My Writing

Black and White Bridge

#9 of 86: A Bref Double for My Friend

Feeling introspective and thinking about a friend of mine. The Bref Double is odd because the rules are not limiting, but I did break one of them by not making the lines a consistent length. It’s sort of a weird sonnet with no meter. Maybe it sounds better in French (bref doo-blay?). I followed AXBC | XAXC | BXXC | AB for this one, but it sounds like there are a few variations.

 

A Bref Double for My Friend

You are lost. Just a little lost.
I know how that can feel.
That it hurts, but you can’t explain how.
No anchor, no sails, no sunshine. 

Brief joy in a hearty laugh or a found high,
and you buy those moments at any cost
because you know, once it’s gone,
you just have to wait until next time. 

But I’m happy to tell you that you can get out.
The truth is that those moments are not real joy.
They are distractions from what life is really about.
And it’s your own head that’s telling you that you are not fine. 

This shift in your mindset is a bridge you must cross,
from the person you will be Then to the You you are Now.

come by day

#7 of 86: Busy Blitz

Have to say I loved The Blitz, a 50-line, super-fast, meant-to-be-read-aloud form created by Robert Keim. There is no punctuation and no required rhyme. I could explain the rules, but it’s better to just glean the form by reading an example. Try to read this without moving your lips, or bobbing your head, or getting into some kind of rhythm. It has an inherent lyrical beat that’s hard to ignore.

Come by Day

Here we go
Here we come
Come and go
Come to know
Know your self
Know your name
Name the price
Name the game
Game is won
Game is lost
Lost in love
Lost in space
Space and time
Space and place
Place to stay
Place to be
Be on track
Be on time
Time is mine
Time is money
Money hungry
Money watch
Watch your self
Watch your step
Step to the front
Step to the back
Back of the line
Back of your mind
Mind your surroundings
Mind your manners
Manners matter
Manners and respect
Respect your self
Respect your neighbors
Neighbors are noisy
Neighbors will think
Think about the future
Think about your family
Family affairs
Family forever
Forever in debt
Forever young
Young and beautiful
Young and broke
Broke as a joke
Broke up the day
Day and night
Day by day
Day…
Night…

Preface Blackout Poem from Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights

#6 of 86: Blackout with Bronte

Blackout Poetry, or Erasure Poetry, involves taking a segment of complete work and removing a limited amount of words to create a new poem. A Blackout basically takes a Sharpie to a printed work, leaving behind a series of words or characters to make something new. I tried this with a preface page from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I copied an image and added black rectangles in Paint to reverse highlight the words I wanted–it was a surprisingly creative experience! I can see these being really meaningful if the new edit somehow references the meaning of the original text.

The final text reads “Preface: time laughs at Fate | your World was found | human and beautiful it grows”

Scrabble Tiles

#5 of 86: I Never Thought This Would Happen

I didn’t really enjoy my experience writing Anagrammatic Poetry, in which the lines of the poem are anagrams (scrambles) of the title. I hummed an hawed to try to make something that made sense, which isn’t really the point. I started out very ambitious, then tried to just make a sensible couplet, and just could not do it! I might try this again some other time, but for now this was the best I came up with.

I never thought that would happen…

I never thought that would happen…
Put A world though event thin heap
Thorough pet up than held twin wave
Prevent u what tough hate pin hold

found alphabet

#4 of 86: Alpha on Zodiac

Alphabet poetry is pretty self-explanatory. Each line starts with a letter of the alphabet, each word starts with the next letter of the alphabet, etc. I added an element of rhyme to this one, and I actually learned a lot about the zodiac in the process! Much harder than I thought it would be, but this form can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be.

Alpha on Zodiac

Zodiac, by definition, is an imaginary belt of the heavens.
You can trace the concept back to Babylonian times.
Xenophiles of ancient Rome recorded the zodiac in essence.
Western astrology divides the zodiac into twelve signs.
Variations of the zodiac focus on animals, elements, or dates.
Universally, the signs are applied to astrological horoscopes.
True believers use these transmissions to predict their fates.
Skeptics dismiss such nonsense as a way to sell dreams and hopes.
Rams are the symbol of the fire sign Aries under planet Mars.
Quick to judge, but warm and vital, an Aries is a natural leader.
Peaceful and methodical is Taurus the bull, drawn to pleasures.
Often reserved, but only to a point, these are stability seekers.
Next is Gemini, the twin sign of the social and adventurous.
Much like Cancer, the loyal crab surrounded by friends and family.
Leo the lion is relaxed and in charge, yet proud and decorous.
Keep Leos grounded, as they can border on smugness or pageantry.
Just the opposite, Virgos are sympathetic, logical, and practical.
Introverted maybe, but always thinking and applying their skills.
Harmony and balance are key to Libras, who are fair and tactical.
Genuine and matter-of-fact, the Scorpio seeks passion and thrills.
Freedom, learning, and discovery are paramount to Sagittarius.
Enterprising Capricorn is ambitious, serious, and goal-oriented.
Decent and generous, yet stubborn, describes humanitarian Aquarius.
Casual on the outside, Pisces is inwardly sensitive yet contented.
By and large, the pop culture of the zodiac is a departure from science.
A glance up to the stars on a clear night can vindicate our compliance.

