she stepped onto the edge of the pavement. her foot overlapped the white line by a fraction of an inch. she remembered avoiding the white squares in the supermarket as a child because they were lava. avoiding was a luxury. these days were bleached bones, and she faced her ghosts with a set jaw.
she extended her arm.
she touches needle to vinyl, finds the groove, releases. closes her eyes. again.
the lights are out. late afternoon shadows shuffle into the room, making it cool and green. her feet trace circles into the matted carpet. she feels for the sonic sweet spot, then settles in and stills herself. the sound comes, full, embodied. it’s the same sound she’s heard for the past hour, three minutes forty-nine seconds at a time, before she rips the arm from the disc and searches for the beginning. as if finding it could somehow help her wriggle out of her skin, become frequency and amplitude. life feels all amplitude anyway these days.
Here’s the thing: when you’re driving somewhere and you don’t know where you’re going, when you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, it’s all beautiful. It’s all possibility. (This includes the possibility of driving off a cliff, my mind chants to me as I swear silently. Minor details.)
You find yourself in situations you’d never contemplated, like shimmying sideways on a two-lane road to escape a thirty-foot dust devil on an August Saturday in west Texas. You find out quickly that, much like the controllers on your Nintendo when you played Mario as a kid, your car doesn’t jump when you do. You also find out that you didn’t die. You didn’t die! And now there’s one more thing you’ve survived, another tale of badassery to add to your arsenal: I survived almost getting eaten by a killer monster dust devil.
You wind your way around canyons that call to mind Wile E. Coyote. Then you realize you’re in roadrunner country for real and it all hits home, you’ve done this thing, you’ve left the mountains you called your heart and descended into a new country full of tumbleweeds and grit in your teeth, and you can’t take it back. It’s for love, you tell yourself. It’s an adventure, you tell yourself. This is true. But when you’re rolling into town at ten at night and it’s still ninety-nine degrees outside, when the hot action on the strip is the makeshift car show outside the local Blockbuster, when you aren’t yet familiar with every other radio blasting accordion, all you can think is, I can’t take it back.
wordsworth defined poetry as the natural result of “emotion recollected in tranquility.” probably he would say the same of all writing. but what’s so great about tranquility? are our truths any more true at a reserve? or do we just have less invested?
sometimes words should hurt. sometimes they exist only to wound, but every once in a while they reveal what would never otherwise have been expressed. sometimes they represent the only true thing that has ever been said on a subject.
what happens when the kiss-off is the only real moment in the story? and where do you go from there?
wrote this probably 12 years ago. the original line breaks were pretentious. i hope these are slightly less pretentious…
a good day sometimes means forgetting you for five minutes instead of four, four instead of two, two instead of one. and so on.
there are times when the heartache is not so precise, when my day is vague,
when the long floating breadth and depth of your scent of your laugh
invites me only for a moment and the door is left and not slammed in my face.
here and there i am not entirely mal-
my lungs ripen on the river and rocks instead of on you.
but i miss the ache.
I’m writing a short story for my fiction seminar, and I’m not happy with the first draft. I sort of skated through a fuzzy part of the narrative to get to the final confrontation, and while it’s not deus ex machina, there’s nothing really inspired there, either. So in an effort to break out of the old trope, I tried an exercise yesterday where I had my characters talk to one another to work out what they should do in this situation.
And it was working. They’d already figured out a few things that wouldn’t really work upon close inspection. But then they started talking about me. And they had a lot to say about me. They debated whether I should have broken myself on the altar of Mammon the way I have over the past year or two. (They definitely think I’m overdramatic.) They concede I probably should have taken the grad school offer I intended to take last year, but now that I’m still here, there’s more wiggle room. I am part of an amazing creative scene in this town, and they can understand my wanting to take advantage of it. But Sawyer in particular thinks I need to get west as soon as I reasonably can.
I still don’t know how I’m going to improve their story. They haven’t told me. So we’ll keep talking.
I want to write something that feels like Merrill’s song “Bizness.” I want to write something strange and colorful and ugly and astounding. I want to write a kaleidoscope, a circus.
I want to write a forest, the quiet, the birds, twigs snapping, light shafts through the canopy, individual redwood trees. I want to write space and silence.
I want to write nature, prowess and fecundity and awe. I want to write the terror of lightning hitting inches above the earth, and the planet rising with all its might to meet it. I want to write a phoenix out of that crack in the sky. I want to write rebirth.
Okay. I think I’m ready.