Posts Tagged 'writing prompts'


Using your fingers, mix the flour, sugar, water and vanilla into a light, pliable dough. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, get your grandfather’s portable Remington out of the closet, where it’s been sitting since 1986. Dust it off with a microfiber cloth and a toothbrush to loosen the keys. Put the Remington on the kitchen table and make a cup of coffee.

Put a sheet of paper into the Remington. Adjust the ribbon, winding it first one way and then another until you find a bit of ribbon still inked. Dust the breadboard with sifted flour. Roll out the dough into a thin sheet. Pull the arm to roll the paper firmly in place.

Cut the dough into 2-3 inch squares. Press firmly on the A key. Type a sentence about a dog jumping over a fence. Keep your chin up. Typing is hard. Turn to your friends for advice. Your mother says something about the ribbon and a bobbin, but her mind is wandering again.

As the keys begin to loosen up, you may discover an unexpected treasure. Turn the oven on to 350 and wait for it to warm.

While the oven is warming, type as quickly as you can with your fingers pounding like hammers or like nails on the railroad, which was built by hard-working Chinese and Mexican laborers 150 years ago, and whose fingerprints are on it still.

Type your sentences, your bromides, your homilies, your dichos, in as many languages as you can think of and have the accent marks for.

Cut the paper into strips. Lay one strip into each 2-3 inch square of dough. Fold on a diagonal, like a baby’s nappy, an empanada or a lumpia. Lay each baby on an ungreased cookie sheet and pop it in the oven.

Fortune smiles on those who wait. An old friend will give you advice this week. Enjoy what nature has to offer.

Using a hot pad for safety, remove the cookies from the oven. Let cool. Repeat three times a week.

Wuxi to Wuhan

The smashed banana plant in China made banana mash for smoothies manufactured and bottled in Cleveland, Illinois. The mash machine, a banana macerator, took in up to 1500 pounds of banana in a single open mouth gulp, emitting banana burps that hovered over the ancient city on the Yang-tse River. The banana peels were spit into a vat 20 feet high, which gradually came to a very high heat, releasing a continuous vapor. The banana peels eventually became a viscous substance that was compressed into long flat sheets, cooled and then cut into panels, which were sold to kitchen remodelers in Portland Oregon, who repurposed them into environmentally sound faux marble countertops with customizable colors.

The shaking of the banana macerator made an awesome sound, one that flavored the dreams of every small child and old man from Wuxi to Wuhan. The sound of squids walking, the sound of tree roots squelching through mud, the sound of moths wiggling out of their cocoons, amplified 100,000 times. The sleep of the people from Wuxi from Wuhan was both sweet and uneasy, and when they woke, they wiped banana vapor out of their eyes and had rice for breakfast, with dried fish and salty plum. The smashed banana plant on the Yang-tse River gave jobs to the people from Wuxi to Wuhan, but after the first generation, no citizen of either city ate bananas, and after two generations, many of them left, unable to stand the smell of bananas for even one more minute.

Summer Triptych


Little baby with flyaway hair is dancing. White sheets on a clothesline and a tree with green leaves waving high to the big blue sky. Baby laughs and waves at tree and sheets and runs through grass to cool mud. A reel-to-reel memory and the baby has blue-green eyes, half on land, half at sea. We laugh and toss her between us. Then nothing and the film strip thwock thwocks at the end of the reel. Thwock thwock, thwock thwock, then the living room is dark except for the hard white light staring out the end of the projector.

In summertime, there are many smells. Smells of hot, melting tarmac, of laundromats billowing out sweet dirty laundry sheets and bleach. Hair burnt crunchy and dry, slightly green from chlorine and swim lessons. Chemistry smells lingering wherever blue pools light up at night. Steaming bright midnight, an abandoned inflatable chair rocking gently in the wee hours as the pool filter blurbs and billows, benign and protective.


Making do

Wish I had a shoestring. What do I have? Rummaging in this paper bag, I find a bag of Fritos, a dollar twenty five in change, and a book of matches. Making do. I buy a single cigarette from the Circle K on the corner of Solano and Hadley, sit on the corner in the hot July evening. I eat the Fritos and go back inside for a cherry lime slurpee. Then back out on the curb, I smoke the cigarette and drink the slurpee and my tongue turns bright red. A white Chevy Nova pulls up at the corner and I kiss the boy in the driver’s seat with my bright red tongue, which is still cold. Then I run away into the dark alley behind the Circle K and lose him almost immediately. Ten minutes pass, then twenty, and I walk back to the Circle K for another cigarette. They are three cents apiece. I now have a paper bag, 45 cents, and no place to sleep tonight. It is 1 a.m. and the streets are still hot. I can see moths and fireflies banging against the streetlight in the parking lot. I put the cigarette out and save the butt in an empty pack, then walk down Hadley three blocks, four, til I come to a small square park with a bandstand in a summer pagoda. It is the only building lit this time of night. The boy is there, waiting for me, and we dance a polka on the raised stage. There are still flowers in early summer, not worn and dry like everything else here will be by August.  We sit on the steps at the edge of the stage; we can both see the fourth of July from here, still three weeks away. We lean back and look up at the sky and the stars are fireworks, shooting up into the deep forever and bursting. Thousands of shooting stars bursting and showering the night, comet tails leaving a bright, trailing signature. We sleep in the Nova that night, him in the front seat sitting up, me in the back with a trunk blanket on the floorboards in case of a chilly dawn. In the morning, we drive to the Denny’s to wash our hands and faces, and order coffee, and fill my purse with crackers and jelly packets and a bottle of catsup for later. Then we go back to the Circle K for a cigarette, which we share. Later, we will either go back home, or find another place to stay, or do the same thing again tonight.


Be happy, precious five

Be happy, precious five.
Five fingers, five toes.
Five days in a work week.
Five acres, five dreams
Dreamt in a night of coupling

Uncoupling, dreamt in a night
Of sweat and a morning of worry.
The snow coming late, left early
And everything is dry:
Grass, air, trees, eyes, and dry is a crisp
Threat calling sparks from the sky.

I am counting on my five
Fingers, five toes, counting on
Rain, counting on clouds piling up over
There, over there, purple and heavy,
Pregnant like cattle in this late spring.
We are overdue, it is past time.
I am counting the days til the rains begin.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Until then, I cannot afford to breathe. Hail Mary,
Hail Mary, send us hail, send us rain,
send us rain. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.


(Three prompts: “Summer” 10 minutes; “Making do on a shoestring” 20 minutes; “Precious Five” – W.H. Auden – 10 minutes.)

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