Archive for the 'writing practice' Category

The name of this piece is Susy made me write about sex

 Today is the day we discuss dental floss, sex and volunteerism. Pay attention; your licensure depends on your correct response to the quiz which follows this three hour training.

In front of you, you will find a small bag. Pick the bag up and open its contents onto the table. Very good. Read, follow the instructions, then wait.

If you are having sex while thinking about your hair thinning, the hole in your underwear, or the box of chocolates that you stashed in the back of the laundry room to keep your partner from devouring it before you get even a single piece, this could be a sign of pending or actual sexual discontent. Try this simple exercise: stand in the middle of the room, alone, mostly naked and say to yourself loudly and firmly: “Sex. Sex and more sex. Sex and sex again. Different sex, changing sex, kinky sex, decorator sex,“  If, while standing there saying sex and so on, you suddenly think about cleaning products, lists, email, dental floss, licensure and volunteering, stop stop stop. Shake your head three times like a golden retriever coming out of a cold lake.  Now smile and stick your hands down your pants, if you are wearing any. Remember, you are completely alone. No one is going to see you or hear you. Shake your hips. Does your underwear fit? Are you easily distracted? Does anyone in your household leave the toilet seat up in spite of 30 years of reminders? Stop stop stop. Okay. Take the underwear off. They are too big anyway. Put on something more comfortable. A pair of socks, say, and nothing else. Stand in your living room wearing nothing but a pair of socks and say to yourself “Sex. Sex and more sex. Sex and kinky sex. Sex and deviant sex. Sex and law breaking. Sex and jaw breakers. Sex and sucking. Sex and red hots. Sex and sex and sex.” Okay. Now think about the lawnmower, the weed whacker, the rust stains in your bathtub, the continuously whining dog standing just outside the door. Stop stop stop.

Put your clothes back on and go scrub the bathroom, brush and floss your teeth and make some phone calls about volunteering and renewing your license. Leave the toilet seat up as a protest. See if anybody cares. Get some freezer burned pistachio ice cream out of the fridge and eat it in front of the whining dog standing at the window. Think about your budget. Think about your garden. Think about the roses, the rose hips leaning heavily against the window. Think about the grapes hanging full and ripe, think about the sweet pears and the sparrows rustling in their late afternoon dust bath. Think about the dark fertile earth, think about the warm smells of fruit, herb and flower rising and mingling in the afternoon breeze. Think about the sweet sleepy sounds of animals in the quiet heat of the day. Think about lying down, just for a minute. Think about listening. Listen. Smell. Look. Touch.

Poet rag

In this ancient burial ground
I am a heap of compost, not

Sure of sorrow, not sure of earth
worms roiling through sad entrails.

Today will die tomorrow, as surely
as restless nights in cheap hotels

Cannot but end with eyelids burning,
brandy scented, coy as any drifter

Lost in a bus station, lost on that cold lake,
a dark spot on a lung. Is there no crime

Committed when words decompose
Where no radish is ever terrified

When reality’s dark dream digs wet
dirt on a shovel, into some poet’s grave?

 

(patchwork of writing prompts gleaned from half-dozen writing anthologies – make of it what you will)

Blow

I am standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, waiting to see what this day will bring. The wind is sharp, the trains scream, the trees rattle their heads like women mad with grief. Fortune, in her shift and change of mood, is fickle as wind. It lashes, it pricks, it tricks me into submission and I board that train knowing that it is fortune driving, not me.

“It’s one o’clock, boy, is it not?”

I am leaning against the open car and watching, hand shielding my eyes from the blowing sands. Looking to my left, I see him, the man with the heavy mustaches, the man with the cards and the guns and the reputation. His foes are so enrooted with his enemies, so enrooted that it seems the tumbled ground would open and swallow him directly to hell, where surely he is destined to go.

“Yes. The train leaves in ten minutes,” I say. I don’t look at him. I don’t say anything that might invite him to join me.

He takes out his pouch and rolls a cigarette, making the ironic face that men with heavy mustaches adopt. He offers me one. I turn my shoulder away from him.

I will unfold some causes of your deaths.

Deaths, say my ears, deaths, plural. I feel my breath catch in my throat and I turn toward him, making eye contact and holding it. The train makes a sudden heaving gasp and jolts forward. The wind spins through the open car, the sound of steel and air keens and I am deaf, deaf and lost, on this train to god knows where.

Do not trust this history, reader, or my observation in this matter. This is only the story as I can tell it, truth or fevered imagining, I can’t say. Is it only this morning, only these few hours, since I left the warm body of Annabel, before these winds began?

Reader

As a certified paranormal mind reader, I can sense more than you can imagine. Imagine that. You are sitting in your kitchen nook eating bagels with pickled herring, while I sit right next to you, too distracted by ghostly tap dancing, whirling fogs where no dry ice can be found, and the ululating wails of the permanently grieved. I haven’t had a decent bagel in years.

Once in a while, I sit one out, but it’s not up to me. It’s the spirits. I can leave my ghost-hunting equipment packed in a trunk in the attic of a distant relative’s home, but if they want to find me, the oscilloscope mysteriously turns up in my laundry basket, the night goggles are set on the nightstand next to the novel I won’t get to finish. The tape measure, slide rule, light net and safety goggle pack themselves in my suitcase, and whether I fly to Toronto, Rome or Little Rock, I know they will pursue me until I see them. Ready or not, here they come.

