Tag Archives: amwriting

When They Said Kill Your Darlings…

When they said

kill your darlings

they didn’t explain

how they would only ask about the rabbits

 

so I said

ok, maybe

we can just stay here

for a while

 

so I stretched

& scratched my head

& bled

& waited

 

waited until they said

“look what you made us do

we sat just around

all afternoon”

 

didn’t understand

what else they were supposed to do

couldn’t soak in

those few moments

 

before I’m through

& through

& through

& the rabbits burrow away for the winter

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Giving It My Best Shot

The approach of the autumnal equinox seems to usher a familiar feeling. I haven’t totally figured myself out yet, but fall always has some power over me. For one thing, my childhood ensconced September as “back-to-school”. That’s one thing I thought I had moved away from…but this year, I have summoned it back.

Of course, on a subtler note, the earth is tilting. The daylight swings wildly enough where I live that the difference between June’s all-night glow and December’s darkness is noticeable. Already, the days are shorter. The fifty-foot balsam poplar in my neighbourhood that serves as my seasonal barometer showed its first yellowing leaves over a week ago.

There is no burst of colours in the trees. The electric yellow canola fields trail off into a pale green before it’s piled into swaths which accentuate the topography. The other crops turn brown before they disappear. Trees denude back to twisted branches and twigs, their silhouettes etched like lightning against the sky.

2017-09 Brown Prairie

I can’t explain why the leading lines make my eyes shiver, or why the smoothed contours soothe me—but there is a certain space I can enter when that certain blend of summer and winter meet on an archetypal autumn day—and even when I’m outside for the briefest moment, there’s a quietness that follows the thought that I lose as it’s whisked away by the nippy breeze.

The geese are in the air, they know what that breeze brings. Soon flocks of hundreds of birds fly overhead, charting a magnetic path they can see with eyes evolved for the task.

Waterfowl move methodically and rhythmically, setting up shop when necessary or where food is available. Warblers are more blindly determined—they only pass through for days, as opposed to the weeks that it takes ducks and geese. Warblers cause tumults in the middle of the night, quite literally warbling like a comet made up of a hundreds-strong (yet short-breathed) church choir.

But I don’t hunt warblers. At least not with anything besides a pair of binoculars. The geese and ducks are not so lucky. Wild waterfowl makes for a delightful meal, which is a foreign concept for someone who was raised in a metropolis (like myself) and saw geese and ducks as companions to pigeons and seagulls (i.e. garbage birds). I had heard of homeless people in Toronto eating goose, and it sounded no different than someone eating a subway rat.

Now that I live in the fly-path between the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico, I think I can appreciate geese and ducks as something more. These birds certainly reside in cities at some point on their journey, but they benefit from a lot more free range than their eastern (or city-bound) counterparts.

(Some of that, I realize, is an idealization; and I am okay with that dissonance because so far, all the meat I have tasted has been delectable, and if it had any garbage-infused flavours they paired perfectly with the heartiness of goose).

2017-09 Goose Supper

Hunting can be a polarizing activity. It’s a complicated issue, and cannot be painted with the broad brush it so often is. It’s not a familial or cultural tradition for me. I have no compulsion or obligation to hunt. However, it seems disingenuous to me to eat and enjoy meat, but refuse to be part of the process.

I say, if you eat apples, go pick apples.

In a similar vein, I enjoy being entertained—therefore, I entertain. I don’t think that’s a comprehensive reason why I write, but it certainly feeds into my overall creative ethos.

Hunting and writing have some parallels for me—they’re done alone; can be fruitless no matter how much time and effort is spent; and, can be done without any instruction.

But the latter is only true if the outcome doesn’t affect your lifestyle. If I dick around in the field for three days and come back without so much as a feather, it’s all good. We go to the grocery store and buy whatever we need.

2017-09 Horseradish

So far, writing has been similar. If it fails (as it so often does), it doesn’t really matter. I have a job that pays the bills. No one will starve or suffer because my story sucked.

North Korea might force our hand to need to know more about sourcing our food. In the case of creativity, I am being my own North Korea, forcing myself out onto the proverbial gangplank, where I either succeed as a writer or I flounder as a provider for my family.

Just like the apprentice hunter of yesteryear would seek a master to teach the skills needed to excel, I am also seeking out masters to help me excel as a writer. I am super-psyched to have been accepted into Stanford’s Online Writing Course for Novel Writing. It’s a huge opportunity…so huge, it feels too good to be true, like I’ll finally be outed as the impostor I have always been.

Until that happens, I have to trust it’s just a syndrome. An impostor can’t really try. And I am trying. Even if no one knows it—and of course, it’s this chink that my inner critic can still hang out and harangue me.

Because identity is everything—encapsulated in that millennial idiom I’m tired of hearing & writing: “If it can’t be shared, it didn’t happen.”

