Creative Writing Class – Week Five (Three Poems)

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This week, we were instructed to piece together three separate types of poems.  I’ve paraphrased the actual instructions below:

1.  30 or so lines in the POV of someone who has done something wrong

2.  40 or so lines from a non-human POV

3.  14 lines of 10 syllables each where someone is observed.

Here they are…

Poem 1

“Isolated Calories”

They never ask me what I want

And perhaps that’s why I do it–

Take it right from them when they think

I’m watching TV or even outside.

 

The boy next door always has Fig Newtons or Oreos

But I’m never allowed to even ask

If I can eat have some.

“It’s rude to ask, son,” my parents tell me.

“And if they offer, you tell them ‘No, thank you.’”

 

My sister says I’m just

Bored.  “Twelve-year-olds shouldn’t be

Bored,”  she says.  She rolls her eyes a lot

But doesn’t think about calling me her

“Chubby Bubby”

Every day.  I’ve seen her.

She eats ice cream in her room

And while on her bed.

She never gets in trouble.

Says it’s okay because she bought it with her money.

But she says she’ll hate me like everyone else

If I tell Mom or Dad she does it.

 

Mom’s purse today has just twenty-six

Dollars.  Just three flat bills stare

Back at me.  What will she do

This time, I wonder.  I shrug.

I leave the twenty and tell no one in particular

That I’m going down to Ronnie’s.

 

They think I have a friend named Ronnie.

But I plan to just sit there on the cold metal bench

And eat my cheeseburgers

And cookies alone

With no one in particular.

 

Poem 2*

“Dormant in the Corner”

 

Ironically,

I am constantly

Immobile, defeating

My manufactured purpose

To provide a place for my

Owner(s) to walk, jog, or run.

I don’t think they made me

To hold empty wire hangers

And boxer shorts worn

A week ago.  I remember

When they opened my box

And marveled at my features:

A book rack, two cup holders, and

A digital readout that accurately measures

Their health.  I’m supposed to be helping

Them all.  Well, maybe not the child,

But the larger two who talk

About me as if I’m not

In the room and make

Promises to visit that

Never seem to happen.

The little one hides

Behind me sometimes

And I have to think he does it

To draw attention to me

Since he knows I cannot.

Their bones and muscles

Deteriorate while

Soft dust rests

On my cold

Arms and

Feet.

 

When they’re awake in bed

On the other side of this

Room, I hear them,

Once in a while,

Discuss parting

With me and

Admitting

They

Don’t

Use

Me.

 

He always says he’s starting Monday

She laughs and knows he won’t.

At least she has the dignity

Not to lie as she balls

Up her candy wrappers

And complains again

About her

Back.

 

Poem 3

“Patience”

 

It’s possible that the woman beside

Me in this emergency room tonight

Has been here before, perhaps years ago,

For her own children.  She is calm and dressed

In layers as if she knew the winter

Would whoosh in through the automatic doors.

The chaos ‘round us is distant and she

Only looks up occasionally at

The television, where a popular

Syndicated emergency room show

Shows how easy it is for people who

Believe they will recover will do just

That. However, I only think of my

Wife and how I may not become a dad.


*I tried to have the lines from the treadmill look like the incline readout (at a 90-degree angle).  Too subtle?

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Creative Writing Class – Week 4 Assignments

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Below is this week’s journal entry:  1) a three-paragraph story beginning with a Mad-Libs type character identification.  2) two paragraphs where a character’s garbage is analyzed, and 3) a free-verse poem about someone who is older but is still a kid at heart.  Lucky for me, quality is not scrutinized on these journals–but I have some new things to work with for later projects!

Scotty Rodriguez is a mischievous sixty-three-year-old sanitation employee who wants closure.  “It’s the worst timing, Scotty,” Earl said as he squeezed his friend’s flimsy shoulder.  The two men inhabited the cold, detached waiting room on the third floor of Jennings County Hospital.  Four hours earlier, Scotty had driven his wife of thirty-nine years to the Emergency Room after he had found her limp on their paisley sofa.  Their only accompaniment was the whirring of the generic soda machine.  The clock above Scott Rodriguez’s bowed head informed the otherwise empty room that the new day was ninety-six minutes old.  Earl glanced up at the clock and grimaced.  His eyes settled down on the apex of his friend’s head and examined the pale patch of uncovered skin.  A small island of bumps within the patch suggested the retarded recovery of a seemingly painful strike to that tender area.

Scotty wiped his nose with a yellowed handkerchief and sniffed.  “Can you believe we were just talking about taking a trip to South Carolina to look at property?”  His voice cracked at the final word, and Earl assumed there had been more planned.  Janitors, even those who served in Vietnam, did not typically have a bundled savings that would allow them to retire south.  Earl knew Scotty’s income because they’d been hired at the same time over a decade ago and have never been given anything but the same minimal raise each year since. . That said, it would have been in poor taste to contradict the possibility of moving.

