“The Reading” – Improptu Poem

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“It’s like we’re on

a train,” someone says.

There is four feet

of thin worn carpet

in the northernmost aisle

of this narrow bookstore

Where the local poet,

A published, prolific professor,

Prepares a Power Point

presentation prior to performing.

~Those P’s wrote themselves~

In this single aisle,

A woman has collected

seven seats, six stools

to serve as satisfactory

sitting options squarely secured

~Those S’s were stretches~

for the incoming anonymous

manifest of friends, colleagues

who conduct themselves like

strangers or companions on

a metropolitan commute or

lengthy return to relatives

whom they see less

and less each year.

We’re trained from youth

to be still, civil,

engineered from our childhood

to be polite. Always.

As the bookshop’s car

fills with late arrivals,

We shed our layers

and peel away ourselves

To become more comfortable.

And those who arrive

before the poet’s departure

from real life realize

that they are suddenly

seatless. They’ll see less

with coats draped over

their arms like towels

or plain white bedsheets

that danced in backyards

of our grandparents’ youth.

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[Activity 2] “The Hell is This?”

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The following is just Steps 1 and 2 from the previous writing activity. We did this in my graduate fiction writing workshop this week (Jan. 16, 2019).  Here’s what I came up with in my 5 minutes:


Shiny. That’s what drew me close. And as I approached it, my own image enlarged – me walking, reaching toward my own outstretched hand. Two gaping depths at the top. My investigative fingers soon found sharp metal strips along the inside. I withdrew them and peered in to discover thick metal rods–one in each slot, parallel to the tabletop.  Carefully, I dip my fingers in again to learn that each rod is bouncy. I turn the reflective round box and find a black spindle encircled with miniature lines and symbols.  Finally, I see a lever on the side’s center, which I learn enables me to lower the metal rods inside to a locked position.

Story Construction Idea

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Here’s something that came up just yesterday in my Creative Writing class.

  1. create a list of 12-15 objects found around the house (no humans or animals, preferably)
  2. choose one and write for five minutes describing the object as if you’ve never seen it before.
  3. Create a list of themes from books, stories, poems, movies, and TV shows that appeal to you  (e.g. love conquers all, coming-of-age, good over evil; empathy; challenges of prejudice, etc.)
  4. Now, brainstorm a potential plot by beginning with a theme and including the chosen object for #2 as a symbol

Example:

household item – mousetrap

theme – value of integrity

Plot idea – a nervous boy wants to try out for the HS football team but knows he’s likely to be bullied by bigger, stronger kids.  After being victimized, he places a bunch of mousetraps throughout the locker room to get back at them.

options—the plan fails but he’s not found out;  the plan fails and he’s eventually caught; the play succeeds but the other boys don’t change; the plan succeeds but the boy is caught and expelled for bullying/attacking his classmates…

I don’t know…but it’s something, right?

 

[Activity 1] “Snoopy and Maker’s”

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Every year the faceless family south of us erected over-sized inflatable holiday decorations, killing perfectly good grass and lowering property values in our entire ZIP code, Dad would say. Mom’d say let ’em be and Jeremy always announced that this would be the year he’d puncture and steal them in the night. I’d never invite boys over until well into spring when only a yellow patch of land proved they’d been stored in their backyard shed. Dad would drink Maker’s more each time a boy held out his shaky hand to introduce himself the way Mom had taught him only seconds earlier in our narrow kitchen that always seemed to have a burned-out bulb.

When our twins were old enough to get wide-eyed at electric decorations, they’d gawk at the twenty-foot Snoopy snow globe next door, but Frank would just ride the brakes and hum along with Deano. The year Jeremy got released on Christmas Eve, he pulled Frank aside to tell him jail was better than marriage while the girls dressed Ken in Barbie’s outfits and Mom hovered over them with a bit lip as she struggled to open another bottle of Maker’s.

[This was inspired by George Saunders’ “The Sticks”, a flash fiction piece we discussed on Jan. 9, 2019 in my graduate fiction writing workshop class.]

Just Wait

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Her:  Phew!  I’m exhausted.  You wouldn’t believe my day.