My family doesn’t value creativity, I have no friends to call up about life events, and the place I live & work isn’t a particularly cultured/artsy place. Social media is supposed to be the panacea for my kind of situation, but I can’t help but see it for what it is (a placebo, and not a very good one).

So basically, none of this is happening. My inner critic has a field day with that shit.

Not everyone seems to have the same hang-ups about pride. Anton Chekhov wrote a short story about a man who borrows a medal for a dinner party, only to find out someone is there who knows he didn’t earn that medal—only to later find out both of them are frauds trying to impress the host. Usually we never have that final reveal. Instead, we really buy into our borrowed medal and convince ourselves the illusion is real.

2017-09 Upside Down Prairie

All I can do is give it my best shot, I’ve convinced myself. Until I shoot my eye out or carpel tunnel limits my ability to type, I only have my best shot. (After that, I have pain medication).

As September rolls on, I am re-acquainting myself with that “back-to-school” mentality. I am looking for my fingerless gloves and cleaning my shotgun. I keep one eye on the skies and the other on my prize. And then I put my sunglasses on, because no one can know.

God is Whoever Will Recognize Your Sacrifice (A Spring Poem)

When the heat rose

It brought the ants out with it—


The bedrock slumbers under the shivering topsoil,

All winter huddled up—


Now comes the tilt of the earth—

Now comes hibernation hangovers—


The creak in your elbow

Only you can hear—


Now comes the sun again—

Now the snakes sun on gravel roads—


God is whoever

Will recognize your sacrifice—


So every bud, rosette, and bug eye

Turns to the blinding star—


Half a life

Lived in chrysalis—


Half a life

Lived in fits—


Spring demands stridency,

Summer demands sweat—


Autumn begs for acceptance,

Winter requires sacrifice—


No one pouts as the beetle

Strains over mustard seeds—


Whimpering is pathetic,

Go gnash teeth instead—

Uh Yeah, Me Neither… (A Poem)

Do you take

all your poems

out ‘round back?

Fantasize

about them

during teleconferences?

Sketch them

from memory by candlelight

when the wind sounds

like orgasmic gasps?

Does your blood

burst in your genitals

when you feel

the line break?

Do you try

to conjure their smell

and end up hyperventilating?

Tell me, do you ask

all your poems

to stay for breakfast?

Presence

I have been absent. This blog hasn’t had much of an update in some time, and I have no illusions that this is a bad thing.

Then again, I consider myself a writer—or at least I aspire to be a writer—and a substantial part of being an active, contributing artist in our modern society means having a presence.

Of course, that primarily means an internet presence. The flashy artists, the ones who show up in trendy magazines or are renowned in the lit scene, they live in big cities and can attend live events, buy drinks for fellow poets, or have a one night stand with that cute up-and-coming singer/songwriter. More than anything else they do, they show up.

More than anything else I do, I don’t show up.

I have a measly internet presence. Years ago, a woman wearing too much make-up laughed at me. How the fuck could I even be human if I didn’t have Facebook? It was a naïvely idealist view, at the time. Something I could roll my eyes at and dismiss. But since then, it has become more and more true.

Not that I feel any less human. In fact, in the past year of neglecting the internet—after too many years trying to coyly join in on the party—I feel more alive than I ever have. But then again, as the Millenials say (and let’s face it, Millenials will become the dominant force as Baby Boomers vegetate & die): if you did it but didn’t record it, did it happen at all?

None of it happened. Because life never happened. It is happening, or it is not. Anything besides what is currently happening is either memory or imagination. Life itself is an existential experience, a matter of the present—of being present—of presence—and there we are again, with that goddamn pejorative.

What really gets me about presence is Definition 1.1 in the Oxford Dictionary: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen.” That is essentially internet presence, although of course, with the narcissistic twist that the internet produces, this usage gets confused with 1.3: “The impressive manner or appearance of a person.”

The first definition speaks to something beyond the self, something beyond the senses. The second speaks to ego, the self, the senses. The way we interact with the internet is that: it’s beyond the senses, beyond the self, beyond the ego—and yet it engages the senses, the self, and the ego. It’s an empty egg, and we’re subsisting on an imagined yolk.

I prefer the first definition. I even take it to heart and let it expand: “A person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted.”

Then what is it?

I don’t know. Maybe that is what I am endeavoring to find out.

A Poemization of The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Epidsode 7

A POEMIZATION OF
‘The Lonely’
Ep. 7 Season 1
The Twilight Zone

OH boy
now we are done in

picture a dungeon and we are in it
it might stretch to infinity
you are too small to tell
you live in a shack
with a touring car
with nowhere to go

let the record be known
that the containment placed upon you
by the judge jury rocket program
shrivelled your skin for a crime
you committed
before that court scene
faded to black

sentenced
on a rock
isolated in space

all the months of the year
are the same
every now and then
some supply ship
comes
they bring things for you

the silence
yourself

the wind
yourself

I believe you know
that it lies
like the grass
it pushes
down

*

Pull out the chessboard
company is coming
the cookbook has it all
laid out the way it should

how it be, my friends?
how it be?

