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let the constellations keep you

April 27, 2014 Leave a comment

 

In order to see the stars, you must first see the night. The sun overshadows starlight, and it’s only revealed after all the light is gone. Have you ever noticed that when everything is dark, stars arrive like magic, appearing one by one, too fast to count. Little bright bastions of silver, taming the wildness of an empty sky. For every point, there is a counterpoint. For every fear, there is a hope. For every weakness, there is a strength. Even nature holds a balance. This is something we forget when we start to take the sky for granted.

Some people are like that, too. Miracles borne of twilight – the bright hope that keeps you going when the sunlight has gone away. Do not take them for granted. Look for them when everything has gone to hell. Remember them, those who have touched you and kept you. Last week. A year ago. A breath ago. Or, perhaps, they are long dead – but like stars, the light still carries.

Hold to the things that chase away the dark. Fill your life with starlight. Gather love the way children gather constellations: with absolute certainty and delight. Map your world by what fills you with wonder. Live it by indrawn breaths and arresting surprises – that which stops you in your tracks. Don’t be content with what does not nurture you. Don’t curl your fingers around your pain or that which seeks to hold you in your place. Don’t merely count the hours until the sun comes back out. You cannot outpace the moon. You cannot conjure a sunrise.

Find the magic in everyday things. Resurrect your will to believe. Don’t chart your course with wasted words and rung out reasoning. Trace tomorrow by Orion, Draco, and Ursa Major. Live your life by starlight – that is how you find your way back home. No, that is how you find your way.

Home is a heart; the destination varies.

baby steps

 

Sometimes, life is all about baby steps. It’s falling in love at the worst possible time, but there you are, anyway. It’s having a thousand reasons to run and only one reason to stay. It’s every kiss you’ve ever dared. Even laugh you’ve ever shared over a crackling phone line, at 1 am, or first thing before your coffee. It’s drawing a card and placing a bet with your eyes closed.

Life is full of moments. Some are stolen. All, honestly, are stolen – just in different ways. These are things stitched out of fate, fabricated by faith and happenstance. Moments that are contingent upon so many other thing that the chances of them happening are slim. And yet, they do. And yet, they are.

Sometimes, you just have to take a chance. Sometimes, you know what you know. It is important to learn to trust ourselves, to heed our intuition, and to act on it. If someone doesn’t want to be in your life, they walk out of it. I’m not interested in people like that. I want those who are bloody and fierce and battle-scarred. I want real hearts that are laughing and aching. I want truth. I want to choose and be chosen.

But sometimes, everything is baby steps. Heartbeats. The first blue sky of summer, and the way the spring air smells like a prayer. These things are an ordinary magic, but even ordinary magic is a miracle.

possible

February 26, 2013 Leave a comment

This morning, I found myself searching for a word I couldn’t find, the ghost of yesterday’s mascara underneath my eyes. It is strange how some moments seem to count more than others, how a single feeling can stretch out for an eternity, encompassing everything that it touches. In that instance, all the words stop struggling; sentences are entirely rearranged, until idea of language becomes something else. Something tactile, something sacred. A science of atoms, splitting. The way the wind blows through a chime, music lingering the distance. The warm quiet of blankets first thing in the morning. A Sunday spent without obligation.

For this, there are no adjectives, only shadows of them. For this, there are no explanations, only the pale distance between breathes. All definitions have been rendered useless. All equations found perfectly solved. The key is a single word, polished like a diamond. It turns a lock. It slips a chain. It opens a door and shatters a window.

Sometimes, the things we let ourselves believe are the most dangerous. We place our faith in our hearts, not because it is easy or simple. It is because we realize the power in a single ripple, a star found in the sky, when everything has else has faded into the night. Ultimately, what we believe in is what we hold highest. And where there’s truth and trust, there is strength. There’s making the impossible, possible.

What is more miraculous than that?

Categories: prose, Random Musings

Secret

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

(a bit of flash fiction, born of re-reading Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things)

She waits, as dawn begins to creep over the horizon. It is the day’s first promise, the first lie. She prefers the shadows for a reason. The day offers too many avenues for capture, too many witnesses with prying eyes and busy tongues. The world will swallow anyone without hesitation. She doesn’t hesitation. She merely watches you sleep, counting the marks on your skin – the ink that turned your body into a map. You are the country under her skin, but the routes are less easy to follow.

