How?

How to Write a Policy Memo

First, figure out what a policy memo is. Because “policy” is one of those things that turns your brain off, makes you fear that all your inadequacies will be revealed under a blinding, white-hot light. Like the instruction: “For questions 9 through 24, use of a graphing calculator is permitted.” Next, learn something about the subject of the policy memo you’ve been tasked to write. Which you probably — surely — should already know but really you don’t. And please refer back to Impostor Syndrome fear noted above. Then follow the instructions laid out on the eHow page you found on writing policy memos. Because eHow really helped when you wanted to learn about sewing a kick pleat, about writing a cover letter. Clearly you can trust eHow for all things. Discard your first draft. All those words! All those strange, floating ideas supported by nothing, anchored to even less. Start over … and maybe stop saying the words “policy memo” in your head. And start over. This time, remembering that you know things, have been in this field a long time, and maybe POLICY isn’t some shaggy, tusked and fanged monster licking it’s glistening lips over your vulnerable underbelly. And start over. Remembering that you have data, can add a table or a graph, that the world won’t end if this isn’t the final draft. Proof before you seek comment … because you know that when you want to say “one city,” your fingers betray your brain and type “onceity,” as if, in the great onceity of time, you had any clue how to write a policy memo. Back away from the computer. Go home for the weekend.

I won’t lie: this one I like. For true. It seemed to fall right out of my brain — and my current work reality, obviously — and pieces that do that always have a soft place in my heart. Does this mean I’ve had some amazing prose poem breakthrough? Not likely, but I did enjoy working on this.


NPM15_ForSite_FINAL_FINAL

Are you writing poems this month? Where can I see them? Let’s share this craziness!

As I did last year, I’ll be following along with the Poem-A-Day challenge at Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. Today’s prompt is to write a poem for which “how” is the first word of your title. Clearly today’s poem should have been yesterday’s (and should also have been a list poem?). You can post your daily poems on Brewer’s page. The top poem from each day will be included in an anthology later this year!

What the World Needs Now

Make that, what my world needs now. Most definitely love, sweet love. Thank goodness I have plans for so much of that this weekend.

It’s time for the New York Area VONA retreat! This afternoon I got on a train headed north and I’m now at this lovely farmhouse in the country! This retreat — insert contented sigh — means a weekend full of love. And, of course I mean how much I love my VONA fam and how much they love me. But I also mean love for myself.

This weekend is all about slowing down and taking the time to focus on my writing, something work has made very difficult.

It’s clear to me that I was naive in my perception of what my new job would be like. It is far more high-powered than I’d anticipated. It’s a great job that I’m quite happy to have, but it doesn’t leave me much time. And my work, my writing, has suffered.

I’m not setting and hard targets for the weekend. I am, however, bringing with me my nice, thick notebook, pens and lots of ink, my computer, and the thumbnail sketches for a new comic that have been languishing in my desk for two months. Anything is possible.

And I want that to be true, want anything to be possible. All the time, not just this weekend.

When I talk about my leisurely unemployment this past summer (I want to write “luxuriant,” even though it’s not the right word because it really feels like the right word), I tell people that I recommitted to myself as a writer. I actually say those words. And it sounds weird when I say it, weird enough to jolt me out of my train of thought for a second. But it also feels absolutely correct. I spent a lot of time last summer focused on myself as a creative person, and all that focus made clear to me how much I hadn’t been giving myself and how much I needed to change that.

And then I started my new job. I’ve been running so fast since starting work last fall. The intensity of the pace and the nonstop-ness of it has been overwhelming. A month or so ago I read an article about a bunch of people who work where I work, and one of them made a comment about having a “24-hour job.” I read that and stopped. That’s the problem! I have a 24-hour job. There’s no casual, “Oh, it’s 5:30. I’m heading home,” when the thing I’m working on has to be released/announced/in the paper the next day. You stay till the thing is done. Punto.

And that’s all fine and well, but it also means far less time for all the ways I was enjoying my life over the summer.

And so this weekend. It’s about reminding myself how much I value myself — my time, my creativity, my need to be foolish and fun. Talk about what my world needs now!


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

SOL image 2014

 

Vocabulary Distraction

I had a rough day yesterday, ending with the scuttling of a project I’ve been pouring hours and hours of my day, night, and weekend time into. Felt a little shell shocked when I first realized we were going to call everything to a halt. This morning was a little better. This afternoon, having to make the announcement to all the partners loomed large and unpleasant over my head, but it was my job to do, and so.