Him:  Hi there.  Welcome home.

Her:  Did you get the mail?

Him:  ….

Her:  Can you put down your phone and answer me?

Him:  Sorry.  What?

Her:  The mail.

Him:  No.  I was going to–

Her:  I’ll get it.

Him:  …

Her:  What a surprise.  Bills, bills, and more bills.  What did you do today?

Him:  Hm?  Oh.  Not much.

Her:  Did you look for a j– C’mon.  I’m trying to talk with you.  Can you stop playing that game?

Him:  I’m not playing a game.

Her:  Did you find anyone hiring?

Him:  Um…I tried.

Her:  You’re lying.

Him:  …

Her:  You can’t even look at me, can you?  I know you’re lying and you just want me to stop nagging you about getting a job, don’t you?  Fine.  Ya know what, fuck this.

Him:  Did you hear something?

Her:  What?

Him:  I think I heard something.

Her:  Don’t you dare pick up that phone!

Him:  Just a second.

Her:  Goddammit!

Him:  Please don’t!  I just called–!

Her:  Who the fuck are you calling?

Him:  Oww!  What are you doing!  Stop it!

Her:  You love this phone so much, why don’t you fucking shove it up your ass!?

Him:  Wait.  Please!

Her:  We’re fucking done.  You know that?  I just can’t anymore with this bullshit!

Him:  Don’t leave me!

Her:  Don’t you dare try to fucking find me!

Him:  (into phone) Hello?

Voice:  Sir?  Yes, we’re here.  This is the national suicide prevention hotline, and we’ve been listening for several minutes now.  Can you tell me your name?

Town Gathering

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Speaker at podium:  Good evening, everyone.  I’m absolutely thrilled to see all of you here tonight at our monthly town hall meeting.  Thanks to those who RSVP’d beforehand and scanned their phones as they entered.  We have nearly 100% of the registered voters here, I’m told, and many of you, I can see, have brought your children.  Having an accurate count of adults and children in attendance for these Town Hall meetings will lead us to a successful exchange of ideas.

As you can see on this large screen behind me, we have a number of issues to discuss tonight.  Some, as you can already tell, are going to be easier than others.  We had them randomized by a supercomputer in another township so we couldn’t be accused of playing favorites.

1st Man in attendance:  You misspelled “Equipment” on number three there!

Speaker:  Oh, you’re right.  Let’s change that.  Thank you.  Now, the first topic tonight is the road constructions on Hollis–

2nd Man in attendance:  Is this gonna take long?  I gotta work in the morning.

Speaker:  We hope not to keep anyone too long.  However, those in attendance are free to go when necessary.

1st Man:  Isn’t it Hollis Boulevard?  You have Hollis Street on the sign.

1st Woman:   It’s Street, you dumb ass!  I’ve lived there for sixteen years; I think I know the name of my street!

2nd Man:  It used to be Hollis Boulevard when I was younger.  They musta changed it recently.

3rd Man:  Mr. Speaker.  When will the construction zones be finished?

Speaker:  Thank you for getting back to the subject.

4th Man:  Kiss-ass.  Do you suck his dick after this meeting too?

2nd Woman:  Please, everyone.  My children are here too.

4th Man:  Well, they’re gonna need to learn this language eventually.  Tired of you people raisin’ a bunch of pussies!

5th Man:  You can’t talk to my wife like that!

1st Man:  Guys, did you know the new Game of Thrones was on tonight?  How could they schedule this meeting at the same time?  Let’s wrap this up!

3rd Woman:  I’ve never seen that show.  I don’t care if I miss the new episode.  I want to know about the new playground equipment listed at number 3.

Speaker:  We plan to get to that one soon.

5th Man:  Wait, isn’t tonight the last game of the playoffs too?  I’m actually pissed I’m here and not at home right now.

3rd Man:  Who you rooting for to win?

5th Man:  I think the reigning champs are gonna repeat!

2nd Man:  You dipshits still watch sports?  Don’t you have any real work to do at your homes?

4th Man:  It’s sad, isn’t it?  Here I am at this meeting giving up MY valuable time when I could be at home doing something productive.