American Flag

#3 of 86: Ae Freislighe for Election Day

Talk about a tricky form… The Ae Freislighe is an form is constructed of 4 line stanzas (or quatrains) that follow a tight rhyme scheme. Each line contains 7 syllables, the first and third lines ending in a three syllable triple-rhyme (xxa) and the second and third lines ending in a two syllable double-rhyme (xxb). The last line should start with the first word of the first line. (Who thought of this???) Anyway the form forces some sing-songiness, but I thought it could help loosen up a heavy topic like politics. You be the judge!

Let’s Talk Politics

Three cheers for democracy
A system made by choices.
Now I see dichotomy
and conflict forced by voices.

When stating your opinion,
don’t droll on and on carefree.
You might feign a position
which with others don’t agree.

It might not seem concerning
to not want to look aloof,
but others are discerning
if they do or don’t approve.

It can damage character
and it can hurt your business.
It makes online predators
and turns an old friend vicious.

Our system must continue,
the flipside is too scary.
Just know we all contribute,
Three branches and the many.

Crossword puzzle

#2 of 86: Acrostic Poetry

I love acrostic poetry I’ve added this element to other poems without calling it an acrostic because I think it’s a fun hidden message for analytic readers (which I’m not, but I like writing that way). Yesterday I wrote an abstract poem, Saturday Morning at the Diner, and I acrostic-ally added the word BREAKFAST using the first letter of each line. Actually, that was how I started and how I decided which sounds to use. These are really fun because they add the puzzle aspect of formal poetry that I really enjoy, but the chance of a reader spotting it is a lot greater than a particular beat or meter.

 

The Departure

Can you recall your first great read? An epic novel or time-honored classiC?

Once you crack that cover and read those first few lines—away you gO.

Verse and chapters build a world that becomes TOo real for movies or TV.

Experience another time or place, another life, without having to go anywherE.

Reading: The vacation you didn’t know you needed, the answer you weren’t looking foR.

40s Diner Black and White

86 Day Poetry Challenge

I haven’t been doing much writing for the past year other than to-do lists and emails, which has left me feeling dull and uninspired. What better way to encourage a little literary discipline than a writing challenge? I hope to reinvigorate my creativity with this challenge.

Robert Lee Brewer has a lovely list of 86 poetic forms on the Writer’s Digest website. The forms may dictate meter, rhyme, length, style, or any other poetic element. I will do my best to write one a day, but I’m a realist—I haven’t written in a while, and the point is just to get writing!

The list is ordered alphabetically, so I thought I’d start there, but I may choose to jump around. So here we go, beginning with Abstract Poetry, also known as Sound Poetry. The text itself is quite stupid, but it makes me laugh.

 

Saturday Morning at the Diner

Be Early… Be Early… Burble the brew… Bring near boil… Buy Brian a bran bar…

Run! Run rolls then ready rooms then rub royal-red-raspberry-rhubarb-rye!

Egg bake. Get egg bake. Get egg bake back to Pegleg Meg to take.

Apply the apron to the patron to pay the matron for her bacon.

Kill the will to fill the bill with spills but keep it neat and sweet and cheap.

Feast on exotic foods of Luxembourg expertly paired with expensive flax.

Away the day with a nice Earl Grey, gourmet whey, and lunch buffet.

Sardine sammies with sesame seed and soy sauce satisfy salty savory tastes.

Too much to do to and get into to continue my rendezvous AT THE DINER.

Woody Allen

Woody Allen Didn’t Make the Cut

I thought I’d donate some things to Goodwill in an attempt to start clearing out my spare bedroom of “stuff.” My general rule of thumb is to pitch things I haven’t used in a year. It’s different with books and movies, because you likely don’t want to hear the same stories once per year. So, I had to approach my DVD and book shelf a little more thoughtfully.

Though I don’t believe in getting rid of stuff for the sake of wanting to get rid of stuff, I also know I’ve lugged around the same DVD/book collection to multiple residencies without having even cracked some of the covers. It was easy to pull the 2000’s garbage movies that my husband probably inherited, like My Best Friend’s Girl and The Dukes of Hazzard, but it was far more tricky to get rid of any of the movies I had bought when I was “serious about film.”

I started with a book called 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and it guided most of my movie purchasing in my early twenties. Anytime I saw a movie that was in my book, I bought it. I probably spent most of my disposable income building the ultimate DVD collection. It didn’t help that I was a film student at the time, drinking the Andy Warhol Kool-Aid at the UW-Milwaukee art school.

The sad truth is that, rather than watching the movies that I thought were interesting or reading up on writers and directors that I liked, I pursued the “art” that I was told was the best and most meaningful. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

I am not a fan of Woody Allen. I never have been. I think he’s annoying and whiney. I dislike it when a character, who the writer clearly favors, delivers some bulldozing rant that’s meant to sound off-the-cuff when the writer must have spent hours coming up with it. That being said, I just had to have Annie Hall because it was in my book. I watched it once and hated it. Needless to say, it went in my donation box.

