The man sitting behind me is named Frederick, that much I’ve overheard. Over my shoulder I’ve gotten a few solid glances, dark, tousled hair swept away from his face, bold glasses, a flannel shirt underneath a tweed blazer over a small frame, maybe five foot seven, acid washed jeans falling over Chuck Taylors at the cuff. He’s complaining, mostly, about the wait, how long the judge has kept us here, how one would think that they’d be prepared, and with no other cases. You’d think they’d be prepared to quickly pick juries by now, he says. The man next to him nods, huffs, his name I’m not sure of. I’ve decided that it’s Steve. Steve I haven’t turned to see but his voice is gruff, casual, the tone suggesting a stalk of wheat wedged between his teeth. A farmer, I think. An Iowan all his life. At one point he studied to be an architect at the University of Wisconsin, leaving everything behind to try and escape his family’s moderately successful cattle farming operation. He never saw graduation. Sometimes in college he sat in bars and drank with his friends and the more he drank the more he’d smell the farm, the wet barn stench of a rainy Iowan spring, and every time he’d think of leaving and going straight to the drafting boards and computers in the architecture lab, plugging as many hours as he could into his degree. Happened every single time. But someone would tell the right joke at the right moment, promise the right story or send the right beer down to his end of the bar, a dank and humid establishment with notches in the counter and carvings, men trying to leave their mark, say anything to anyone. He’d trace them over with his finger and think of leaving the bar, the farm, and that smell was never enough to make him think of leaving. And so he stayed, and when he came back home he stayed for good. He doesn’t say any of this, but I know Steve. Just happy to be gettin’ away from work, he says. Frederick starts to talk about his work, computer programming. Steve listens politely, saying nothing, chuckling when appropriate. Frederick details his college experience, the difficulty he had finding a parking spot, the work he’s missing. The book in my lap holds my attention for all of a second. The young girl next to me with chestnut hair has notes on her knees headlined “Thrombosis”. Blood clots, circulatory system. A med student. She’s attractive, but not intimidating, wearing an understated green sweatshirt with a V-neck over a white tee, modest cleavage, jeans that highlight her legs and hips. There’s a second when I think of saying something, starting conversation, and then I wonder if she’s tired of dealing with that, if men notice her on the medical campus. I see her walking through the biology building, working an internship, her male co-workers being careful not to flirt too overtly but offering to help her with every difficult procedure, doing
(This is a short exercise I did for a workshop. The prompt was to write a story that took place over 10-15 years in two pages using only three-word sentences. Definitely worth a try). I told stories. They started small. Built with Legos. Sometimes with nothing. Sometimes I’d sit. Looking out windows. I’d start talking. Four years old. An only child. I’d start talking. Not to anyone. I’d talk whenever. Talk to whoever. Anyone who listened. And I listened. When people talked. They told me. Four years old. I’d talk whenever. My head moved. The film projected. People told me. And I listened. What they said. It helped me. Leaving was possible. Stories were possible. Because of them. Because of others. Because of listening. My brain talked. Whenever it could. The film projected. I saw people. I wished constantly. I wanted expression. Language found me. I learned quickly. I told stories. Built with Legos. But Legos disappeared. An empty room. My favorite toy. Everything happened there. My friends loved. I loved them. They were siblings. But the walls. The walls lasted. Blank, empty walls. The film projected. My brain talked. Picture and sound. Far away things. Places colorful, distant. I told stories. By myself, happy. Happy to leave. Loving my home. Loving my parents. Still loving rooms. An empty room. Nothing was there. Nothing but me. I was everything. Everything I’d heard. First grade, writing. Teachers named it. Called them “stories”. An “active imagination”. My leaving, named. Imagination, beautiful word. A sudden realization. Others knew them. Others felt them. Others heard stories. Had their own. I fell quickly. I loved people. I talked whenever. 7 years old. Anyone who listened. I slowly grew. I held fast. Loved and sang. Happy wherever, glad. Glad to listen. Glad people talked. Satisfied, being there. 11 years old. In sixth grade. Writing I hated. An obligation, chore. Meant for schoolwork. Fancy a girl. Heart gets broken. Sixth grade heartbreak. The sharpest kind. Ignored the walls. Forgot the rooms. Remembered the girls. Always remembered girls. Remembered my friends. 13 years old. Got a phone. Remembered my inbox. Remembered my grades. Legos long gone. &nb
To Charles Bukowski
"I haven't shat or pissed in seven years," she tells him, negotiating each word around the Marlboro.
Because he doesn't know what else to say, Isaiah asks, "Haven't you seen a doctor about that?"
"Of course." Her words fall out white clouds against an off-white carpet and light cream plaster walls. The air is a stinking thick haze of tobacco smoke. There are only a handful of boxes next to them; they sit on the only pieces of furniture he can see, two metal folding chairs. The room is bare.
