Archive for writing

Prompted: The Magician

I feel so lucky to have people in my life who support my writing habit. This next on-the-spot piece is inspired by an impromptu prompt doled out in a burger joint by my coworker Kristina. The iPhone note, quickly written, states the following:

You go to a magician and it turns out the magic is real…He makes somebody disappear, and they’re really gone.

The piece…

The Disappeared Woman’s Lament

When they say never talk to strangers, what they mean—or what they should mean—is never talk to magicians. You see, I’m not here. Well, not in your version of here; the kind of here with conversational awkwardness between two beings, or food of any kind (I considerably miss pizza and garlic bread sticks), or some sort of facility a person usually refers to as a restroom. No, this here is a blank-ish sort of place, a white background that when you stare too long, may appear a cream color; and then after longer consideration, possibly taupe. There are rabbits here, white; golden rings; what looks like the bottom half of a very attractively-legged woman. On the other side of the room there is something that appears much like a door, but may be made of the silk lining of the inside of a driver’s cap or top hat. I do not know where this door leads, nor have I been able to reach it (it seems to move away from me as I step toward it). I am in the not-here, the no-where, the ex-istence. I can’t even recall the journey—I want to say it was moderately painful, but a girl in the not-here can’t concern herself with such not-things. I feel that this is supposed to be true.

And when enough of the not-quite-time has passed, in lengths that seem day-like in their tangibility, I continue to scope the rapidly appearing and disappearing objects. I have a thought: Perhaps we are the remnants of failed magic; of tricks gone awry. I feel that this is also supposed to be true. The legs of the half-woman kick in heeled agreement.

But I feel it, both unexpectedly and planned, a hand reaching out from the red silk door, fumbling in the sort-of-white with urgency. I touch it, this hand, and it snatches around my fist, pulling like the furious closing of a portal. And then I am here. Your here. Staring into the stunned faces, jaws agape with astonishment or terror, and I can see the beads of sweat drop from the magician’s face like rivulets from the edges of a waterfall. He looks at me and forces a grin. Too close, I think I hear him say.

“Bow,” he whispers.

Prompted: Flickering Headlights

I love prompts. They 1) make me feel obligated to eventually write using them; and 2) it gives me inspiration in a time when I feel too busy to find it elsewhere. So thank you, Dave. As always.

Flicker

I’m not a fan of dark highways
with their lack of light—
all blackness this, possible doom that:

yet the headlights behind me are not a comfort,
encroaching too quickly
until a second passes and they’re gone
like the light of a thousand lightning bugs crushed into an aptly sized fist,
like a candle snuffed out between two fingertips,
like a flash or spark so quick, you’d think you’d dreamed it.

The darkness is playing games with me
or my mind has gone wild;
succumbing to loneliness on the winding asphalt,
highway to highway with indeterminate end

and so to roads I bend…
until I find my way to light more Christmas tree twinkle
than mid-night madness,
caught between a sense of overwhelming calm
and sadness
of the darkness yet to come.

But a flicker—the lights much brighter now,
so close they kiss the tailights’ red-lit shield,
so close I feel illumination in my throat,
suffocated, instead of blinded, by the light
turning me into shadows.

I drive, faster, faster,
light chasing through the dark like the tail end of a comet
but lights, they stay,
they brighten, they follow,
they do not let go,
the light like memories we shouldn’t know,
that maybe we’d be safe back in comfortable dark.

The story ends when the road ends,
or the gas runs out,
or the sun rises,
whatever comes first.

The story ends with headlights, with memories,
with light too close,
and highways too dark.

The story ends.

Prompted: The Apartment

So I was given a prompt a few days ago…and I should probably prove that sending me prompts doesn’t actually go to waste.

The Moderately Haunted Apartment
FYI this is loosely based on the prompt, realized only after it was written.

