Sunday, December 10, 2006

UM Writers' Community

UM Writers' Community

I don't think this is good. I just needed to be honest.

Rain on Us

I hate it when you open the door and look at me
like I shouldn’t be in my own house
and take my best friend away.

You don’t hate me.
I don’t hate you.
But I hate feeling like a stranger in my own house
because when you’re here, I feel like I
don’t want to be, not really.

Of course I don’t hate that she loves you,
or that you love her (I know
you do) but it is
cruel
that love is so exclusive. That in the act of loving
you
she loves me less. Less than if we were in
our own house together
without you, loving each other.

But now she's gone away.

I sit here,
you sit there,
sprouting clouds from the corners
of our mouths and wishing
the other weren’t here.

She rains on us both.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A poem for your consideration

So here's something I came up with a few days ago, and have been tweaking it since then. I'm not sure the stanzas connect very well to each other, or even that I completely understand it, but I thought I'd throw it up here for your consideration. Oh, and it doesn't have a title (which, I have been convinced, is okay).

Untitled

In Ann Arbor, the snow falls soft and silent,
leaving gentle splatters on my coat,
not like the winter when you and I
went for a walk around your neighborhood,
and the snow slipped from the sky all at once,
burying me in its heavy cold.

Still, I thought it was all so beautiful,
even after I learned
how absurd it is to be from a town
named Bloomfield Hills
which has no fields and no hills, only
Hummers leveling the bumps on the shiny roads.

Today, sitting in a crowded computer lab
with a cup of lukewarm cafeteria coffee
I’m plucking words from the keyboard,
when I think I hear your laugh:
starting low, boiling over,
and flattening the silence.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Forgive Me.

I tell you the truth:
oversimplification
will be my ending.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Title.

Ages past have given me
hollow, hardened lullabies.

So gone be the give-a-damns
and honeysuckle goodbyes.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

To the Children of 1986

We’ve been born into the world
as the middle child, our hilarity
a touching means to pacify
our self-deprecation, the ease
in which we fall in love and stay
in love heartrending. But our

hearts’ blood just doesn’t congeal
as easily as it might, our tenderness
toward tradition baring the grief
we endure in the course of change—
we’ll love our partners far past familiarity
and into gossamer, the indentations

left on our side of the bed as defined
as our devotion. I see in us the true capacity
to lay our everything down for greatness,
but the even stronger instinct to protect
and abide by our families. I’m concerned
our fear of fast food isn’t strong enough.

I’m amazed how willing we are to die
alongside the people we’ve lost, our tears
the first and fastest to fall, the gift of our groans
more tender than any eulogy. I’ve lived
in our houses—the walls either stark naked
and sterile or pasted over with thick layer

after layer of prints—our inner rooms
as barren as monastic chambers
or stocked full of plants and pianos,
heavy curtains and dark furniture.

I’m sorry to find our beauty- riddled bodies
slumped on barstools, the rawness
of our perceptions dulled down by the necessity
to function. I’ve had to witness the best of our kind

leap from high points to beg the comprehension
of our makeup before they met the earth. I see us
dying out there—something akin to a defect
in our flesh instilling the desire to run knives
across our wrists. We’ve sought love from both sexes,
our elders, the great novels, God.
.
We can never connect more deeply than when we
are among our own, but I fear our engagements run such high risks—
the only man I’ve ever loved brewed Jasmine tea
with honey and moved his strong hands across

the piano in the melancholy song of moon rise
until my aching eyes fell to close and silent
and he played and played so that so that even
my dreams took on his fragrance.

Tanager Street

Home after dark
I listen for the electric
pierce of the television,
for her slipper-shuffle
feet.

I wait to hear the tumble
of clothes in the dryer,
the kettle whistle
from the stove.

I am late and want
to be forgiven. She
does not stir. Not
even a vacuum
disturbs the silence.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Short Story :-)

My short stories can be a bit morbid sometimes. Forgive me. This one is called "Getting Even":


“Mikey, does Brooke know you’re here?”

“Nah, she thinks I’m at Todd’s bachelor party.”

“Todd’s getting married?”

“Yeah.”

“But I work right next to the guy. How come I wasn’t invited?”

“Maybe because you’re always rolling your chair over there to show him another stupid card trick.”

“My tricks are genius, man. Oh! I got a new one for you.” He searched his coat pockets. “Dammit. I left my cards at home. I’ll show ya on Monday.”

“Alright, Rex.”

Michael was not a religious man, but every time he stole out to the city to hit the casinos with Rex he prayed. Past every mile marker he would pray that Brooke would not find out. ‘Cuz God (if there is a God) knows that he loved her. She just didn’t understand that it was all harmless fun.

“So, you gonna try something different tonight? Or are you gonna stick with the same old shit that you always do?”

“Same old shit,” he said before downing the rest of his drink and walking over to the roulettes. Rex followed him.

“One dollar on evens, please,” Michael said.

“Man, sooner or later it’s gonna be odds. Five on odds.” Rex put his chips down on the table. “And you better be getting’ riskier than that my friend. We got a whole month’s paycheck to work with tonight.”

“Dammit, Mike! How come you keep kicking my ass?”

Michael smiled, tipsy and triumphant. He always won. But even though this was a good night, he knew he should be sobering up to go home soon. “C’mon, let’s go sit down at the bar for a while, get some water.”

“What? It’s only eleven-thirty and you’re done already? Aw, you’re no fun. You’re hot tonight, man, you can’t stop yet.”

“Nah, I gotta drive all the way back to Mesa by a decent hour or else Brooke will get suspicious.”

“She thinks you’re at a bachelor party, Mike. She’s not expecting you to get back at a decent hour anyway. C’mon, one more spin, then you can spend the rest of the night being a loser.”

“Alright, this time you can’t be a pussy. I wanna see you risk some big bucks,” said Rex.

Michael put five chips down.

“I said you can’t be a pussy. Where’s the thrill if it’s not a huge risk, huh?”

Michael took out his bag and poured all of his chips out.

“That’s more like it!” Rex clapped him on the back. “Put it all on the lucky numbers. Evens.”

Michael saw through the window that the kitchen light was on. She was still up. He closed the garage and made his way through the collection of bikes, toy cars, wagons, and sidewalk chalk scattered about. When he walked in, she was sitting at the table stirring a cup of coffee. She looked up.

“How was it?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“What happened?”

He couldn’t lie to her this time. So he told her everything. How he went to the casino again, even after she’d warned him. How he’d won a whole lot of money and was gonna come straight home, maybe stop at the grocery store and buy her some flowers. How he risked all his winnings on one last spin. How he lost them all and tried to win it all back with the money from his paycheck. And how he lost most of that too. She stopped stirring her coffee. When he was finished, she stared at him for a few minutes like she was acknowledging the moment that she had always known would come. Then she stood up, pushed her chair in, and walked down the hall and up the stairs. When she came down, she was carrying Isabelle. She peeked out from her windbreaker with sleepy eyes and brushed away the chaotic curls from her tiny face. Brooke slipped a pair of shoes on, grabbed the keys to the car, and closed the door quietly behind her.

* * *

A bead of sweat dropped down Michael’s panicked face. “What do you mean they only come in packs of twelve?”

“Uh, well, we also have cartons of twenty-four. But they’re a different brand.” A tall, wiry teenage boy awkwardly lifted a large package of water bottles off the shelf. Michael shook his head with frustration and quickly grabbed a gallon jug of water from the bottom shelf before deserting the boy in the middle of the aisle. Down the next aisle, among other things, were garbage bags. He remembered that he was almost out. Might as well get some, he thought. He turned down the aisle and immediately froze. Staring straight back at him were four big blue eyes. Twins, strapped inside a double stroller while their mother decided what size snack bags to buy. He closed his eyes and quickly retreated to the main aisle. I’ll get some next time, he told himself.

After he had gathered a few more items in his cart, he headed to the front and got in line to check out. He read the cover of a People magazine as he unloaded the groceries from his cart so as to keep himself from counting his items. His hands were shaking by the time all of his purchases had been scanned and bagged.

“That’d be forty-four even, sir,” said the cashier.

Michael fumbled through his wallet. He handed the cashier nine five dollar bills. He grabbed his cart and bolted out the automatic doors before the cashier could give him his change.

Once he was in the parking lot, he slowed down and exhaled. He crossed the lot and wheeled his cart into the alley between the dry cleaner’s and the pet shop. There stood his customized vehicle: a red tricycle with a storage compartment nestled between the two back wheels. He loaded his bags into the compartment, got on the tricycle and rode away leaving the empty grocery basket in the alley.

After a short ride along the main road, he turned left down a one-lane dirt road. Half a mile down, he got off of his tricycle and walked it up his driveway and into his garage. He took his bags into the house and set them on the circular island in the middle of the kitchen. There were two messages on his machine. He erased the first one and played the second one as he put the groceries away.

“Hi Michael, it’s Brooke. I’m calling ‘cause the check you sent for this month was only seven hundred and thirteen dollars and I thought maybe you forgot that the monthly child support was actually eight hundred and twenty four dollars. Anyway, gimme a call back so that we can figure something out, ok? Bye.”

