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The Moment

I’ve been prompted:

 

Live in the moment

But joy seeps

In from the past

Forgetful of

The moment

What joy is the moment

When I hear someone’s

Cancer,

Of the dead

Wild-life with which

My cats treasure me?

What joy is the moment

At the bottom?

What joy is the moment

Before another

Beginning?

I am suspicious:

Joyful moments

Hiding

Under the sun,

The moon,

In the humus

Of life?

Sadly, it will not be

Joy that carries me off

On My Birthday: “I Write for Me”

It is my birthday and I scan the New York Times’ archives for what happened on this date in 1951. I’ve done this before, though never making copies of the front page. It would always be there –  history.  But now I have to pay for it,  not a lot, but I balk. Just show me the damn page and I promise I’ll never darken the NYT’s archival doorstep again. But no, they want coins from this realm for their troubles. Well, I have troubles of my own.

I go to my Writer’s Almanac and listen to his soothing voice tell me of a young woman born on this date (though I was 16 that year) and how her first book of essays won a Pulitzer. It is good writing – a window onto the vicissitudes of new Americans from India.

And I talk a good game – “…yes, I write for me now.”  I am happy with my history and ever improving my ability to tell it.

I know too I tend to sabotage my own efforts, a phrase here an undeserved challenge there – an anger that I thought was cloaked in the civility of desire – for a larger audience. And I get it back in spades: a dark silence, not even a foreboding one to suggest clues to be clung to. No. There is nothing but an inert army of disdain waiting in the margins of a battlefield already strewn with the gloom and doom of rejection.

“But I write for me!” I’ll take this to my unpublished grave – alas.

July 2nd

It is 7:16 a.m. and the sun is

long view from the porch – into the morning sun

Spilling its diamonds on the soft

Undulations of the lake

Birds chatter

In a tongue

I fail to understand

But enjoy

The grass, taller as

Mower sits idle

Cooler than the neighbor’s

Called into duty at the first

Jagged sign of inequality

Wasteful & Un-greening

The she-cat crouches

In the small clovered shade

A game with the squirrel

And his tree

Today the hunted

Unluckily caught

Yet

Lucky enough

His foe responds

To voice commands –

This time

He scampers up the tree

Screaming his coarse poem:

Profanities in his own tongue

Cleaning My Keyboard (Or Why I’m Not fond of Math)

Keys are clean – not so for the tray that holds them – alas

They’re dirty, dirty things

These letters quite inert

Though fingers to life can bring

Stories fancy through the dirt

 

A gets the most followed close

By E which makes me think

I use an A word however gross

And E Simply works as link

R and T are equal buds

As I scrub to clean & see

The tick that always makes me rub

R when I clearly want T

M is my cushiony base

Providing soft bumps and land

Mad as hell and in your face

M is mud – another stand

Z is clean or fairly so

Left off the qwerty trail

Like Q the pinky doesn’t go

Unless to Quote Zen and rail

Others now sit pert and clean

Capitals all perfect and tight

The numbers I ignore – it’s mean

But they are why I write

Writer’s Block

 Between the lines of profundity I am mute.                                                    It is hubris that makes me speak –                                                            effortful attempts at seeming cogent.                                                   Maudlin sentiments, like bullets shot onto a page                                 struggle for supremacy.                                                                                      No matter the arrangement the fingers trigger the letters                           to ensure they are for no one’s eyes but my own.

What did I expect?

The Myth of Fingerprints: You Are What You Read

I have just completed the short story, The Bus Ride by Sahar Sabati. It is a fairly straightforward narrative about a nurse who gets off work early and finds herself  (the assumption here is that the nurse is female) on a city bus sitting across from a disheveled and smelly man. The nurse eventually imagines an entire Law & Order-type scenario from which the ragged, dirty man is running. The narrator begins her speculation by way of good character description.

He was carrying two bags. One was a red postman’s bag slung over his shoulder, the other was a black heavy-duty garbage bag he was half carrying, half dragging behind him. He put them both on the ground, propped his feet on them and leaned back in his seat.

The reader is intrigued by what the man might be carrying in these bags. The narrator describes the look of this middle-aged man before entertaining a host of possibilities as to why he is looking and behaving as he does.

The man, unaware of my musings, took a long sip out of the bottle. It looked like plain, clean water—why did it stink so much?

