Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou Uncaged - On Writing

"The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart."

                                                                                                    - Maya Angelou

Keep Going

He sat in her New York apartment, and she looked at him and said, "You are in mourning." Not the kind where the sun rises and your eyes flutter open. The split open kind.

And she told him that his pysche has put its foot down, on a life he cannot live.

And she told him, to keep writing.  So, he tries to keep the faucet on, letting the words pour out.  He can't always do it. Often, in between the drops, he opens his mouth but he can't speak.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sketching. In Black and White.

Her eyes burn off the canvas, 
into his. 

He reaches to find the outline of her face. 
And his thumb sweeps a gentle arc across her cheek.  
His hands are coated in black, and she is beautiful.

He looks up, pauses. 
And their eyes meet.  
Her runaway smile escapes. Then his.

But he pulls his gaze back down.
And focuses on spreading the charcoal, 
into a delicate shadow-veil. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Underneath the Holodeck

Take a breath and swallow it down.

As we ooze that busy-happy venire of go-go-on-the-go! - "we've got a soccer game / a baseball game / a dance class / a music recital / a show / a party / a dinner!"
And cute quaint houses. With perfecty lives! - "fresh laundry folded / dinner on the table / sprawled on the comfy couch" -
With well-manicured front lawns - "oh, is that a Japanese Maple? / i love your hydrangea / let me tell you how how I keep my grass so green" -
And of course, our shiny gadgets - "it's the new Samsung Smart TV / GE super-silent dishwasher / bluetooth wireless speaker system! / i can stream movies to my television / i can turn on my lights with my smartphone!"-

Optical illusions.

Buried under layers on top of layers of our carefully constructed lives, we have to look hard to even see ourselves at all.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Writing as Therapy

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” 

                                                                                                               -- Graham Greene

Outro To Alone

It seemed important to remember.  But when was it?
I know it was at the end of July.
When exactly?
Then, I was thinking of my daughter's birthday.  July 27th.  Christ.

"What did we do to celebrate her birthday last year?"

"Don't you remember?  She was away at camp. Why are you asking that?"


I did it.  I tried.
It was the day before she went to sleepaway camp to play in the sunshine.
Less than a week before her 9th birthday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 10 (Merrily Merrily Merrily, But a Dream)

That night, Caleb had the most fantastic dream.

They were all together.  At a beach, salt in the air, and the waves crashing in.  He felt the cool damp sand between his toes. It was a windy day, and Amanda and he were taking turns tearing down the beach, with a rainbow colored box kite trailing behind. His parents were a few steps behind, holding hands.  The sun was setting, and the sky was on fire with pinks and oranges. Caleb looked back, and they both smiled at him.

Amanda was now ahead of him, the kite behind her now lifting to the air. "Caleb!  C'mon already!"

He smiled, and then turned and ran to catch her, his legs pumping in the sand, the sun warming his face.

And he held on with all his might, hoping - no praying - that he would never wake up.

Lost Dreams: Chapter 9 (Cold Hard Reality)

Caleb took the steps, two at a time, and ran into the kitchen.  Bernard sat at the kitchen table, the paper folded in front of him. He was still in his bathrobe, his hair mussed, and in dire need of a shave.  He looked up: "G'morning kiddo."

"Hey Dad," said Caleb, still uncertain, looking around.

"Dad. Where is Mom?"

Bernard sighed.  "C'mon. Again Cay?"  "I don't know where she is; you know she's moved around so much since she left us.  I haven't heard from her in a long time.  You know that."

"I miss her Dad."

"Me too, Cay.  But we're doing okay, aren't we?  Cook you some eggs?"

He realized.  He remembered what he had buried and shoved away.  His Mom had left; left Bernard and left him. And Amanda. She had told him, it wasn't him - it was that she and dad had fallen out of love. Those words were hanging out there in front of him, but he couldn't process them.  She kissed him on the forehead.  She was sobbing.  He was numb.

"OK. Yeah. Eggs sound good Dad."

Amanda. She was gone too. But not in his dream. For real.

He closed his eyes, to try and seal in the tears. His eyes were wet. She had run into the street to wave goodbye as he drove away.  He was going to see some movie, and he was sitting in the backseat of the car, turned around and waved - "she's such a goofball." From the other direction, the speeding car, swerving around the corner and onto his block. It was all in slow motion. The dull thud of her body against it.  The screech of brakes. The blood. Her blood. He ran from the car, and he was kneeling before her, as the light went out of her eyes. Caleb heard himself screaming.

And then he blanked out.

"Caleb?  Caleb?  Eggs are up," said Bernard, pushing the plate over to his son.