He stiffened at the sound of her voice. The voice of someone simply conducting business. Doing what needed to be done. He sighed. Picking up the phone, he began to dial. One. He took a deep breath. Six. He let it out. Zero. Two. His eyes started to water. Two. He wiped his eyes and refocused. Six. Eight. A wave of nausea swept over him. Four. Come on. It’s not that hard. Four. Eight. Seven. He put the phone up to his ear and collapsed onto one of his custom-made, three-legged kitchen chairs. The phone rang twice before she picked up.

“Hello, Brooke.”

“Michael, are you okay?” Her voice was sprinkled with concern.

“Yeah, why?”

“You sound…I don’t know, out of breath.”

“I just got back from a bike ride.” Technically speaking, he wasn’t lying.

“Oh, I see.”

“Yeah.”

There was an awkward silence before she spoke again.

“Do you have the rest of the money?” Her question seemed more like an accusation.

“Of course.”

“Then how come you didn’t send it? Did you forget?”

“No. I sent the rest of the money three days ago. You should be getting it soon,” he said.

“You sent the rest of it?” She asked.

“Yes, one hundred and eleven dollars.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Another wall of silence stood between them. She climbed over and ventured into the unknown.

“Is there any particular reason you didn’t send the whole amount?” She asked hesitantly.

“Yes.”

“Well?”

He paused and thought. “I didn’t have enough money in my checking account at the time.” He said.

“Are you sure that’s why, Michael?”

“Yes!” he shouted angrily, but then calmed himself.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I just don’t want to be taken advantage of or anything, you know? I don’t like to be lied to.”

His stomach dropped. He twisted his hands until they were sweaty.

“Brooke, you left me. You took my daughter from me. You got your revenge. We’re even. Don’t try and make me feel guilty,” he pleaded.

“I shouldn’t have to try.”

He got up and opened the cabinet above the kitchen sink. From the lowest shelf, he retrieved a bottle of large blue pills and set them on the counter. He stared at the label. For Mr. Michael Shipley. Take two tablets every twelve hours or as needed. Do not exceed six tablets in a twenty-four hour period. Two tablets. Two! He stared at the bottle for a few more minutes before he decided to take the pills into the living room with him. That way, he could watch T.V. while he took the pills, so that he wouldn’t count. He poured himself a glass of water and carried it to the living room, as well as the pills. He set them on the round coffee table in front of him and sat down on the couch that wrapped in a “U” around the T.V. He picked up the remote which, at first glance, did not even look like a remote. There were stickers and scraps of paper taped as best they could be taped to the small buttons. At a closer glance, one can see the improvised system with which the man had decorated his remote. The number 2 button had been taped over and replaced with a handwritten note that read, “The number after 1.” The next revision had been made to the number 4 channel button. Taped to this one was “The number before 5.” And such was the nature of other revisions to 6 and 8. Even the 0 had been covered and replaced with “nothing.”

He turned the T.V. on and found a channel that could sufficiently distract him. He grabbed the glass of water and set it between his legs while opened the bottle of pills. Focusing as hard as he could on the romantic comedy that was playing, he placed one pill on his tongue and washed it down with a large gulp. He watched the boy and the girl dancing awkwardly while he popped another pill and swallowed. Engrossed completely, he was not aware that he continued with another large pill. And another. And another. Finally, a commercial drew him from his trance. He put the cap back on the bottle and struggled to keep himself from wondering how many he had taken. He put on a pot of coffee. That would relax him.

A sizable mug steamed before him as he got out a plate, a knife, and sugar cubes. He placed one cube on the plate and cut it diagonally so that it was triangular. He dropped the five-sided sugar cube into his coffee and put the other half in a plastic baggie. Twice more, he carried out this sort of ritual. The last cube that he dropped in the drink caused the coffee to spill over the lip of the mug. He got a paper towel and wiped up the spot. With another piece of paper towel, he wiped up the stray granules of sugar on the counter and threw the paper towels in the wastebasket. While he was stirring the sugar into his coffee with the knife, he glanced in the wastebasket and stiffened. Two lonely paper towels sat at the bottom. That won’t do. He put down the knife and ripped off another piece of paper towel, crumpled it up, and threw it into the wastebasket. He relaxed again. He sat down at the table with his coffee and blew on the surface to cool it down.

He looked up at the clock. It was 6:20. He quickly looked away, but he was nervous now. He began tapping the table with his fingers. He began to sweat, and the steam rising from the coffee didn’t help. He glanced at the clock again. This time it read 6:22. That won’t do. He leapt from his chair and almost knocked over his coffee. Standing on his chair, he ripped the clock off of the wall and threw it face-down into the trash. He sat back down with his coffee, but he still felt tense. He scanned the room. Everything else seemed to be fine. He picked up the knife and nervously stirred his coffee some more. He watched his hand swirl it around and around. Then slowly he came to a shocking realization. Two hands. That won’t do.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

From a writing activity

This piece came from a writing activity at a meeting a couple weeks ago, but I said I was gonna put a prose piece up so here it is. As a result of it being quickly thought up and hastily jotted down, it's kind of rough and lacks a title. The activity was telling dreams and then writing about someone's dream. Follow the link to read:

My story

Sunday, November 12, 2006

There! Comments!

I finally gave into Manish's requests (I've given in to her in other ways long ago, oh...) and made some comments. Check them out. I'll have something of my own up soon, too.

Jenny

Saturday, November 11, 2006

LIfe off 152 & Broadway

Life Off 152 & Broadway



Walking the length of the subway train—
this morning I woke myself to screaming,
a hollow face, grey in early light,
lay beside mine on the pillow.

Got up for Good Morning America
to let my mother know I haven’t
yet starved, called to hear her
voice, all softened by morning.

Took the N to Coney Island,
but was sick and sick and sick.

Speaking Spanish to white people,
black people, Spanish people, I’m
asking for the Metro, but looking
for the subway.

Fifth Avenue and I’m walking
Central Park, walking through film
crews and climbing the backs
of memorials to better see the water.

Following the snake of the subway
train—a bum rips me to the ground,
my face pressed into the space
between rail-cars. The rats
are as big as they say they are
down here.

Flashing and sparking through
the darkness that is the timeless
underground, I turn over and it
is the same grey face.

At the Mouth of a Funeral Parlor

At the Mouth of a Funeral Parlor




If there is and if there isn't doesn't matter to her dead son.
She will continue to believe in heaven, so long
as she ever pains to be with him again.
Another woman's heaven to be buried
with her heart, that no amount
of firestorm can threaten her soul;
it will stay housed in her body.Then a man stands to say his afterlife is the merriment
of his grandchildren—that their shrieks
of delight and wonderment will
continue on no matter what
part he plays in it. But there are people
discussing souls in terms
of music and color and plants and water.
And then everyone
is talking at once.

Sky Coasters,Teacups and tears,
I threw up at Coney Island
in the back of a pirate ride.

With terrible acceleration
the vessel swung skyward,
stomach walls clenched

to fill my throat with pink matter—
children screaming for the ride
to stop, but I was vomiting

at Coney Island when the call
came for my Grandmother to die.
Convulsing, brown curls shading

my face I couldn’t know my tears
came for my father as he landed
a fish on Lake Michigan—

I was retching out french fries
in the realization there is no better
relief on earth than release—

still lifted up and slammed back
down, lifted and slammed—
the child beside me begging me to stop,

the astronauts orbiting earth so exactly
they could pick out their home states:
this my first time at Coney Island
and the ride never once stopped.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One from the vaults... it's long...

I wrote this in 2003 - it prints out as nearly six full pages, but it's easily among my favorite works. Since I won't make tonight's meeting, I thought I'd post this... I would like to considered for publication.

The Chocolate Story

She came to my office on a snowy winter afternoon. It shouldn’t be that simple, but like all major life events, nothing seemed amiss at the time. My assistant had given me her patient form and I grazed through it briefly. Her name was Sandra, a single bank teller in her 20’s with no history of mental disturbances. Great. A fresh one.

One of the nice things about being a shrink is that the forms are really short, so there’s not a lot of reading to do on my end. I had my assistant call Sandra in and I noticed absolutely nothing remarkable about her on sight. Her dark brunette hair was slightly longer than shoulder length and feathered slightly at the ends. She wore a mahogany skirt suit, tall black winter boots with those stupid fuzzies at the top and a ¾ length olive wool trench coat. I wouldn’t have noticed her if she had stood in front of me for ten minutes yelling at the top of her lungs.

"Hello, Sandra. My name’s Jane," I greeted her with my patented faceless benevolence. We’re all taught to do that in college so we don’t threaten anyone with gregarious behavior. It also keeps me at arm’s length from most of my patients, which is very useful after I leave the office. I sat her down on the sofa and took a chair nearby. The tape recorder kicked on and I did some standard chit chat, how’s the weather, gee, isn’t the price of gas high right now, that kind of everyday commonality crap to make me seem like her best friend.
"So, Sandra, what are you here for?" I ask, breezing into the line.

"Well, this is going to sound really dumb, but…" she paused and blushed. Now I see why she’s single – she turns red like a dying asthmatic.