Now, I have no problem not liking something that is “great.” I’ve never had a problem calling out my husband’s garbage movies and he’s never had a problem calling out my boring movies. We at least have an understanding and we both like what we like. And maybe someone is thrift shopping right now, eyeing up their favorite Woody Allen movie on the $1.99 shelf.

Mirror Mountain

Nine to One

Nine to One

I always thought I would change the world
with a Great Novel for my time.
So sure I was meant to be
a Great entrepreneur,
or a Great artist,
Great anything.
But instead,
I’m here.
Small.
Human.
And I live,
and I have love,
and I feel passion,
and I have confidence,
and I let my mind run free,
and I do not dwell on regrets,
and I savor moments of Greatness.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

I’ve been reading the stories of Flannery O’Connor in the order she wrote them. I picked up the book because I liked the cover: it’s an illustration of a peacock with elegant black text (I learned from the introduction that O’Connor kept peacocks on her property). O’Connor is a product of the Old South, and you can tell immediately, but I didn’t let that get in my way. Her writing doesn’t feel like it’s trying to escape you, which is exactly what I feel like reading right now. I’m picking up themes of morality and the danger of self-absorption, but mostly I’m just enjoying the unexpected experiences of these interesting characters. I can just pick it up, read a story or two, and put it down.

I wish I could say I’m working on a collection of essays, but I’m really only working on the first one, which for all I know could end up being the only one. I already had an idea for a collection by which each entry features a different moment of happiness, but I’ve been inspired by O’Connor that each entry can have a feeling like the others, but can also stand simply and on its own. When you try to make an idea too big, it’s tough to even get started. I wrote this poem to get the juices flowing for my first essay, which I think I will call “Champagne In The Pfister.”

Champagne in the Pfister

There’s a heat in my heart
Literally, a heat inside my chest
Flashes of the day blast across my head,
But all I can think about is how important this moment is
And I can’t waste it.

Wasabi peas and sesame sticks in a little silver dish
Perched on a low round table
Gold champagne to wash it down
My lipstick leaves a matte stamp on the flute
And i can see a crumb or two stuck in it,
Like dust marring a fresh paint job,
But it didn’t matter

A 3-piece jazz trio played a song about rain,
Maybe it was called rain,
But it made me cry.
Something without words
So i could make up my own words:
Something about how his left hand,
Now decorated with a sliver of silver,
Is the most wonderful thing i’ve ever seen.
And I’ll always have this moment.

clock time hours minutes

Those Few Great Moments

The Hours is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, in fact, I read nearly the entire thing again. At times I would start to cry without recognizing my reaction right away, as if the story was in more control of my emotion than I was. It was definitely a book for me, because like most people, I’ve always tried to figure out what it is about life that makes people happy, what makes people persevere or strive, and why some people can never seem to find any satisfaction or contentment. Michael Cunningham condenses the life’s source of happiness (or pleasure, or contentment, or whatever you want to call it), in a way that’s neither too bleak to handle nor too optimistic to allow yourself to believe it:

We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

When thinking of my own life, there are memories that jump out at me–moments of complete happiness that I’m grateful I got to have. They belong to me, they are exclusive to me, and I will have them as long as I’m capable of remembering. Of course, I want more. I would risk spoiling one of these moments to try re-creating it, or topping it. With this, my destructive nature in mind, I want to honor those moments the best I can and dwell in them a little longer. It has given me a prompt for at least three creative non-fiction essays I should have already written.

Triolet for Robert Plant

Happy birthday to Robert Plant, who is 68 today. Robert Plant is (should I say was?) the singer and primary lyricist for my favorite band of all time, Led Zeppelin. I was easily sucked into the history of the band and haven’t yet read about Mr. Plant’s life before it, but he is an exceptional writer and singer and I can’t imagine any other voice in his place. It’s hard to read Zeppelin lyrics without the context of the music because they’re so recognizable, but to me his writing is accessible–a next-level understanding of things situated in reality. In that spirit I wrote this poem.

Triolet for Robert Plant

First find your gift; then exhaust its full extent.
These are the ones who live beyond their years.
You can never be too late, too old, too spent—
First, find your gift. Then exhaust its full extent.
Accepting less than best breeds spite and discontent,
and a mediocre life is not a life revered.
First find your gift; then exhaust its full extent.
These are the ones who live beyond their years.

This verse is a triolet, an 8-line repetitive stanza following an ABaAabAB pattern. Most examples I noted were also in iambic pentameter so I went for it, but I deviated quite a bit. I prefer to work with a syllable count and let the meter come naturally. It was a neat little exercise, anyways!

The Worst Fate

The Worst Fate

No one succeeds at a stand-still, waiting…
Waiting for Fate, for their dreams to come true,
for days significant and life-changing.
When life is no more than a scene to view,
it isn’t living, it’s just sustaining.
What another soul might have done with you!
The worst fate is the fate you do not make,
a life bound by chances you did not take.

