Friday, February 2, 2018

2 Minutes. Go!

Hey, writer-type folks. AND PEOPLE WHO JUST WANT TO PLAY BUT DON'T IDENTIFY AS 'WRITERS' - all are welcome here! Every Friday, we do a fun free-write. For fun. And Freedom!

Write whatever you want in the 'comments' section on this blog post. Play as many times as you like. #breaktheblog! You have two minutes (give or take a few seconds ... no pressure!). Have fun. The more people who play, the more fun it is. So, tell a friend. Then send 'em here to read your 'two' and encourage them to play.


We stepped outside into the smooth, evening fog – we shrank from the lights that filtered through, ignored the sound of laughter that seemed to follow us everywhere. We weren’t waiting for the train. Or maybe we were. Maybe we just stepped outside because it was too warm inside. Maybe it was because we felt like it was some kind of calling.

All I know is that it felt like falling.

San Francisco twists you up. The noise and the weather and the wonder and the dreams that ricochet like crazy fireflies. So many get lost, but some find themselves. I think I did a little bit of both.

And I’m thinking of that one time. That time we stepped outside to the J. But it could have been any one of a million times. It could have been never. It could be something my brain cooked up. It could be a tether. Some sick mind trick I can’t sever.

A strange endeavor.

Me and Julio. Me and Patrick. Me and Jennifer.  Everyone and I. All eyes on me.

There is always an old man playing saxophone and you can never tell where the sound is coming from because it gets all twisted up in the fog and dreams and noise and the city screams. It’s like the saxophone is all around you and inside your head. And maybe that’s why we stepped outside.

My memory is tangled now. I’m old and it’s not as easy to separate the steps. The fog was always there, and I was always there. The players sometimes changed, but the game remained the same. Try to make enough money to live. Try to maintain some kind of optimism. Stay inside and put your nose to the grindstone.

Or step outside. Hop a train. Hope you find the man playing sax.

And pray it doesn’t rain. 

#2minutesgo Tweet it! Share it! Shout it from the top of the shack you live in! I will be out most of the day, but I'll be back...

63 comments:

  1. Love it! Brings back the feel of the times I've been in that city by the bay...and sometimes you DO find those gems of music playing on the streets. great rhyming structure, too.

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    1. Your rhythm and rhymes are on point, and I love the evocative nature of this piece. Puts me there. And the either/or at the end...there's something about that makes me want to step outside and hop a train.

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    2. I love when you show your love for the city... and when you treat it as a living, breathing character... it's a city I love, too. And you took me there with the rhymes, and you made me remember. Thank you. The sax player was perfect as a focal point, too.

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  2. Walking down an unfamiliar street,
    Invites strange attractions.
    Fascinating displays in shop windows,
    my vision lingers on novel sights.

    Concrete sidewalk turns to quicksand,
    Slowing my steps.
    Unleashing dormant voyeurism,
    such differences to see here.

    Beckoned in by a shopkeeper,
    displaying exotic wares.
    Aisles unorganized, racks overflowing,
    that usual market is forgotten.

    Exploring the shadowy interior,
    Heedless of time.
    Brazenly approaching the back counter,
    filled with rings that do not match my own.

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    1. This puts me in mind of the French Quarter. Maybe just because I miss it.

      It always amazes me how much you can say in so few words. Well done, as usual.

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    2. I agree... French Quarter, or Berlin, or Paris. The sidewalk changing to quicksand was my favorite visual, and the last line is excellent! Because you always like criticism to balance the praise, there were a couple of words that didn't feel "just right." I stumbled over "unfamiliar" and "novel" ... something about the rhythm took me out there. well done!

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    3. I'm not sold on 'novel' there either, and as you make me review it, I also stumble on unfamiliar. Both will be fodder for revising, thank you!

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    4. I think this flows and works better for the first stanza:
      Walking down an unknown street,
      invites strange attractions.
      Fascinating displays in beckoning windows,
      my vision lingers on censured sights.

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    5. I like that better, too. It goes back to that meter thing we were talking about last week... the revised first line is stress/unstress/stress/etc., or "trochaic." Which is my favorite comfort meter, except for iambic.

