In the event of a blizzard
There is period
of impending blizzard
Where trucks spray salt
on the streets
And Doppler radar monitors
the motions of the front
Moving, heaving,
crawling across the Midwest
And even though we watch
the weather — we know
exactly where, and when,
and how it will hit us,
its movements all a pattern —
We can do nothing
Not one thing
to stop it
So we salt the roads

But I guess
I guess, one
morning, I guess
Somebody forgot
to salt the street
by my house
And the road was blanketed
with this frozen carpet
so pristine
and pretty and yet
Even though it was
beautiful there were
lines underneath
we couldn’t see
Two vehicles
on a collision course
And did you know
that snow is
a little bit like space
so that they
in silence

The problem of character in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

I was in a strange state of excited reluctance when I went to see the second installment of The Hobbit a few weeks ago.

I was excited because, well, I’m a nerd. I love The Lord of the Rings and all things Middle Earth.

I was reluctant because after I saw the trailer I raged about all the non-canon and was thoroughly put-off for several hours. But I came around eventually and decided to go see the film with two good friends of mine. One of these two people is an ardent fan of Orlando Bloom, and so it wasn’t hard to convince her to go.


Official analysis: The plot of the film completely overshadowed any notion of character. This was a timely occurrence because, as a class, we had just decided that the biggest problem with our short stories was plot overshadowing character, turning them into devices of the plot rather than autonomous actors with complex emotions and motivations.

Oddly enough, I thought the most developed character was Tauriel, which made it impossible for me to dislike her.

One question: did Tauriel give up her immortality at the end with her healing magic? My friend seems to think so.

Prompt: Negative

I had completely hit a wall in my writing workshop class. Our final story was due in two days and I hadn’t been able to write anything. I begged my friend for a prompt, and she told me to write something inverse, something that starts with a negative photograph. This is the product:

It snows for days without stopping up here, coating the conifers at the ragged edge of the tree line, painting the needles so that they stand out white against the darkening sky, like a photograph in negative. It is night for days and days for nights up here. This far north, the sun doesn’t work the same. At first, insomnia creeps through the blinds, through the bottom of the door, through every centimeter of separation between the curtains. Then the darkness, rolling in like fog off the sea at the end of this long day’s journey, kicking off heavy boots, sitting down at the dinner table, demanding to be fed.

Coffin Haiku’s

I’m working in a haunted house for three days, for five hours each day, in a coffin. While I was in there tonight I had a few ideas for different writing projects, which I’ll flesh out and post later. I also made a few terrible haiku’s that I’ll post here now for my own twisted sense of amusement.

People with mufflers
Are the worst kind of people
Vroom vroom, now fuck off

Friendly Neighborhood Psychopath
Love poem from me
Your neighbor, Alexander
You know, the psycho

The Cat People
Cat people smell like
A romance of hot piss
Not my kind of thing

My One True Love
I wish I could say
You are the love of my life
But I love food more

Slam: Sometimes I see you

even though I know you’re a thousand miles away
I see you

I see you walking down the bricks
in your plaid flannel shirt
and your brown hair is
just long enough
and that backpack, it’s
just black enough
just square enough
to be yours

I see you at the picnic table where we sat
that afternoon when you
broke an apple in two
with your bare hands
and offered me half
In that moment—a juxtaposition
Adam handing off to Eve

I see you on the sidewalk
on couches where we used to surf
on the trail I like to hike
with autumn burning on the trees
the fire roaring in our ears
skipping rocks by the shore
you making ripples on the
smooth surface
shattering the sunset into slivers
of gold

I see you in the Chinese restaurant on the square
where I learned how to eat with chopsticks
and now thinking of you is like
trying to pick up grains of rice with those two twigs
my fingers too clumsy

I can’t drive down 70
without you sitting next to me
drifting through CD’s
I can’t sit at the McCafe
and order a latte
drink it in peace
without a piece of you
floating in the mix
I can’t go anywhere in this shit stain of a town
this quintessential black hole America
without someone or something
pulling the trigger
point blank into the temple
where Eve takes the apple
at the picnic table in the sun
the wind crisp like the sound
of us biting down
breaking the skin with our teeth
I can’t lose you here
because you are everywhere

with brown hair
and plaid flannel shirts

When will they stop being you?

New Discovery: Mona Lisa Saloy

True story.

My intern buddy and I were asked to write book blurbs yesterday. One of the books was a new collection of poems by Mona Lisa Saloy called Second Line Home. Neither of us had ever read anything by her before, so we were given the manuscript and an earlier collection published by the press called Red Beans and Ricely Yours.

