ditties from the writing retreat

For 5 hours last Sunday, a group of writers met at my house, where we engaged in a half-dozen structured writing activities, with a potluck to keep us fed and watered. We used pictures, headlines from the news, played the exquisite corpse game, made up words, and used music to generate writing ideas. Here is a sampling of writing generated that day:



 (Photo prompt)



I have taken the hot coal, the fire walk, the moxie cure. I have burned my own flesh, shooting flame from skin skyward. I have walked the street with glistening blistered soles, with toenails painted red like blood, red like roses, red like sin.

Do you remember me and you back when, back when I was the princess of the backyard barbecue? Do you remember how even then I would hold the red pepper up to my mouth, applying it like lipstick and then running to the bathroom when my lips were burning to see how red they got? And they were never hot enough, were they?

And then there was the big trip across the sea, to the land of sacred cows and gurus and the bagavadghita, where I dressed in white muslin and walked across hot coals with the enlightened ones, walked across the hot coals, meditated in dirty shrines, chanted while bells rang for old religions, older than the petit religion of my cul de sac parents. Our cul de sac parents, before that road closed itself off from us.

Do you remember when you and me and dad took that road trip, when he said we are going to see your grandmother, in Canada? Do you remember that? And then he dressed in a suit and carried a briefcase and dropped us off to spend days at the library in different towns every day for two weeks until we finally got to Canada, but grandmother wasn’t there, just a new job selling books in Vancouver and no mother or grandmother anywhere in sight for six months. Then they caught up with us. Do you remember how he told us that they didn’t want us anymore, we were unwanted by all the mothers, aunts, grandmothers and even the girl cousins? Must have been something wrong with us, that’s how I remember thinking about it. Every day, he would go off to sell books in the comfortable middle-aged neighborhoods on the near outskirts of Vancouver, stepping out with his briefcase and that smile that made me stay quiet and stay back. I was glad to be rid of that smile, weren’t you? Weren’t you glad when they came to Vancouver one day and came to our school with the papers that said we were theirs and then we left and went back home?

I am still not sure, you know, if you understood that they came back for us because there was nothing wrong with us, and nothing wrong with Canada either, just something wrong with that smile and the pressure that went behind the eyes of that smile. That smile I see still, see now, right there, on your face. Makes me want to shut my eyes. Do you remember?


(Metaphorically speaking)


When she laughs, she jiggles in her jack-o-lantern sweater like a vat of orange jello balancing in the back of a truck.

The mountain sneezed, spreading hot lava, rocks, and tourists for miles around.

The heron swings into the field and lands, silent as winter.

The old man could dance, he could cut a rug, he could shimmy like next Tuesday.

Flying bifocals make reading while skydiving easy as pie.

The steam engine roars through the night like a thirsty man demanding a drink.

The bloom is off the rose, like fish sticks for dinner three nights in a row.

The ring sat obviously unnoticed on the table, like a time bomb about to explode.


(Syllable word building)


The Tanicharkey Bendoe met once a week in the basement of the Wintworrows bakery, which had opened in the third satellite sent to this terran backwater after the wardust had settled. Taking bread from the counter, each Bendoe paid with a charkey card, which recorded their attendance at the meeting without arousing undue notice in the store itself.

Bedsoe Bendoe was chair of these meetings in the early days, when they were still above ground and visible to all in the third power chakra, before the beheadings of all things Bendoe. 700 years ago, the Bendoe changed their name to Tanicharkey, to signify compliance with the new regime, to signify public affiliation with the overlords. But privately, every Tanicharkey was also a Bendoe, with Bendoe markings in certain secret places, places that might be found during interrogation, but the goal of the Tanicharkey Bendoe was to avoid interrogation, and so they became bakers, and potters, and woodcarvers, and so they kept their heads, their secret language, and their meeting places safe for centuries at a time.





(Sarah McLachlan, music prompt)


Night is my companion, my guide. There are girlfriends, road trips, the Sunshine Theatre, the wind, tumbleweed, ozone. Just drive. The heart is a pump. Your heart is my pump. Breathe. This road turns, this road moves out over the horizon, this road makes a line through my veins to my heart, which is your pump. Here is an opportunity to roll, turn and touch, remember where the road began, remember where the roads converged, remember that? Remember that initial flight, that initial landing in the shared field of our life?

Do you remember yearning? Do you remember writing poetry and putting it in your book of memories, assuming a past tense in which you and I are not there together anymore? And how alien that seems now, that sorrow, anticipated loss. I look forward to looking back; I look forward to looking ahead. You will never be a footnote, never be the one who left me crying on the side of the road, hitchhiking with my heart, which is a pump that beats ever more, ever warm.  And Sarah sings songs and Sarah sighs, and Sarah remembers how love and sorrow beat our hearts for us, sometimes, while we are there on the road, alone with our memories, in a sky full of stars, winking, waiting, fading as the sun comes up.


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