#Micropoetry Monday: Childhood Memories

Girls

Though her teachers taught her
to read & write,
it was her parents who taught her
to love it.

She had spent her childhood
pretending to be invisible,
only to learn in her adulthood
that the magic cloak of invisibility
was simply to be homeless.

Dad was a roughhouser,
Mom, a reader;
their child had the best of them,
for she could throw haymakers like a girl—
better than any gamer’s—
& could appreciate the stories
that packed sucker punches.

When the World Went Deaf…

DSCF6339

…the music did not die,
but the memory of “Music as It Had Been” passed away
when the present generation slipped from consciousness
forever.

Hands spoke,
and body language and facial expressions bespoke the tone
in this wordless new world.

People began to notice nuances,
for their attention was undivided
by the flapping of flip-flops,
the pitter-pat of raindrops,
the ringing alerts on their electronic devices.
Every wrinkle was remembered;
eye colors were remembered in detail.

Babies born would still cry and babble,
their words without form, but not void,
for everyone spoke the same language now.
Laughter still poured out like candy from a broken piñata,
but the art of language was sometimes lost in translation.

Dexterity in fingers became precise,
pronounced,
like the words that no longer were.
Eyesight sharpened.
Bead workers beaded with ease.
The sound of a pin dropping went unnoticed.

Sheet music—
being an antique form of communication,
an ancient language—
wallpapered bathrooms in Bed and Breakfasts,
even as stringed instrument cases became bassinets
for silver-spoon fed babies.
Cellos were fashioned into lamps,
violins, a curious sort of wall ornament,
and harps, sculptures.
Clarinets, oboes, and piccolos became vases
for flowers whose fragrances sang.
Doorbells became door lights that lit up a room.

Hymns became poetry,
and sermons flashed on a screen.
Movement became the music,
tho’ everywhere sounded like everywhere else.
The great opera houses became stages
for the art of the dance.
Sparklers replaced applause,
and auditoriums were lit up like white dwarves—
a candlelight vigil on carbonation.

Partygoers would place their hands on pianos at dinner parties,
and the musicians remaining from this sensory apocalypse,
would play the notes they knew from bygone days,
for humankind craved vibrations.
Kinetic activities became the new aural pastime.
Musicians were prized for their gift,
for they set the ground on fire with the pulses of their notes—
at decibels not loud enough to shatter eardrums,
but champagne flutes.
Barefoot, the people could feel what they could not hear.

Children outpaced their parents with their communication skills,
becoming the teachers—
the future—
ushering in these latter days,
for the world had adapted to this silent spring.

The clatter of teacups,
the clink of teaspoons,
the shatter of glassware,
the tinkle of silverware,
echoed,
echoed,
echoed.

The taps from dance shoes were pressed into the plaster of the past,
castanets became Christmas ornaments,
and guitar picks and drumsticks ceased to exist.
We no longer shouted to our loved ones in the next room,
for we were already there.

There were smiles and soundless laughter,
for there was joy after a time,
even in the absence of the musical that is life,
bubbling up like an effervescent tablet in a too-full glass of water—
a celebratory champagne.

Those carried away by the waves could not shout,
so mothers watched their children as they swam in the surf.
People began to see things they had missed—
the envy that could not be covered up with flattery,
the lust that declarations of friendship could no longer dispel,
the insecurity of the extrovert who talked to make himself heard.

Radio waves straightened as if blown-dry,
beeps on heart monitors shifted to switchboards reminiscent of a Lite-Brite,
and horns on cars became useless except to scare away the strays.
Dogs became the eyes and ears for the blind,
and fewer went without a home;
fewer children were born,
for so much of the world had lost their collective mind.

Those with schizophrenia heard voices they could not understand—
a scramble in the yolk that was inside their head.
The gestures, the word-scratch on a tablet by a kind nurse,
telling them the voices did not exist,
could not cast out the guttural demons.

In churches, there was the speaking in tongues—
seen, but not heard—
like the blind,
the homeless,
the little children who woke up in the night.