Everything ends. The knowledge makes her bones ache, as if each kiss is a shovel full of dirt. She knows that she is digging her own grave, and yet she does it anyway. There, in the odd moments where no one will notice, she offers you a choice: her body or the knife. A knife or her body. The knife is an illusion, but the implication is the glint of moonlight on broken glass: a revelation of opportunity. Of the things already ravaged before. Always, you cast the knife aside, but passion wounds in its own way.

She loves you, and she is waiting. She offers too much, wondering at what you might take. She dreams of all the wars you don’t know she’s waged. She is a warrior. She fights for fragile things: a glass heart, a four letter word, and an honest story. Her eyes betray none of this. To you, she looks as she always has.

In another lifetime, she would’ve written you a fairytale. She would’ve woken you from your deep sleep, forgetting tradition. Instead, she stands on the edge of everything, hands tied behind her back. There is no fear in her face. She knows exactly what she’s doing, as she steps between you and yourself. This could be the moment the world explodes. This could be the train tracks, the rabid wolves, the bright flash of a silent bomb. Still, she stands there, knowing that she cannot protect herself. Moreover, she does not even try. It is not about her. It is about you.

Some sacrifices are made of money. Others are made of time. Hers are made of her own strength. All things given up, waiting to be gathered. You don’t realize that she is broken. That she stands impossibly straight to avoid detection. Her smile is a victim. And that is another lie among many.

Her intensity cuts through reason like a razor. The rain falls, and she still waits, mud clinging to her footsteps. There’s always a trail, always a way to find her. You will discover this when you wake up to find her gone.

Tomorrow is only ever what you choose.

Categories: prose

the things that keep us are the things that we have kept

July 17, 2012 4 comments

Anaïs Nin once wrote, “We do not see things are they are. We see things as we are.” And she’s right. Our experiences, point of view, and opinions color our perspective. It is the difference between denotative (the dictionary definition) and connotative (the emotional definition) of a word. A college professor once gave the example of a forest. He said that you talk about a forest, and most people picture green trees and a pleasant place. And that is true. But for him, the connotative meaning evoked an emotional response, because it made him think of a kid who he grew up with, a boy who hung himself from a tree in the woods. For him, that forest was never just a forest. It had ghosts, shadows, and a sense of foreboding.

There is, according to Jameson, no neutral word (blanking on his first name; I have to dig out my Norton lit theory book to reconfirm). And that is also true. Everything means something. But if we perceive the world as we are, I wonder how that changes our relationship to words. By most standards, an effective piece of writing usually makes us feel something. It evokes an emotional response. For instance, if I read a story about foxes, I think of Ted Hughes. Then I think of Sylvia Plath. From there, my thoughts harken back to their relationship, both romantically and in regard to their writing. I am a heap of my graduate school research sessions, soul-deep in philosophies, and most likely quoting from Birthday Letters. Most people would simply see the story itself, enjoy it as it is, and that is the end of it. (Note: my association between foxes and Ted Hughes means absolutely nothing in terms of story interpretation. Just wanted to make that clear.)

I think that one our greatest attributes is our ability to remember. Even, sometimes, in the instances that we’d most like to forget. Because remembering is a way of maintaining the act of being a witness. It’s holding something – a memory, an emotion, a piece of our past – and saying yes, that happened. There is power in that. And by seeing things as we are, by summoning up the words we used or heard, it is like holding on to a heartbeat. It is like taking a hand that is no longer there, feeling the fingers anyway.

We are all the words we’ve ever said, not the ones we’ve kept to ourselves. We are the dodgy moments, the cherished exhibitions, and all the things we’ve ever done for love. Nothing about any one of us is neutral, even when are actions are thus. Sometimes, it is a matter of biding our time. Sometimes, it is a matter of being still. Sometimes, it is a matter of holding on.