As much as I am a snarky somebody some of the time, I hate being the bearer of bad news. Hate it. Which is silly to say. It’s only the rare person who enjoys bringing other people down.

In the end, the announcing wasn’t a complete misery. I pointed to some of the good things that have come out of this process and to the good-sounding plan we have for moving forward. So, you know, silver linings.

But really why I started writing this is word choice. Every time I talk about the end of this project, I use the word “scuttled.” This isn’t a word I use. I may, in fact, never have said it ever prior to now. Where did it come from to suddenly appear on my tongue? Let’s be clear: I use a lot of words that a lot of other people don’t. I am regularly mocked for this behavior by family, friends, coworkers. But scuttle? No.

And then I wondered if I was even using it correctly. Yes, because even though it seemed correct when it tumbled out of my mouth, the moment I paused over it, all I could think of was a “coal scuttle” (another super-commonly-used term!), and I knew that was wrong.

Happily, my dictionary had more going on than my brain in that moment. I learned that “scuttle” can also mean to scurry, which I’m not sure I care for unless we’re describing the sideways nature of crabs. And then I found my scuttle, which turns out to be an old nautical term for intentionally sinking a ship, meaning to wreck or destroy.

There is some relief in knowing I’ve been using it correctly. There is still, however, the puzzlement over using it at all. When did that word sink into some dark, quiet pocket in the back of my brain? How did it know to rouse itself just now? And what will it do with itself now that it’s here? Is it going to keep turning up in my casual speech? It certainly isn’t a word I’ve felt any need to introduce into wider circulation, so I hope not.

If I’m going to be given the chance to introduce a fallen word back into the day-to-day, I would prefer “swink.” Or, if you prefer, “swinken.” It means to work hard, work to the point of exhaustion. I learned this beauty from Chaucer. I love the sound of it, but I love this next even more:

Swink – third-person singular simple present swinks, present participle swinking, simple past swank or swonk or swinkt or swinked, past participle swunk or swunken or swonken or swinkt or swinked

I’m saying. Go ahead and try it. Say “swunk” a few times and see if it doesn’t make you giggle. That’s handy when you’re working to the point of exhaustion.

Or when your work gets scuttled.

 


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

SOL image 2014

 

Can we talk? Can we?

In my List of Demands, I said this was a special moment, a chance for some non-black people to have their first real conversations about race. I meant that. I mean that. But there’s more to the story, more in the picture than is visible at first glance. Because I also said I wouldn’t be doing anyone’s homework for them in order for them to join the conversation. And I meant that, too. But maybe I need to be clearer about what that means.

When I read Brit Bennett’s excellent essay, “I Don’t Know What to Do with Good White People,” I felt myself exhale. The essay had the warm, deep resonance of familiarity — my excellent, supportive supervisor … who assumed I’d been born out of wedlock, my generous, volunteered-in-Africa-every-winter doctor … who assumed I must have plenty of children — and her tone echoed one I hear in my own voice as I try to have conversations these days.

I don’t think my white friends are looking for any kind of kudos for being the nice, intelligent, funny, caring, supportive people they are. I don’t think they expect me to thank them for not being racists. I don’t think any of that. But I do find myself running aground in some conversations, and I’m struggling to figure out what to do about it, how to keep the conversations going while keeping my friendships going.

People have told me that reading my latest writing has pushed them to think about their responses to things in new ways, to think about issues of race in new ways. That seems good, like something I’d want to be an outcome. At the same time, my writing, and the articles I’ve chosen to post on FB, have been seen as challenging, have been met with responses that fall into the “But what about me?” category, that seem to want direct acknowledgement of individual goodness. I had a two-hour phone call last week that started as a discussion of structural racism and quickly got mired in “what about me?” talk.

So I’ll say again that I don’t think my white friends are looking for a cookie, or a medal, or any of the other patronizing prizes folks have mentioned in response to the “what about me?” conversation. I believe the pushback is coming from a sincerely honest place of “You can’t possibly see me that way!” … but that place bothers me in a way I have yet to fully articulate.

Several white friends — And can I say here how strange and unkind and false it feels to be identifying any of my friends in this way? Still. — have prefaced their comments to me in a way similar to my two-hour-phone-call friend: some version of “I don’t want to talk about black people and white people. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather just be referred to as a person, not as a white person.”

Yes. I hear you. I get that.