"If you don't shit or piss for a week the body poisons itself -- drowns in its own filth," she says. "The doctors said there was nothing wrong with me. One or two actually went as far as to say I was lying. But I haven't defecated or urinated for about the last quarter of my life."
"That must be uncomfortable," Isaiah says, his desire to fuck her quickly subsiding with this new bit of information, thus he had no reason to stay. He'd made his delivery -- the last that evening -- a thirty-six pack of downy toilet paper, to one Beatrice Smith who, despite his usual gamut of old ladies and stay-at-home moms, turned out to be an attractive young woman, shorts tight enough to count her change at a glance and a tight white T-shirt thin enough to see the absence of a bra. Her hair was tied back in a red bandana. When she turned to get him the money and a drink he decided she had the best ass he'd seen in months. So they sat down for drinks, he a beer and she a Long Island iced tea. Then she told him she hadn't shat in seven years.
Kill the beer and go, he thinks. Bitch is crazy. Still. "So, why order the largest and most expensive package of toilet paper?" he asks indicating the behemoth sitting next to him.
She shrugs. "Entertaining guests. I've made a rule, you see. Once I've run through three of these I move. That usually takes about a year of entertaining guests, boyfriends and whoever else walks in."
"So," Isaiah says, "you have a certain threshold of shit you take before you move."
The wind blows, the apartment groans and the rain slaps the window at the termination of freezing, forming a sliding layer of ice on the glass. It looks like the whole world is melting.
"Want another drink?" Beatrice asks.
"Yeah," Isaiah says before he realizes he's handing her his empty. He calls to her after she disappears into the kitchen. "So, how long have you been doing the one-year-and-then-move thing?"
"Since your problems started?"
"Since my problems started?" she says and it sounds like she's telling the punchline of a dirty joke. "My problems started a long time before that."
She reemerges from the kitchen, hands him his beer, sits down and gets to work on a martini. "
I was just foolin' around with my writing last night when this exercise started happening on its own. It turned into an interesting examination of sentence-building and micro-level structure development, the things that constitute what people usually call, "Your voice." It may not make for the best reading, but I think there might be something cool to learn from this one. This probably came out of my undying affection for the well-wrought long sentence, something I picked up from one of my central creative inspirations, James Agee. The problem with long, flowing sentences is that, the longer they get, however lyrical, the harder it gets to make sure the reader won't get lost and forget the point that got the sentence moving. A good long sentence develops with momentum, building on its theme to a logical conclusion, a point that both rhythmically and thematically satisfies both the writer and the reader. That's nice and all, but how do you get there? Even Agee would get so hung up on his language that you'd have no idea what he was talking about, by the end. The premise of the exercise is simple, but kinda tricky to explain. You start with a 3 to 4 word sentence ("I want to leave", in my case). From there, you elaborate on that sentence with a single thought (say, "I want to leave and head somewhere") so that it's still a complete sentence, but a different, more elaborative one. Then you elaborate again with another thought, turning it into a different, longer, complete sentence. You do that until you have at least eight distinct sentences, all branching from the original. I don't think that serves quite as well as an example. So here's what I got: I want to leave. I want to leave and head somewhere. I want to leave and head somewhere I could love something. I want to leave and head somewhere I could love something without demands or expectations. I want to leave and head somewhere I could love something without demands or expectations, not some weak supposition. I want to leave and head somewhere I could love something without demands or expectations, not some weak supposition, no more broken concepts. I want to leave and head somewhere I could love something without demands or expectations, not some weak supposition, no more broken concepts but wild and unselfish.I want to leave and head somewhere I could love something without demands or expectations, not some weak supposition, no more broken concepts but wild and unselfish, built on the backbone and the tensile sinews of a stronger strain of mankind. The middle parts get a little weird and underdeveloped, but by the time you hit the last sentence, chances are you'll get a long sentence to be proud of. It may seem repetitive, but by constantly reminding yourself what the opening idea was, everything that followed will innately start referencing back to the original concept, allowing yo
To remedy the Monday blues, I try and keep busy. For me, lethargy almost always manifests itself in the form of disinterest or dissatisfaction, in not wanting to do anything or try anything new. If I'm to counteract this in the best way I can, I try to keep busy, find things to do that break me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes this involves making plans to hang out with someone I haven't seen in a week or two, or getting out of my apartment for the first time in days for reasons other than class or school or work, or finding a new project to work on.
Some of these solutions are more temporary than others, as you might have noticed. Hanging out with someone can keep the blues at bay for a while; usually the length of time that I'm actually spending time with said person. Inevitably, when I'm forced to say good-bye, to go my separate way, I end up feeling a little down from missing whoever it was I was spending time with, or missing the fun we were having.