“Look, Scott.  Sheesh, I don’t know what to do here, ya know?”  Earl attempted to lighten the mood–something he did at the lab every Monday through Friday evening.  “You know, Libby and I don’t have much, but I gotta say,” he trailed off.  His mouth was announcing things faster than he could control them.  Suddenly, before Earl could continue, a short lullaby played overhead, announcing a birth.  “Huh,” he continued.  “Another life comes into the world.”  He turned to Scotty, who was staring blankly at his handkerchief.  “Listen, it’s not much, but I’d like to help you.”  He withdrew several crisp twenties from his ragged wallet and did not count them.  “Go the Carolina on this.  Just go right after the funeral.  Libby and I can help take care of all the other stuff until you come back.”  He shoved the cash in his friend’s hand and remembered it had been intended for groceries the following day.  Without speaking–without even nodding–Scotty Rodriguez stood, shoved the handkerchief into the back pocket of his faded blue coveralls, and left the hospital.  When he reached the beachfront sixteen hours later, he knew he was not returning to bury his wife.

2.

The top layer of Larry Markum’s garbage does not surprise me at all.  Apple and banana peelings prove that he continues his habitual fruit intake to this day.  Pushing these aside, I notice a cigar catalog that bears his address but not his name.  This has been his residence for over three years, but he must have been too lazy to contact the distributor to inform them of the change.  The first really bizarre item here is a browned, cracked tennis ball.  When we were kids, Larry played catch with these with our dogs Frankie and Lizzie, but his building boasts a firm NO PETS policy on the front window.  Several wadded up paper towels and three granola bar wrappers only show me that he has yet to venture beyond his longtime affinity for the types of snacks that allow multi-tasking.  Digging a little further in I see two rather disturbing items that must have been tossed out at the same moment:  a child’s toy and a half-empty milkshake from a local eatery.  My brother does not have children, and he’s lactose intolderant.

Larry has been posting some very odd things online lately.  There was a time when we emailed one another once or twice a week, but that has all but subsided and been replaced with social media.  Nowadays, I learn things about him at the same time as the rest of the world.  Sadly, what he’s been posting could very well be misconstrued and even criminal.  He dodges my calls, and, well, here’s something interesting: his phone.  Like the rest of us, he’s abandoned a land line, but this old cell phone was in his hands all last Christmas at Mom’s.  Sure, it could have been replaced, but I remember my daughter and her friend Denise telling me that Uncle Larry’s phone was even nicer than hers.  The face is cracked.  Oh, my!  Here’s something I didn’t expect to see.  One, two, oh my God five pregnancy tests.  There’s no indicator readout, but who takes so many of these in a single setting?  And why is Denise’s senior picture torn in half?

3.

“Uncle Bob”

 

For years, my brother and I were told

That our humor must have come

From our Uncle Bob,

Our mother’s brother,

Because wittiness isn’t achieved over time.

It’s ingrained in our blood.

 

My uncle was a teenager

When his little sister,

Our mother, was brought into the world.

Just as the Second World War was beginning.

Their relationship only really began

When they were both adults.

 

I’m told, however, that only my mother grew up.

 

Once, when we visited them in Louisiana,

my uncle took us in his car

to get drive-through chicken.

He would have been in his sixties.

With the order complete, and his old Dodge humming loudly,

he informed the teen on the other end

That our order was “To go.”

It’s over two decades later,

And I remember our backseat laughter

As well as I imagine

His happiness in being a part of it.

Creative Writing Class – Draft 1 (Inspired by Art)

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One of this week’s assignments was to create a 1000(ish)-word story that was inspired by one of six famous works of art.  I chose the one below.

Yes.  Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

The draft I’ve submitted DEFINITELY needs work.  I’m trying some new stylistic things and playing around with voice.  It might be a little hard to follow, but do try to make it to the ending.  I welcome all criticism, but please remember it’s a very rough draft of something.

Steve Lively

“Mint Condition”

It’s well after midnight.  What is this place even doing being open?  They can’t see me, but I can’t stand here across the street in the night wind under this glaring light post all night either.  Coffee would be good right now since I’m so cold, but I don’t want to talk.  The lone woman inside the coffee shop looks familiar.  Like, maybe she was at the house last New Year’s or something.  Dolly was always putting on these holiday parties right at the last minute.  Well, like a few days before the day, of course, but she never really planned them out.  Sends me to the grocery with a list longer than my arm this year on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Maybe that’s why I had to get out.

A scribble.  “What were you describing just now, John?”

What do you mean?

“The coffee shop.  And the, uh, light post?”

I shift my body around which makes the whole couch squeak.  I scratch my head and feel one of those eerie little ball fragments that sometimes rest on your head without you knowing.  I’m always paranoid it’s lice because once when I was little, everyone at school blamed me for bringing lice to school, and I had no idea what the fuck they were talking about.

