood with Stradivari’s tenderness. And it knew that home had come. 

Two hundred years after its birth, it would come to be christened “El Colom.” The Dove. When the ax swung again, silencing Casals, a white rose laid across its strings, in silent tribute to this second father. 

So it waited. Until it could be born again.

So it waited. Perhaps, this time, a mother would come.

------



If you would like to purchase Sarabande, it's now available for $3.99 on the Kindle app or $13.95 in paperback. Click HERE

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sarabande

I'm happy to announce that my new novel, Sarabande, is now available on the Kindle and in paperback. 

Jennifer Zobair, author of Painted Hands, says: 

"Hauntingly lyrical and richly detailed, Sarah Hina’s second novel is a smart, sophisticated exploration of online romance. Like the finest maestro in complete control of her craft, Hina interweaves delicate, plaintive sections the reader will slow to savor, with raw, carnal passages that cause pages to turn in a flurry. Sarabande is wondrous and soaring—like art, like music, like love—should be. An uncommonly beautiful book."

I started writing Sarabande in 2009. It's now 2017. So you might say this novel was a bit of a slow burner for me. It didn't always come easy. These two characters—Anna and Colin—demanded I get their story right. 

In the end, I think I did. This is the story I wanted to tell. A love story for our modern times, if also a bit of an old-fashioned dance. 

sarabande: 
n.

  • 1. A fast, erotic dance of the 1500s of Mexico and Spain.
  • 2. A stately court dance of the 1600s and 1700s, in slow triple time.
  • 3. The music for either of these dances. 


If you'd like to take a dip, here's a preview just for you: 



I'd be very grateful if you decided to purchase a copy. And if, after reading, you could manage to post a few kind words in a review on Amazon, or Goodreads, I'd be downright giddy.

Thanks to you all. I know blogs don't have the reach they once enjoyed, but I appreciate the readers who still swing by here on occasion, and I count you all as friends. 



Sunday, January 1, 2017

New

For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile, you'll know I have a New Year's tradition of posting a story on the first of January that touches on some facet of "new." 

This year, though, I want to tell you about a new book of mine, Sarabande, which I'll be publishing in the coming week or two. (I don't have an exact date, thanks to some uncertainty on the processing end.) 

From the back cover:

When Colin Ashe digs up a box of childhood treasures buried in his front yard, he's drawn to the woman who put it there, twenty years before. Anna Brawne is a renowned cellist, recently engaged to her conductor, who wants only to put her family's past to bed. But with the loss of her mother, Anna makes a major break from the ambitious path carved out for her—a break that includes Colin Ashe.  

The two connect online, where their physical distance guards an illusion of innocence, even as their revelations and longing grow. Colin reignites Anna’s passion for her art. But for the married Colin, desperate to preserve his young son’s trust, Anna Brawne might be his biggest mistake. 

Sarabande is a powerful love story for our digital age, in which intimacy is easier than ever, but integrity remains a constant struggle. The paths of Anna and Colin will pull them toward Paris—and each other—but their fate is up to them.

And, of course, the cover: 




I'll post more about Sarabande when the book is actually available, but for now—just this preview. :) 

Happy New Year, everybody! May 2017 be kind to us all. 



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sunrise, Mumbai

Halfway around the world,
dawn
is pulling
your eyelids
apart 

Halfway around the world,
light 
is throwing
its gemstones
around

Halfway around the world,
warmth
is nudging
the curtain aside

Halfway around the world,
your lips 
softly lift
speaking her name

Halfway around the world,
you bounce
out of bed
with the sun
in your stride

As you race
full pace
toward Siddhi
this night—

Where darkness
will gather
her head
toward yours
and everything
after 
is a wide
open book

Halfway around the world,
happiness 
hums
in despair's old haunt

Like a touch 
from a friend
sent 
on a star


Aniket and Siddhi, married this day

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Crack

(Photo by Saul Leiter)

A strange thing
has me
in its hand.