Speaker:  Folks, folks!  I’d love for us to all be a part of something productive.  We have a list, and we’d like to get the conversation started on the roads along Hol–

3rd Woman:  We don’t even watch TV anymore.  There’s nothing but junk and blasphemy on every channel.

2nd Woman:  You’re so right.  We let our little Charles watch cartoons for about an hour a day.  My husband put a control on the TV that shuts it off whenever–

4th Man:  Nobody cares, bitch!

4th Woman:  Okay, that’s it.  Mr. Speaker, can we get this guy outta here?

Speaker:  We appreciate your concern, but we do not want anyone dismissed from this.  We respect free speech, and we want your voices heard on these very important iss–

4th Man:  You don’t speak for me, cocksucker!  I’m not going anywhere unless I decide to leave.  I’ll take on all of you if that’s what it takes!

2nd Man:  Oh my god, guys!  You’ll never guess which celebrity just died!

1st Woman:  I hope it wasn’t that man from all those movies I watch all the time with my family.  How will I explain it to them?

Speaker:  Ladies and gentlemen.  The construction for Hollis Boule—Street!  is set to be finished by December 31.

All in attendance:  WHAT????!!!

1st Man:  You told us last month that it would be done sooner and under budget!

2nd Woman:  I planned on travelling through there for the holidays.  I guess my Christmas is ruined.

4th Man:  Ha!  Merry Fucking Christmas, ya idiots!

3rd Man:  We’re Jewish.

4th Man:  Nobody cares about that either!

Speaker (covers the mic and turns to his consultant):  You said meeting them in person would be different than online.  You owe me a beer.

2nd Woman:  I heard that!   Alcohol is a sin!!!

 

 

The House on the Highway (updated Nov. 2018)

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transport1

Rain again.

The boy is sleepy

But becomes alert when reminded

Of school.

He’s dressed in minutes

His cowlick springs up

Over dry cereal at

An empty kitchen table

 

I cover a stained shirt

With a sweater

That fits tighter than last month.

We say goodbye

To a sleepy mama.

The missus

Misses coffee

But rubs

Her pregnant belly

And winces and ooohs.

 

She oozes exhaustion

Mumbles words of plans for plants.

 

Will the missus miss us?

Now we’re a mile away from her

When the first red light

Stifles our progress

Toward timelessness.

I hate

Being late.

The rain hardens, stiffens,

Strengthens.

The sky sends pellets,

Mini-bombs onto my windshield.

 

Green light.  No movement.

The head of the driver

In front of me

Is visible

In his side

mirror.

His phone’s more important.

I honk and say

Something

He can’t hear.

Something

The missus wishes

I wouldn’t say

when the boy is around.

Or ever.

 

Seconds pass. The guy looks

Up and eases forward.

Waveless and unapologetic.

Another point-eight miles of green lights,

Momentum rises,

Blades wipe away wetness.

The next stop is our turn.

The left-arrowed lane fills behind me

As the rest of the east- and west-bounders

Pound down the splashy path.

 

A long, loud transporter

Booms by on our right,

Bearing one-half of a modular home.

“Look at that house,” I say.

The boy, of course, looks

For a stable structure

On land

And sees.

“Whoa!”

Each letter filled with wonder.

“Is there people in there, Daddy?”

“Not likely,” I say.  

But I fixate on its

Its future inhabitants.

Where are they at this moment?

Waiting at the lot?

A few cars behind me?

Boxing up picture frames

And kitchen utensils

In another area code?

Did they pick that color?

Is this their forever home?

<<EEEEEP!!!>>

Will this rain ever quit?

<<BLAAMMM—BLAAMMMM!!!!!!!>>

 

The half-house punctured the flow.

The fractioned structured caused

Distraction.

I prevented traction.

I delayed the day.

The missus misses us.

We miss her.  

Work should wait some days.

 

Moving along, the boy bites

Into the lull.

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“I’m glad you’re taking me to school today.”

 

My son really says this,

Just like that.

 

I lower my window,

Brave the rain,

And stick out a sleeve

To wave my apology

To the cars behind me.