For me, the simplest things get me through the hard days: coffee, chocolate, music, good friends and family, and books. When all else fails, though, there is something to be said for recounting a conversation. It’s a few words and scattered sentences, snatches of emotions felt and evoked trailing after the memory. This act of playing through memories, almost like remembering the lines of a play, is a strange, unexpected comfort. Not simply for the memories themselves, but for what they mean to me. There’s nothing neutral about them. They are full Technicolor. It is, I think, a lot like the act of writing a poem, where meaning is found beneath the surface of things and where one thing often means another.

I suppose the point is that everything means something. We owe it to ourselves to try and to pay attention.Nothing about us, or life, is neutral. Perhaps that is a daunting idea: a reality so rife with meaning that it overwhelms. Instead, I’d like to think of it as rife with possibilities. Potential. Sure, that can also come in the form of challenges, but what’s easy is rarely what is desired. Otherwise, we’d all have perfect (possibly boring) lives. Waiting can be the answer to a question we’ve only started to ask. An answer can fall from the sky like a star. A promise can be given without prompting or pretense. Time yields all truths, whether or not we deign to see them. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is out of reach – if we dare to believe.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” ― Anaïs Nin

“I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” ― Anaïs Nin

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.”
Pablo Neruda

Categories: prose, Random Musings

fragile things: a reversal

July 5, 2012 2 comments

Below is one of my favorite passages written by Neil Gaiman. Below that is a reversal of sorts, written by me. It’s an exercise in creativity and perspective, I suppose.

“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.

She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here.”

― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Conversely, this.

He seems so intense, so scattered, so loud, yet his eyes remain unfixed. You think you know nothing about him immediately upon meeting him, but nothing comes of nothing. Everything you think is wrong. A mindfulness flows through him like a river of promises.

 He only looked toward you for a moment, and the mask was never really there, and you fell. All your tomorrows have already started.

Categories: prose

between the shadow and the soul*

June 30, 2012 Leave a comment

The words sit in my stomach like stones, slick and without edges. Because of this, all my notebooks are filled with silences. They are blank with emotion. The pen – my favorite one – has gone dry. I try not think about, or overthink, its significance.

My patience is a shadow that dances, Pan’s fierce counterpart. It is the promise of trouble, ignored. A lie I tell myself in order to forget what I want. This is me, trying to give you what you need. I have swallowed everything, and it was not by accident. Nothing is without purpose, even though these careful transitions ache.

I smile so that no one notices.

It is my best trick. It is my last defense. I wait.

 

*shamelessly pilfered from Neruda

Categories: Poetry, prose

The Good, the Bad, and the Blueberries

June 18, 2012 9 comments

Saturday, I went blueberry picking. It’s something I’ve done ever since I was a little kid, if there was an opportunity. Growing up, I’d always go to the same farm, a local market that is awesome. The even have a bakery with the world’s best apple cider donuts EVER. But I digress.

Bright and early, half-caffeinated, I pulled into the Farm. It was a little deserted, but hell, it was early. And on the weekend. I had to drag myself out of bed. But the prospect of pounds of blueberries was totally worth the lack-of-caffeine hangover looming in my future.

Up at the register is a girl who looked both bored and irritated that there are customers. Still, a smile is appropriate, so I smiled and explained I’d like a bucket to pick blueberries.

“Great,” she mutters. “That’ll be four dollars.”

“For what?”

“The tractor ride.”

Let me explain something: the tractor ride takes exactly ONE minute. And up until this season, they’ve never charged you for the ride. Sure, they charge you (per pound) nearly as much as the grocery store, but certain things can be overlooked, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Except I’m not paying FOUR dollars just to pick my own fruit.

Getting back in the car, I googled another local farm. It seemed easy enough to get to – take one road to another, make a turn, and TA DA. I should’ve known then that it wouldn’t be that simple.

I ended up lost in the bowels of another local town that I don’t visit much. Road signs began to vanish, but before they did, there were some interesting street signs. One was called, “Bed Bug Hill Road.” I wish I were kidding. I thought it was a misread. Initially, I thought it read “Dead Bug Hill Road,” which isn’t much better.

After being unable to find the address listed for this mysterious farm, there was a man standing in front of his house. I stopped to ask if he knew the place. He was nice enough, but drunk. It was barely 9 am. Okay, then. Driving in the direction I was already headed, and consequently was also where Drunk Man pointed, I still couldn’t find the address. The numbers skipped from 75 to 400 without notice. It seemed like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Awesome.