I feel a palm
consider my shape

how its arm
adjusts to the weight

I watch its knuckles
reflexively stretch

hear the sound
of history's give.

Bone on bone—
the bubbles
break

until I'm naught
but skin
with teeth.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Midnight in America

("Flag" by Jasper Johns)

The world is bleak today. It is one thing to mourn a person, it is a different thing altogether to mourn a country. To see your own grief magnified by millions, most of whom have more to lose than you do, and most assuredly will. 

We have survived dark times before. I remember feeling something like this in 2004, when Bush was reelected. But while we knew he wasn’t a good president, and that he was sure to do worse by us in the next four years, there was still the girding stability of a semi-functional American democracy there to guide our path forward and see us through to the other side. 

Barack Obama was waiting for us there. 

It is hard not to feel like the light has gone out. It is hard not to feel that we are living in a different America now, and traveling blindly. We elected a goon on Tuesday. We elected an unqualified, hate-spewing demagogue whose sole selling-point was that he was authentically evil instead of merely moderately bad. We did this clear-eyed and soberly, ignoring the woman who was imminently more prepared, more credible, more deserving of our faith in her, because some of us felt she was too experienced, too calculating, too tainted by “scandal.” 

The media told us this. They told us so many times, it turns out a lot of people believed them.

My own parents believed it. 

My father, a lifelong conservative, hated Trump, but he hated her more. This is what he screamed at me on the Sunday before the election—his face beet-red, finger jabbed at my face—when I tried to talk him out of his vote. He believed she was more of a threat to our institutions than the orange clown who said, through all his words and actions, that he was. He voted for this charlatan. My mother did, too. I will never forget it. They can attempt to rationalize that decision to their graves. My mom reassured me that they have more life experience to make such a choice—in other words, we liberals are naive chumps to believe that people don’t leech off of government, that people aren’t inherently looking for handouts and shortcuts instead of dignity and opportunity and fairness in their lives. I am not reassured. Conservatives may have more years under their belts, but they stubbornly refuse to stretch themselves and see the people floundering on the margins of their vision. Their myopia is unrepentant, their self-delusion catastrophic. 

But by all means, let’s lower taxes for the lot of them. 

How bad is this? I would do anything in the world to have George W. Bush back in the Oval Office right now. That’s how bad. 

As for Barack Obama…I can’t. I just can’t. We failed the man. We failed him so hard, and so spectacularly, that my eyes—dry from a kind of benumbed sleeplessness—have started leaking again. We failed Michelle Obama. Their legacy won’t be erased entirely—their example will remain in our minds like a childhood we wish we could return to—but the impact of this conman’s election will be devastating to the good, hard, painstaking work they’ve put in the past eight years.

Millions will lose their health insurance because of our failure.

The Supreme Court could be lost for a generation. 

Climate change will accelerate past the tipping-point.

The privatization of Medicare and Social Security are being quietly negotiated in back rooms. Paul Ryan’s honing in on the right, Orwellian language to sell it to the American people, his bland, boyish face the perfect shape of banality and evil. 

Banks will grow too big to fail again. 

As for foreign affairs . . . I shudder to think. This man? In charge of matters of war and peace? No no no no no no no.

And then there’s the matter of our civil liberties. Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion. Freedom from hate and bigotry. Freedom from fear. 

The silver lining in all this? People are awake. People are staggeringly, stupidly awake. The best of us, anyway.

But the darkness is here. It is swimming through our veins. We are living it now. 

I have new eyes today. They’ll need to adjust fast to their surroundings. 

I'm done with the privilege of my own illusions. I'm sick of them. 

I'm ready to see, and fight. 



Friday, November 4, 2016

4 More Days

(finding the path to 270)

Just an anecdote, as we grind through the last few days before the most important election of our lives: 

Our son told me that his sixth grade class went around the room yesterday, telling what they were grateful for. I'm not sure what the context for this was, but I know the talk quickly became political, which shouldn't be a surprise, since our children have been as caught up in all this as we are. 