Apartment listing states:
2 bedrooms
1 and a half bath
living room with potential for wall library
1 ghost
full kitchen with island
fully furnished, dust webs, residual energy

Let me explain:
Most apartments come with a ghost:
ghosts of love,
of lost relationships;
ghosts of families come and gone,
weeping children, dropped coffee and light curses;
ghosts of sleepless nights;
ghosts both fearful and feared,
the ghosts of nightmares and brighter things.

I am the brighter thing, a dust mote that appears
by window-light.
The apartment is quite lived in

but not haunted,
never haunted;
more spiritual,
living in paranormally correct terms:
all white noise and shimmer,
the respectfully respected dead.

But are you willing
to live with ghosts?
I’ve found that those who cannot live with phantoms,
cannot live—
escaping to other apartments,
escaping ghosts they’ve left behind.

A life so empty of shadows,
that they must live in dark.

Are you willing
to live with ghosts?

Are you willing
to live with me?

Revisiting Love

I don’t know if love was the easiest thing to write about when I was younger, but it was a common theme in a lot of my older poetry. The memory of stolen forehead kisses and the anxiousness of that first handhold with awkward childhood grace. I was always in love. My heart ached for romance, holding fast to the belief that those gastric butterflies were not just real, but necessary for teenage survival.

Here is an all-too-sweet poem from that age about L O V E. And then, of course, the rewrite.

My Love by 14-year-old Alexa

My love is in the darkness
With stars glittering bright.
My love is in the darkness
As I love you through the night.

My love is in the roses,
As red as red can be.
My love is in the roses
Will you find that love for me?

My love is in a poem,
As long as love will last.
My love is in a poem
With my heart still beating fast.

My love is in a song,
As lovely as time will trace.
My love is in a song
Being sung for your embrace.

My love is in the ocean
Where a million miles spread.
My love is in the ocean
On its seashell covered bed.

My love is in a lover’s heart,
Who knows my deepest fears.
My love is in a lover’s heart,
Who sheds with all my tears.

Love Stinks by 27-year-old Alexa

His love is an uncomfortable hug—

the embrace of an aunt your mom swears you met
when you were four or five,
and don’t you remember, sweetie?

The answer is always no.

Or that friend from high school
you tried to reconnect with
said you’d definitely keep in touch with
and then let them fade away into the depths
of the abyss that is pre-college memory
because both of you meant
that by keeping in touch you were really trying to say,
I would like never to experience these feelings of awkwardness again.

But we were talking about him.
That guy.
The one who made the world so easy to understand for so long.
The one you wanted to marry.
The one you can’t even hug.

You see, he has a smell—
a nauseating stench so malodorous
you’d wish you were anosmic.

But my nose is at peak sniff
one whiff
the culmination of odors from our pre-awkward,
my pre-anger
his pre-gret.

I inhaled the other beds, trapped subtly in the oils of his hair
of the lies, sunken into the crevices of acne gone popped and scabbed over
of the loss of love, buried in the neck,
the subtle scent of lavender and drug store deodorant spray.

He smells of bathrooms of houses I’ve never seen,
of moments he felt unclean,
of cigarettes and guilt.

He smells of me.
Even now he smells of me.

And when I walk away from the hug
release my face from the confines of the collar of his shirt
the stink of him still lingers…
stronger still than any new perfume.

Beautiful Dreamer

I found an old book project from 2003. Thought I would share it; and as always, rewrite it in the form of a shorter poem:

“Beautiful Dreamer” by ~15-year-old Alexa

I knew a boy who loved to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream.

But sometimes he dreamed he could soar through the air
and go to the places that no one would dare.

He wanted to fly with the birds in a V,
over the ocean and past the great sea.

But the problem with this is he didn’t have wings.
So he couldn’t do any, any such things.

He decided to try and make wings of his own.
So he worked day and night, worked his hands to the bone.

When he was finally finished he smiled with glee.
“It is time for me to fly,” he said happily.

He decided to show his mother the wings he had made,
but all she did was talk about being afraid

and about what she would do if he were to get hurt,
bruised on the knees and ripping his shirt.