But I want you to see the luxury of that. The privilege. I’d like to be referred to as a person, too. Living in a society that is normed on white experience, however, robs me of that right. It means that 99 times out of 100, what I am is added as a modifier to whatever other way I am perceived. I am a black writer, a black shopper, a black tourist. And I am all of those things. Of course. But you, my white friend, are described as a writer, a shopper, a tourist. And the fact that you can’t see that, can’t think that, before you tell me you want to be referred to as “just” a person? That’s a problem.

It’s a problem that makes my conversations with you difficult. But let’s be clear: it’s your problem. I cannot fix it for you. And if I could fix it for you, I wouldn’t. Because this is what I meant when I said I wouldn’t do your homework for you. This is your problem to fix.

I want to have this conversation, but more and more I have been wondering if I can, if I am able to do this without convo-killing displays of my anger, without me telling some of my (white) friends to step off, that I cannot be the lantern that guides them through this forest.

Last night I had dinner with a dear friend, and we tried to talk about some of this. we did talk, and it felt good and real and honest, even if I couldn’t put words to all the things I was thinking, even with my tangential digressions.

That gives me hope.

A Woman of a Certain Age

As I was getting ready to head into Manhattan tonight, I overheard two folks talking outside my window. They’d run into each other and were catching up, a young-ish man and an older woman. They had a lot of crazy things to say and gossip to pass back and forth. They said their goodbyes and then there was silence as they walked away … then the guy shouts: “I just gotta say, you’re one of those people whose black don’t crack!  They both burst out laughing, and I almost did, too.

Today is my birthday.  Funny how fast these come around!  It’s my birthday, and I’m quite solidly middle aged now.  But I’m also one of those “uncracked” people that guy was shouting about outside my window.  Sometimes I feel every nanosecond of each one of my 52 years, but mostly not so much, mostly I’m well aware of how much I don’t look whatever people think my age should look like. I stressed out about my age a lot more when I was in my 40s. (Might have had something to do with all those younger men I dated … ahem.)  Now, I’m rude enough to tell people my age for no reason other than to make them tell me how not my age I look.  My vanity has done no mellowing over time!

Earlier this week, one of my neighbors asked me why she never sees me pregnant or with a baby (really, my neighbors will sometimes just say every damn thing!). I told her that time was past for me, and she said not yet, that I could probably have kids “up till you’re 40 or so.” Um, yeah. That time is p.a.s.t.

So that time is past, but now there’s time for about a bazillion other things.  This second half of my life is already shaping up to be very interesting — one knee surgery down, one to go, got fired for the first time in my life and have spent the last three months unemployed for the first time in my adult life, I’ve learned to spin, I’ve discovered a new writing genre to explore, I’ve reconnected with some old friends and started cultivating a gorgeous garden a new friends …

I’ve got work to do.  I’m only 52, but I’m already 52.  All kinds of clocks are ticking.  Think of how many crafts there are still for me to learn.  And how long is it going to take me to get over myself and stop hiding my grey hair with henna?

Time to prepare for embracing myself as the Crone, the wise, free, powerful me.  This non-working summer has given me a delicious taste of what the “free” can feel like — I have very much enjoyed my long days of reading, writing, strolling, thinking, seeing just how much I enjoy my own company — but I have a ways to go before I can pretend to wisdom or power.

I’ve got work to do.


image source

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Hello to everyone who began following the blog after reading my last post.  I appreciate the follows and the comments.  You intimidated me just a little, I won’t lie.  I’ve started and dashed half a dozen posts since that one.  I worried about what kind of writing you’d expect each time you saw my blog in your inbox.  Well, the fact is, you’re here.  Stick around and you’ll see how non-linear and nonsensical I can be one minute, how focused and fierce I can be the next.  This is a theme-less space that is often left to grow over with weeds.  I’m only today remembering that I should have started a 30 stories in 30 days challenge on the first.  Maybe I’ll jump in with that tomorrow.  We’ll see.  I hope you’ll keep reading.  It won’t be praise- or comment-worthy every time, but I’d love to have you jump in and start conversation when you’re moved to do so.  Welcome to my tiny little corner of the internet!

Process of Elimination

My wonderful, and wonderfully talented friend Alejna invited me to join in this “writing process blog tour” meme that’s getting passed around just now. She posted her entry last Monday on her blog, Collecting Tokens, and this week it’s my turn.

The meme offers up four questions and then gets passed on to a few additional bloggers who will post the following Monday. The four questions:

1) What are you working on?
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
3) Why do you write what you do?
4) How does your writing process work?