A couple of the kids said they were grateful for America. One of them seemed especially fervent and, according to our son, rather scolding about it. In other words: you'd better be grateful for America, because we're the greatest nation on earth, etc. 

Which: okay. But also: that's too easy, isn't it.

When it was our son's turn, he said he was grateful for his family, his house and his dog. Then, he added (in a small voice, I'm sure, and with his eyes cast down, because he's rather shy): I'm grateful for America, too. But I'm sorry we're going through such an awful time right now. 

He didn't say he was grateful for Hillary Clinton. (Someone did. Another scowled.) Instead, he acknowledged a greater truth: it is possible to love one's country and hate what's happening to it. Not just hate it for your own sake, but for everyone's. Even the people who disagree with you. 

Patriotism has always come easy for Americans, at least since I've been alive. It's been easy enough for people to fly the flag and reproach others for not loving that symbol the way that they do. It's been easy to take boring things like journalistic integrity, tolerance and civility for granted. It's a wake-up call when you see those norms fly out the window, and not enough people seem to notice or care.

There's a tear in that flag. The threads are showing. I think a lot of us feel it. And, even if my candidate wins on Tuesday, I have no confidence it can be repaired. That's what this election has meant to me. That's what it has so miserably laid bare. How much I love my country. How much I fear it, too.

I am proud of our son for what he said to his peers. I think if we're going to be saved, his generation is the one to do it. 

I just hope we can wait that long. 



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Disillusionment isn't done with me yet



I want disillusionment
to follow me
the rest of my life

I want always
this sore
and unworldly
belief

that people
are just
when given
the chance 

and a cynic's
delight
is his iron
lung 


Monday, August 22, 2016

Shine shine shine



Fog on the hillside
and running through my lungs

The sun spokes through
the wings of a sparrow
   
as it beats a bright path
across the field 
                 
spilled open with dew-dappled
spiderwebs
like a pirate deciding
his treasure
was ours


Shine shine shine 


Later, a red leaf
takes off on a lark
and gambols downriver

and I am the only one
wise to its stumble,
its easeful incision
into a current

peopled by pond skaters
saving their best dance
for light


A fawn
pokes its nose
through the brush
alongside me

to look,
with alarm

and—
curiosity




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From time to time

(Screenshot from Tarkovsky's "Stalker")


"It's been so long since I wrote pure dialogue."

"Then let's get started."

"I—why don't you tell me what it is you want first."

"Me? I want silly things. Romantic things. Things that have nothing to do with the body and everything to do with the space between. I want the moon. And why not the stars? And how about a creek bed at sunrise with a nice topsoil of fog. And maybe—maybe just—a tender phrase, from time to time."

"It's important to want those things. It's important to remember to want those things."

"You'd forgotten?"

"No, but I wanted them only for myself. I trusted only myself with them."

"There's poetry enough in solitude."

"Yes, but hold on."

"Sure."

"No, I mean it—the kids are in the other room, arguing. Hold on."

"I'll go."

"No—don't. Please. Don't leave."

"A tender phrase, from time to time."

"Yes, but—"

"A creek bed laid from skipping stones."

"I—yes."

"The stars."

"The stars."

"The moon."

"The moon."

"A thousand eyes alongside."

"A thousand  . . . "

"What is it? Your voice just dropped."

"That's what scares me anymore."

"What? The eyes?"

"I feel—I feel exposed. Especially lately, with all the rejection. I feel so terribly exposed. Which is, in itself, embarrassing. As if people were actually watching me. As if they had anything invested in my success or failure as a writer. It's madness. And yet—"

"I can't hear you. You're mumbling."

"I said—it doesn't come as easy anymore."

"Then open yourself wider."

"How wide?"

"Wider than embarrassment. Deeper than self-consciousness can stomach."

"How—how's this?"

"Better."

"Okay. I have to go now. The kids—"

"Go on, then. Get out of here."

"Just one more thing."

"What?"

"Come back?"

"All you have to do is ask."

"Come back."

"Alright."