"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Tyranny of the Majority

They play with guns in the woods
and practice survival, like boy scouts.
They want to be ready
when the helicopters come.
They talk ammo and snipers
and live in fear of the day
they become a minority.
They say they want to take their country back.
But who are they taking it back from?


For the history behind the Flash 55 (a story told within 55 words), click here. If you want to try your hand at a 55, post it on your blog and then visit the G-Man. If writing flash isn't your thing, visit him anyway and check out all the awesome writing therein linked. Then have yourself a nice weekend across the latitudes.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rage Against The Advancing Darkness

Have you ever been in the throes of writing to find yourself writing something you didn’t know you knew? Have you ever wondered about the dreamstate you slip into, which allows you to inhabit other lives? How does this work?

For me, and I think for many of you as well, the writing process can be therapeutic, write or die, but it has also now been found to be beneficial to people afflicted with the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association is working with writers to connect people in the early stages of the disease to writing groups. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s but they have found that with early diagnosis you can still construct a life in front of the advancing darkness. It is essential to begin while the patient is in the early stages of the disease, but many people are in denial. Hence, precious time is lost. In recent polls it has been discovered that people are more afraid of contacting Alzheimer’s than heart disease or cancer. Working with writers groups, the Alzheimer’s Association is helping people afflicted with this tragic disease to seize the opportunity to say what they want to say while still cognizant, before their knowledge of what went before is lost forever.

So let us open our minds to this possibility: that a person can write something down they didn’t know they knew. Writing is a form of memory, and we use a different part of our brain when we write. Thus it has been discovered that an Alzheimer’s patient can write something down they have actually forgotten. In fact, the next day they've forgotten that they wrote it. But there it is, proof on the page, visible and tangible.

I find this to be such an interesting concept, that there is a special area of the brain that clicks into overdrive when we write. Can it be that this ties into the “vivid and continuous dream” that John Gardner (my favorite writer on writing) talked about? Writing is nothing if not a mysterious process.

Verbal exchange is invisible and intangible, while writing lasts. When these patients write something down in their writing group, they are entrusting their memory to someone else. If you can give something away you don’t lose it.

Alzheimer’s patients lose so much of their identity as they start to lose simple things like the ability to drive a car and plan their day. If we can help them preserve some of their memories for themselves and their loved ones, then this is a noble endeavor. There is no nobler profession than writing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Brothers and the Shrew

The brother is back.
His stuff fills the garage—
styrofoam take-out on the table.
Brothers who shake hands and don’t hug,
who talk about the weather
and act like they don’t care.
Her husband acts like his brother
when he’s in town.
They lie on the couch and watch TV.
It’s them against her.
Brothers.


It's time for a snapshot, a peek through the open window, a captured moment in time. I thought I was going to write something for Earth Day but then I thought every day should be Earth Day and Brothers wanted out for the weekend. They wanted to raise a little hell. If you or anyone you know has written a Friday Flash 55, go tell Mr. Knowitall, known to some as the G-Man.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Coming Clean and Going Green


I stole fledgling sprigs out of the ground from around this shrub in my mother's yard while she was at the hairdresser's. It was woody and deep and I dug and dug to capture a root line. I dug and dug whilst looking over my shoulder, but I don't know if I dug deep enough, and I slogged home with my efforts and then had to rush to get them in the ground as a storm front moved in like the hand of God and the temperature plumeted.



Going green is not just a way of life, it's a state of mind. April is a month for planting trees, and Sarahjane at writing in the wilderness also planted a bug in my ear and now I'm turning my blog carbon neutral. There is a new program to help us do that. Just click the link below to find out about it then you can pick out a button from the website's assortment like this one.

Get your button here. This is not merely symbolic. They'll plant a tree for you when you follow the link, helping to neutralize the carbon dioxide emissions of your blog. The trees will be planted in the spring of 2010 by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Now, to soulmates. Tricia at Talespinning recently bestowed the Soulmates Award upon me. Isn't it beautiful? It reminds me of orchids bursting out of an organic cauldron.

She claimed on her blog that I track the Far North for litterbugs. When I catch one, I make him/her sift the sands of time or write flash fiction, which ever. She so knows me!! I do far worse than that when I catch a litterbug. You may discover the evolution of this award at Christi Goddard's A Torch in the Tempest. Thank you Christi and thank you Tricia.

To pass this on I must spin some new folklore for you.

Sarahjayne has her own Christmas tree farm and also digs the holes for her customers who buy "live" trees as an incentive and to help make the drive to her out-of-the-way farm carbon neutral.

Amy lives beside a suspension bridge and has a writing hut underneath the approach where she can keep an eye on the river traffic and watch the sun set and rise as she writes and writes and writes her way to fame.

