Naked and Proud
One hundred brush strokes through auburn hair
as wind whispers through my open arms, gliding
multicolored leaves of Autumn to forested carpet.
I stand naked and proud, exposed branches
for all to see, fingers shivering as they clutch
the last few flags of a forgotten summer.
Struggling vines hug my torso in last attempt
before the frigid fangs of winter take my toll.
I weep with the morning dew, saying farewell
to the glorious colors blanketing my feet
as I prepare for my long sleep before Spring
costumes me in green coat of memories past.
“We’re going to be late.”
Her mouth formed the thin line of displeasure mothers give unruly children, hard white lips over harsh words. I could see her all pinch-faced in the rearview mirror. Her eyes screamed but her voice was quiet.
“We’re late, every time. Every time.”
She flashed her husband a look, glared at his hands on the wheel. Glared at the ring on his finger. He didn’t answer and he wouldn’t look at her. His face I couldn’t quite see fully.
“They’ll think it’s me,” she hissed. She folded her arms over her chest, irate. The image of petulance. “I can tell they think it’s me. I can see it. It’s always the woman, lollygagging. The hair and makeup. You’ll get off without a hitch.”
“It’ll be ten minutes,” he said lowly. I saw the strip of his eyes in the mirror dart off the road and up to me. They had an apology in them. “It won’t be that big a deal.”
“Not once. Not a big deal once. This is a regular thing. I think people have noticed by now.”
“We’re not the only ones who show up late.”
“We’re the only ones who show up late always.”
I could hear my friend shift awkwardly beside me, her hands in her lap. Her posture was reflexively meek, the condescension in her mother’s voice washing to the backseat. Discomfort filled the Buick like methane, reeking and unpleasant.
“You’re so irresponsible.”
The accusation fell on hunched shoulders and pushed his foot harder on the gas. His eyes were riveted on the road, on the swath of asphalt beneath his headlights.
“I should just tell them. ‘Oh, it’s not me. It’s David. He had to see the end of the game.’ They’ll believe that.” She laughed in the way that slapped, that mocked. “God. You could learn to just record it. I record all my shows.”
I saw his forehead crease. I could see the furrows, the lines of brewing anger, of consternation. She was grinning, victorious, her mouth opening to deliver some final blow. Some knife right through the ribs to his pride.
I cleared my throat.
“Looks nice out. Lots of stars tonight.”
She deflated and he sighed - defeated and relieved. The truce was unspoken and mutually understood. A guest was here and appearances had to be kept up.
“So,” she said brightly, turning around in her seat to look at us. “You guys hungry for anything?”
It would have to wait until they got home.
The Life of a Writer
"You are only as good as the last thing you've written." Yes, people liked what you wrote today, but what about tomorrow? Will you have an idea? Will other people like it? Do you care? Will you even be able to put something up for others to read?
That statement haunts me each and every day. I struggle with self-esteem, and I pour so much of myself into my work that a negative reaction - or what's worse, a tepid reaction - can feel devastating at the time. I spend a while kicking the wall every time I get a negative response, or especially extensive corrections on a manuscript, but when I finally calm down and take a good, hard look at what other people have said about the piece, I usually find that most of what they said has at least some merit and it bears my consideration.
Writers learn by doing, and we especially learn from feedback. And learning is a continuous practice. We are always thinking about the next piece and the next one and the piece after that. The day we stop learning is the day we cease to practice our craft well. Yes, I still struggle with self-esteem about my writing, and, yes, I will continue to kick the wall. But if I am only as good as the last thing I've written, I will work as hard as I can to make that a kick-ass piece and a double kick-ass for the one after that.
Here's to the writing life!!
#questioning #challenging #amwriting #writingthoughts
Left or Right
Disclaimer: The following text is a description of an elderly Jewish couple on the train towards the Auschwitz camp. Characters in it are completely fictional, but all of their experiences are based on factual events, which means something similar to this would have happened to them.
I've been trying to keep count of the passing days while feeling the warmth of day and the cold whispers of the night's wind sliding through the wooden gaps of this walking prison. My children, and their children, they all got on the train before me, for that reason they were put in a different cell. We’re traveling together, though I am not with them. But I'm not lonely; beside me is my true company, my wife Vida, a true baleboste (master of the house). We both share the food we've brought to the train- in secret. A few others have also brought food, but some of them were not wise enough to keep it a secret, they've let other travelers see the food. Now, they carry no food and their bodies are soulless, while the thieves of this train feed on the bloody bread.