There were telepathic dreams—
visions without voice.
No one heard what they no longer had to.

Some turned to fists and stones,
for the right sign could not be found
to express what filled them up inside.

The day when all the cuckoos in clocks went crazy,
church bells clanged cacophonously,
and thunder boomed impending doom,
was the dawn of The Quiet Earth.

It was the last great symphony
before all went silent,
but not forgotten till the last Hearer died.

Originally published in The Kilgore Review, Pensacola State College, 2017

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Now I understood why David had stayed away all those Sundays—he hadn’t wanted to participate in the farce that was visiting Patrick’s grave.

I was grieving for my mother—the mother who was a stranger to me now—not for the father who had been dead to me all these years.

One lie had sent my father to the hospital; what Mother considered the truth had sent him to his death.

We sat there, at an impasse, & in that moment of silence, we were acknowledging that this was now the way it would always be between us.

Madame Novacek had told my mother before I had even been conceived that Mother’s first-born daughter would steal her first love and become her enemy.

The steely glint in Mother’s eyes dared me to take David from her, even as they warned me what might happen if I tried.

I was not Mother’s enemy, but I was at enmity with her.

“Don’t you know how much you mean to me?” Mother asked, but I did not answer, for I did not know.

5 Ways I’ve Used Minimalism to Improve my Writing

Instagram screenshot

My Instagram posts

Instagram: Poetry Unfiltered

Every Saturday and Sunday, I publish a “Post-It-sized” poem on Instagram. I used to feel that I had to make each poem “pop” with the use of filters until I realized that such was unnecessary. I could feel the seconds being wasted, trying to come up with just the right filter, so I started screenshotting my poem with my phone via Google Docs and publishing it as is with the hashtag #nofilter. I realized there is a certain beauty in stark white and bold black. Coming up with appropriate hashtags take enough of my time.

Images are (Almost) Everything

Because I blog a minimum of twice weekly, it helps to recycle images, especially with my recurring features: Micropoetry Mondays and Fiction Fridays. For Monday, if my theme is “The Lighter Side” or “Opposites,” I use the same graphic; eventually, I will design my own logo for Micropoetry Monday, so I can ditch the stock photography all together (I’ve already scrubbed my blog of most of it). Because Fiction Fridays are all excerpts from my book or poetry based on it, I use the same graphic. Even when it comes to LinkedIn, rather than using a stock photo, I use my business card in basic black and plain white (without my personal address or telephone number) and an eye-grabbing headline. However, since I’ve discovered the Medium Daily Digest’s publishing platform (https://medium.com/), which is lot more attractive than LinkedIn’s (and not about boring corporate culture), I use an abstract photo—usually a close-up of something loosely related to the quotation I paste over it.  (And my quotes are always original.  There is enough recycled content out there.)

Strunk and White + Stephen King = Needful words

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is one grammar book that changed my writing (and maybe my life). It is what I call a hornbook for all writers. I applied its principles to my writing when I worked for my community college newspaper for several semesters, which helped me with conciseness (though I would still try to sneak in the Oxford comma). In On Writing by Stephen King, King says to “Kill your darlings”; I say you have to kill your characters (meaning the alphabet kind). Writing also helped me chuck 99% of my adverbs; nothing beats “he said” or “she said.” You want those dialogue tags to be invisible. I credit these two books and my experience as a student reporter in helping me get the job as a clarity editor for Grammarly.

Social media < Writing, Editing, Submitting

When I started my blog in October 2013, I thought I had to be as omnipresent as possible when it came to social media, but, after an incredible amount of spam I received on Twitter and people following just to get a follow, I ditched it and Pinterest, too. Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and LinkedIn is enough for me. (Often, what I post in one place gets posted in another). What time I used to spend trying to brand myself on all those social media accounts I could be spending building my vocabulary, submitting to actual publications, etc. I don’t have time to engage with all my followers — I need readers who aren’t writers. After more than three years of posting my Wednesday and Poem-a-Day prompts (in April and November) for Writer’s Digest on their blog and mine, I realized it was time for me to move on, which simplified my writing life even more. I needed content I could write ahead of time, so I could schedule it to publish on my blog at a later date. 