Seriously. Get it. That collection should be on a required reading list for human beings.

I read the first two lines of the first poem in the book and my head exploded:

Word Works
I’m about how words
work up a gumbo of culture

My buddy and I literally sat in our little intern-corner for hours reading her poetry, ooh-ing and ahh-ing and drooling (metaphorically) all over the pages. This woman is the hottest thing since sliced bread, and now I’m on a mad quest to discover if the press has any “hurt books” they can give to me for free so I can take them home and love them forever.

I am in awe.
If I was in her presence I might actually swoon.
Hopefully someone would be around to catch me.
If not though, that’d still be okay.

Just wanted you to know.

Character Exercise

The writing workshop strikes again! This one’s not very long, even for a flash fiction. We did this exercise toward the end of class and ran out of time.

Prompt: Answer a question about a character you’re developing. Fold over the answer and pass your paper to the right. Answer another question without being able to see what the previous person wrote. After all questions are answered, unfold paper and write a flash fiction using the character that has been created.

Question 1. What did your character forget to do this morning?
Question 2. Why does your character think he’s going to get fired?
Question 3. What mistake did your character make that reminded him/her of another mistake they’ve made before?
Question 4. What stupid thing kept your character awake last night?

A few years ago Yahoo coders discovered that removing a forward slash from a strand of redundant code would save them millions of dollars.
“That’s the kind of attention to detail we need in this department,” Mr. Clark huffed. He sat behind his desk with his meaty hands flat out on the tabletop, and Cory couldn’t help but think they looked like two pink elephants that had fallen out of a four-story window.
He wondered how anybody with those elephant-hands could appreciate the notion of fine details. He would think about it while he was polishing the handle of his umbrella for the third time that day, working it over and over until it gleamed.
“This is sloppy,” Clark had said. “You have to pay more attention to detail. A slash, remember? Millions of dollars.”
Cory lifted the handle to the light. He scrutinized it. He wiped away one last, lingering smudge.

They Fired Back

Prompt: Create an inkblot. Name 10 things you think it looks like. Write a story incorporating as many of those things as you can. For the title of the story, use three consecutive words from any article in a newspaper.

The tree was lit on holidays and festival nights, when the air was crisp and filling, when families were out past their bedtimes but had never felt more awake.
They carried long colored matches with them and ignited the wicks of candles that swung softly in the sinuous arms of the chandeliers that hung from the branches.
So many were lit that the tree seemed to glow like one giant lantern. The leaves were x-rayed by the light, their flesh illuminated around their bones so that they looked like a shoal of fish changing direction all at once on the breeze. Life was drawn in, the tree so bright that thousands of insects mistook it for the moon.
The children climbed into the branches, hands roughed by bark, daring each other to climb higher and higher until the great tree was holding them only by the tips of its fingers, like people hold onto hopes, to memories.
They broke through the pulsing canopy of light and looked out over the valley of night below them. The stars, those distant pinpoints, threw down darts of fire.
And they lit another candle.  And they fired back.

She had always…

Can I just reiterate how much I love my fiction workshop this semester? These prompts are gold.

Prompt: “S/he had always thought there was…(something about…)…” / “But now…”

She had always thought there was something about having more closet space than she could fill on her own. Something exciting. An opportunity to arrange space.
But now she was also aware that it was something ephemeral. This delicious time to herself couldn’t go on forever. Or at least she had never planned it to. As much as she enjoyed it at first, the longer it went on, the more she recognized the hope — coming to light each time she opened the closet door and saw just the three jackets hanging there, the vacuum she never used, the bleach, the singular pair of rain boots — that it would end.

Something About…

School’s back in session, and I’m back in a writing workshop where they provide me with prompts.
(Sweet, sweet prompts. I am lost without them.)
Yesterday my professor asked us to write 10 lines that started with the words “Something about…” and gave us about ten minutes to work. Here’s what I came up with:

Something about my new apartment

Something about all that space that’s just mine

Something about how most of the time it’s empty

Something about the old-person smell that must be permeating the walls from the woman next door

Something about the noise always going on, like hundreds of invisible, tiny airplanes dive-bombing in the kitchen

Something about having more closets than I can fill on my own

Something about filling the living room with Clementi instead because math and rhythm need space to work themselves out

Something about turning the lights off, one by one, on the path to my bedroom at night

Something about how blissfully quiet the darkness is

Something about how that darkness, somehow, is mine, too