Talli Rolland lives near Hyde Park in London. She frequents Speakers Corner on Sundays; in fact she has her own corner. She has attained a loyal following of thousands who come out on Sundays to hear her read from her new novel.


One final thing I'd like to share with you this morning. I've been published today in Pure Francis!! I've also had my short story "Canary" published in Full of Crow. Nothing feels finished until it's found a home and these two pieces have. I will also be in Steam Ticket in May. This is the literary journal published by the University of Wisconsin and they are always looking for new writers. As Simon Larter pointed out here, we are their legacy.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you writer-friends who interact with me here. Thanks for extending a hand and helping me stay on the writing path, pointing out obstacles and pitfalls, without even realizing it. You all rock!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

HIGH STREET

She avoids the bathroom
where young girls gather
in a place of their own.

She sees double-lashed eyes,
pouty lips,
mirrors that elongate.

She sees college boys cheat
at pool. She toes the line
and throws weighted darts
at a receding board.

They see graceful
untoward.
She sees young girls—
in the mirror
she sees old.




If you want to try your hand at the ultra flash-flash (55 words, no more, no less)
let the G-Man know. He runs this horse and pony show.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Being There

Back when I was a transient, I wrote the following poem. I loved my Queen Anne cherry tree and my little flagstone patio, but I was out of place and knew I would never be from “there”. But it was warmer "there" and this is the time of year when I sometimes miss my fernleaf buckhorn and the lilac bursting forth. While there, I missed gravel roads and lakes and woods. Now I no longer have to. Now there are other things to miss. Funny how that works.

But I'm glad to have known what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange place. Come summer, I’ll drive by fields of muck where carrots and lettuces are harvested by brown-skinned men with their shirts off talking to each other in their musical language, and I'll wonder if they feel the way I felt when I wrote this poem. I’m glad my ancestors weren’t considered “illegal” without a right to schools and medical care, a path to citizenship and reward for work well done, but that is a subject for another time. This is poetry month.

BEING THERE

The straight lines of the flagstones
are precise as a musical bar.

Our slat backs are positioned to place
our legs in the sun. The Old Peculiar

is chilled. Sit up against me, we’ll share
a glass. You can admire my vices and I your wit.

The dog sees visions, roots out
mushrooms from the zebra grass

while the Queen Anne cherry tree
makes a mess the birds can’t match.

We consider dinner as the sun slips
off our feet. Another hatchling flops

out of the eave and a flock of swallows
darkens the sky in a sudden concerted bank to south.


*first published in the Melic Review

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Primer For Men

Monday is Musk
He smiles in the mirror.

Tuesday is Brut.
He won’t ask for help.

Wednesday is Undeniable.
He wears steel-toed boots.

Thursday is no-name Avon.
He’s wearing down.

Friday is Sex Appeal.
He looks toward the night.

Saturday is Wild Country.
He wishes himself elsewhere.

He’s worked his tendons into knots;
his way through every bottle.

I try to throw things out on clean-the-cupboard day.
Sundays he sits, soaped and robed.


April is poetry month and I wanted to start the week off with an ode to men. We love them, even when we hate them. We couldn't live without them. Here's to all the men in our lives.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Prairie Dog Rapture

As writers, we need to pay attention to the world around us. To write authentically, we must develop a sense-of-place. In this distracted world it is easy to forget to watch and see what is happening under our eyes. It is easy to miss the sunrise and sunset. It is easy to forget the moon overhead and the stranger across the street and the mass extermination of an entire people going on in Africa. It takes much consideration to develop a global sense of place.

In the rush of modern life in a preoccupied world, we forget to pay attention to the little things that are really quite remarkable. And, so, to the point of this post. Each morning, as the sun rises, prairie dogs leave their home burrows and stand with their palms together and face the sun for twenty to thirty minutes. Then they go about their day. Towards sunset they return to their home burrows and again stand motionless with their palms together and face the setting sun. What do they know that we have forgotten?

Prairie dog colonies are systematically being exterminated. From the hundreds of square miles they occupied before we advanced west, they inhabit a mere nine at present(via an NPR report from Bryce Canyon on 4/3/10). They are considered vermin and of no use to us. I’m wondering if there is a lesson we could learn from them before they are gone forever. I wonder that there isn't room for us and them on planet Earth. They who would dance to the rising sun.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

At the Lake House Borrowed From a Friend

She dressed for dinner even though she was alone, knowing there were worse things. There was losing a baby that was hard to conceive with a man she would have died for but who was now also lost to her. She walked out on the weather-beaten deck and waited for the sun to set.


If you can write a story in 55 words, post it and then visit the G-Man.