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    6. One of the things I will continue to work on improving - the 'mechanics' of the poetry, along with the soul of the words.
      Also, 'censured' creates a better narrative than 'novel', setting the foreshadowing and creating the implied disapproval

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    7. I like it better, as well. I didn't feel the bumps as much as Leland, but there's more power in "censured sights" for sure.

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    8. This seems like a cop out, but rather than rewording what Leland said, I will merely say I agree. I loved the concrete quicksand, too!

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    9. A query for the group, since I'm hearing a consensus on how this builds an image of a 'place' for the readers - is this reading as a fairly straight-forward description of visiting a new neighborhood?

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    10. Yes... except for that last stanza, which could point many different directions.

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  3. Simon is mesmerized.

    Flickering lamp light turns tawny skin to gold, so different from his own. He is pale, pallid, from a job that keeps him out of the sun. The contrast is enough to hold his attention for hours…or it would be if not for the temptation of all that bare, golden skin. Too much temptation to resist.

    He runs one work-roughened palm over the smooth curve of a hip. So warm. So inviting. He can’t resist stroking his hand over that warm smoothness, and then leaning down and tasting that beautiful, tempting skin. A brief kiss, but enough for the tang of salt to touch Simon’s tongue. The taste of exertion from their lovemaking.

    Lovemaking. Was that what it was? Was this love? Simon isn’t sure. He isn’t even sure how to be sure. But he thinks maybe it’s at least whatever comes before love.

    Another brief kiss, and his lover stirs. Dark eyes meet his, and he’s greeted with a sleepy smile.

    “Come here.”

    A bronze arm held out in invitation, and Simon doesn’t hesitate. He scrambles to curl against his lover’s side, settles his head on a broad chest, and snuggles into his warmth. Beneath his ear, the steady thump of a caring heart. The scent of soap and sex tickling his nose. The enticing sight of a tiny, brown peak. Crisp curls curving around his fingers as he strokes his lover’s chest.

    Simon is mesmerized all over again.

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    1. Wicked! Puts you right into the bed, well done!

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    2. I love this line: "But he thinks maybe it’s at least whatever comes before love." And it's fascinating to me that you did this entire scene without letting us know her name, or really anything at all about her, and that you gave her the only line of dialog. Very intriguing.
      Actually, re-reading it, we don't even really know if it's her or him. Well done, and I'd read more!

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    3. I lean towards 'him' due to the "Crisp curls curving around his fingers as he strokes his lover’s chest" Unshaved legs, ambiguous. Hairy chest, nope :)

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    4. Definitely a him. The ambiguity was intentional; apparently it worked a little too well. :D

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    5. I think it worked perfectly. I really dig this one. One bit did throw me a little:

      Lovemaking. Was that what it was? Was this love? Simon isn’t sure. He isn’t even sure how to be sure. But he thinks maybe it’s at least whatever comes before love.

      The present tense of Simon isn't sure - it's a playful technique and it worked for the rest of the piece, but for some reason, that stopped me.

      I agree, though, fucking wicked. ;)

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    6. Maybe because I switched tenses. Should have been...

      Lovemaking. Is that what it was? Is this love? Simon isn't sure.

      And thank you. :)

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  4. A man in excellent physical condition can live for thirty days without food. One in average health can survive for twenty-one.

    He knew this because an angel visited him last night and told him so, an angel who looked a lot like Gandhi.

    But the numbers didn’t matter to him. He’d lost count already of the days he hadn’t eaten. It had been long enough that his stomach stopped telegraphing the feeling of hunger to his addled brain.

    An experiment, he reminded himself. An experiment to see if he could separate the physical from the mental and spiritual. The only problem was, he didn’t define the criteria for when to stop the experiment.

    He remembered dreaming of food, early on. He remembered the grumble of his guts asking, then begging for sustenance. He remembered the grumble's death.

    He remembered a curious burst of strength at some point. He’d gone for a walk that day, and noticed that the colors were more vivid, but less substantial. He had stared at a sunflower until the sun went down. Under the light of a benevolent moon, he’d walked back home and collapsed on his bed.

    He’d made notes in the beginning of all these feelings, of all the changes he saw in his body, but somewhere around day fourteen, he’d stopped. He knew this from the last time he tried to read his notebook.