"Go on," I urged gently. Another nice thing about being a shrink is that, after a few years of practice, the patter gets mastered. I can make anyone confess anything. I got a man to fess up that he sold his wife’s underwear on Ebay after having written stock predictions on them. He claimed that her panties made him lucky and he wanted to share the wealth. Because of this and similar successes, I have the utmost confidence in my abilities to humiliate anyone in my presence. It’s all therapeutic, of course, but I get a kick out of it sometimes. I knew, however, that this would be a fairly low key admission. She was spending too much energy justifying its stupidity.
"I…. I…. Oh hell, I’m addicted to chocolate!" She buried her face in her hands, breathing in gasps and hitches. "All kinds of chocolate! Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, nibs, beans, truffles, grand cru, au lait, God, even syrup in a pinch!" She was talking faster than an auctioneer, and it took me a moment to register what she had said.

Chocolate? Who gets addicted to chocolate? Worse, who cares? Geez, pick up another Hershey bar and get on with it. Chocolate is chocolate, right? But I was not in a position to tell Sandra this, because she was not in a position to do anything more than throw up or fall asleep. If she wants to call it an addiction, fine by me. I still make my money.

Sandra’s addicted to chocolate. Okay. Chocolate has caffeine. It’s an upper. It releases serotonin. But it’s extremely mild, fairly cheap, available everywhere and generally socially acceptable. Should I treat it like a cocaine addiction or like a smoking addiction? I’m not sure it matters, because I have no doubt the medical literature hasn’t had to deal with anything so petty. I decide very quickly it’d be best to treat it symptomatically because that way I might be able to stop laughing long enough to get something accomplished.
"Do you have any chocolate on you at the moment?" She rummages through her enormous Louis Vuitton overnight bag and pulls out three cases of chocolate with hard to pronounce names.

"All bars. I go through about seven a day." I grab all three cases and throw them in the garbage. Sandra goes pale. Very pale. Call an ambulance pale. Then I tie up the garbage bag and place it behind the radiator, making the act as violent as possible. While I know I’m obviously overacting, the act achieved its desired effect. Sometime within the next fifteen minutes, she returns to something approximating a normal color.

"The first thing you have to do is remove yourself from the source. Go home, gather all your chocolate together and get it out of your way. Throw it out. Give it away. Smash it. Drop it off a balcony. I don’t care what you do as long as it’s no longer in your hands. Do you think you can do that?" I stare at her in my best boot camp manner. She nods without assertion.
"Here’s my pager number. If you relapse for any reason, call me. I want you back in here in a week so I can trace your progress." I gave her my card with the helpful appointment lines on the back and she shuffles out. Her folder gets a few scribbles carefully placed on it so it looks like I did some actual work. Ten minutes later, I greet my next client and repeat as necessary.

In my training I was told I tended to make my observations brusquely, with combat boots on. Sure, I get a little harsh, but I don’t think coddling really does much. I don’t believe in protecting anyone from reality. While I’m aware that reality is a very individual thing due to everyone’s various perspectives, there is this general "real world" out there. The world of shopping markets and speeding tickets and vacuum cleaners. We all live, at least in this culture, with these things and lots of others like them. My job is to reorient my patients with that world, however tenuously they hold onto it afterward. I believe that most people’s problems are summed up as a lack of focus, and I act accordingly. They can hold whatever beliefs they want, keep their particular kinks and continue to do whatever they’ve discovered to be essential to their existence. I could care less. As long as they’re functional, I’m happy. Hence, most of my practice deals with addictions and phobias, people running away. I view success in terms of relapse rate, and I’m proud to say mine is fairly low.

The end of the day rolls up. The sky gets dark early in winter, and the snow stands in drifts along the edge of the abandoned cars. Even in Birmingham, that fashionable little district, we’ve got our share of vagrants and layabouts. I’m looking down from the 6th floor of the 550 Woodward building, into the shopping district illuminated by the last of the Christmas lights. There’s a four lane street rolling through the overpriced boutiques and clothiers. The marquee for the art theatre is missing two lights. Not for long; they’ll fix that tomorrow. The parking Nazis aren’t rushing out too much tonight, probably just as cold as everyone else. The furrier is displaying a blue fox coat that I’d love to own but have no earthly reason to purchase. And my last appointment decided I was too expensive and went on to someone else. Heal thyself, bitch, if you think you can.

My foot hits the bag of chocolate and my thoughts went back to Sandra and her ridiculous admission. I couldn’t help but think the girl is delusional, but that’s not my problem. By the same token, I had no problem opening the bag and snatching a bar for myself. Michel Cluizel, 55% amer noir. Whatever. My French sucks and I really don’t care what it means. I know it’s chocolate – good enough for me.

It’s dark chocolate. Ick. I break off a piece and munch away. Since I opened it, I may as well finish it, so I take another piece. The bar’s scored nicely in twelve tiny squares, so I can eat it in small doses. Each square is stamped with Michel’s name and the announcement that the square is, in fact, chocolate. Fine chocolate. The second square goes down much like the first.

It wasn’t until I’d finished a third one and went back for a fourth that I started getting a feel for this stuff. The bite was acrid but smooth, like a good whiskey. The color was rich, lustrous and impervious to light. Each piece snapped off sharp, with angles harsh enough to slice paper. Four more squares later and I was in love. I found myself using words of passion I didn’t think even the most awful poets ever pulled out of their asses. That first bar was quickly reduced to a small box wrapping and some gold foil. And I dug into the bag for another bar. This was heavenly! I was in awe of what my mouth was currently ingesting –Venezuelan cacao beans ground and roasted into silk, with just a hint of bourbon vanilla lending a sweet butter touch. I stayed late at the office – I don’t allow myself many indulgences, and I saw no reason to stop at that moment.

I drove home after 10 PM. It was late and the streets had another dusting of snow. As far as I’m concerned, any time it snows, the salt trucks should be out in full force. But I, of course, am in the minority, and I don’t work for any municipal public works department. I slide home and go directly to bed. My dreams are disturbed by dark brown fragrant walls rising slowly above me. Since I’m not a Freudian I have no idea what that means, so I wake up the next morning thoroughly undisturbed. And hankering for a bit of that chocolate. No breakfast, quick shower, two Evian bottles thrown hastily in the passenger seat, a stop at Tim Horton’s for a small coffee, sugar, no cream and I get to the office looking like something the cat dragged in. That’s slightly better than normal and I compliment myself.

My first patient of the day is an obsessive compulsive. He’s pretty much coming to me as maintenance, and I’m not sure if that’s reinforcing his problem or not. It isn’t doing any harm, and he seems to like the process, so I let him do his thing. He sits loosely upright in one of the two chairs I got dirt cheap from a La-Z-Boy clearance center, talking away at nothing in particular. My job at this time is to sit attentively, nod in the right places and come up with some therapeutic sounding statement at the end of it all.

But first, I need some chocolate. The first case has five bars remaining, and I take one out. My patient notices it and asks very politely if he can have a bite. I allow him a small square, and I detect a severe reluctance on my part for even this little morsel. Cautiously, almost gingerly, I hand it over. He swallows it in one gulp. What crudity! The shock to my system was worse than a shotgun blast. I mumble to myself that men like this should not be allowed to live and finish the bar before I give myself a chance to notice he’s got another 45 minutes to go. I am certain I have started to develop my first grey hair. All he does is talk and talk and talk and nothing remotely interesting comes out of him, ever. I need more chocolate. But I can’t – he’ll just take some more and swallow it like he would a shot of bad vodka. While I, I would savor it. I would cherish it – I understand what it’s like to love such a thing. Aromatic, blissful chocolate. The delight of all travelers on this road of life. My first true, sweet relief. I must have more, but not until he’s away. I must resist. I must wait. I must at least feign attention. I must not reach for another bar.

Ten seconds later I have the rest of the case dumped on my desk. Four lonesome bars. The first one loses its box immediately and the chocolate is mushed to a squirmy pulp between my teeth. I’m about halfway through the bar when I note my patient’s discomfort. He looks at me as if there’s something wrong. No, there’s nothing wrong, I have my chocolate and I’m alright. He quietly states his apologies, he forgot he had something scheduled at the same time as this appointment and he is frightfully late. I wave him off and plunge into the rest of the bar. Oh, life!

I don’t remember any of my other appointments coming in that day. I don’t remember getting home that night. I don’t remember anything at all – it’s as dark as the flecks on the edges of the wrappers of my beloved confection. I only know that, three days later, I’m out of chocolate. I buy a case of Hershey’s, but it doesn’t do anything for me. Nestle’s is no better. I go to the upscale mall and purchase a box of Godiva truffles, which takes the edge off but the desire lingers patiently like cigarette smoke in a boudoir. Then, suddenly, I get a page from Sandra. I call her immediately.

"Jane! You were right – I put aside all of my chocolate and it’s been four days and I feel great!" Her exuberance was wonderful for whatever was left of my professional self to register. I snap to attention for a few minutes. She, after all, would know exactly where to find this chocolate.

"That’s great. I knew you would. I hope you don’t mind, but, uh, I tried a little of that chocolate you had, and I want to give some of it to a girlfriend of mine for her birthday. Where did you find it?" A plausible excuse.