Once again, my imagination started to wander. Maybe the man had gone down on luck, and had spent the night hunting for meat to feed his family. Maybe he worked as a sewage-cleaner during the night. Maybe his washing machine didn’t work, and when his clothes reached a state of utmost dinginess, he finally gave up and is now going to his mother’s house to use hers, which would explain his state and the smell emanating from the bag.

This is the innocent rationale offered before the narrator takes off in her own self-described flight of fancy after seeing the blood on the man’s hands – blood that contrasts greatly with the shiny gold ring on his finger.

Horrific visions of my mutilated body danced before my eyes.

The nurse gets off the bus one stop later chiding herself for letting her imagination take things too far.

I rang the bell and was getting up to leave when the man looked at me and winked. It startled me. I tentatively smiled back. When he smiled, I felt utterly ridiculous. A man with such a nice smile couldn’t be a murderer. I got off and told myself that the extra walk would serve me as a lesson.

This short story ends in  the fashion of  O’Henry albeit lacking in cleverness.  Having convinced herself of her foolishness, the narrator is shocked when she gets home and opens up the daily news paper.

Looking up at me was the man from the bus. Over his head was the title: “Man caught on tape killing wife and kids.” It seemed that I had been right, after all. I fearfully looked around. I had been right about the man’s past actions; had I guessed right about his future actions, including my possible demise? I hurried inside the house and closed the door firmly, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep anytime soon.

Why does this story disturb me so? This story and follow-up questions was a homework assignment for my ten-year-old niece. Is our world not crazy enough that we need to continue to stoke the fear machine for simple reading pleasure? And is this what would make a young girl want to continue to investigate the beauty that can be created with words?  I think not. When I was twelve-years-old it was A.M. Rosenthal’s New York Time’s story of Kitty Genovese, the Kew Gardens nurse who was stabbed and left to die as 39 people watched and listened to her early morning hour screams, that scared me beyond reason. This story has since been updated with corrections as to the number of actual onlookers and the coming and goings of the perpetrator who did return to the scene to eventually silence (kill) Genovese. But, in 1964, my take-a-way was that a woman could be beaten and killed by any man and the first assumption is that, in spite of  the obvious physical assault,  the commotion is simply a domestic dispute. This was the beginning of a female-victimizing world for me.  A man had a right to beat his wife and no one has a right to “get involved.” That Kitty Genovese may have fared better had she simply screamed “FIRE!” rather than ‘I’ve been stabbed’ was not lost on my young mind. But again, I was 12 almost 13 years old. At 10, I had not been imprinted with the blood and guts of dismemberment.  At 10, I was fearing wicked stepmothers and loving the little girl going to live with her grandfather in the Alps.

Could there have been other stories for my nieces 5th grade educators to choose from that would not make her fear disheveled men who happen to carry bags? Also, are there stories available that would not make her fear the male gender in general? The subtext here is my niece should fear for her life in the presence of men who don’t look a certain way.  Yes, the world can be a vile and dangerous place for anyone. But I believe these are the lessons best taught by concerned parents who understand their child’s capacity to assimilate the contradictions inherent in human nature.

I suppose the story, The Bus Ride, has its place in the pantheon of homework assignments. But, for a ten-year-old girl whose father has completed numerous military tours in service to this country, this story should have no quarter. It is a cheap knock off of so-called television crime dramas that I can’t believe took more than two hours to write.

 

Yep, I’m an Author – update

No, an agent has not crawled out of the innards of my computer to tell me he/she has been tracking my fabulous facility with the written word and, by the way, here’s a six-digit check for anything else you might deign to write – on a cocktail napkin say. Such is the stuff of movie scripts, nightmares and daydreams.

But I remain an author. I deem myself so as I follow the dictates of the poster I had posted in my high school creative writing classroom, Don’t leave your story for someone else to tell – they’ll probably get it wrong.  So, here I sit telling my story.

For Sisters Who Pick the Rose is fiction although I do use bits and pieces of my Compton childhood to support my storybook events. I’ve been working on this (my third) novel for two years now and have completed what I believe are five acceptable chapters. I would appreciate constructive input from any and all readers of For Sisters Who Pick the Rose Please find chapter one at my wordpress writing blog:

http://gwenatplay.wordpress.com/

and if you like what you’ve read please feel free to hit the subscribe button and you will get each new installment in your e-mail.

As Ever,  Gwen