    He closed his eyes, no longer needing to see something physical to see the colors. Starbursts, like fireworks on the Fourth of July exploded behind his eyelids. Fiery chrysanthemums. Blue flames of truth and understanding.

    A voice called to him from beyond the starfields. "Come to me," the voice, neither male nor female but somehow both, cried. "Come to me."

    And there was music, celestial music, marimbas made of crystal, wet fingers on wine glasses, planets singing together.

    The light grew brighter, red and yellow and blue and green, distilled from the white light by some sort of prism.

    "Come to me," commanded the voice, and he felt the glue that held his soul trapped in his body soften and come undone.

    The last note in his notebook was cryptic when they found him some weeks later: Suces.

    The music was transcendent and in Technicolor, and it was eternal.

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    1. (sigh. Reply, not comment! Reply! Every week, I do this) what a journey. The unspoken determination of the character. No indication that this is other than an experiment (meaning the food deprivation is voluntary) being pushed beyond limits.

      The last line, telling us our assumption (bad move, fella, you starved to death) may not be right; maybe he achieved that state change and was rewarded.
      This is one that can cause a lot of continued thinking the more you dig into it. I like it.

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    2. Ditto. Exactly. (except I hit reply and not comment :P)

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    3. I swear it took a year before I got the comment/reply thing straight, and if you look in the archives you'll see I deleted a lot of comments back in 2015 or so. This was inspired by a news story I read about a Buddhist monk purposely starving himself to death... and wondering what it would be like.

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    4. I'd say you nailed it. The dedication to see it through, rather than just walking outside and eating something...anything.

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    5. I agree 100%. I have done many fasts in my life (longest - 13 days), and this rings true. Trapped in the minutiae - wondering what hunger is and what it feels like and if it feels right and on and on...

      You captured this really well.

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  6. After all that nice discussion about meter and rhythm, I deliberately broke those rules at the end of these stanzas. It works in my head, but I'm interested to hear how it flows for others so....feedback welcomed :)



    Hours without her
    are hours still.
    Sixty minutes, from start to end,
    you still have hours.

    Separate the milk,
    away from cream.
    You still have milk.
    Without taste.

    Breathe the air deeply,
    as diesels roar.
    You still have air.
    With poison added.

    Flowers resting in a vase,
    without water, adding time.
    You still have flowers.
    Without beauty.

    Wear a treasured pair of shoes,
    But now three sizes smaller.
    You still have shoes.
    Without comfort.

    Condemned to jail,
    for ninety years.
    You still have life.
    Without living.

    Milk and air, and hours.
    Shoes and life, and flowers.
    What is the same,
    isn’t the same.

    What makes the difference,
    is what makes the difference.
    Spend hours with her,
    or simply spend hours.

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    1. Yay! I get first say. I think it works. I really like this one. The repetition of the flow really worked for me. I dig those kinds of constructs. I remember when I was a kid reading that Richard Feynman wrote a poem that he was proud of:

      I wonder why
      I wonder why
      I wonder why I wonder
      I wonder why I wonder why I wonder why I wonder

      I probably read that almost thirty years ago and it stuch with me.

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    2. It's your blog, we have to let you go first every once in a while ;) Glad to hear you like it, and that the flow didn't get awkward!

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    3. I really liked it too! And when I read it aloud, it flowed really well!

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  7. It stared me in the face, but it wouldn’t look at me. I glared at it, but it didn’t flinch. Not one computery inch. And I screamed at it. I punched the screen and cried, “Why have you forsaken me?” None of it mattered – the computer cared not. And the blue screen mocked me.

    I closed the laptop. Rubbed my eyes. Thought about going outside. But what was out there? Really? Some grass and flowers and birds and people and stuff? What would be so great about that? That felt awkward. I picked the laptop up gently and dusted it off. I spoke soothingly to it.

    It didn’t work.

    The thing about technology is that it’s complicated. If you’re like me, that is. I’m not one of those guys who can explain things. Maybe a motorcycle engine. Maybe. Maybe a novel or a short story – I can at least take a swing at that. Computers? They might as well be flying saucers.