"Papa Joes, right around the corner from your office. They’ve got all kinds in there." Her needlelike perkiness was drilling holes in my brain. "Hey, listen, I need some advice. I’ve got to get rid of all this chocolate. Would it be okay if I threw a chocolate tasting party?" Her voice sparkled. Her voice flirted Shit, if it was capable of singing and dancing it would be the next American Idol champion.

"This is your recovery, remember. You can do whatever you want, as long as I’m invited."

"But of course! Next Thursday night, 7:30 PM. Dress nice! It’s at my apartment; ring the bell twice so I know it’s you. See you there!" She hangs up. Five minutes later I exit Papa Joes with five cases of Michel Cluizel bars – three 55% amer noir, one 50% lait pur java and one 66% cru de Hacienda Venezuelan just for kicks. 24 bars to a case, each bar priced $3.99. It set me back close to $500, and I hope I make it to their next shipment.

I didn’t go to work for the next four days. I think I slept – I don’t remember. The days were mechanical – three amer noirs to wake up, lait pur java to keep me going, a Hacienda if I needed an emergency fix. I didn’t leave my house. I don’t think I left my bedroom. And suddenly I was looking forward desperately to the chocolate tasting party. It was in five days. Just five days. All the chocolate I could ask for in just five days. My hands were trembling as I unwrapped another lait pur java. This was my third of the day; I was running out. I would have to find more.

A run to Papa Joes resulted in only six bars of lait pur java. But the manager was kind enough to recommend Flyer #4 in its place. I bought a case of the Flyer as a backup, at the bargain price of $48. I also bought another case of amer noir and happily sucked on a bar while driving home.
But I’d finished the bar before I made it home, and I needed another one. So I let go of the wheel, reached into the back seat, dove into the case and took out another. Nothing happened while I was reaching - I didn’t hit anyone. The police officer didn’t see it that way, however, as he pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for reckless driving. Now I found this remarkably stupid, and I gave him hell for it. Then he wrote me another ticket. Well, shit, why doesn’t he just throw my ass in jail at this rate? He finally let me go with just the two tickets and a scowl that would peel pavement. Fuck him. I couldn’t get home fast enough to indulge in my new purchases.

I stumbled through the next few days, worked when I could concentrate, slept when I couldn’t. My face was developing acne patches of remarkable size and depth. I hadn’t seen anything like them since I was a teenager. I pull Sandra’s record to get her address, because I am definitely going to her party tonight. She said dress nice. I’m not going to bother asking how nice – I’m wearing my drop neck black velvet wraparound and running out into the cold night air to seek chocolate redemption.

I climb the three flights of stairs to her apartment. It’s a tasteful two bedroom, with a wide front room that could only be used for entertaining. Liadov is playing unobtrusively in the background. And everyone is dressed to the nines, holding thimble glasses of sherry or demitasse cups of Kenya AAA double roast. And right in the center of the room is a table with twenty seven different varieties of chocolate. There’s Joseph Schmidt from San Francisco, Fran’s from Seattle, Dan’s from Wisconsin, Valrhona from France, Israel’s Max Brenner, Belgian Callebaut, Fazer from Finland and others for which I wouldn’t even begin to attempt a pronunciation.

We are hushed to a standstill by a middle aged man of some authority. "Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to announce that this party is being held in honor of someone who is leaving our prestigious ranks. Let us thank Sandra for her generous gathering of us members of the Chocolatier Society and wish her the very best." Polite applause follows and everyone mingles back to their respective cliques. I catch a little of the conversation, talk of breaks and crystallization and bottom notes, but my eyes are riveted to the table. I take a small piece of Valrhona, and it has a decidedly berry-like tone. I don’t like it and move on to Fran’s. The sea salt topping enhances the flavor in a way I would have never expected, and I think I finished the tray. I see Sandra, in a small black beaded dress, glowing with perfect health and no worries whatsoever.

"Oh, thank you for coming! I wasn’t sure to expect you, but please, do sit down!" Her chipper attitude was intolerable, but I sat next to her and grabbed for an incomprehensibly titled dark mound. Delicious. I reached for another, but Sandra stops me.

"Only one piece. I’m warning you," and shakes a mocking finger in my direction. Her smile is broad and cheery, as if she was June Cleaver by way of Snow White. I sullenly fell against the back of the chair and people watched for five minutes. Everyone was beyond effete – they were fashionably ambivalent to everything. My rage seethed at these bunchers, because I knew their devotion could not be so deep as mine. They indulge in chocolate usury. I, however, am one with the chocolate. So it won’t hurt anyone if I take another piece. And another. And a few more. I knew people were staring, but I didn’t care. Russet flecked drool was running down my chin as I packed in one piece after another. I barely stopped for air between takes; I wanted something… orgasmic. I knew I could get it here. The purity, the refinement of these chocolates was beyond even my most explicit expectations.
Then many strong arms were pulling me away from the table. They were physically lifting me onto a gurney, separating me from my experience.

"No! You don’t understand! I NEED THIS! I need to be here! Please, stop!" I pleaded for what felt like hours, but there were too many of them. I was thrashing like a rat undergoing electroshock therapy. I felt a sting in my right arm, then some pressure. My mind drifted off after that.

I awoke in a bed in a small building with daffodil yellow walls. The rails were up. The sheets were rubber. My evening gown had been replaced with a cotton backless romper. I was full of nervous energy, but my mind was still deadened to much of anything. I lay motionless and groggy as a man in a turtleneck sweater and a fading mustache came up to me and held my hand.

"You’re going to be okay, Jane. I promise. Now this can be a very scary place sometimes, but I promise you, we’re not here to hurt you." I recognize the tone as the one I attempt to use with my patients.

"No, Doc, you’re wrong. I’m here by mistake. You don’t understand." I don’t sound very convincing, what with my head fuzzier than a barbershop floor. My tongue does not want to cooperate much.

"You have a problem, Jane. It’s okay. We can face this, you and I." I am not hearing this. I do not have a problem. Repeat: I do not have a problem. He continues anyway, as if he’s talking to an average dopehead. "Chocolate is a very volatile substance. But it doesn’t master you. You can take control. Now get some rest. I will be with you again in the morning." And he leaves. I’m sleeping on fucking rubber, for Christ’s sake. I’m not going to choke on my own puke and I’m not going to piss all over the sheets. I’m very much okay. Just get me some goddamn chocolate. Now.

Monday, October 23, 2006

One from the closet

Found it!

I'm posting two versions. The first version is the old, classic one that I read for the group many months ago. The second is a revised version that I wrote not long ago. No title for either.

The first one:



Why are there children in my quadrangle?
They should not be there.
This is a place for adults with complex relationships.
I am a fairly well-dressed individual
I do not have a minute to spare
For your scraped knees and simple quips.

Please get off my cigarette-tapered lawn
And take your recreational throwing-orb elsewhere
You are distracting me from my studies
I, a fairly well-dressed individual, yawns
For I am tired and you have dared
To keep me from the nap I need because all night I was distracted by my buddies

I cannot believe I just said"buddy."
That is a child word
And I am not a child
I am a fairly well-dressed individual
I eat sophisticated things like bean-curd
Why, world, why do you let you children run wild?
Please take these children from my quadrangle
They should not be here
It will soon be passed their bedtime.
I am more than a fairly well-dressed individual
I am groomed with the utmost care all the time
And, unlike those children, when I speak, I wouldn't dare rhyme.


And, the new one:


Why are there children in my quadrangle
They should not be here
This is a place for adults with complex relationships
They have no prescheduled business
They do not contribute, nor perform in a reliable manner
They do not understand; but me
I am a fairlywell dressed individual
A repsectable straight-edge-laced totheclock citizen
A pillarmoral figure of civic faithlaw
Precise, mochablended, and statuewary

Please get off my pinstripe lawn
And take your overly rotund recreational throwing-orb with you
I scoff at its obtuse form which lacks sharp edges of trust and responsibility
Have they not heard of wholesomewheat? But me
I am a fairlywell dressed individual
A man of the straightback
Eyebrow furrower of the wakeup shapeup morning newsathon
Well groomed to the toothcomb
They call me just-the-right-curd-of-bean
Applied at the appropriate times, accu-first-rate

Authorities
They should not be in my quadrangle
They must reedulocate
Learn to discipline contibutevote and maybe we'll talk
For we, the fairlywell dressed
We go down the workweek sled
And you, casualman
It's off with you to bed

Saturday, October 14, 2006

blippity blue

Here's the first draft of a poem I wrote for class... (the assignment being to write a poem about/in response to a museum). When I was in Germany, I took a trip to Prague and got to visit the Kafka Museum. It was fabulous... and the poem is a kind of ... chaos as it stands. The usual. But the indentation is all wrong. Blogger doesn't let me do my crazy indentation the way I wish it would. Alas.

AH, KAFKA


Die Verwandlung and you—
we can imagine what it means, we can know it by your words
this kaleidoscope jags through
alleyways, staircases, mountains, castles and snow.
More snow—virgin pure snow—
of white light spun into dark webs, a man becomes
a Käfer.