This is my effort at the Ottava Rima, an 8-line ABABABCC stanza. I choose to go with 10 syllables per line, though the form most often suggests 11. Kind of like an abbreviated sonnet, Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium is a good example of how the brevity and sing-songy-ness of the form in stanzas can contribute a sort of timeless, tale-like quality.

California Dreaming

After spending a week in Southern California soaking up the sun, a feeling has stayed with me. I’m not really sure what it is, but as relieved as I was to come home, I’ve also had this sense that my home has changed. It doesn’t seem the same as it did when I left.

California is absolutely a place for dreamers… As my husband and I waited at an outdoor table in Hollywood for our In-N-Out burgers, a woman with a blunt black bob, pale skin and red lips paced along the sidewalk and read lines from a script. California is also a place for crack-heads, foreigners, bros, the “forever” young, and strategically placed rich people.

It has, is, and probably always will be an inspiration for many… It’s where Led Zeppelin went to “make a new start,” where Don Draper escapes his real life, and the place Marilyn Monroe called home for most of her life.

Although I felt moments of pure West Coast Wonder, like the shallow pit in my stomach at the sight of a wave twice my height rushing towards me, or the smiling-while-I-ate satisfaction chewing mouthfuls of fish taco, or the flush of goosebumps at seeing my heroine’s hand prints in 63-year-old cement, I also had an overall Big Picture experience. My world, and my life, is very small. Just a grain of sand–maybe one of the many that settled in my bikini bottom for most of the trip, but a spec none-the-less. When I left home, I felt content. When I returned home, I felt insignificant and my world small. Do I want to be significant and my world big? I’m not sure about that, either.

I suppose everyone has moments of “what if” and “what else,” it’s just where and when they pop up that are unique. I suppose that’s the untold consequence of travelling.

Are Movies Getting Worse or Am I Getting Old?

Here we find ourselves mid-2016 award season, and I find myself becoming less and less excited over new releases. Looking for a Saturday night date this past Valentine’s weekend, my husband Sean and I trolled through the local showtimes and came up empty handed. I had a medium interest in seeing The Revenant, but not enough interest that I couldn’t wait for it to come to Redbox. Sean wanted to see Zoolander 2. I didn’t even want movie theater popcorn enough to sit through it, though I have to admit I did think the first Zoolander was funny.

I remember not that long ago when I couldn’t wait for new movies to come out… I think the last movie I was really amped up to see was The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Now, I rarely see features that even peak my interest. Maybe that’s just a part of getting older. What happened to all the really great movies that had me making plans and buying tickets in advance? Do I have to starve for that anticipation just because I’m not a Star Wars fan?

Instead of a going-out date, we had a stay-at-home date: pizza and a rental. Despite the bonus of being cheap and leisurely, I also found that there weren’t many new release rental titles that looked very interesting. As a fan of thrillers, I picked Crimson Peak (Sean picked Jurassic World, which we have yet to watch). I thought Crimson Peak was very beautiful visually, and I actually found the plot to be fairly solid for a movie about a haunted house. Even with some room for improvement, we really couldn’t go wrong since the rental was free with our pizza. Not to make this all about money, but where I live a movie costs $10 – $14. I can skip the candy, but I must have a bucket of popcorn the size of my head: $8. Then a tub of Pepsi because of all the salt: $6. For two, that’s over $30. Even though that isn’t much, if the movie is awful, I just paid over $30 to see it. I heard a blurp on public radio suggesting that the price of admission should be based on the quality or demand for the movie. Though it sounds logical, it’s highly unlikely. In that reality, though, I wonder how much tickets would be for Zoolander 2, The Boy, or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

The most telling part of this whole harangue is that on Sunday, I found more enjoyment in catching the last twenty minutes of Casablanca on Turner Classic Movies.

Ill-anelle, or, The Hypochondriac

Do I feel warm? Put your hand on my head,
I’m burning up, but my hands are cold.
I think I’m coming down with something bad…

My neck is stiff and my eyes are red,
And look—-I never noticed this weird mole.
What do you think? Put your hand on my head.

I could have forgotten to take my meds,
and I ate some chicken that was getting old.
I may have caught something seriously bad!

Maybe pox? Or measles? Something that spreads?
You could have it, too, something out of our control.
Hold still; let me put my hand on your head…

Honestly, you seem fine… But I feel half-dead!
I read about this in Diseases, Foretold
You should always assume it’s something bad.

Don’t I seem woozy? I should be in bed…
And that incessant humming; it’s taking its toll!
I’ve got to get an ice pack on my head,
I’m in real pain here, and it’s worse than bad!

Nice Try…

It was on this day in 1919 that the 18th Amendment, otherwise known as Prohibition, was ratified in Congress with the intent of keeping America clean and dry. With the support of various “temperance” groups and religious collectives, Prohibition was instituted to reduce crime and increase morality (in theory). Unfortunately, just like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” so it goes that “booze doesn’t make a criminal, but a criminal makes illegal booze.” Prohibition only lasted 13 years, and the 18th remains the only Amendment to ever be repealed.