    But the story was trapped inside; that was the thing. It was stuck in there and I couldn’t remember whether it was even good or not. I was that mad. Maybe the story was crap. Maybe it would win prizes and bags of money and international fame.

    It didn’t matter because the blue screen had shut it down. The computer, my ambition, my dreams of a story that might or might not suck.

    Gone.

    I curled up in my bed, wrapped in blankets, and wondered where my typewriter was.

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    1. this is horribly sad. And i think most writers have had a similar experience.

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    2. this is horribly sad. And i think most writers have had a similar experience.

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    3. such a sinking feeling - I know it well, and you captured it

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    4. Ah, 21st century desperation and frustration. The gods of technology love reminding us that we are their minions.

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    5. I thought about this some more, and wondered if this is a new conflict. So much of literature is based on three conflicts: Man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self. Then I remembered an apocryphal story of Sir Isaac Newton. Apparently one day his beloved dog named Diamond knocked over a candle burning the manuscripts of months and months of work. Not a blue screen, but the same end, though I bet at least Diamond had pretty eyes to look into after the loss.

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  8. We used to stop and buy bananas. Me and my friend I used to talk to. We were good friends – about as good as friends can be. We were young and we were teachers and that meant something other than constant worry and teeth-gnashing then. We took bananas for our students because they didn’t have anything to eat and bananas are cheap and we were poor.

    I also had a bag full of peanut butter sandwiches. The kids would come by in the morning and grab a banana. The same ones always came at lunch and we ate peanut butter together. It was a wonderful time.

    It really was.

    My friend moved and we didn’t talk for years. And then I tracked him down. Called. And it was the weirdest thing. I still don’t understand it, and it’s been years. I’ve had another kid since then. She’s five. You can try to do the math if you want. Long time. And I don’t know if my recollection is accurate, but he talked to me like I was the pile of dog shit he’d just stepped in. It made me sad. And confused.

    And every once in a while I think, hey, I should just track him down again. Call. But how do you explain? How can I say, hey, I know you never called because that’s who you are. I never called again because you tripped me out.

    Maybe we’re not the banana boys anymore. Certainly, we’re not. But maybe we never were. And that makes me put my phone down fast.
    Because I don’t want to know.

    That may be cowardly. I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise. Thing is, though, there are lots of kinds of cowards. I’m just a coward who wants to remember my friend the way I remember him.
    Sprinting out of the car at the corner on Church St. to buy a bunch of bananas on our way to school.

    Because it was his turn to buy. And I had a sack full of sandwiches.

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    1. <3 Time isn't always kind, to memories or people.

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    2. <3 Time isn't always kind, to memories or people.

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    3. This is poignant, and it makes me think a lot about some people who used to be in my life and are no longer. Was it just growing in different directions that caused the separation, or was it that some grew and some shrank? Or was it only the perception that changed? Thought provoking. Thank you.

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    4. A good one. Great way of capturing one of those people, and the hole they leave in us.

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  9. Hush. Don’t say anything. Don’t try to make this OK. I’m not a puppy. You can’t just swat my nose and expect my tail to keep wagging. You think you have the answers, but you don’t. You don’t even know the question.

    And it was always like this. Always, always, always. That sounds stupid and like an oversimplification. Like rationalization. Sly justification. We’re all the same here in this great nation.

    As long as we know our place.

    And that’s the part I have trouble with. What if knowing my place means that I realize I don’t know my place? What if knowing my place means I don’t want to be a part of this race? Some folks got a head start. That’s not fair. Some folks get tripped up or tackled by the idiots wearing matching shirts and handing out Gatorade and tear gas.

    Level the playing field? Yeah, it’s probably a good idea. It’s hard to run a decent pass pattern when half the players have to run uphill. And yet we play the game. Still.

    It’s time to throw a flag. Not throw in the towel.

    Take this yellow card and wear it like a badge. The red one’s even better. I’m OK with following the rules, but not to the letter.

    And I’m willing to accept that life’s a game. If you’re willing to treat all the players the same.

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    1. And sometimes, sometimes the only winner in the game is the kid sitting on the bench, on the sidelines, imagining a better tomorrow.

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    2. another of yours that just sits in my mind like that pebble in my shoe that won't shake out, and just keeps reminding you it is there.