Submissions: Kitchen-Sink Theory Does Not Apply

I used to think I had to flood the market with submissions rather than focus on a handful of publishers. Targeting your publications gives you time to read and study them; submission guidelines alone will not provide intuition into what the editors are looking for. I have since discovered that my work would not be considered literary, so most small presses would not be a good fit; I have a better shot at larger publishers because of their more mainstream content. If I pick up a journal and don’t “get” any of the poems, then it’s the wrong publication for me; if I pick up a magazine and don’t enjoy any of the stories, then it’s not a good fit for my writing. This keeps me from being overwhelmed with reading material.

#Micropoetry Monday: Adult Children

Mom and Dad.JPG

She’d imagined future memories
of taking care of them someday,
for they had taken care of her.
Though her child had made her
want to better herself,
Mom & Dad had made her
into a person who could.

Dad gave me strength,
but Mom gave me resilience
so that I was unbreakable.

As a little girl,
she had looked back
to see her mom,
looking back at her.
As an adult,
it was not behind her,
but above her,
that she looked—
whenever she shared a memory of her
with her own child,
whenever she spoke to the stone
that bore her name like a commandment,
whenever she made Dad proud.
If you weren’t really an adult
till your parents were gone,
she would be happy to be
a child forever.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

The Angel of Death had paid his visit,
& now my Angel of Life,
my guardian angel,
my David,
remained.
The words of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”
played in my mind,
& it was David’s face I saw,
brighter than the sun.
I had prayed for him to come.
Either he or God Himself
had heard my prayer
& heeded it.

Upon my father’s brow,
my mother planted a holy kiss,
bestowing upon him her blessing
to proceed into the next life—
a procession he had not consented to.

David had kept Patrick from me—
had spared me from a life of resenting my father,
of visiting him in the hospital for hours
rather than his grave for minutes,
& yet,
Mother had predetermined that no matter what,
I would resent this man
even as I would love David without condition,
for such fulfilled her purposes.

Mother would’ve never divorced Patrick
or had the marriage annulled,
for she could not be forgiven for an ongoing sin,
but she could be forgiven for that single sin of flipping a switch,
so that she no longer had to live in sin.

I trusted David with my heart & life & body
as surely as I trusted God,
whoever he was,
with my soul.

#Micropoetry Monday: Stranger Things

stranger things.jpg

When the fog settled over the Gulf Coast
for days that seemed to run together
like a week of binge-watching,
life was like walking through a dream
in varying filters.
It was that last day in the middle of the night—
before the fog lifted—
that the 3 boys came to her door.
Their frightened faces had been framed
in the frosted oval glass,
& their owlish eyes had looked sickly
in the illumination of the orange streetlight.
They said that the Londoners had taken their parents
& spoiled everything.
She chastised herself for opening the door
so carelessly,
for what if they’d been followed?
And it was when she thought to look back
that she realized her family had disappeared
the second she had opened that door,
just as she was here
because someone else wasn’t.

When he was alive,
she slept to escape him through dreams,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
& she became an insomniac who,
from sleep deprivation,
began to see his reflection in every window
& imagine his presence behind every door.

Famous writers haunted ghostwriters,
cases were tried by the judges perfected in Christ,
& the scientists who’d practiced the healing arts on Earth,
imparted their knowledge from Heaven—
even as those who’d passed on ages before
were able to witness the wonders of humankind
while living in the presence of the wonder of God.
Funerals were truly a celebration of one’s mortal life,
& grief became a thing of the past.
There was no moving on,
for to see & hear their loved ones was enough
to make up for the loss of the other 3 senses;
this new way of life & death helped keep their memory alive,
even as new conversations with the departed
were being had.
Where there had been faith,
there was now knowledge,
save for those who believed that man had never walked the moon.