Love Accosted

I thought I saw you
in a tree
Your hair was streaked with
gray
and leaves
of red and lips
and chin
like a crag
with the cleft
I could sink my teeth into.
But the eyes were
wrong and looking the other way.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Appreciating Poetry and Electricity and Planting Trees

The gravel road we live on is always dark at night, and never more so than when the moon is new and not illuminated. But as we drove down the road under the new moon, returning home from a night out, the absence of any lights whatsoever began to register a warning. Even the scattered, always-on vapor lights of the neighboring farmsteads were extinguished, and the road grew ominous.

When we pulled in the driveway, we knew the power was out.

You wouldn't think that darkness would instill quiet, but it does. Maybe it's just the absence of visual stimulation that amplifies stillness to the human ear, the way ringing in the ear is more pronounced in the still of the night. We turned off the car and stepped outside. It was as quiet as a chicken coop after dark. When chickens roost they go into a semi-comatose state, like your computer on sleep mode. You can rest your hand on their backs when they're roosting and they won't budge. That's why chickens are easy prey for predators should they be stranded without cover at night. My mother says that when she was a little girl she would sit at the kitchen window after sunset and watch the chickens fly up into a tree to roost. She vividly remembers how they would ruffle their feathers and settle on a branch for the night. After raising a flock of our own, I know where the term “chicken” (meaning afraid) comes from. They are defenseless and very timid creatures. The fox would only have to stick his nose under the door and they would all die of heart attacks.

So the chicken coop dark and quiet was the norm, but the surrounding farmland dark and quiet . . . not so much. We found our way into the house and tried a light. It came on dimly. What we had was a “brown-out,” a low-power event which is extremely dangerous for appliances. Luckily a family member from down the road had thought to pull the plugs on everything, including my laptop or I would not be speaking to you now. I would be balled up in a corner as distressed as Blanche, Stella’s disturbed sister in A Streetcar Called Desire. If you haven’t seen that classic, go quickly and rent it! We watched it via Netflix because I wanted to see the young Marlon Brando in his sweat-stained T-shirt. Oh my God! He invented that entire James Dean look—the muscled, conflicted, brooding male. The film is in black and white, which makes it even more dramatic. It is definitely character-driven and dialogue rich, a literary extravaganza for the senses. But back to our dilemma.

Why is it that when you really need a candle you can’t find one, and when you only want one for atmosphere, they’re everywhere? Desperate, we stuck a couple of stick candles in empty beer bottles, like college days. All I needed was incense and The Moody Blues. But we went to bed early like pioneers not college kids. The next morning candle wax was dripped across the countertop, evidence of our fumbling.

OK, so April is the month for violent storms and watching classics. It is also poetry month and I plan to highlight more poetry on this blog starting Friday. I just got some good news from Steam Ticket a Third Coast Review, published out of the University of Wisconsin. A piece I submitted will be published in their 13th edition which is due out in May!

One more thing. April is also the month for planting trees and kissing the earth. This is a white pine. I kissed the earth with my shovel and watched another storm blow in. 
Posted by Picasa
Are you planting a tree this month? If so, what kind?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sabotaged (friday flash 55)

Everything’s her fault.
She missed the UPS delivery
sunning by the pool.
She left the shutter open
on the camera
ruining the battery.
He sets her up for defeat
as he anchors the house.
She takes her masters in February
but she’s defensive as a naughty child,
hobbled as the three-legged cat
she furtively feeds.



If you write a Friday Flash 55 (a story in 55 words, no more, no less) make sure you let the G-Man know.

Writing is not for fools

I came within a hair of winning Andrea Cremer's paranormal haiku contest for one of her "signed" NIGHTSHADE arcs. This, hot off the Cremer Express:

THE NOMINEES ARE:

Best Drama:

Yvonne

A night bird twittered
at the window, tapped the sill.
A chirp then a claw.


The competition was stiff as a pair of jeans hung out to dry so I'm considering the finalist category the winner's circle. She promises more of these giveaways so check her blog out. She's one of my oldest blogging friends and is about to be famous worldwide!

Another contest I want to mention this morning is Lady Glamis's short story contest. It runs until June 1st so plenty of time to hone that short and the prizes are very much worth your effort.

Tomorrow is Good Friday with a Flash 55 to conjure up. I have stories and poems out on submission and a nifty rejection in my inbox from Ploughshares. I've recovered from my blog transformation, and I just backed up my novel by emailing it to myself which I thought a pretty good idea since I keep my flashdrive in the vicinity of my laptop and hardcopy is somewhat combustible. And the query letter? Umm, yeah, it's here staring me in the face like a albatross.
Albatross n, 2 a: something that causes persistent deep concern or anxiety.