How to make a collage of literature? How,
but to string words along walls; to push against a happy canopy
with alley-way staircases of reflected light and dark:
the dark sum of feeling attached to the Käfer—
a beetle, whose metamorphosis spurs
the revaluation of prose:
der Vater-Sohn Konflikt; the body-soul conflict;
the lust-love conflict; the male-female conflict;
the genitalia conflict. And you never married

your lovers, did you?! Sick,
but not simply sick. Afraid of illness,
or the decay that proliferated
out of cells touching cells
touching your legal mind’s cells;

Temptation that never left you
to write your heart into combustible stone
until it wrote itself out (preserved itself atop this hill of your city; metaphors that may
be of a fever, of a gash
in the face that was much more than a gash—
the Country Doctor, the lusting crispness of a maidservant and you!).

You willed—never that this would happen: words,
yours, flashed out on walls,
bound and wrapped in your second tongue,
my tongue, in your mother tongue, not
the WRITING ON THE WALL tongue
ah, that there could have been some union, some award
swarming these details: drawers full
of light and drawings of
stick-figures in single black lines—
from overhead, from forward and behind:
the mirror that you were back then
never shone so clearly as it does today:
that you were lonely the brilliant
sojourner of the castle.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tangle

The moment your fingers brush my neck
I return to my body
and you to yours.
You lean in and unclasp
my necklace, smooth silver,
and let it slip to the floor.
Neither of us are worried
about the chain
that will soon be
a twirled, twisted tangle
from our carelessness.

You remove your watch.
You have no use for it here.
Sharp hands
are twitching from line
to deliberate line
as if there aren’t an infinite number
of moments in between.

I let you take off
my skin.
Ultimate vulnerability.
Ultimate freedom.

Locked.
One moment.
Us.

An Elegy for Her

Slowly trudging through the sludge,
Amidst mass chaos beneath grey skies,
She fought.
Fight did she by day, by night,
Clung to her last allies of hope:
Her crystal rain, whose mother the black clouds of death
Guarded from the sun.
Despair did she not,
For one day her sun would shine,
One day pierce the shadow.

But what when dwell in sole dark?
Mortality of those
Whom once we thought invincible
Harshly proves us wrong
As cower
we in fear
At that very prospect of unknown.
And so the gruesome mask of death
Casts its ruthless shadow upon her innocent face.
And she, liberated to that sunny land,
Forever shall remain a mystery of the past.

-Nirmish Singla

For now I'm posting this under my username, but it might be transferred to his if he makes an account.

Untitled

Our Eyes met in passing
though brief the moment, I knew
and you did too.

I felt eyes on my neck
and turned
our gaze has met
once more.
a sparkle and smile.
Lightning struck again.

My face is hot
and tingling hands.
I want that moment again.

Untitled (as is the usual with my stuff)

sullen, stark and shabby,
he sits upon the stoop.

Slowly singing somber songs
Sipping on his soup.

Journey

A spot of orange
On the hard, white oval.
It begins.
Another chip.
It keeps shivering.
More cracks.
Suddenly a bulge.
The bulge pops,
Replaced by a head.
It keeps pecking
Out of its confines
Into the world.
Such a big world.
Such a long journey.
The casing is gone now.
Its legs are wobbly.
A shrill chirp.
With a small nudge
The caring mother responds.
Soon you'll be me
She thinks.
Go forth little chick.
Explore your new world.
It's such a big world.
Such a long journey.

It feels weird that all my posts so far have been poems. I'm going to write a story next, I swear.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My "lonely cigarette" poem

So I came back from the meeting and tried to work on the poem inspired by my feverish ramblings last week which I'd promised to have ready for you guys by tomorrow... but, sadly, it fell completely apart the way poems do sometimes. However, feeling poetic and refusing to give up, I sat resolutely in front of my computer until I came up with something. Not surprisingly, after the conversation at the end of the meeting, it's a "lonely cigarette" poem. It's so cool when the group works exactly the way it's supposed to... from our chatting came--an idea!

It's not super-refined or anything, and it's not really a performance piece, so I won't be reading it tomorrow, but I'd still appreciate your feedback. This is *gulp* my first actual creative post on here.

Fading (working title)

You walk with me, the glint of light dangling—
perky, precarious—from two careless fingers.
A fading moon looks stoically away from us,
the trees bend and sway, the air laden with
latent raindrops, or early dew,
or some other small quivering wetness.
I laugh and tell you to blow me a smoke ring.

You tilt your head up obligingly,
take a long drag (always with eyes closed)
and round up your lips as if for a howl—
but out creep two ghostly rings
followed by a wobbly third.
“You can’t breathe from the throat,” you tell me.
“It’s gotta come from deeper inside.”
Then you take another drag and start again.

Impulsively, I lean in
and touch my lips to yours, lightly,
before you’ve had the chance to blow all the smoke out.
In your surprise, you let it out into my face, and I laugh again.

But you don’t laugh. You
look away, stoically, and mumbling, repeat
“from deeper inside.”
Suddenly, I feel a sharp burning in my own throat.

When we get to my door, I stop and smile,
and you look at me—we’re both wondering
whether I’ll ask you up. You lean toward me, back bent,
and look at me a little too long.
I sigh an apology, and step deliberately inside.
I don’t turn around till later.

By then, you’re just a figure with a cigarette
fading slowly, shoulders quivering,
into the plain dark night.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Festifall Writing Activity Sentences

At our Festifall table, we had set up a writing activity where people drew one word each from three different cups containing adjectives, verbs, and nouns, and wrote a sentence on-the-spot using the three words. Many people participated, and we ended up with a lot of sentences. Here are some of the highlights:

Your lips inspire me to be lazy.

I lied when I said I was jealous of your body.

Her lips appear soft, red; in a word, delicious. I hesitate to think of the colors feelings emotions evoked by the simplest of contact with them.

He conquered my curves with alarming finesse.

There was something quite inspiring and sexy about the way the vomit pooled on the floor.

If I wake up past tomorrow morning, I'm limp and lost, because I obviously slept with a hooker.

The lesson my mother taught me is a secret which I only think about when I caress my pet cat Celia.

Though subtle at first, the trickle of spring melt soon turned into a roaring river that seemed like it would never stop.

Dream
yourself out of embarrassment, naïve girl.

I am thoroughly embarrassed by the orgasmic reaction to the passage of linear time. Alas!

Commandment XI: “Thou shalt honor and caress thy tender guitar.”

I discovered delicious intestines inside me.

While you conquered “Love Me Tender” on your mandolin, I chopped vegetables for stir-fry.

Indulge in the morning, though your limbs may be limp.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thoughts

Hi everyone!

Neil and I went to the Summer Hopwood award ceremony today to see Bethany get recognized and read her prize-winning poetry. It was a small, but classy ceremony, and Bethany read two excellent poems, the first of which was one of the earliest poems she had brought to Writers' Community to workshop. I have to say, listening to her read, I felt so incredibly proud of her, and realized again how thoroughly she deserved to win. Once more, congratulations, Bethany!

So, seeing this prestigious award ceremony and all, I've been thinking a lot about what makes writing *good* writing. We had a discussion along these lines on the blog some time ago, I know, but today my modern poetry professor read us a quotation by Matthew Arnold that tried to answer this very question. Here it is:

"For the creation of a masterwork of literature two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment."

Arnold meant it in the historic sense of time and place (my professor used it in reference to Yeats writing about the Irish rebellion against the British), but I think "the moment" is also an interesting way to describe that flash of inspiration that sometimes comes over a writer. Indeed, that's how it works for me; I'll have "a moment" of clarity and deep feeling in which I'll jot down some words, and then have hours and hours of that muddled second-guessing process we call "editing". What do you guys think?

And lastly, since I've promised to write and bring a poem to the next meeting, I have, of course, been thinking particularly about poetry. This is not the form that comes most naturally to me--and yet, as a reader, I feel like nothing is more "natural" than a poem well written. It's hard, as a writer (I guess I should say "as a poet") to figure out what you want to say, and how, exactly, it can be said most effectively. To give this ultimate question some perspective, I will end this post with the last few lines of Marianne Moore's poem "Poetry", in which she outlines, consisely and perfectly, exactly what a reader should expect from "poetry":

"In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Eastward, Onward, Forward

Strolling down Magnificent Ave.
With cane and coat and keys.
walking eastward, onward, forward,
in search of boundary.

Mile one is done, as is two,
Now I'm working on three.
I'll keep on going with steady gait
Until I'm ready.

I don't yet know how far i'll go,
the trail has yet to tell.
But I'll continue 'til I'm there,
or 'til my feet should swell.

I'm walking eastward, onward, forward,
steady on my path.
Never a better road to travel
than down Magnificent Ave.




(Draft one, please comment)

The Derelict

Move along. Nothing to see here.
Nothing but this mendicant man.
He's been begging in the same place
All day.

"Spare some change, sir?
Have a good day."
That's all I ever hear him say.
There's a sigh in his eyes.

Some time soon I'll join him.
Some time soon, I say.
Maybe another day.

I'll buy him lunch or coffee.
Hear what he has to say.
But not today, no.
Another day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On a String

Here's his black hair
His brown eyes are open
His nose is here
His lips are smiling
He's wearing a blue shirt
He's wearing black pants
Here are his sneakers
And here's a pin
And the doll cries

Comment on anything, including title, punctuation, etc.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Scheduling

Anyone have preferences/requests for when meetings should be this semester? Also, we could all put our class schedules on M-Schedule and then find out that way when we're all free. I'm pretty much free for anytime I don't have class.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

CONGRATS BETHANY!!!!!