I find the 1920’s to be a fascinating time in American history. Despite the drought, I love the spirit of the time–you can see it on people’s faces in old photographs. I wrote a story called Tails about the oldest son of a poor farming family who sets out for the big city to earn a living, only to be caught up in the world of a busy speakeasy (I was 19 when I wrote it). Whether the story was any good is debatable, but I still find the period to be a major source of inspiration.

If you have three minutes, check out this video from the History Channel that sums up the details nicely. A great anecdote if you’re going out tonight!

NaNoWriMo and Other Thoughts

I feel remiss for failing to write a single post in three months. I have plenty of excuses, but when it comes to writing, you really do have to make time for it and I’ve let life get in the way.

That said, I read Write on the River’s blog post for National Novel Writing Month and recalled that participating in NaNoWriMo was a goal I had set for myself earlier this year. I signed up, but couldn’t help feeling that my striving for a word count would have absolutely no merit in terms of quality. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great initiative that motivates writers who otherwise wouldn’t be writing, but for me, perhaps it’s just NaWriMo.

I have two not-so-new novels that I think will really help me get my footing. I skimmed through Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for inspiration while I was working on my 1960’s set thesis, but actually went out and bought my own copy as I want to read it a little more intensely this time, and I think it’s just one of those novels you can re-read every couple of years. Also, to build more ground for me to stand on philosophically, I picked up a copy of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This wasn’t an impulse buy–two Sundays ago I caught a showing of “Freud’s Last Session,” a really great production of a very deliberate script that pits Sigmund Freud against C.S. Lewis in a series of religious debates. Although there is no clear winner, in the final moments of the play both parties agree that to not push, argue with, and challenge each other is the greater sin. I was brought up 100% Lutheran all the way through high school, and have since struggled to identify what I believe with ten plus years of adult life behind me. What I like about Lewis is that he doesn’t preach or lecture, but he legitimately makes a logical case for faith that is hard to disagree with. I don’t really intend to make any of my characters religious, but self discovery has never hurt my writing!

For all who are participating, happy NaNoWriMo, and good luck!

The Best I Can

A Rondeau…

My mom said “do the best you can”
back when I was nine or ten.
It recently occurred to me
that my “best” is an anomaly,
something to strive for now and then.

Who works magic time and again?
Can’t I say I don’t give a damn
without flinching or feeling guilty?
I mostly do the best I can…

I work hard and I love my man,
I hold doors and I follow the plan.
I read books and I earned my degree,
I tell jokes and I’m drug free.
I eat fries and I drive a sedan.
I am doing the best I can.

***No, that is not me in the photo. That is a cool French girl photographed by Christopher Hue.

The Girl: As Observed from Inside the Refrigerator

Day One: Been empty over a week. Turned to Cold, stinks like Clorox. Hear girl’s voice, she’ll be the one, but it’s dark.

Day Two: Lights on. Girl hefts case of Miller Lite on the bottom shelf, slides it in, grit from floor now on cardboard case, screeches on glass shelf. Later, beer joined by two slices of pepperoni in grease-stained Luigi’s box.

Day Three: Lights on. Holding door open with foot. Then, carton of eggs, gallon of milk, Coca-Cola. Is taking forever. Open, closed, open, closed. Then, chocolate diet shakes, fat free yogurt. Veggies – celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes. Something gross, comes in brick form. Weird.

Day Three/Four: Lights on, dark kitchen. Grabs Coca-Cola, wearing flannel pants.

Day Eleven: Lights on, grabs last chocolate diet shake. Celery smells rancid. Weird brick never used, starting to ooze.

Day Twelve: Milk expired, didn’t drink past handle.

Day Fifteen: Lights on, dark kitchen. Grabs Coca-Cola, wearing flannel pants.

Day Ninety-Five: Lights on, Chinese take-out leftovers. Hear guy’s voice. Later, TV blaring, Chinese eaten.

Day One-Hundred-Two: Lights on, leftover Reuben and fries. Hear guy’s voice. Later, radio blaring, grabs Reuben from container, fries spill, left two dead under Crisper drawer.

Day One-Hundred-Nine: Lights on, leftover Shrimp Scampi. Hear guy’s voice. Later, smiling, grabs Coca-Cola. Later, smiling, grabs Scampi.

Day One-Hundred-Ten: Lights on, naked, grabs cheese. Lights on, adds 7 eggs & half-drunk orange juice. Lights on, adds slimy opened bacon pack. Later, flannel pants, grabs Coca-Cola.

Day One-Hundred-Eighteen: Lights on, he grabs Coca-Cola.

Day Two-Hundred-Six: Lights on forever, tossed all food. Found dead fries. Wiped shelves. Left one Coca-Cola, jar of pickles.

Day Two-Hundred-Seven: Lights on, shopping trip. Lots of frozen food. Can’t tell.

Day Two-Hundred-Fifty-One: Lights on, leftover pepperoni from Luigi’s, garlic bread.

Day Two-Hundred-Fifty-Two: Lights on, takes bite of garlic bread, puts back.

Day Two-Hundred-Sixty: Lights on, leftover fried chicken, eats piece while putting away.

Day Two-Hundred-Ninety-One: Lights on, shoots Reddi-Whip in mouth, puts back.