What's happening? I can hear the screams of rusty metal being dragged across rotting wood. The same sound of when the doors were closed. Suddenly, with the sound of an opening door, a mountain of light collapses into our cell with only one shadow being cast by a man that starts helping everyone out. The oldest ones cannot compete with the force of the young ones that fight to freedom and push us to the back. We were the last two to leave, leaving behind a cell furnished with corpses of the unfortunate ones.
After we leave the train they begin to take away from us what they believed we shouldn't have. My eyeglasses are taken from my face without a request and thrown into a hill of confiscated objects, in it, though it was hard to see, I recognised a unique familiar bag which belongs to a friend, and I now wonder: if it is a comfort or a burning sadness that he too is here with me in this place.
For now, I do not know what awaits me, but I do know I’ll find it impossible to sleep by the end of the day. I see the pain of the young ones that walk with naked feet on the hard gravel; they walk in front of me in a straight line not allowing me to see their faces of misery, but I can hear the torment in their gasps and involuntary shakes with every step they give. For an odd reason, Vida and I were allowed to keep our shoes.
The line is too long. We're the last two in a long, long, long line of people. In fact, people from the front are just dots. At least they appear to be so. Some moving left while others moving right. We wait and wait, as time is the only thing we have with us. My wife grips my hand with such strength that it makes me wince and awakes me from my thoughts. I look up to see what caused her a disturbance and see my family: my children in the company of their own children.
I might not see as well as I once did, but I can see a mile away when my little girl, Kiva, is upset. My children go right and their children go... left. They're not allowing this to happen, they will not be separated! They scream and demand to go with their children, they're threatened with guns aiming at their heads, but they're too brave.
I yell as loud as I can to go with their children.
The "doctor", which decides who goes left or right, fixes his eyes on me, his eyes move up and down- judging my appearance- his focus shifts to my walking stick, he remains unimpressed. In a rough accent, he asks me "Is this your wife?" I say "She is my wife, yes..." His face turns away and he whispers to the man on his right, he then proceeded with his work of pointing left and right. The man he whispered too approaches me with a warm smile and says "Come, you and your wife can accompany your grandchildren." and so we go towards the left side.
There's a repulsing smell of sweat and unwashed people, familiar to the one in the train, as we go into a room that was built underground, it has no windows and not much light survives in the sea of darkness that covers hundreds of people in the room. They're taking their belts off along with their shoes and jackets. I proceed to do the same. A man next to us has the same bag as mine. One of the soldiers approaches me and gives me a piece of chalk "For you to write your name on it." he said, "You should also tie the shoe laces together, we don't want you to lose anything when you come back."
We take our time and again, we are the last ones to leave.
The next room is... the next room is crowded, even more than the train, I thought such thing wasn't possible, but it is. My dear wife grabs my hand not to lose me. The children grab our legs. The man that advised me about the shoes approaches me on the edge of the entrance and pushes us to the crowd while another man closes the door. The arms and legs of those in the room move around like fishes out of water, all trying to fight for space to breathe; my chest is squished against the wall allowing no air into my lungs. In this room of movement, Vida can't stay still and she's swallowed by the crowd. I scream her name, hold her hand with a strong grip not to lose her, as the sea of people tries to take her away from me. Suddenly, I hear the voices of the little children- they're not with me! I travel towards them but the waves of movement are too strong- the bodies around me trap me as I hear the children scream for my name. A desperate man grabs my shoulders and pulls me down onto the floor so that he could put his head over the crowd and breathe. I try to knock him down, but I fail and fall on my knees… What smell is that? A repulsing smell. I open my mouth trying to breathe but I cough and cough, the harder I try to breathe the harder I cough. Everyone around me is in the same struggle- painful coughs, violent gasps and slow deaths. I still feel the hand of my darling- she no longer struggles, and neither do I.
Grandpa’s Old Sedan
Frost clinging to the trees and grass,
we wandered ’cross the farm,
and happened on the rusted shell
of Grandpa’s old sedan.
A memory of days long past,
one time could never harm,
now decades past the new-car smell
of Grandpa’s old sedan.
There was a time it went quite fast,
this relic, past the barn;
each dent and scratch, a story tells,
of Grandpa’s old sedan.
As his first love, its role was cast.
before his call-to-arms,
life’s imprint in each metal cell
of Grandpa’s old sedan.
It might have been the price of gas,
which far outpaced its charm,
that sounded out the last death knell
of Grandpa’s old sedan.
A remnant that was built to last,
no seat belts or alarms,
yet magic lives within the spell
of Grandpa’s old sedan.
(c) 2016 - dustygrein
**Note: This is a modified Kyrielle. It is written in iambic common meter (alternating tetrameter and trimeter lines) and is a bit different by virtue of its rhyme scheme: abcR, abcR, etc.