I’ve invited three friends to take up the meme for next week. First there is Lisa, who is both a writer and a painter and may surprise us with process writing about both.  I love Lisa’s artwork, her kind spirit, her openness, and her generosity as a writer (and as a person!). Then there is Sonia, a writer I’ve known almost half my life, who will add her spice to the mix.  I love how Sonia has incorporated her journalism skills into her fiction, her attention to details, and the feminist lens she brings to the page.  And finally, there is Glendaliz, who is currently at a writing retreat in Wyoming and may add some wild west flavor to complement her innate flair.  Glendaliz writes fiction the way I dream of writing fiction: beautiful, fluid, powerful stories that grab me and hold tight, and her blog writing has a similar pull.  I’m not sure if she’ll be joining the meme, but I really hope she’ll be able to.

Warning: this post is unconscionably long.
(Not apologizing, just notifying.)

And so. Let’s get started.

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What are you working on?

The simple answer to this question is “too many things and not enough all at once.”  But that’s too easy.

For starters, I have been writing poems all month … because it’s April and because I like writing challenges. Each year, starting in 2009, I’ve chosen one form and written that each day for the whole month: tanka, rhyme royal, nove otto, zeno, arun. The arun appeared last year, and seems to be a new form that I’ve created. I had surgey mid-month last April, which kept me from finishing my month of aruns, so I took the form on again for this year. (You can see today’s very sparkly arun below, but I think the best ones this month were written when I had the surprise of making some family tree discoveries.  This is the first. This is another. And this is one of the hardest.)

The poetry has been hard for me. I have a bad history with being “good enough,” with being “allowed” to write poetry. This April is the first time I’ve given myself a break and just written what I wanted to write. And, not at all surprising, this April has been the easiest poetry month for me. Even 2009, when the tanka seemed to fall out of me, wasn’t as pain-free as this year. It’s a good lesson for me, seeing just how hard I make it for myself.

I’ve also been writing for my comic … or trying to.  I have a soon-coming deadline to submit work for VONA, so that’s spurring me on right now. It’s also true that I think Adventures could go somewhere if I could get it finished, so working on it now feels urgent and important.

It also feels very loaded. There are people who are supportive of me and of my writing, friends and co-workers who will be surprised to recognize themselves in the stories. Creating the comic without having actively challenged their comments or behaviors feels underhanded and passive-aggressive. At the same time, biting my tongue in the moment has often felt safer, and sometimes I need to worry more about my own well being over other people’s feelings.

I’m also writing stories. I had an idea for a fiction-only blog, and I want to finally get that up and running.  I lamented last week that I haven’t been able to find/steal enough mental time to focus on a longer-form story, that all the fiction I’m writing lately is flash.  I’m still feeling the frustration of that, but even without working on a long story, I am certainly still working on stories, and I need to acknowledge and honor that and not be so hard on myself.  Do I believe I’ll never write a long story again?  No.  So I should calm down a bit and just do what I have the ability to do right now.

The one area of writing that I neglect most and most often is this blog.  I can go months without a word.  Happily, every March there is the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, started in 2008 by the lovely ladies over at Two Writing Teachers.  That challenge started just as I entered the world of blogging, and really helped me work on my online voice.  In the years since, it has brought me back to my blog, no matter how many months this space has lain fallow.  This year, I was away for 3 months when the March challenge rolled around.  Way too long, but the lure of the daily slices got me back here.  And then, of course, March is followed by National Poetry Month, and my personal poem-a-day challenge, so I’m always guaranteed at least two solid months of blogging.  I want to be a little truer to my online self, however, and post more consistently, at least once a week during the rest of the year.  We’ll see how I do with that.

Most of the creative non-fiction I’ve written lately has been for this blog, but I’ve also written a couple of longer pieces that have been published in anthologies about women’s literacy.  I like essays, and taught essay writing for years.  I was driven almost crazy by the formula 5-paragraph essay that students would enter my class with, having been taught that the formula was the way to go for everything.  It’s really pretty awful to so stunt a student’s writing by teaching them that kind of crap.

So, as I said: too many things and not enough all at once.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

So, I write in a few genres — non fiction, fiction, poetry, and now comics — and I honestly have no idea how my work is different from others writing in the same genres.  Oh dear.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this one in the almost-a-week that I’ve been jotting down notes for this post … and still nothing.

Why do you write what you do?