But the little boy would never give in
because his dreams meant that he always would win.

So he sneaked to the roof when the house was asleep
and off he would jump in a large, long leap.

He took off in the air where he planned to stay,
but nothing that night went just his way.

He crashed to the ground with a thundering thump
and he slowly got up with a black and blue bump.

He went to his mother and cried many tears.
She had warned him of what had been part of her fears.

Dreams may come true, but this little boy found out
that dreams are what magic and love is about.

Twelve Years Later…Written today, about Twelve Years Later

I knew a boy who used to dream
of the moon, stars, and pounds of ice cream:

and like the moon, he phased;
like the stars, he shone too bright;
and like the ice cream,
he melted,
a puddle of rocky road in the shape of a heart.

But melting was an art:

He came back from the ground one time, then two…hundred—
fall after fall,
year after year,
roof child to grounded adult,
his ice cream heart wrapped up in bits of cone.

And when left on his own, he guided:
Polaris rising in the evening sky,
wings so big he couldn’t fly,
but he could jump
to heights so great the moon would envy,
shadows dancing in delight.

And there he went into the night:
the image of dreams in cosmic shadow puppets:
a boy transformed into a great bird,
a phoenix,
a gryphon,
casting shadows over his childhood.

Of this, he never stopped dreaming.

The Mosquito

You thought of me for a moment,
a sort of passing, like the small mosquito on a less than succulent leg—
a flit, a flitter, then gone
into the clouds and ever-space of the out there,
more afterthought than present.

But on this moment, unlike others,
you chose to bite,
proboscis at the ready, elongated like a straw:

Perhaps an assemblage of moments formed into over a minute.
Perhaps guilt tugged at the skin so softly it started to itch.
Either way, you reached—
out, to, for what? I do not know,
but into ever-space you went a’reaching…

sending birds tweeting to the sky,
bearing news of great recompense,
yet words as empty as the second half
of the metaphorical glass.

And when more time has come to pass, you remember:
this is why I flit, why I flitter,
a world half empty,
wholly bitter—

and then there is forget.
The high of having tried,
the fear of being slapped away,
the reality of plucked wings…

Moments flash, leg after leg
into the great subconscious—
never to touch my skin again.

Your Worth

Know your worth to know your self: because to be worthless is to be without value; and to be without value, is to be without respect for self. To overvalue is to have ego. To undervalue, is to have low self esteem. To have no knowledge of value implies a lack of maturity or experience; in essence, you have not known enough of your self, and your self’s capabilities, to accurately compose a figure that is representative of your gross internal value.

But the knowledge or the ability to estimate accurate worth requires an understanding of all that makes you a commodity:

are you funny?
are you intelligent?
are you serious?
do you love?
do you eat with your hands?

And every answer to every question is compiled as data. And every compliment or criticism from outside parties is incorporated in data evaluation and analytics. Yet remember, third party data is not primary data and should often be taken with less weight depending on the determined significance of the source, i.e., parent, friend, ex-boyfriend, or sincerely off-base comment from that biatch from the lunch table.

Then you assess and separate the data into yearly and quinquennium periods and mark transitions over time. You make notes on times of distress, anger, and items outside the self’s control, and then note how the self reacted to similar events across the various time spans. You mine, you monitor, you add value points based on accomplishments and educational achievements, and then you add, divide, multiply, and pray that your value of self matches the value of the economy.

And then you realize the world has given you no choice. Despite your estimates, they’ll start you at 20 thousand under what you’re worth, and you, having been beaten down with data, start to believe that that is your actual worth when it isn’t. The world, your unfortunately heavy third party factor.

All it Takes

All it Takes

All it takes for you to be happy
is to admit,
that failing is just as great
as succeeding,
that unhappiness is fleeting,
and all moments
are learning experiences
wrapped in awesome,
wrapped in sad.

And when it gets so bad,
it’ll probably be so good, too.
All it takes is you:
Your outlook, your perception,
your reflection on moments
so minute to the bigger picture,
you find yourself changed in seconds,
the gong of hours past, the equivalent of a lifetime.