I’ve tried to decline, believe me. But the dead have time on their side, and they are both persistent and relentless. After a period of zig-zagging from city to city, trying to get away from the call, I get visions, reminders that I work for them, not the other way around. As a certified paranormal mind reader, I not only sense ghosts, feel and see and hear ghosts, I also read their minds and they love this. Ghosts love to be read more than anything else in the world.

Turn them down, if you dare. You will find blood spouting from your water-saver shower head. You will see glistening eyeballs staring at you from a plate of chicken livers, you will find spiders’ nests and trip wires lining the hall when you try to walk to the bathroom at 3 a.m. Feathers and whispers will tickle your ears, waking you incessantly. The teakettle won’t whistle, it’ll shriek like a pressure valve about to blow, the whipped cream will gasp and sob, and your bass guitar will tweedle like it’s been given a dose of helium. You cannot be cool with ghosts who are after your mind-reading abilities. They want to hear themselves think. You will read their minds, damn you, or they will claim yours, utterly and completely.

A spot of gothic romance

His eyes met hers. Her eyes met his. Their eyes met. Above their heads, black clouds formed, the winds began to howl and shake. Someone must die.

“In these terrible times, sir, I find it best to speak rarely and gently,” she said, looking back down at her needlework. Her voice was light and firm.

“Yes, indeed, m’lady, I understand that a raised voice would be improvident,” he said, reaching to take the needlepoint from her hands. She resisted only briefly. Pulling the white linen back, he revealed beneath it a letter, open and sitting in her lap. One eyebrow lifting slightly, he took the letter, folded it and slipped it into his cape.

“No need to worry about this, madam,” he said. “I will look after it until it is needed.”

“Yes, of course,” she responded, remaining seated, remaining composed, remaining convinced as ever that someone must die. Now quite certain which of them that might be.

 Outside were the sounds of preparation that had become common over these past few months. Horses and men, the smell of burning hooves as the animals were shod, the excited yells of small boys chasing soldiers and knights-in-training through the muddy streets. Enemies came in all forms in those days: enemies of state, illness, criminals and people made mad by poverty and dirt. The men in the castle held council after council, each beating the drum for his own reason. War. Glory, wealth, religion, property, power.

Who holds a woman’s letter over her head, leaving behind an unspoken threat? This young man has just taken a letter from the most dangerous woman of her place and time. Pity he did not recognize her; they’d met before, in other circumstances. If he had realized from whom he took the letter, the situation in which he eventually found himself might have been avoided altogether.

Local hero

Local hero falls in well; collie saves hero just in time for wedding.

Collie, calling “black hole, black hole” all over town to no avail, eventually leads the Korean police chief to the well, where local hero Fox Jagged had fallen in due to an excess of chocolate and walnut liqueur. Fox thanked Police Chief  Tang-O sincerely for the help in getting out of the hole; a community celebration was held, with band and tacos and kim chee and special occasion foods.  The band, “Contraband Cranberry”, played Argentinian polka until three the next morning, with an occasional breakout Mariachi piece, and a screeching migrainy music that turned out to be Bjork. The bride and groom will make their home in Korea Town; not far from family. The collie will live with the couple, who have named him Holly.

Belva Sparrow

(Prompts: taken from six books, chosen randomly. Write for 15 minutes.)

Grammar of justice, syntax of mutual aid. Drawing us from tree to tree toward the time and the unknown place where we shall know what it is to arrive. Not one by one, but in passionate clusters, we pressed the grapes to our lips. The room is small, the table plain.Later and older, now we had supper, a little. A grayish bird, the size, perhaps, of two plump sparrows.

 

Two plump sparrows sat on a limb on a tree on a cold winter day. The first sparrow, a philosopher, mumbled continuously about an unknown place.

An unknown place, he grumbled. An unknown place.

The other sparrow, whose name is Belva MacDonald, is given to homilies and humming.

“We shall know what it is to arrive,” says Belva. She sings a soaring and ratcheting song that tells all the songbirds where she is and what she is about.

In passionate clusters, the birds gather in the winter air, feathers inflated and steaming with fast, hot bird circulation. With an average resting heart rate of 500 beats per minute, the finch, the sparrow and the towhee compete for craving; which small bird wants the rose hip enough to take it out of the mouth of others?

Inside the small grey house, there is a window. In front of the window is a small table with two chairs, a salt shaker and a basket of walnuts. The walnuts smell musty. Belva pushes a walnut across the table with her beak, making a concentrating sound, click-click, ticketa-tick. The walnut falls to the ground and she lifts off and lands on the floor with a rustling of wings. The walnut, stubbornly remaining whole, rolls easily but does not give up its fruit. After a while, not very long, but long enough in sparrow time, Belva gives up on the walnut and returns to the table and from there to the window. She looks out the window, which has been closed for an eternity, or it may have been 15 minutes, in the life time of a small brown sparrow in a winter house with drafty corners. She sits, alone at first, but gradually, as the day warms, the other birds stir and join her, up there on the window sill, with the grey winter fields and the slash of mud where there’s been a frost and refreeze not three weeks ago.


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