When I recall my grandfather, it is an image.
Him sitting, hunched forward, elbows on knees on a kitchen chair.
One long, skinny leg dangling over the other. His foot keeping time to a silent rhythm.
A can of xxxx on the laminate kitchen table beside him that he swigs from every few minutes or so.
His cigarette hanging loosely between his bony, yellowed fingers. The smoke spiraling around his weathered, sunburnt face.
A face softened slightly by a tuft of white hair atop a high forehead. A genetic feature that he passed down to all of his male offspring including his male grandchildren.
He would tell me stories about his time on the railways and the men he worked with.
He'd share with me his hard learnt philosophies on survival and life.
I was four years old and to this day I've never loved a man more than I loved my grandfather.
My mother told me years later that he was a raging alcoholic and that he had a mean way about him.
I never believed her. My mother was incapable of connecting to anyone other than by codependence.
We had fled Malaysia with the aid of my aunt. Escaping my stepfather who was stationed there during the communist uprisings.
She had married him out of desperation to provide me with a father at a time when being a single mother was viewed with condemnation.
My grandparents owned a disused diary farm in outback North Queensland Australia.
It was the perfect environment for a four year old boy in need of shelter from two guardians who were not able to put aside their own self indulgences in order to raise a kid.
Some chickens, a couple of horses, abandoned cars and several dilapidated sheds.
I spent my days exploring, Seeking out lizards and snakes, feeding the kangaroos at dusk, helping my grandma with the washing and of course, talking to my grandfather when he arrived home after work.
My mother was working 60 miles away in the city as a nurse. She would come home for the weekends, though her presence was always underwhelming.
About this time, you may be starting to get the idea that her and my relationship was less than ideal.......your observations are correct.
Even as a four year old I felt alienated by her special brand of emotional detachment.
I realized much later, as her senses started to leave, that the nature of her brokenness blocked any form of connection.
It was a Sunday afternoon. For some reason I remember that.
My grandfather was holding me in his arms in my bedroom.
We were watching out of the window at the figure making it's way up the long dusty driveway to the house.
As he got closer I could see it was my stepfather. I began to cry.
As he got closer still I saw he was holding a bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear.
My grandfather started to cry as he held me tighter.
I pleaded with him to make my stepfather go away,
I knew he couldn't though. I knew the ways of my mother.
We seemed to both understand that our relationship would forever change and our grief was a manifestation of that.
We never again talked at the kitchen table. We never again spent significant time together.
I was taken to Sydney to witness the train wreck of my parents marriage.
They separated 10 years later.
He died 5 years after that.
So many miles away and 15 years later, I didn't even shed a tear.
Yet today I can't seem to stem the flow.
Strange how these things work......
no \\ adverb. 1. a negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal. 2. what your mother insists when you beg to leave the house after dark / because she has lost faith in the midway / and the men who serve you coca-colas at the state fair / who swat flies and offer you drinks on the house / if you kiss them on their cheeks. 3. a shake of the head / when he asks you to dance / a hand to his hip / when he twirls you anyway. 4. the pit that forms in your stomach when he calls you a pretty young thing / asks for your number / asks if you’ve got a boyfriend / asks if you’ll meet him out back / behind the dumpsters / where no one will see you, baby. 5. the prayer you weep when his will smothers yours. 6. a whistle / a stun gun / a dagger disguised as eyeliner / lipstick pepper spray / brass knuckles / car keys / mercy. 7. the first word you teach your daughter.
All These Poets
if Shakespeare had written you, you'd be Juliet
with fair features and soft hands,
this whole world would love you like their own
Maya Angelou could write you stronger
she'd pick you up and set you free
you've always been a caged bird, and caged birds need to sing
Edgar Allen Poe would write you darker
he'd give you pale hands and veins so dark they'd be rivers
he'd make you a Dream Within a Dream; with blue eyes deeper than his City in the Sea
if Walt Whitman had written you, you'd be green
green with envy, green, like the Leaves of Grass in the sun
your heart would beat Drum-Taps and your very flesh would be a poem
Robert Browning would have written you with a whisper of confession
he would have written you with love, hope, fear, faith
you would have been his humanity
if Natalie Diaz wrote you she'd probably make you wild
she'd write you, babydoll eyes and bubble gum cheeks
you'd be her journal of metaphors and her box of hyperboles
Robert Frost would have made you burning
you'd be fire dipped gold and ice covered isolation
a beautiful mix of rock, water, bone
and everything else a mountain is made of
but you wrote yourself hidden
buried yourself in the constellations and drowned yourself in grey moon reflections
you wrote yourself simply, when all these poets I've ever studied would have made you a masterpiece