I write for a few reasons.  First, I’ve always liked writing, liked playing with language.  I really like English.  It’s a beautiful language if its given half a chance.  And yes, a lot of our words are borrowed from other places, but they’re here now, and they work.  You can say things such as, “Here I sit, ready to deliquesce at the sound of your voice” (something I wrote in a love note to an ex years ago).    What’s not to love about that?

I also write because it’s the best way I know to figure out what I think and feel about things.  Sonia used to have a signature on her emails: “Writing is thinking, not thinking written down.”  That has always made so much sense to me.  The thought process in my head is often unmanageable — too many swirling, crazy clouds of everything careering around in there, running into and over one another.  Writing gives me the power to harness the crazy and see what’s really going on.  Sometimes I get it horribly wrong — sending off letters before I’ve had a chance to think them through completely (revise), sitting on an idea so long trying to get it right that someone else has already gotten there by the time I think I’m ready to speak.  Still, writing is the channel through with my brain can make sense.

How does your writing process work?

And this is the hard one.  It requires me to either create and claim a process or be totally honest and say that I don’t really have one.  In truth, the processes are different depending on what I’m writing.

Poetry: Usually written quickly, on the fly, rarely taking even a full day.  This month, they’ve almost all been written between 10pm and midnight so I could get them posted before the end of the day.  A few were given a little more time.  A few, at the beginning of the month, were written while I was at a conference and should have been paying attention to presenters at a workshop.  With poems that had rhyme schemes, I tried to give myself more time because rhyming takes more time, but still no more than a few hours.  (Please do not think I’m bragging!  I fully acknowledge that any of my poems could have benefited from more time and attention.)

Comics: My process for the comics is still a little backward, but there is definitely a process. The mini-comic class I took last year was with Dane Lachiusa. It was a great class for me, but I wasn’t a great student. Dane would tell us things about process that of course made sense because he a) knew what he was talking about and b) was actually a comics artist and c) had lots of experience.  I would listen to him and immediately dismiss whatever he said because a) I am a lousy student, b) I can be exceedingly arrogant, and c) I figured I already knew how to tell a story, that I didn’t really need to rethink my storytelling “just” to convert my stories to comics.  Right. In each case, I would run off in my own direction, only to realize (of course!) that Dane had been absolutely right and that I needed to start over his way if I was going to make any kind of progress.

So, process is still messy for me with comics.  I have ideas for each story first (I’ve generated a dauntingly-long list of stories for Adventures, one I have a hard time imagining how I’ll tackle, one that makes it that much more clear to me why I need to get to VONA this summer and get some more learning under my belt!).  The next step is supposed to be mapping out the images for the story, and I’ve started to be that person who will actually go to the mapping out first and not start writing text.  I’m not a full convert, but I’m on the way.  I’ll do a very messy, barely-even-stick-figured sketch to give myself an idea of what I want to draw and how I’ll draw it.  next I make a much more careful sketch of the panels in which I start writing the story (or start revising the story I have stubbornly already gone ahead and written before I started the sketches).  And finally, I draw each panel carefully and use a ruler to keep my text lines neat.  The final drawings are done over-sized, at 150% of their normal size — the big size makes it easier to include details and to keep text neat and clear.  If I could do things like make shade and add color, the larger size would make that easier, too.  Maybe one day.  And all of that is a description of the process of making a comic, but it’s also part of the creation of the story for me because I’m still organizing and tweaking and finding a better way to show or tell something in each step.  Once I have all the panels drawn, I scan them individually, and then assemble them in a word document and start printing my little booklets.  There are probably shorter ways to get the job done, but this is the way Dane taught me, and I like it.

Fiction: There is little in the way of process connected to my story-writing.  In 2012 I took a wonderful online class with the amazing Minal Hajratwala. Minal is a great, great teacher — generous in her instruction and critique and full of wonderful exercises that get you thinking and writing.  In my case, her exercises also led me to a few serious revelations about my seeming disdain for process when it comes to my fiction.  I have begun, in small ways, to incorporate some of her lessons into my work, but I am still a long way off from having a real process.  As most of the fiction I’ve been writing lately has been super-short, I’ve gotten a bit lazy about using Minal’s lessons, writing my stories as quickly as I write my April poems.  So, process?  Not so much, but it’s something I’m working on.