I don’t answer.

“Well, John.”  He clears his throat and almost begins gagging.  It must be in the therapist’s handbook to clear your throat in the most annoying way.  “Now, I can’t be sure, of course.  But didn’t you tell me your wife’s father had an art collection?”

Ex-wife, Doc.

“Forgive me.”

A couple prints.  One lithograph he’s really proud of.

“Who did it?”

Doc, I never remember the names of those artists.  Why?

I shiver, then inhale and get a huge whiff of meat loaf.  Bright yellow light runs the perimeter of the door that separates this office from the rest of this guy’s house.  I begin thinking what his wife must look like, dress like, and if she runs her hands through her hair when they bang.

“It just sounded a little like a very famous painting.  Nighthawks.  I believe.  Hopper.”

The drunk from Hoosiers? I smile toward my feet.  I hear him switch and re-cross his legs.

“No, John.  Edward, I believe.  You mentioned a coffee shop.  Nighttime.  Only a few customers.”

There’s a famous painting of that?  Sounds dull.

But he’s not biting.  He knows my tricks.  I want water, but last time I asked, he gave me the tiniest bottled water any company makes.  I reach for one of the individually wrapped mints on the coffee table between us without really looking for it.

“Well,” he clears his throat again.  “Dull or not, it’s widely known.  Now, I was thinking that your father-in-law, the art fan, might have shown you this painting.  Perhaps in a collection book.  A coffee table book.”

When he asks these types of questions, I always make it look or sound like I’m thinking he’s onto something.  Sometimes, I’ll ponder-hum; other times, I’ll just crinkle my brow and shift around.  Maybe fold and unfold my arms.  This time, I just suck on the peppermint and think about farting.  I know it’s immature and embarrassing, but I really kind of want to.  It’s so damn cold in here.  I almost have to, to give myself a reprieve from the frigidity.  Right here.  Right on this cliché burgundy leather couch.  But I refrain from the temptation and bite the mint hard instead.

Doc, I know Nighthawks.  You must think I’m a fuckin’ moron if—

I launch forward.  My feet are stuck though, so I can only turn my head toward him.

He holds up a hand—the one bearing the fifty-dollar pen I’d like to steal.  “Now, John.  Of course–”

You want me to talk about the night I left my wife. I can’t do it.

I grab another mint but just hold it in my hand and talk to it instead of looking at his pasty, scared face.

You want me to explain how someone who had it so well could just up and leave.  That’s not going to happen.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to come off condescending.”  He tells me to go on and lie back some more.  “Just relax,” he says.  I suck on the mint and watch two revolutions of the second hand on the gaudy iron sunburst wall clock his wife probably picked out.

So her dad was an art fan.  What of it?

I can’t see him anymore because I’m facing away again—toward my shoes now—and I sort of slide against the inside panel of this godforsaken sofa.  It’s soft but I know he overpaid.

“It’s this, John.”  Another throat clear.  I’m sure he pushed his glasses back toward his sticky face as well.  “Our sessions are meant for you to get some….some closure with your wife.”

“Ex-wife.”

“Excuse me, John.  Yes.  Your ex-wife.”  He scratches something down on the legal pad.  “And when you waste time …”

What?

He leans in.  “May I be frank?”  He doesn’t wait for an answer.  “It could suggest that you want me or anyone to think you want to discuss the past, but in reality it’s the last thing you want to do.”

He’s never shown his hand to me like this before.  I hear a soft click, then the heated air from the two vents in the room begin blowing.  I’ll bet the meat loaf is done and the wife is starting on the pinot.  Pissed her husband isn’t done with me yet.

What can I say, Doc?  It’s going to be a while before I can even understand it all myself.

“That’s fine, John.  I’ve got time.”

I feel him look at the sunburst and I’m right.

“Let’s pick up here next time, okay?”

Sure.

I take another few mints.  He watches me, but he doesn’t seem to care enough to say anything.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Inmate Fourteen Eleven Twenty-three!  On your feet!”

“He was doing it again, Sir,” a voice calls from above.

“Doing what?” Sir bellows.

“His dreams, Sir.”  Wiry, orange legs are now dangling near my head.  Suddenly, he jumps down.  Slides, really.  “I thought he was awake, so I asked him if he liked any art and he just started carrying on like last time.”

“Uh-huh,” Sir says gruffly.  “Anything new?”

“Naw.”  The voice stops and clears his throat.  “Still callin’ me ‘Doc’ and shit.  Said somethin’ about some night time and coffee.  Then meat loaf.”

“Meat loaf?”

“Yeah.”  He sniffs long and hard.  Longer than someone whose rickety body wobbles when he talks.  “I smell it too though.”

Sir laughs.  “Son, everything in the joint smells like meatloaf.  Did he say anything his lawyer should know?”

A more casual sniff this time.  “Naw, sir.  Nothin’ about why he killed his wife.”