Caleb was staring off, frozen by his memories.

Bernard reached over and took Caleb's face in his hands, and then wrapped his arms around him. "Its alright." Caleb's body loosened, giving in to the hug. He began sobbing, his body shaking.

"Caleb.  It's going to be OK."

At that moment Caleb felt very alone. He looked at his father's kind eyes. He looked so tired.  Caleb squeezed his father, tightly. "I know, Dad.  I know it will be."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 8 (Where's Reality?)

Caleb's eyes snapped open. He was in his bed, with the early morning sun shining through the window and into his eyes. He rolled over, with a groggy and confused, and then gathered himself and rose. He didn't remember going to sleep. How am I waking up, when I wasn't sleeping?

The memory of his father slapping him across the face was fresh. His hand reached up to his cheek. Had it even happened? The song from his childhood lazily drifted into his head, his mother's quiet voice: "Merrily merrily merilly merilly. Life is but a dream."

He sat up.  His father *had* slapped him. And then Caleb had told him everything. They had come up with a plan. He promise to delve into himself to find his mother and his sister, and his father had proudly smiled. It would work. When he met them in his dream, as he surely would, he would grab them and pull them back.

Wasn't that right? What had happened? His head was woozy. Everything seemed melted together.

He would have to check the notepad. 

Caleb had began to record every dream he had. He would wake in the middle of the night, grab the spiral notepad from his bedside, write, and then fall back into deep sleep.

He looked to his nightstand and grabbed his notepad. His hands were shaking as he opened to the last page, to read his own words:

"5.18.2014: Dreams:

1. 2:24 AM: I swallow them up in separate dreams, first Mom and then Amanda. I tell Dad. Then, he hits me, and I fall to the ground.

2. 4:50 AM: Standing before Dad in a strange room, reporting that I had failed to find them. I had searched my dreams. But nothing."

Caleb put the notepad down.

All a dream, he allowed himself to think. He imagined walking downstairs, finding his mom cooking breakfast in the kitchen, Amanda setting at the table, and his dad reading the Sunday paper.  He took a deep breath. All a dream? For the first time in a long time, Caleb smiled.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 7 (Amanda)

That Amanda had vanished into his dream sent Caleb into a free-falling panic, as if he had fallen into a narrow deep well.  He placed his hands along the damp cement sides.

Standing in the empty street draped in darkness, even the moon and stars had abandoned him.

He walked - forcing one foot in front the the other - onto the front steps.

The door yanked open. His father's eyes wide and crazed.

"Caleb! Jesus, where did you two go? It's past midnight!" Bernard grabbed his shoulders and squeezed.  "Good lord, don't do that to me."

He hung his head, and waited. "Dad -- ."

Bernard looked at him, and then past him, to the empty front porch. His eyes shifted back to Caleb. He met his father's gaze.

"Where is she?" he said quietly.

Caleb shrugged. "I don't know. She's with mom, I think."

His father's open hand cracked against his cheek, and Caleb's face jerked sidewards. Heat spread across his cheek. Caleb looked up at his farther.

"Don't you ever say that. Ever."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 6 (Secrets and Holes)

He couldn't bring himself to tell his dad or sister that it was all his fault. But was it really?  Yes.

Caleb stayed in bed as long as he could, clenching his pillow with tight fists, wishing it all away. He heard the low rumble of his Dad's voice on the phone in the kitchen downstairs. He was waiting to hear her voice.  Caleb rolled out of bed.  He slowly walked past Amanda's room, where she was still sleeping ("such a good little sleeper," his mom used to say), and then padded down the steps in his slippers. He stood quietly as Bernard called his aunt and his grandmother, and later on the police.

"She was lying next to me when I fell asleep last night, and when I woke up she was gone."

There really wasn't much more to say. There was no sign of a break-in. No note, no explanation. No bag had been packed taken. Her purse and phone were left sitting on the kitchen counter.  Nothing was out of place or missing. Except her.

"Dad? Is she coming back?"

-- (He didn't know, so he said nothing)


"Yes, Caleb," he said, looking at me. His blue eyes were a dull pale. He only seemed half there.

"Dad, what do we do now?"

-- (He didn't know.)

There wasn't anything to do.

The weeks passed, and nothing. Bernard was broken. He rarely spoke. Life kept on, but with the color drained out of it, a gaping hole where his mother had been.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 5 (Searching)

He looked for her.  All the time.  A thousand times a day.

When he was awake and when he was dreaming. For Caleb, it became hard to tell which was which.

Walking home from school, she would walk by him, airily chatting with another mom on the sidewalk across the street. Over and over again he would recognize her voice, or her smell, or her clothes, or her brown hair. But when he crossed the street, when he looked up, when he turned his head, it wasn't her.