Getting out of my apartment helps on occasion, but only if I have somewhere to go or some purpose for being out. I like grocery shopping some days, just because it's an excuse to plan a new recipe or, hell, eat something I haven't had in a while. (I'm a broke college student; I can always appreciate good food.) That said, if I'm just wandering aimlessly, I only end up making myself unhappy again. Even if I'm just going to get coffee, or to the local indie bookstore to browse or use up the $84 of store credit I've managed to accrue, I have to have a destination.
New projects can usually draw me out of the blahs--either that or getting re-involved or newly excited about something I've been working on for a while. I end up with more projects--usually creative pursuits--than I know what to do with because there are some days when nothing works, when I try to write one of my old ideas and come up short. If I overload on projects, especially writing-related ones, I often end up abandoning or postponing things simply out of necessity because I can't keep up with all of them, homework, and real life all at once.
Still, nothing pulls me out of my own head faster than getting involved with something that transports me, takes me away from what I've been doing for awhile. If I'm playing my guitar, fussing around with a new song or simply trying to master an older tune, I can easily lose an hour or two. Provided my hands don't start hurting, or the instrument loses its tune, or I fail and screw up one too many times and lose interest. Same goes for writing. If I'm working on something--be it a short story, a novella, or a novel--and the plot's flowing, and the characters are talking, I can lose hours or days to dreaming about what's going to happen next, what's coming up on the outline, or how I'm going to handle these new situations.
Good books will do that for me too. I never used to be one of those people who reads more than book at a time, but I'm currently working on three. I always have multiple things checked out from the library, and the ones that are due first or soonest get my full attention. The second I renew those, I move on to other things.
personified by widened eyes
shutting slow & liquified;
hindsight an accompaniment to
lighten chest & shorten breath,
a calm perceived by susceptibility
and while surrender evolves into
an orchestrated act
(the motions predisposed,
the words set in stone)
memories of endings always remain
history repeating &
fatalistic reasoning, a suture pulled
drawing fro the curtains to reveal
an organ of mythological proportion
beating in&out& faster now
like a prodigal child shoved onto stage;
widened eyes, shutting not & petrified
he knows the lines, mouthing in
you don't see through my eyes...
Some minimalist poems that I have been writing lately. I'm trying to better at concision.
For William Blake
with eyes of struggle
watch the wind blow history
from limb to limb
as experience foliates
leaves fall to deteriorate
in the soil of the retina
to plant innocence
in blooming vision
as the future oxidizes
events start to accumulate
in the wind breathing on my limbs
This poem is partly inspired by Gertrude Stein. I tried to let the sounds propel the poem, feeding off the energy of the words.
Watch, where you’re going!” you sneer at me and move on with your nose up.
“sorry…” I mumble back, picking up my books
Actually you ran into me. I was standing at my locker, not like you even care.
You see me in the halls every day; I sit in the desk behind you in history, and have a locker down the hall from you.
Do you know I’m homeless?
My dad, brother, sister and I stay in abandoned buildings. Our family didn’t split up when we lost our house, and I think it’s better that way. It still feels a little like home because we somehow manage to have a few rules existing.
The rules are simply: go to school as much as you can and don’t fight or get arrested.
Before we were evicted we were a proper “use-a-napkin and write-your-thank-you-letters” kind of family.
But that was before dad was considered a disposable part of the company. That was before all the bills and their ever-so-pleasant collectors. That was before the power was cut and our tap ran dry, and a nice blue paper was nailed to our door.
Don’t think this all happened overnight, oh no, this was a prolonged suffering. My dad fought every step of the way, “just some more time” he’d say. Oh dad, why would time make an exception for us?
That gave me time to prepare though.
Step 1: Go through the stages of grief and then accept the fact that you’re moving into a new sort of residence (probably a refrigerator box)
Step 2: Practice. To get what you need you are going to have to steal, lie and beg. No need to dance around it. Homeless people tend to acquire sticky fingers. I wasn’t always a thief though, but you reach a certain breaking point. Like when that blanket in the store is so soft and warm and the temperature is dropping outside. 44 degrees… 37… 33… and there’s your breaking point. So people should check their pockets when they walk past me, and pat me down at every store exit, but they don’t.
Still, stores are only good to an extent. Homes are the real bonanza.
Breaking into houses is best during the day when most are at work. Usually it takes a little patience and surveillance. Now contrary to popular belief, we aren’t about to break into your house and rob you blind. That would put you and the police on red alert and it would have been a one-time thing. No. We are subtle. We’ll observe the house: When do the adults leave for work? The kids for school? Are there security codes? A dog? We need to get to know you in order for you to be the “hosting” family. We don’t take everything, just some crackers in the back of your pantry, a blanket from the bottom of the linen closet, and the shirt that you never wear. Nothing big enough to notice, just the stuff you forgot about already. We’ll stay with you for maybe a month or two, and then leave. You’ll never even realize we were there.
Those are the days I miss school.
And although I may have stolen many things, I still have a conscience and I won’t forget those I’ve taken from. I made a list of all the names (taken from IDs)