I want to shake your hands
each one of you

they aren’t even happy to see him
the supply ship takes six months to feed him
they spend years without knowing their families
their sons become troublemakers

the guys only have fifteen minutes
so let’s get this over with
you criminal
don’t you keep you us out here
too long

it’s terrible scheduling
the logistics are a mess
who knows what the next couple of years
will bring
who knows what will happen before
anything changes

yup
but

you are a murderer
you killed someone
and you are worth
a rocket ship
and supply ships
to keep you fed and lonely
for forty-six more years

the supply guys are going to bring in the crates anyway
there is food and water and magazines

some nice stuff but no leniency on the sentence
that rocket ship is getting old
too expensive to double for return trips
the procurement process would be a nightmare

after five minutes
and a tense conversation
they leave

they leave
the crate unopened

inside there are
a few vacuum packs
a caution
read the instructions
prisoner
please wait until we leave
before you open the crates

see you in three months
after we raid the next planet
for some fruit and
precious plutonium and a few
alien sex slaves

*

them nice supply boys
they brought a woman

a real reasoning speaking woman

with the lips and thighs and
under normal circumstances
has the same life span of a natural human being

my name is alicia
what is your name?

get out of here

get out of here

I don’t want a machine

my name is alicia
what is your name?

ok
ok

ok
come in

*

I brought you some water

put it over there

can you feel thirst?

yes

cold?

yes

pain?

yes

how?
why are you a lie?
your face
your flesh
a machine
a terrible machine
built to make me believe

that I will take this kiss

but it’s a lie
you mock me

i’m sorry
you hurt me

how can I hurt you?
this isn’t your flesh
you’re a reminder
that I am so lonely
I am about to lose my mind

but you will wipe that tear
you will hear her out
you will let her back in

*

you and alicia will play chess
for eleven months

no sum total
man or woman or machine or an extension of
you

your emotions
unto her
like your rook
to her queen

at least
you are not lonely anymore

nothing else matters
another forty-six years to go

yup
but

*

after enough time
for two people
to fall in love

the supply guys come back
with good news

no time to talk
move along
pardons for all
get the hell on the ship prisoner
you are a free man now
carry your fifteen pounds

nothing more
short on fuel
we got some next poor devils
to drag away
back home

alicia and you will finally wave it all goodbye

fifteen pounds
former prisoner
no more

she is my

she is a robot
think with your head

fifteen pounds

no wait
throw out some equipment

fifteen pounds
I don’t got no choice

she’s a woman
alicia

fifteen pounds
and now only fifteen minutes

don’t you understand?

*

all you are leaving behind
is grief
long bored memories

keep it in mind
but
leave it behind

get on the ship

*

there is a fragment
of a man’s life
waiting to rust with a machine
that will sink
like a sphinx into the sand

to be secret
like the grains
blown in between the machine’s toes

*

[ END ]

How to Write a Poetry Chapbook

How to write

a poetry

chapbook:

 

Fill

seven notebooks

with longhand poems

for eleven years

 

Tear out

your best

heart-pounding words

 

Lay them

on the floor

 

Let them

tell you

a pathetic story

 

Then

collate

accordingly

in proper

manuscript format

the way William Shunn likes it

 

Douse

in

diesel

 

Strike

match

 

Ignite

 

Dance

a pagan jig

 

Repeat

In the Newspaper: One For My Mom’s Fridge

Caseros - Meridian Booster 2015

Read the full story from the Meridian Booster online.

If I was smart, or more adept in the Ways of the Extrovert, I probably would have done this a long time ago. But alas, my introversion has conversely become something I have accepted…and something that I would readily trade away for three magical extrovert beans.

It took me too long to seek out some exposure for my novel, Onwards & Outwards. I am getting used to the idea that the artist in modern society is, more than anything, loud (it has probably always been the case). The quiet artist, the secret sharer who bares their soul with the door closed, or the one that does not ask for a person’s eyes, ears, and heart, is one that easily becomes just another weirdo in the din.

But that’s okay. Because I don’t have to deal with coverage and criticism about people crying because I didn’t sign their autographs.

Are you an artist? What has been your experience with exposure and self-promotion? Tell me all about it below. I look forward to downing some Writers Tears while reading your stories.

The Office Window Tease (a poem)

Real hell is there in the office; I no longer fear any other. […] For me it is a horrible double life from which there is probably no way out except insanity.”

–FRANZ KAFKA


My office window

is a mute tease.

Bared for me to see,

glass bones and all.

 

Just on the other side

a few millimeters away

the wind blows

lilac bushes.

 

They smell lovely, probably.

The wind feels refreshing, I bet.

No need for all that life

in this office, though.

 

A few millimeters of glass

will be just enough

to let me know what is out there–

and remind me what is not.