For those of you who don't know, our very own Bethany Goad has won a Hopwood for her poetry!!!!! WOOOOOO!!!!!! This is an incredible achievement which Bethany entirely deserves since her poetry is so fricken awesome! The awards ceremony will be held September 22nd at 11 am if you'd like to stop by and give Bethany your congrats. If you can't make it then, be sure to come to our first Writer's Comm meeting of the year and tell Bethany how cool she is, and how cool it is to know a girl who won a Hopwood.

I admire your talent and am happy it's been recognized, Bethany! Cheers! ^_^

Jenny

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

poem:HIPPOCRATIC GARDENS AND JARS OF BILE

(title needs work)

I had it stashed in my brain:
how my landlord, Sandra, kept
the face and neck of a snake
in a squat jar filled with vinegar.
This was her spectacle about death--
how to deal with dying, or how to die.

I turned seven before spotting
the jar in our shed--before the jar spotted me.
Sandra hadn't intended so much for humor,
as she had to set a spectacle.
And that was the thing
about death and its aftermath.

I couldn't have been
more surprised to learn that
such snakes tend only to help
gardens grow by masticating
certain pests--shaded black and brown,
which are the colors of melancholy.

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
how does your garden grow?" Then,
words fell flat off my mouth: I dreamt
of an old pal and her brothers--
the three of them--stepping off a cliff,
as if in obedience to an unspoken mantra.

This all happened before
our move to that house with the shed.
What did the rest of the verse do but fail me?
The hoe had twice fallen straight on its neck
and seemed to have splattered it
into three pieces, now caught in a jar.

It couldn't even scream or make babies,
this all happened so fast.
Hadn't its blood been yellow, like dragons'
in Renaissance fairytales? Or, I had made this up too?
Unlike that myth about the poisons excreted
by our bad humors into our blood. Choleric-yellow, for example.

When another one slid around the bend,
I shrieked sanguinely and my mother finished it off--
"With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row."
Somehow, that made even less sense than the rest.
As did the kinds of solid questions
I took too shy of a blush to utter.

Not even scrapping questions
like, What's the origin of this plot?
Who took grandpa's hand on the way to the cemetary?
Why won't Ms. Sandra-landlord
show herself when I'm around?
Where'd its blood go, and why not red?

The kinds of suckers people call leeches
didn't begin to help
with removing that bad bile
they used to believe our blood was made of.
Nor was it that the screening for life
and the carbon dating system had let me down.

In my quest for the exact
age and reason for the canyons,
I simply decided to suffer the literary approach--
which is to say I've taken a certain
so-called mythology very seriously,
and have given up on blanket answers.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Idea for next year

I was thinking, yesterday, about how many of us know how to play instruments, and I realized that at least part of the way into next year, if not at the beginning, it will be at least me, Rachel, Manisha, Josh, and Will. So I got to thinking, music is related to English, writing, and just creativity in general...why don't we have a music meeting where we write a song? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

poem: decision about reciprocity

Hey, here's something of a poem that I started a couple of days ago. Please let me know if you can't figure out what's going on, or if you're generally confused... I think there may be issues with obscurity here that I need to work on. Anyway, I hope everyone's well and is enjoying the summer! Thanks for your feedback!

DECISION ABOUT RECIPROCITY (title also needs work)

What crawls from his lips as vapor dirt,
tinged with scents of sweet salt-water
and rum, dissolves me from this chair--
this desk. I resume myself, half full of breath
and blood, in a spot of sparse straw-grass.
Beside a plastic pail and shovel, my knees
bump under my daisy and red-cotton skirt.
I will shovel my mouth full with dirt,
swallow and scan the tree-stubs
for a woody-chunk.

What looks exactly like white
breast-meat from a bird
fits between my lips.
What pretends to have died
flapping feathers with a song--I chew on.
Chew, chew, chew and swallow. He breathes
for me, so I swallow that wood
of reciprocity. For the seeming insect inching
from his parted lips, I nibble on wood
that once centered around a vein of green.

I gnaw hopelessly for that vein of living green,
while he breathes of masks:
opaque-scented, damp-living. Insects
whose colors adhere to leaves and grass.
What starts from his mouth
encircles me, my bent knees and bucket,
like a thick swarming of gnats--in my mouth,
nose, and ears. Still, he towers over my desk,
and I'm five years old again. He's there
at my desk with his elbows propped up,
a yellowing collar piqued for command;
he presses his fingers forward--as if
against a heap of sand.

It's what will topple at the slightest
nudge. I could swallow again, chewing
what he knows has never flown, nor bled
in red. Or could the wood simply
drop from my mouth: still-white,
wadded, slathered, smiling in spit?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Writers' Community combined effort



This is a piece produced at a meeting in the early summer, where each of us wrote a paragraph/section of a story and then passed it around to continue's other people's starts. I've offset the parts that different people wrote into separate sections, but it's meant to be read as a whole. Will, Rachel Bowers, Bethany, and I contributed, and we really had fun with this activity. Read, enjoy, and let me know what you think--this is especially for those of you who wanted to be kept abreast of meeting happenings. Forgive the awkward formatting: apparently blogspot doesn't believe in tabs.


* * * * *

“Your silver spoon fell into my oatmeal when you had your back turned,” Mark remarked.
My mother always serves oatmeal when guests come to dine. It’s her way of saying, “Please, do yourself a favor and don’t die like my husband.” I must have picked up the habit of serving it myself, for when Mark told me that I lost my spoon—or, rather, that it had fallen into his bowl—I turned around to face him, realizing that we had been eating oatmeal for every meal since the day we were married.
“Well, what am I supposed to slurp with?” I asked, as I turned to face his shirtless back. I held oven mitts over my hands and gripped a long white spatula that had blackened near the bottom. The sizzling of garlic in the skillet started and I looked at the table. Mark had both of his hands lifted and was gripping the silver spoon that my aunt Melinda gave us as a gift fourteen days ago.

He grinned at me like I was a little girl. “Well, I could wash it off in the sink for you and you could still use it. Or I could grab us a couple of straws and we can both slurp our oatmeal.”
“We might as well eat with our hands.” I mumbled, not in the mood for jokes or his condescending tone.
“Why don’t we?” he said. I ignored him and turned back to the stove.

“Look, the fact of the matter is, your oatmeal is terrible,” said Mark. “I mean really terrible. I didn’t want to say anything, but it’s been two weeks and this stuff is like dishwater with bits of asbestos mixed in for flavor.”
“A simple ‘could we have something else?’ would have been good enough.”
“No, I really don’t think it would have been. You need to understand that this whole oatmeal kick that you’re on is getting ridiculous. Meanwhile, what’s the deal with this spoon? I can’t eat that.”
“It was an accident. I’ll take it out for you. God, you’re such a whiner.”
“I am not a whiner. Look, pasta is just as easy to make as oatmeal, maybe even easier. We could even order a pizza or something. I love pizza.”
“Yeah, well, I love oatmeal.”
“Look, I’m only trying to help you.”
“I don’t want any help.”
“You’re just so clumsy.”

I fought the tears that threatened to well up in my eyes. In theory, I was prepared to come to the realization, thirty years down the road, that my mother had been right all along, but that I would feel it already was entirely unexpected. Of course, Mom’s husband—my father—had died on the tenth day after they were married, so I’d pretty much already outdone her. Thinking about that put me in a better mood, so I went up to Mark and cheerfully put my arm around his shoulders, lightly nipping his ear.
“That’s better,” he said, smiling, and carried me into the bedroom, where we made love three times on the brand new silk sheets his sister had given us as a wedding gift. When we were done, we lay there peacefully, united in our spent passion, until Mark’s body started convulsing, and he collapsed on the floor, clutching his neck. I lay in bed, sadly looking at the ceiling. When it was all over, I picked up the phone and called Mom.
“Finally!” she said, “I expected you to call a few days ago.”
“Well, Mom,” I replied, “I really liked this one, so I lightened up a little on the asbestos in the recipe.”

Monday, June 26, 2006

Tear

Emotion a pool
Wells up
Becomes a lake
Pushes the dam
Raging river
Why is it blocked?
Let it out!
Let it out!
Dam torn down
Burning cheeks
Full release

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Post-Hopwood Ruminations

I've just finished finalizing my short fiction entries for the Hopwoods... two stories, 49 pages. Gees. For anyone who's never submitted before, you have to include a pen name, and I really wanted to put some ridiculous one, like Julius T. Finkelbinder or Sprat Z. Swastikallica. Then I thought, maybe the judges would read my silly pen name, scoff, and say, "My, this student couldn't possibly be capable of writing serious lituturature. Indeed!" Or if I did win, would I really want to be acknowledged with a name like G.E. Sausagesphincter? So I caved and settled on Amelia J. Crux.

But someday, someday!

I promise an intelligent post some time in the near future. In the mean time, why not post the goofiest pen name you can think of? Goofy is better than intelligent at 3:37 AM.

Jenny

Monday, June 19, 2006

Complex Contemplations on Continuation

I had a reason, and still do.
There's no changing the past now.
I know.....what I'm doing. Right?
Right. I know.