Non-Fiction: I think my process for non-fiction is cleaner than my fiction process … or, at least it exists.  If I’m not writing memoir, I am usually inspired by something that has either pissed me off or terrified me or roused some other emotion to such a level that I am compelled to write. What that means is I’m known to write more than my share of angry, angry screeds.  I’m actually okay with that.  At first, I thought I should censor myself a little — especially after I lost a handful of readers early on when I posted my first angry piece about race.  Losing readers surprised me, but I pretty quickly realized a) I can’t let that govern what or how I write, and b) I’m probably never going to have a big audience, so I may as well please myself.  So I write my angry screeds when I need to, and I stand by them.  When I was teaching, I wrote a lot about my teaching and about my students.  I also write a lot of memoir — mostly travel stories, but a few others as well.  With non-fiction, I’m much more able to throw all my ideas on the page quickly.  When I need to do research, I can do it fairly easily and get back to the work … and then I’m done and can settle into the revision — my favorite part.

And at last: REVISION!!  I wish I could decorate that with hearts and flowers.  It is truly my favorite part.  I love all the parts of writing, but this has always been the place where I’m happiest, where I get to stroke and stretch and test out words and sounds and see what makes the most sense in my piece.  The two main components of my revision process are 1) making recordings of the piece, 2) cutting as much as possible.  I like to record the story or essay and listen to it the next day (or a few hours later if I’m in a hurry).  Like most people, I don’t love the sound of my recorded voice, but I’ve learned to get around that.  I think of my work as written to be heard, so I have to listen to it to hear the places that don’t work, that don’t make sense.  When I don’t record, I still read out loud to listen for the missteps.  And — finally getting to the point of this post’s title — I like cutting.  You can’t tell it from the crazy-long length of this post, but you can tell it from some of the stories I’ve posted.  I like to cut and cut and cut until I get them down to something like the bare bones.  I don’t always leave them so bare, but I like to get them to that place. Think Kawabata’s Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. That’s what I aspire to.

Talk about miles to go before I sleep!

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Wow.  Did that ever go on way longer than I’d imagined it would.  And yet there’s still more!  Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a “settled” poem.  This is another prompt that isn’t really speaking to me.  And maybe that’s because I rarely feel settled … or sometimes feel so settled I’m stuck.

I
like to
wear glitter —
gold dust sprinkled
over cheeks and eyes.
Gold
settling
in my hair,
wafting in my
wake. Gold and still more
gold.
My friends
laugh, dismiss.
But I know best,
give myself over.

natpoetrymonth1

Please consider donating to my indiegogo campaign to support my participation in the VONA Voices graphic novel workshop this summer.  “Support” can be as simple and cost-free as sending the Indiegogo link out to your friends and telling them why they might want to help me get to VONA.  Any and all help is appreciated.  To date, I’ve received almost half my goal amount! I am encouraged and humbled by everyone’s generosity.  Thank you all!

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An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

Poetry in Motion

Heh. I got jokes.

I’m the one in motion — I’ve left own for a conference in Cincinnati.   It remains to be seen whether the poetry has gone on the road with me.

The Poetic Asides prompt for today is a double prompt, offering up both violence and peace. I’m not sure I’m feeling either prompt today. But we’ll see where this goes. I had the strange experience of walking down the street tonight to find some dinner and finding — in addition to dinner — a distressing series of drunk and angry twenty-something men, several of whom spoke to me — but not really to me, but to whatever person they happened to career into.  So I wanted to write about them — I suppose there’s some violence and peace in there after all.

Vine Street, 9pm

Strange
men — boys
really — stalk
my path. Drunk, sad,
one curses, complains.
Love,
leaving,
has left him
bare and in pain.
One misses his mom,
wants
to call
but fears her
many questions,
stinging rejection.

Boys,
tattoos
freshly inked,
boasting manhood,
craving touch, comfort.
Drunk
in their
several
sharp sadnesses,
they see only hurts.
One
calls me.
Says, “Mama,
you hold me back.
You leave, I’m nothing.”

My
hands want
to hold them,
to offer balm,
but I know better.
Their
words call,
but their eyes
are empty, flat,
rage too near the surface.
I
walk fast,
trust the bright,
silver glow-light —
DANGER! — down my spine.

natpoetrymonth1

SOL image 2014

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Ever since I’ve known about this conference, I haven’t been able to get the theme song from WKRP out of my head.  I wouldn’t have thought that I remembered that song, and yet … Maybe a few days in Ohio will chase it out.  It’s not all bad, though.  It also reminded me of that Thanksgiving episode:

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An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.