Day Three-Hundred: Lights on, shopping trip. More chocolate diet shakes. More veggies. Diet Coke. No weird brick.

Day Three-Hundred-Eight: Lights on, he adds Coca-Cola.

Day Three-Hundred-Fifteen: Lights on, she grabs Diet Coke.

Day Three-Hundred-Sixty-Four: Lights on, tosses everything. Wipes shelves. Wipes light. Looks closely at light. Later, he wipes
shelves again.

Day Three-Hundred-Sixty-Five. Dark. All day.

Sonnet for Someday

Sonnet for Someday

Someday, my sore foot won’t even matter.
Someday, I’ll take an inventory on
my life and barely recall this chapter.
Am I unhappy? No… But the day’s gone
so fast, and I can’t remember what I
ate for breakfast let alone what memor-
able thing happened. People tell me “try
to live in the moment!” I can’t afford
that, though. I can’t play Ferris Bueller and
seize the day. Who will pay my rent, or do
my homework, or write lame sonnets? I can’t
take a break without my plan falling through.

Eventually, The Grind will abate,
Just like today is yesterday’s Someday.

The Blonde and the Ball Player

On January 14th, 1954, one of the most famous couples in history tied the knot at San Francisco City Hall. Joe DiMaggio, whose famous career as a New York Yankee was winding down, and Marilyn Monroe, whose famous career as a Hollywood screen goddess was heating up, began the relationship in 1952.

Trouble hit early for the newlyweds when, arriving in Tokyo for their honeymoon, Monroe was swept away to Korea to entertain the troops. It was the first of many blows to DiMaggio’s pride… At the filming of the famous skirt-blowing-over-the-subway-grate scene from The Seven Year Itch, DiMaggio reeled as fans cheered take after take of a “delicious” breeze kicking Monroe’s skirt up, revealing her bare thighs and panties.

By October of 1954, just 9 months into the marriage, Monroe filed for divorce citing “mental cruelty.” Many instances of abuse by DiMaggio against Monroe during their marriage have been reported, but Monroe didn’t let on. Even if the marriage didn’t last officially, the pair remained close until Monroe’s death in 1962. In the absence of Monroe’s birth mother and any real siblings or relatives, DiMaggio may have been the closest Monroe ever came to having a family. It was he who arranged her funeral, and famously honored her request of having fresh flowers sent to her grave site, doing so twice a week until he passed in 1999.

Life Quotes: The Big Picture

“We should all start to live before we get too old.” -Marilyn Monroe

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” -Soren Kierkegaard

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” -John Lennon

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” -Charlie Chaplin

P.S.

“What is it about a well written quote that transcends all of my understanding?” -AshLeigh Brown

98 x 98 Challenge: Hot & Cold

Microfiction Challenge: 100 words or less

I wanted to write a microfiction piece to submit to Microfiction Monday (yesterday…) and had the idea of using the word cold, because, honestly, it’s literally freezing in Wisconsin! When I finished, I felt like I only told half of a story, so I added “Hot.” I’m curious which is better, or if anyone else is up to the challenge!

Cold

“I’m cold,” he said. He crooked his elbow around my arms—dug his hand between my breasts. He twined his leg over my knee and tucked his heel under my ankle. His face he buried deep in my hair except for his noisy right nostril. His torso pressed skin to skin on my back. I sniffed loudly and shifted my weight. My shoulders pinched in, my arm dangled off the bed, and my head tilted up over his arm, layered with my pillow. I rested, still. He matched my breathing, exhaling warm on the back of my neck.

Hot

“I’m hot,” I said. He pressed the back of his hand to my forehead, shaking off his fingers in mocking as though he’d been burned. My feet and palms were clammy and damp, my sheets and t-shirt and hair clung to my skin. My brain stung and swelled in my skull, my nerves in knots behind my eyes, my limbs heavy and stiff about me. I kicked my comforter, flipped my pillow, rolled over. He brought me a cold glass of water. I sent two chilled gulps down my throat, drenching my dry mouth and cooling my chest.

For You

Just for you
not anyone else
    because I sat at work alone
    and laughed
    when I remembered your Papa John impression.
Just for you
    because I can’t go all day
    without thinking
    about what you’re thinking
    or what you’ll eat for dinner.
Not anyone else
    because I never
    want to kiss anyone
    the way I kiss you.
Just for you
    because you gave me
    my favorite place to be:
    tucked under your arm
    with my head on your chest.
Not anyone else
    because you’re the only one
    who can make the switch
    and be safe
    and, go ahead, laugh. It’s funny.
Just for you
    because I’ll never love anyone else
    as much as I love you.

My Top Ten of 2014

This was a fun way for me to recap my year. Not all accomplishments need to be quantified, but I do think it is equally as important to reflect on what has happened in one’s life as it is to set goals and plan for the future. Far too often people (myself included) dwell on everything that hasn’t happened. Here are my top ten of 2014 in no particular order. I challenge you to do the same!