Something gnaws at my existence today.
It started in my stomach,
migrated to mind with migraine.
metaphysical rationalization indicates
You're the reason.

The answer?
It's there, somewhere.
Somehow I have to decide.

Random thought on the blog

I don't know if this was planned already or what, but I think we should coordinate this with the meetings for those of us that can't make it and we should continue using this into the school year. We can post stuff shared at meetings, and share stuff posted here at meetings, too. I can volunteer to be recorder, or secretary, or whatever, during the year, when I'm around. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Untitled Poem

So, I edited the poem. Please comment.

EDITED:
Left foot. Right,
and again. Stop.

In sight,
A flower; Purple.

Lift and view.
Beauty, Fragile.
Pain. from a thorn.

Drop it and see
Purple and Crimson.
Left behind.

Left foot. Right,
and again, again, again,
again, again...


OLD:
Left foot. Right,
and again. Stop.

A flower; Purple.

Pick it up.
Beauty, Fragile.
Pain. A thorn.

Drop the flower.
Purple, Crimson.

Left foot. Right,
and again, again, again...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sheep

He wakes up today,
his face, covered in a wool.
All the same to him. For too long
he has been living in his damn...
fiction...cloaked reality.
Forgot that this was his way,
his idea to get through that
adolescent witch hunt. Still,
living in that dreaded era.

His sweater that covered his body
now disguises his mind and soul...
His being that still lives
under it all. How I long
to tear that fucking costume!
Free him of the herd!
Pull him out, as if from a womb!
Knowing he's there rips at me!

My friend, come back to me!
Know what I know! You won't,
can't be caught any longer!
They'll praise you, only,
a hero could make it through that,
unscathed, pull your head back out,
now, be that model that we need,
you're out of the cave, now!


It was too hot to sleep so I decided to write instead. Tell me what you think. I kind of want to make it a song...mostly to help the double meaning of the last stanza along. It doesn't make any sense if you leave out punctuation here (try it) but in a song it might work out.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Meeting Today

Hi everyone!

Just a quick reminder that there's a meeting today starting at 6.00 p.m. We'll meet (as usual) on the steps of Angell Hall on state street. If the beautiful weather holds up, we'll sit outdoors on the grass somewhere. The plan is to get some writing done.

I'll see you there!
Manisha

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Thoughts on short story writing

So I was talking to my dad the other night about short stories, and how I feel like they all have a similar formula, a list of must-haves to really mean anything. Or at least in all the short stories I've read for my class lately, they've had this much in common:

- they focus on events in a relatively brief chunk of time, a few hours or a few days
- they contain flashbacks that serve to develop characters and fill in the story
- they have interesting, memorable characters
- the characters go somewhere, as in they change
- there is an overall message to be had
- the message is tied into some accessable, concrete means of explaination (what the plot is based around; for example, we read a story about a man who ends up feeling that he can't judge anything anymore, and the story takes place during a little league baseball game where he is the umpire)

So my dad says that it seems easy enough to put all these things together with a bit of work, abd he asks what separates the good short stories from the really great ones? I responded that I think it's just the artistry, the how. And of course not all stories need to have the things above to be successful... which is another piece of evidence for the importance of artistry, raw talent. Sometimes I think it's a matter of simply having it or not. That... and you have to want it. Want to write something phenomenal, and not give up until the writing has done what it wants.

That's where I think I might be at a loss, heh... Perhaps if I could just win a Hopwood and $3,000 or so...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Meeting Today

If you're in the area, come to the meeting this evening. We'll be meeting at the steps of Angell Hall on State street at 6 p.m. and deciding where to go from there. Should be fun!

suggestions?

“Metaphor”

“Red Fish Vanish, Then Grow Bigger” is a common pneumonic device teachers use to teach children the layout of the keyboard. He’s been repeating the words compulsively for seven years. He’s been typing since leaving middle school, mostly stories about ghosts and dragons. Education takes time. The phrases will come together.

He stays up late in the night dreaming love stories. The loss of women he's interacted with replay in his mind so when he meets a new girl, it's hard to stop the tape. He tries very hard to stay with the present voice, to remember names, to place the faces with names, though, to be honest, it's getting harder.

He still gets them into bed, fucks them. “Don't you know no that's odd could have sworn that sweetie so where have you been tonight for your part you seem to be cold are you feeling okay yes (shaking the head and a pensive glance to the east.) Do you want me to walk you home?” She does. This story isn’t about that. This story is about literary devices.

Mandy disappears into the rhetoric tickling-him-pink. With her halter cut-off, he’s able to barely make out the espionage of secret agent breasts. Behind enemy lace and the silver metal shrapnel flush on her moaning clavicle, below those warm rubicund cheeks flushing cherry red, and that thin Mona Lisa smile, his eyes lead up to hers: empty, staring intently for a cease fire. How does a girl become a metaphor for war? Why do drunk girls always taste like dirt? How do losing battles become obsessions?

He frequently dreams about the perfect act of brutal sex: Have you ever eaten kettle corn? Opening the edges of burnt bag, enveloped in the scalding hiss of steam, the isometric ivory concealing rough kernels ground into your teeth. Under your gums the taste is drained in butter, decimated under white granulated sugar, words raining salt in wounds, melted Hershey’s eyes, brown caramel thighs, her tongue a dimpled strawberry, soft skin the napkin wiping up the sweat against the background of a cotton candy sunrise. The dreams always revert to softness, how he tried the world.

He wakes up with the words: “What Stops X-rays?” Another pneumonic. The answer is, of course, lead. His feet are on the dance floor. His eyes are pressed against the sight of flashing red and blue 5-0 peddling down the street, the insidious bicycle cop, so proud of his huffy and his badge leaving the scene. No crime has been committed. There are no criminals tonight.

The pound of Tubthumper’s drowning bass runs under Mandy’s whispering, a barely audible “the two guys to your right” into his ear on the dance floor. The pounding of her thighs against his paint-stained jeans remind him of his fingers on the keyboard combinging to drown the murmer of the rest of the sentence: “I made out with them this evening.” Yes, she is afraid to tell him anymore. He can touch that. The way her cracked hands slide down into his belt loops, the way his hands move up around her firm, smooth breasts. Her eyes seem not to blink when blown. She is blitzed. Extinct. Wasted. She’s looking outside for her boyfriend.

She once loved God. She commented witfully on C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and the beauty of Spring Hill. Who can make forests that spread across the Earth? Who will save his soul? She seems to lose track of the Man when rain falls, an intense case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). When the sun hides, she has a tendency to run jagged shards of mirror across her wrist, gushing blood out on the keyboard, ruining the keys.

Once upon a time he loved God. It wasn’t very practical asking himself over and over again, “What would Jesus do?” when downing shots of Tequila and fucking sorority girls. What would Jesus do? Hang-glide. Make a facebook profile. Give a lecture on intelligent design. Wouldn’t ask any questions. No need for Him to ask questions.

Or him, for that matter. Sometimes he gets high and rewrites the experience. He is aware of the colors of God, then, the salvatious infinite merengue-flavored hues. Suddenly God is a lemon merengue pie. With extra whipped filling.

Sweet sunshine. He wakes up the next morning, the cold hours of a late afternoon with ash on his lips in the disorienting gap between “Good Morning Darling!” and a completely non-existant fugue state. There is no darling present, though a man wrapped in a blue comforter passes him a scalding cup of Prince of Wales tea, a complex brand from China with organic whole milk from a Michigan dairy farm, a true “diversitea.”

On the way home he spots Mandy again, now the where-are-you-going sorority girl with a pensive stare into a street sign that states the answer he asked her last night in octogonal red. She has lycra black pants, cut-off at the calves, her legs crossed, closed for buisness. She has a copy of The Sun Also Rises under her caramel arm. The day is a little cold. He wonders about her cut-off pants. She must be in a hurry Her calves are tanned and firm. Is she a runner?

Where is she running to? Perhaps home. Does her mother wear cut-offs? Perhaps she’s a child of West Bloomfield and then her dad definatly might have expensive slippers made of smooth Italian leather. Questions and answers are all transient and he never concerns himself with them.

He would like to uncross her legs, run his fingers through that straightened and burnt brown hair. She has that same vacant stare. Sorority girl where are you going? A silver Razr phone (Kelly Clarkston ringtone) and extra-strength mace in case she runs into someone like him. Mace will burn the eyes but can she reach the mace? In time? If she’s attacked? On the street?

She’s keeping track of his stare with a light tap of her foot on the concrete, her firm tanned thighs swaying only slightly with the drumbeat. The tautness of her breasts beneathe the camo are moving him away. Too close to a question answered on a stop sign.

When he arrives back in the dorm room he wants desperately to call her. He’s holding the phone in his hand, shaking, cordless, frozen in his hand, a dying battery, dial tone unaware and endless, a low-pitched hum hum. Asked if he would like to make a call please hang up and try again and he will, because he knows the number by heart. Can’t count how many times he’s called that number on sidewalk streets, down alleyways, from New Orleans to Detroit, laying on white sand beaches, working in Scotland, swimming in Mexico, driving through twelve intercontinental states, paying outrageous charges on those dirty hotel and over-priced airplane lines.