And at night. Now every night, he would dream. He would be running in a field, or at school, or on the backyard deck. But in his dreams, always, he was alone.

She was just gone.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 4 (Dreaming For The First Time)

The first time it had happened was when he was ten years old.  Six years ago, but he remembered it so clearly.

Odd thing about memory, Caleb thought. Some things are imprinted there, and others fade away right after they happen. Like this. That day he had the first dream that he could recall. I must have had dreams before that, he thought. But he couldn't be sure.

He was in his room. His old room.

Caleb's parents had divorced, and Caleb lived with his mother. Bedtime was their special time together.

His mother sat on the edge of his bed, her fingers sweeping through his hair. She was speaking to him softly. He remembered feeling warm and safe. And loved. He smiled and rolled over, pulled the covers into a tight cocoon around him and then wriggled around to find that perfect position. He took a big deep breath and yawned wide.

Young Caleb's eyes closed. He was already drifting off. She was still speaking softly to him, something about sweetness and dreams. Until silence. Sleep.

Caleb saw himself sitting in the kitchen, like he was watching himself on television. He watched himself get up from the table and open the refrigerator door. He took out the carton of orange juice, poured himself a glass, and took a sip. 

His mother was on the phone. The phone was on the wall of the kitchen right next to the dining room, and cord stretched from there into the dining room, where she sat talking. He was unsure how he knew, but he knew it was a very important call and she was not to be interrupted.

He shuffled across the kitchen floor, juice in hand, and peered into the dining room. She was sitting at the dining room table, her back to the sliding door. To his horror, he saw a red figure approach the door and begin to slide it open. Not so much a person as an energy source, and growing larger - the deep red glow spreading and spreading.

He screamed to warn her. But no sound came out. The glass dropped and shattered silently, the shards exploding outward in a circle like a ripple on a pond. And then the color drained from the room, sliding away, replaced by gray.

Caleb knew he was dreaming. That he was watching his own nightmare. He felt his breath quicken.

He watched himself run into the dining room to warn her. But he still could not make a sound. His mother looked at him and smiled. She lifted a her index finger - "one more minute, honey."

And then it was upon her and surrounding her.  Her eyes filled with fear, and she disappeared into the red, like she was riding the sunset down over the horizon. 

Caleb's eyes snapped open. 

He was disoriented, but looked around and remembered he was in his bedroom. He was shaking as he slid out of bed and walked to the door.  He was afraid to go upstairs. He took the steps slowly and walked in, looking for his sleeping mother in her bed. The clock read 4:30 AM. The bedsheets were wrinkled. She wasn't there. Not a trace. He somehow knew; he knew she was gone.

His dream was the last time he had seen his mother.

Lost Dreams: Chapter 3 (Into Dreams)

Caleb thought back to that day. It was exactly three weeks ago.

He was sprawled on the lounge chair on the back deck, all arms and legs, his left leg dangling carelessly off the side of the chair. A glass of ice water rested a few inches from his toes. He looked up at the midday sky, the sun obscured at that moment by a single large cloud. He debated getting up, but didn't.

His younger sister, Amanda, sat on the floor of the deck with her feet crossed and her back pressed against the house.

Caleb and Amanda were two years apart. Both were wispy thin with sandy stick-straight hair. Everyone had always said they were "joined at the hip." And they were right. The two were rarely apart. Unlike most 16 and 14 year old siblings, they shared an unspoken easyness of being together.

She was sitting a few feet away from Caleb, aimlessly twirling a tulip she had just picked in her hand. The orange petals were descending and starting to brown at the edges, and they were fluttering off one by one in the small windstorm Amanda was creating.

It was a picture of suburban pastoral, and, at the same time, of teenage boredom. Depending on how you looked at it.

Anna finally tossed the flower stem and popped to her feet. "C'mon Cay. Let's do something."

But Caleb's eyelids had dropped halfway over his eyes, and then closed. He heard her voice, but it was far away, tinny and distorted. And getting fainter and fainter, like turning down the volume on the car stereo. Until silence, sleep.

He knew he was asleep, but at the same time saw a boy walking down his street. The boy in the dream was much younger than he was, maybe 10 years old. But he recognized him. He was looking at himself.

It was night, and the street was empty. No moon, but the light from the streetlamps formed dull pools of light. A small girl, a younger Amanda, was skipping just a few steps behind him. She was holding a neon orange flower in her small hand.

An odd chill passed through him. He somehow knew that he was watching a dream. His dream. He felt a panic stir in his stomach. This had happened once before. He kept watching.