  1. Applying for the doctorate program in Creative Writing at UW-Milwaukee
  2. Starting my blog
  3. Heading to Wisconsin Dells to both kick off and wind down my summer
  4. Getting positions at two large Milwaukee schools of higher education
  5. Publishing my first work
  6. (Nearly) completing the master’s program at MMU
  7. Embracing every possible meaning of the word “structure” by starting Invisalign
  8. Going from a 100% to a 10% smoker
  9. Paying off my car and being more financially responsible
  10. Celebrating (rather than dreading) my 10 year high school reunion

That… Was… Awesome…

Last Saturday, 12/13/14, I went to see the “Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Performing the Music of Led Zeppelin.” It was a really great show, and reminded me of how much I love live music. Watching the bows of the violins dart up and down together and singing “what a whole lotta love…. what a whole lotta love!” with a few thousand people made for a pretty awesome night. Some of my favorite songs from the night were “Kashmir,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and “The Rain Song,” all deepened by the live accompaniment of the MSO.

“Stairway” was the encore, of course, and even though I predicted it was coming after the 2-minute standing ovation, (yes, it was that good), I don’t think I’ve ever focused so much on the words to a song. It’s really tough not to read these lyrics and have the tune in your head, but try reading this as a poem. I’m curious as to what others see and hear!

 

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
(more…)

A Sample Chapter of My Novel

1962

The first time Pop brought Amy to open the bakery was the first time she remembered waking before sunrise.

“Come on, Miss Amelia,” Pop said, as he squeezed her little shoulder over the thick, pink quilt she slept under.
She sat up in bed, her pink striped pajamas pulled up and twisted around her little torso. Pop turned on the lamp next to her bed.

“Get dressed, Peanut. I’ll wait downstairs.”

Amy crawled out of her covers and looked down on Lawrence Avenue from her second story window above the Lincoln Square Post Office. The street was so different without any people on the sidewalk or motors humming, no sunlight glaring in from the windows across the street. (more…)

Happy Birthday, Grace Kelly

I wish I knew more about this woman. I’ve decided that a Grace Kelly biography is on my list of holiday-break-reading. Such a classic beauty, in a Euro-American way, and a role model for women young and old. I searched Google for some time and couldn’t find any candid images that revealed a woman other than the stylish, smiling icon I’m familiar with. She is so well known, in fact, it’s hard to believe she made fewer than a dozen films. I like to imagine her real personality a likeness of her character Lisa in Rear Window: Glamorous, sophisticated, independent, and maybe a teeny bit haughty.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been very in tune with my inner feminist lately, so I was pleased to find such an appropriate quote from the actress turned royal:

“I am basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do.”

Grace Kelly, 12 November 1929 – 14 September 1982

Don’t Call Me Sugar

Over the weekend, I worked on a creative non-fiction essay. I wanted to write a series of personal experiences, each headlined with a Scarlett O’Hara quote from the film Gone with the Wind. The intention was to show how Scarlett O’Hara’s audacious character is really a role model for me and, I think, for many women. I created an extensive list of Scarlett quotes, delivered perfectly in Vivien Leigh’s incomparable on-screen performance. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the flow of telling my anecdotes while working in the quotes, so I had to botch the idea.
The list remains, and reminds me why Scarlett O’Hara is my absolute favorite character of all time. Even if you’re not a fan of the lengthy film, there are so many memorable moments that the movie itself can’t be denied as one of the greatest of all time. Here is a selection from the list of quotes I pulled:

“Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream!”

“Why does a girl have to be so silly to catch a husband?”

“I never heard of such bad taste.”

“If I said I was madly in love with you, you’d know I was lying.”

“I can shoot straight, if I don’t have to shoot too far.”

“Great balls of fire! Don’t bother me anymore and don’t call me Sugar.”

“I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*It should be noted that Margaret Mitchell’s novel was adopted for the screen by Sidney Howard, among other uncredited contributors. See more quotes at IMDb or browse this extensive list at the GWTW Fan Page.

Happy Birthday, Elia Kazan

Happy birthday to the very talented Elia Kazan, 9/7/1909 – 9/23/2003.

Kazan was born in Greece and immigrated to America with his parents. He studied drama at Yale before going on to work as an actor, director and writer. In addition to founding the Actor’s Studio, the same Actor’s Studio that James Lipton is “inside,” he directed a number of famous films, including my favorites A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, Splendor in the Grass and East of Eden. These films alone launched or established the careers of Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, James Dean, Eva Marie Saint, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.

In his Actor’s Studio, Kazan promoted the Method, a style of acting that encourages complete immersion of the actor into character. To me, watching Marlon Brando in Streetcar for the first time must have been like seeing Elvis or hearing Nirvana for the first time–it’s just not like anything before it, but it changed everything after it.

I know and appreciate Kazan’s work in film, but he also had a huge impact on the theater and acting as a whole. He was interested in exploring social justice and controversial issues in his work, but his focus on acting and portraying realness are what set him apart.

Who Can Ya’ Trust?

On August 8th, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from his presidency in anticipation of impeachment hearings after the Watergate scandal. I did not grow up in the sixties, or the seventies, or most of the eighties, so to me, Richard Nixon has never been “hip” or “a nice guy.” When I look at this picture, which is usually the image I get when I think of Richard Nixon, I think “shady” or “a bad guy.”