He puts down the phone. The number is on the screen always and this ritual is performed at least once a night now, usually more, though he doesn’t count. He thinks too much about rituals, about the phone, at least he thinks he’s over thinking and then he thinks again, circular logic, traveling round and round, taking him right back to how he is here.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Any title suggestions?

You are my inspiration.
You are my reason
to keep living.
I need you in my life,
my love, my sweet.
Without you, I would be
only a man. But you
make me a person.
Thank you
for being all
I need and ever will.


Comparisons and comments please

Friday, May 05, 2006

Everywhere

Everything I do
reminds me of you.
Your face is in the clouds.
Your voice is in the sounds
of the birds' songs flowing,
and of the wind blowing.
Your smile, your eyes...
Full of happiness, a sigh
escapes me when
together I imagine us.
Then to you I send
a hug and a buss.

Please comment. I like this better than the other one I wrote. That one's more free verse.

Soviet Russia Limerick

There once was a man named Boris
Who entered the shop of a florist
But in the spring there's no flowers
In a land of snow and statue-towers
So the florist said "I plan to focus my attention on the production of steel and various lengths of copper wire in an effort to provide the state with the means to complete the next Five-Year Plan. Victory to the revolution. Das vidanya, comrade Boris."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

New features

Update from your friendly neighborhood admin...

You can now display comments either on the same page (by clicking "2 comments" or whatever it says) or on a new page (by clicking "On a new page", duh).

Would people appreciate support for being able to "hide" large posts under a link? For example, let's say you posted a six-page piece. You would have the option to set it up so that, on the main Blog page, a viewer would just see a post saying "Here's my writing. Click here to see it," and when he or she clicked the link the content would "pop out" on the same page, kind of like comments do now. However, on the individual page for that post, the content would be shown by default. The basic idea is that, if lots of large pieces are posted, navigating the blog becomes difficult. This way people can show/hide long content as they choose. I think Livejournal has something similar to this.

It sounds nifty to me ... so let me know if you object, because I'm probably going to go ahead and implement it anyway just to see if I can.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Fib!

http://gottabook.blogspot.com/2006/04/fib.html

A
fun,
also
pleasingly
mathematical,
way you can write your poetry.

Welcome!

Hi everyone!

Looks like people are starting to join. As you've probably figured out by now, all members--and only members--can post messages and comments. Feel free to post anything you think might interest the group (yes, even Soviet Russia poems), and comment actively on the posts of others. You could even just leave messages to say what's going on with you.

As for me, I'm living at home and making the hassly one-hour commute to Ann Arbor through spring term for work and a class. The class, however, almost makes up for it by itself: I'm taking fiction writing (ENG 323). As Jenny, who is also in the same class (yay!) can attest, it looks very very promising. I'm sure we'll learn things we can use in our impromptu writing sessions and workshops at Writers' Community. Most importantly, it will force me to actually write a sizeable quantity of fiction, which I will most likely inflict on you guys, so I'm excited.

Well, that's it for now. Make yourselves at home!

Manisha (your benevolent dictator)

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Test post: a poem for Soviet Russia

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
In Soviet Russia,
Poem writes you!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Blog Template: Technical Details

This documentation is intended to facilitate editing for administrators of the blog. If you're not an administrator, this will probably be completely useless to you.

Details of edits to the template should be added to this post.

All edits to the template should be flagged with a comment (be it HTML, CSS, or Javascript) containing the text "EDIT: " so that they can easily be found.

9/25/07: Utility Classes section added. Defines classes for front page only, post page only, and code box.

9/25/07: Spacing above post reduced from 24px to 12px

9/25/07: Spacing below post title increased from 0 to 1em

9/19/07: Horizontal line moved from above footer to below footer

UMWC Blog FAQ

The Basics

What is a blog?

A blog, short for "web log", is a website where users can post entries. Lots of people have personal journals online as blogs, and many newspapers and magazines have started their own blogs. Chances are, whatever you want to read about, someone's writing a blog about it.

Why do writers need a blog?

To write, of course!

One of the main roles of Writers' Community is a source of constructive feedback. The workshop sessions at group meetings are great for this, but we can only get through so many items per meeting. Also, it's very inconvenient for both the author and the other members to read the entirety of a long piece at a meeting.

By posting your writing to the blog, you make it available to the entire membership of Writers' Community to read and comment on. If you can't make meetings, would rather avoid the spotlight at them, or just have work that the usual meeting environment isn't conducive to, a blog post is a great way to get your work out there and read.

Where is the blog?

http://umwc.blogspot.com . Take a look!

How do I ...

... join the blog?

It's really easy! Our blog is hosted on Blogger, so if you're already blogging with Blogger, then just send me an email ( fizah@umich.edu) and I'll send you an invite.

If you're not already using Blogger, do you have a Google Account (e.g. for Google Mail, Google Reader, etc.) ? If so, you're already set up to use Blogger! Just go to Blogger and log in with your Google Account. Once you've accepted your invitation, you'll see the Writers' Community blog there on your Blogger home page.

If you don't have a Google Account, don't worry - it's really easy to get one. Just go to Create a Google Account and fill out the form there. A confirmation e-mail will go to the address you provided. (Don't worry if it's not there right away; mine took a few minutes to arrive.) Once you have the Google Account, request an invitation and accept it when you receive it. Then log into Blogger and our blog should be there on your home page!

... post on the blog?

The easiest way is to go through the Blogger website. Log into Blogger and click the "New Post" link under "UM Writers' Community." This opens up a page where you can create a post. Click "Publish Post" when you're done, and voila! Your writing is on the blog!

If you're a more advanced user and you want a stand-alone client for Blogger - well, I don't know of a good one, but ScribeFire is a nice Firefox extension you may want to try.

... get help from a real person?

See the "Contact Us" section at the bottom of the FAQ.

The Not-So-Basics

What about copyright or other ownership issues?

When you put your work on the Internet, it becomes available for everyone to see. At present, the blog is not members-only for readership - although this may change in the near future. Even if we chose to make it so, however, we understand that some members may have concerns about their work being plagiarized or otherwise misused.

First of all, Blogger themselves explicitly disavow any ownership over your work and in fact, for liability reasons, want to distance themselves from it as much as possible. You don't have to worry about some Blogger executive using a clever phrase from your story as a marketing gimmick and making millions from it while leaving you high and dry.

However, if you're worried about other users like yourself, the Creative Commons License is something you may want to look into. Without going into detail, it allows certain types of fair use without giving your work away entirely. Please read more - the Wikipedia article is pretty good - if you're interested, and feel free to append the Creative Commons license blurb to the end of your posts.

As for you, the poster, plagiarizing content: just don't.

Are there any restrictions on what I can post?

The line between art and obscenity is so contentious that we're not going to take a firm stance on it. Just keep the following in mind:

We're a student organization and are therefore automatically subject to certain de facto restrictions, especially when it comes to issues of race, ethnicity, gender identity, etc. Please don't bring the wrath of the University down onto us.

Blogger has its own rules about obscene content, but that's primarily user-driven - a user can flag a post and, if enough flags are thrown, bad things can start to happen. Let's try to avoid bad things.

If you're ever in doubt, consider letting a core member take a look and getting their opinion.

What about post length? Can I submit my 50 page story?

Absolutely! However, we do ask that you check the guide on how to make a long post first and follow those instructions. This helps keep the front page of the blog clean and will hopefully contribute to everyone's happiness.

Why does my post look weird?

If you paste into the "Compose" tab from a word processor, there's a good chance that some of the formatting will be lost. I don't know of a good way to deal with this, but here's something that seems to work for most members:

Instead of copying and pasting directly from your word processor to the blog, first paste into a text editor, such as Notepad (on Windows) or TextEdit (on Mac). Then paste from the text editor into the blog, and re-do the formatting using Blogger's toolbar.

Can't I just use HTML/CSS to format my posts?

Of course! If you know HTML and/or CSS and want to format your posts that way, feel free. Just click on the Edit HTML tab on the New Post page to get started.

However, there are a few restrictions. Hopefully you're all a decent, happy, and loving group of people, and won't abuse your freedoms, but there are a few rules you should be aware of:

"With great power comes great responsibility" : Don't deliberately mess with the layout of the blog or other people's posts. If we find destructive content, we'll remove it. If you're clever enough to pull off something like that, do it on a blog where the readers will be impressed by it. We'll just be sad.

"Oh my god, look at her post. It is so big" : If you put up a really, really long post (as discussed above), please refer to How to make a long post

"The goggles, they do nothing!" : If your post has a flashing yellow background with flashing green text and pictures of tiny dinosaurs marching around the perimeter, we reserve the right to hide it behind a link saying "Click Here To View Post". It'll still be there, but users will have to click that link to view the post, keeping the front page clean and providing a layer of protection for those of us who prefer to keep our brains unexploded.

Contact Us

So who's in charge, anyway?

The powers that be have seen fit to delegate all things blog to lesser beings; two of us, specifically.

Right now, the blog is administered by Hafizah Omar. I send member invitations, I maintain the modifications to the template, and I implement new features like post previews and in-line comment viewing.


You can email me at (fizah@umich.edu

This post is originally written by Neil who has since left us for greener pastures.