He heard a horrible gnashing sound and saw the ground sway under his feet. The streetlights bent towards the street. And then everything went silent and colorless, the world turned black and white.

With a violent pull, the street split wide open, chunks of it shooting in every direction. Eyes wide, he glanced behind the figure that was himself, to Amanda. She screamed. But no words came out. She looked at Dream Caleb, their eyes locked. Her chest was rising and falling.  She was breathing hard. Unable to speak, she mouthed, pleading, "Do something. Please. Cay?"

But Dream Caleb just stood there. She turned and ran soundlessly away. Caleb and his dream watched her go. Her shape smaller and smaller - "come back, tiny Amanda" - until she was a dot in the distance.

And then gone.

Caleb's eyes opened. It was much later, now night. Cloudy, and with no moon. There was a chill in the air, and he rose out of the lounge chair.

His eyes adjusted as he began to walk around the side of the house and to the street. It was empty. And the streetlamps flickered. Something on the ground caught his eye, and his eyes narrowed in recognition. He bent down to pick up the broken tulip stem.

He was alone. And he knew she was gone too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 2 (Shame)

Caleb looked down.  His own bare feet on the hardwood floor.  Waiting.

But Bernard was silent.

Caleb felt his face flush with heat.  His head throbbed.

Caleb heard him get up out of the chair, the weight easing off the wood.  He looked up.  The hands on desk clock, a round metal face inset in lucite, read 9:05 PM.

His father was standing in front of the desk, close to him. Tears wet his eyes.  He was torn between reaching to embrace his son and losing himself completely in sadness.  They stood about three feet apart, but a great space stretched between them.

And then he was squeezing his son's shoulders.  "It's alright. She wasn't yet meant to be found, then."
He took Caleb's face in his hands, and then wrapped his arms around him.  "It's alright." He felt Caleb's body loosen and give in the hug, the point of Caleb's chin rested on his shoulder.

Caleb began sobbing. He felt his whole body heaving, a torrential release.  He couldn't stop.

"It's going to be OK.  We'll figure it out.  Tell me what happened. Caleb?"

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lost Dreams: Chapter 1 (A Failure)

The man sat in his chair, very still, like someone had hit the pause button. He'd been there for hours, and the mid-afternoon sunlight now stretched across the lower half of his face. The rest of him remained in the shadows. 

Caleb hesitated inside of the doorway for a full beat.

To say the very least, it had not been a good day. And Caleb usually wasn't a "say the very least" kind of kid.

He did not want to be here. But Caleb continued his approach to his father's office. He needed to tell him. He hadn't found her. Worse still, he couldn't look anymore.

Bernard saw the boy padding in with his head down, droopy. He shifted his weight in the chair and softly asked: "What is it Caleb?" He did not get up.

"I came to tell you," the boy began, "I just can't; I can't do it anymore."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I See The Moon (And The Moon Sees Me)

"Don't look to the sky for help. There's nothing up there but the moon."

Yesterday, I cupped the moon between my hands.
I ate up its moonbeams,
                                  until I had my fill.

Tonight, the moon split wide open.
And the stars spilled out, streaking downwards,
                                  until they burned and scarred my waiting hands.

Some nights, it's a bright eyehole on a wall of darkness. If you close one eye and press the other against it, you can see right in.

But on others, like tonight, the darkness consumes it.

       Light devoured by wolves, by gray shapeshifting clouds.
      A hand that reaches around the back of your head, and closes tightly over your mouth.

Every Writer Hurts

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Good Poems

A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.”

                                                                             - Dylan Thomas

(Poem by Christopher Poindexter, whose collection is here.)

(Poem by Finn Butler, whose collection is here.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Worms Roxanne. Worms.

"In the end, it is my belief, words are the only things that can construct a world that makes sense." - 

                                                                                       - Kate Atkinson

Writing: Burn It Out

Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
                                                                                     —Ray Bradbury, WD

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Counting Sheep - Redux

A poem dreamed of me.
But I was left, forgotten, by the morning.

I escaped,
Slipped away.

My poem is haunted by this.

What meaning did I have, now lost?

It closes its eyes, retracing into darkness, trying to call back my face.
It's not there.  Gone for good, but for that maddening tug of the missing.

As curiosity folds over into frustration, it closes its eyes again, digging for what I felt like.
But it finds nothing.
I didn't leave that sort of a mark.

Only thing you can tell is that I was there - I was really there.
But now,

               I'm not there anymore.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Counting Sheep

I dreamed of poetry.

Lying on the grass, after a cool drizzling rain.

A taste in my mouth like buttered sunshine.