But to own the failure, this is key;
it wasn’t him or her,
it wasn’t we— it’s you,
caught between what you thought you knew
and what you’ll never know,
the future undecided,
the anxiousness growing tall like unkempt weeds.

Anxious is as anxious fears,
the culmination revealed in private tears
and moments where escape seems better than confrontation.

But in this situation, to be happy is to take the leap,
no regrets for plans you didn’t keep,
or plans never made.
Just go with the gut,
become the product of enteric intuition,
your final decision the work of you and you alone.

All it takes for you to be happy,
for you to find inner smile,
is to stay awhile,
bask in the glory of a choice well impulsed,
and pause,
take a breath to live a sentence without clause (i.e., simple),
and admit that success is just as great
as failing.

Something Old, Something New: Away from Me

Young Love

I love reflecting on my old writing. The younger I was, the more my poetry tried to force rhyme. Probably because a lot of my influences came from “A Children’s Garden of Verses” and other children’s books where rhyme made the poetry easy to remember for anyone under the age of ten. Free verse is for the mature poets, who can find the rhythm in syllables and the meaning embedded in lines rather than between them.

As far as the poem below goes, I think it’s about a boy who is far away, or feels far away, but who probably likes the writer, or so she thinks. This is about her desire to be with him, and so she’s projecting her thoughts onto him hoping the situation will change. I was such a romantic teenager. But then again, weren’t we all?

Away from Me by 14-year-old Alexa

Away from me
You always go
If we’re in love
I’ll never know

Away from me
You always seem
To be the one
That’s in my dream

Away from me
You always fly
To watch the clouds
Race in the sky

Away from me
You always run
To sit and see
The setting sun

Away from me
You always stare
Across the room
When I am there

Away from me
You never are
That is my wish
Upon a star

The rewrite below is a little more serious. A little less hopeful.

Away it Went by 27-year-old Alexa

It seemed so simple when we were young,
when punches on the arm
were the grandest
of romantic gestures,
and when spotting each other
meant blushes and the future arrival
of airplane notes
that would dip and dart across the classroom sky.

But you were always out of reach of airplanes,
and blushes,
and punches.

Your grand gestures were stolen glances
that were too well-timed,
too subtle to feel them upon my back,
to have had the chance to turn wistfully,
cheeks a-blush at the thought of gazes.

You never let me in—
you let me go.

Until years passed and punches turned to heartbreaks,
blushes saved for bedrooms and too much wine,
and the airplane notes, now the occasional electronic blip,
messages fired so quickly, that mistakes were always made.

We complicated what used to be simple.

Fool


Fools are made to be broken,
truly broken,
since fools,
as fools do, fool about so foolishly.

Ah, to be young and foolish,
to bask in the Tom or Jane-foolery of
youth.
To be fooled once, twice, then shamed
over and over by the foolishness of love,
to rush in where angels fear to spread
gentle wings, so white,
you’d be foolish if you did not find them heavenly.

To play fool,
or to be played fool—
no difference to the heart;
it seeks to be heard
above a thousand, hundred fools
screaming, yelling,
so loud you can’t hear it say it loves you back.

Foolish is as foolish does.
Selfish is as selfish…is.
To be foolish and to be selfish,
of the same make
since to love
is to have been foolish.
Since to stay if one does not love,
is indicative of
the selfish fool.

Oh, love. A fool’s errand.
The foolish heart speaks encyclopedias
of foolish words, and adjectives for beauty
only learned because the fool has fooled around
with syntax and dictionaries,
fooled away with logic or reason or sense,
to fool with the foolish sentiments of other fool hearts,
foolishly beating too rapidly,
foolishly blushing too red
at the attention of foolery.

But to be nobody’s fool—
this is something not so foolish,
to let the heart make a fool of itself,
to love unselfishly
unfoolishly loving yourself,
before you can unfoolishly love others.

Fools are made to be broken.