In front of an industrial farm site, there were two people talking. One of them was holding a bottle of vodka. It’s a little past 9:15, and it seemed that I was the only sober person in a fifteen miles radius. I haven’t even had breakfast. Blondie and Vodka knew the farm, though. It turned out the address on the website was incorrect. It’s just “down the road a piece.” For a moment, I felt like I should have sweet tea, but I was unfortunately without.

Coming up to the address in question, it was nothing more than the world’s skinniest driveway, leading off into trees. I could not see behind the bend, but I knew enough to realize that a) it looked like I’ve just wandered into the beginning of a horror movies, b) it would’ve been totally normal for a guy with a banjo to pop out of nowhere, wearing an opossum, and c) it was the PERFECT location to be murdered and eaten by a cannibal. Or buried under the produce like in secret window.

Of course, the man who worked there is perfectly nice. It’s a nice, no nonsense farm. No one charged for a tractor ride, and in about an hour, I acquired a nice bucket of blueberries. Granted, there were a ton of wasps and bees – and I nearly picked a few of them by accident. But all and all, I’ve found a new place to go, and I’m glad. While the old farm had nostalgia going for it, the new one has character. It is hidden where no one could ever find it, and it’s like a little secret nook in the middle of nowhere.

This reminds me of two things: I can still get lost in the place I grew up in AND that it’s never wise to judge something or someone based on appearances. Except maybe the drunk guy who looked vaguely like Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun.

Categories: prose, Random Musings

The Importance of Discourse: Stop Shouting, and Start Speaking

May 31, 2012 1 comment

I love discourse. I love a good discussion. For me, it’s a learning tool. And, as someone who studied English lit for her MA, it’s a necessity. Participation was roughly 95% percent of my soul grade. You had to form an opinion/interpretation and back it up with the text itself (or scholarly research etc). As long as you could do that, your interpretation was considered valid. For instance, you couldn’t just INSIST that the protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper went crazy due to a miscarriage (this was an actual argument someone presented). While it would make the story infinitely more interesting, the text itself didn’t back up the argument. The analysis wasn’t valid, but the person did conduct herself in a reasonable manner. She presented her argument, listened to the rebuttal, offered reasons why she thought that, and everyone in the room learned something from that discussion. (Side-note: I loved her idea and wanted her interpretation to be true.)

She did not flip out, insist we were all wrong, point fingers, and mutter that we were all evil slaves to the patriarchy. She did not repeatedly rant about how her interpretation was MUCH better than everyone else’s. She didn’t rail at us, talk down to us, or suggest we drink her Kool-Aid. If she had, we would’ve all stopped listening. Because, as a writer or a lit student, what you SAY is just as important as HOW you say it.

Which brings me to my point: don’t be a douchebag. If you have something to say, fantastic. Please do. The internet, as you well know, is your pulpit. You can educate the masses, make people laugh, or write something so beautiful that people cry. (The highest compliment a writer can get, sometimes.) Having a big fanbase is great. People are already inclined to listen to you, rather than see you as the crazy guy on the corner shouting about the publishing apocalypse. (CLUTCH YOUR EREADER AND YOUR BIBLES! THE END IS NEAR!)

You see, once you stop talking about the reasons why something is awesome – and start flinging around mud, big words, and vitriol – people start to edge away. You can be perfectly, awesomely RIGHT – and still be wrong. Having a discussion is distinctly different from listing the reasons why the other guy is completely, utterly, stupidly wrong. You know what? We get enough of that in political campaigns. When you start telling me that Stephen King is SO WRONG, because of [whatever*] – I stop listening. And the thing is, I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to understand the changing landscape of the literary world, but I don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid, wear black Nikes, or worry that Charles Manson might be your prison-based penpal.

Stop ripping the other guy and tell me why I should believe you. Better yet: tell me why [insert belief here] worked for you. Don’t tell me why it’s the ONLY way. Don’t insist that it’s how things SHOULD always be. Let me reach my own conclusion.