I’m not going to get political here, but I immediately thought of Bill Clinton as I was reading up on Watergate. That was during my time, and even if I didn’t totally understand what was going on, I knew it was important because we all had to to sit around the TV and watch the “I did not have sexual relations…” clip replay. Does anyone even remember that anymore? The ultimate question I’m left asking myself is, if the president is capable of lying without consequence, then who can you trust?

I’ve been playing with this idea in a few different ways, but I mostly draw from the theme that the illusion of safety, security and trust is almost more believable than the real thing. When I think of the place where I feel most safe, its in my home. In reality, I rent, I live upstairs and I don’t have a basement (in Wisconsin, basement = tornado safety). I feel my home belongs to me, because I ignore the ten people who felt the same way about it before I did, unlocking the door everyday, taking a deep breath and plopping on the couch or bean bag or La-Z-Boy. And yet, I somehow feel untouchable at home. Nothing will ever happen. I trust it.

I don’t know where this idea will lead, but for the time being there is a husband and wife, Terry and Lisa. They live in the Midwest in the 90’s, newlyweds, and she is pregnant. She trusts everyone and everything, and he is extremely defensive. I wrote a scene that begins with Terry and Lisa going to a neighbor’s house for a dinner with two other couples, and ending with Terry and Lisa going to bed that night. I like the idea of challenging whatever the illusion of trust is, and how it can make a person go crazy thinking about what they “know” or even feel comfortable with. I’ll clean up the scene and post it in the next week or so.

It won’t, but if it turns into a novel I will dedicate it “To Hip Richard Nixon, I trust you.”

Rise of the Standards of the Writer

Over the weekend, my fiance and I went to see “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” We both enjoyed “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” from 2011 and were looking forward to seeing this installment. I think what I enjoyed most about the 2011 film was that, although the visuals were high jacked with CG animations and explosions and shit, there was still a compelling story behind it. I had an expectation that the narrative would continue, but the story within “Dawn” felt like a build up for the final battle scene. There was one moment in the film that gave me a strong sense of human connection: when the humans are able to re-activate a dam-powered generator, a gas station comes to electric life and the characters hear music for the first time in a long time.

I realized, seeing this movie, that my expectations for story have grown as my writing has. My standard for a narrative has developed, and I anticipate and hope for something that moves me. In exchange, I would hope that my writing has blossomed and grown in style and sophistication. Easier said than done… I’m back on track submitting poetry, and I’ve started a short story that I hope to post in installments on this blog. You be the judge!

Fiction vs. Poetry

Exploring the possibilities of poetry is a never-ending pursuit, because almost anything can become a poem. Crafting the perfect narrative is a never-ending pursuit, because each chapter, paragraph, and sentence contains an infinite number of choices the writer has to make. Neither is better, but I’m coming to learn that by practicing with poetry, I’m building my confidence as a writer of fiction.

The challenge of poetry is condensing a thought, idea, or story to it’s essence. At least that’s the way I see it. I like to enter poetry through forms, but I’ve found myself growing increasingly more flexible and intrigued by the possibilities. It becomes more fun than work, which is causing me to view poetry as fun experimentation that preps me for fiction. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a prose writer, dabbling in poetry with a prose construction has been a very liberating experience.

Fiction has a lot of preparation and build up. After I’ve written a page, I read it immediately and pick apart each sentence. With poetry, I feel like there are no wrong choices, each choice just changes the meaning and intention from one poem to another. I’ve been able to read my peer’s work, and it’s satisfying to see a consistency of voice, or rather the ability to pick out one person’s poem from another, based solely on the choices they make. I also wonder if the pattern of my choices makes my work identifiable as my own.

Back to Work

Yesterday was the first day of my summer poetry class. I have taken several creative writing classes, and I don’t know why but I never consider poetry as an option when I sit down to write. To me, it’s always fiction, first and foremost. Yet whenever I read, write, or think about poetry, I get that feeling people get when they are immersed in something they feel really comfortable with.

I feel very differently about myself as a writer now than I did before I started Mount Mary’s English MA program. I’ve realized a lot of things about myself as a writer that didn’t occur to me before, or I was so busy trying to be “a Writer” that I wasn’t paying much attention to my writing.

One of those realizations (and there was definitely an a-ha moment) was when I realized that I really like working within limitations. Does anyone want to admit this if it’s true? I know I do it at work, because I like to establish processes an absolutes and never make exceptions. In life, if it’s a diet or exercise thing, getting a certain amount of sleep, or whatever weird thing I’m into at the moment, I have to give myself very specific boundaries and guidelines, otherwise I just break them. All or nothing.

Writing formal poetry is definitely a work of limitations. You are still being you, and you are still being creative, but it’s about putting together a creative puzzle that fits just so. I read some formal poems I’ve written, and I really am a stickler once I’ve decided I’m following the rules. I still enjoy free verse, but I’m definitely drawn to forms.

It’s time to get back to work after that five week stretch of weeknight TV.