Here’s the hard truth: I don’t care how people get their books. I don’t give a damn if you’re an ereader junkie, a paperback princess/prince, or an audiobook aficionado. You know what I care about? I care that you READ. To each, his own. Personally, I love books. I love stacking them in corners when I run out of bookshelves, space under the bed, or room in my closet. I love the way they smell and the fact that I can scribble in the margins. I love shoving one in my purse everywhere I go. But you know what? I’d love to get an ereader for vacations. Because I end up with more books than shoes in my suitcase. Imagine how much I could read if I wasn’t limited to what I could carry? I’m gleefully dancing at the thought of the limitless possibilities. I would read ALL THE THINGS.

The same principle goes for publishing. I don’t care if you self-publish through Amazon, publish through their imprint, get a six-book deal from [large publisher name redacted], or Kinko your own zine. Self-publishing is a great idea. (Full disclosure: I self-published a book of poetry through them. I had realistic expectations – which is that it wouldn’t sell three million copies. I knew what I was getting into and why I was doing it. That instance, for me, was a win. So many people have great success at it. *eyes Denise Grover Swank*) But self-publishing isn’t for everyone. That’s a fact. If you’re an unknown, without an audience base, it’s really difficult to build an audience or get the attention of people who aren’t already paying attention to you (either because they know you personally, or connections you’ve made via social media – which, in my opinion, is a godsend of awesomeness). Grand success stories, without a previously established reader base, are rare. If they weren’t, we’d all be Amanda Hocking – who, by the way, worked her ASS off to get where she is today.

But, back to the previously mentioned [whatever*]: he referred the physical, printed book as an “actual book.” Now, you can interpret that as Mr. King being an elitist douchebag – or you can view it as him referencing the tangible object. It doesn’t have to be a knock on ebooks. You can take it that way, sure. Maybe your opinion is backed up by the fact that he’s “holding off” on releasing an ebook. But you know, that’s his choice. It doesn’t hurt anyone. As I’ve said previously, if I like an author, I’ll read whatever he/she writes, even if it’s scribbled on a roll of paper towels. Do we get outraged if a film company doesn’t release something in 3D? Because if we have the technology, we MUST have access to it at all times. Honestly, there’s nothing I want less than a giant CGI piranha hurling itself at my head while I’m trying to eat popcorn. If the movie’s good, I’ll enjoy it in whatever what it’s presented. Although, I’d love anything shown at a drive-in, because who doesn’t like a nice drive-in? *ahem* Where was I?

I want to hear your reasons, calmly and clearly. I don’t want to feel accosted by your beliefs. I don’t want to feel like you’re shouting AT me. I want to understand. I want to discuss why and how and what. I want to learn. Stop shouting, and start speaking. I promise, I’ll listen.

Skipping Stones

May 4, 2012 6 comments

Skipping stones across the surface of water is something I cannot seem to master. It’s a skill that I don’t have a natural aptitude for — never mind that it’s a relatively useless and impractical talent. Life or love will never hinge on my ability to make a stone skip and skid elegantly as if it were a living thing. It will not cause the sun to burn itself out. Earthquakes will not swallow California because I’m not coordinated or predisposed.

And yet.

I’ve always wanted to be able to do it. I watched other people do it. I’ve marveled at it. I’ve tried to imitate their actions, mimicking as best as I could. I’ve tried stones and rocks of all shapes and sizes. I’ve ventured out in low tides and high tides alike.

I cannot manage it. This simple-seeming thing eludes me like a dream I can’t quite remember. It teases like a secret kept by someone else.

And yet.

I keep trying, because I believe I will get it. I believe that something will change–and I’ll finally succeed. I will not be on the outside anymore. I will not be an observer. I will know the exact bit of skill and magic it takes to make it happen. The mystery of it all will dissolve into reality, and it will be all the sweeter for it.

The truth is that I am a stubborn, willful, heartcentric creature. I am as brave as I am foolish — as hopeful as I am afraid. But I will not bow my heart to the fear of failure. That is a challenge to be met, not fled.

And yet, perhaps this story is both true and untrue. Yes, I cannot skip rocks across the water — but, perhaps, it’s also a metaphor for something else. All words are steeped in meaning, but sometimes the inherent meaning matters less than the meaning we infuse. The trouble comes when one cannot seem the different angles, the different stones, and all the things that lie beneath the surface of the water.

Categories: prose, Random Musings