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  10. Lately, her ghost’s been been floating back into the edge of my consciousness again, like the first robin showing up as a flash of vermillion in the corner of my eye each February. Then disappearing again. It’s “a thing.” Like a I’ve come to expect on the downhill run from the Winter Solstice to the Vernal Equinox.

    But I know its just imagination. It has to be. She hasn’t spoken to me in years and I believe I’ve even forgotten the sound of her voice. Also, if she ever spoke to me, I’m sure I wouldn’t want to hear how her she sounded or what she said. It would chill my spine like that February wind that cuts right through me.

    Fear? Hell, yeah, it’s fear. It wasn’t supposed to end this way, my Civic sitting there on those twisting railroad tracks. It was inevitable, though, once she pulled out of my station and turned that corner to her new life. It really was for the best. Obsession can kill you like some creature of darkness that’ll reach out to grab you. Tear you apart.

    But then, out of nowhere, there she was, comin’ around that mountain like a reanimated Casey Jones. I wasn’t looking for that ride anymore. I’d given up, traded in my ticket for this keen parking place atop the once-shiny, long twin silver lines, as Seger said.

    No, I didn’t hear it coming. I had my stereo turned up loud again, after years of not being able to listen to it. The melodies sounded vaguely familiar, but I’d forgotten so many of the lyrics. So, as always, I put them on replay again and again and again. Obsession, right? Reliving and reliving each note and word and impression or expression. And then, there she was, coming like the Lake Shore Limited through my ear hole.

    So here I am today, hanging here in the the same old spot, when that flicker of a memory, that flash of a face, that barely perceptible sound of a voice sliced through me like I’m some kind of wraith.

    Maybe she’s not the ghost haunting me. Maybe I am.

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    1. twisty ghost story, fun to read! Glad you joined in!

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  11. (An alternate version of this one, slightly extended. Please, compare, contrast, comment)

    Walking down an unknown street,
    invites strange attractions.
    Fascinating displays in beckoning windows,
    my vision lingers on censured sights.

    Concrete sidewalk turns to quicksand,
    Slowing my steps.
    Unleashing dormant voyeurism,
    such differences to see here.

    Beckoned in by a shopkeeper,
    displaying exotic wares.
    Aisles unorganized, racks overflowing,
    that usual market is forgotten.

    Exploring the shadowy interior,
    heedless of time.
    Brazenly approaching the back counter,
    considering the transaction.

    Displayed jewelry entices me,
    asking if I am ready.
    She gestures to a ring
    that do not match my own.

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    1. Give me a little time to think

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    2. This version feels darker... and the addition of a gender for the shopkeeper builds a tension greater than I would have expected it to. I'm guessing the last line is actually "that does not..."? This version invites me to contemplate more.

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    3. (Hangs head in shame) yes, "does". The darker fell is what I'd intended for the shorter version, but I second-guessed myself and thought I'd been too blatant.

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    1. Really powerful, and an intriguing glimpse into you

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  14. He was looking for his daddy, a hero in the war, that the son didn’t remember
    Cause he was gone long before.
    He was looking for his mama, though they called her a whore
    For raising her children and wishing and hoping and working for better than what went before.
    He went looking for a teacher, a mentor a friend
    He found himself a priest who told him
    What they did what was forbidden, a secret kept
    And he’d go to hell if he told.

    He went looking for the money and the power that went with it
    It made him feel like a man, but not quite.
    He tried teaching and preaching and reaching for something
    That felt like comfort on a long winter’s night.

    It wasn’t till he had a child that he realized what manhood meant
    Not scoring or whoring or some pyramid scheme
    Some kinds of love you recognize
    In a little person who’s got your eyes.
    An animal you rescue, who knows what you’re thinking; who stares down your fears without even blinking.
    In a flower you raise or a vegetable patch where we recognize nature forgives.
    The sins of the parents my visit the children
    But they are forgiven
    As we live
    How we live.

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    1. That's just beautiful... and I've been blessed with a couple of those rescued animals, so I know that stare well... thanks for sharing this!

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  15. There is an ugly truth beneath the surface. Every once in a while I feel it crawling up my chest, but everything in me suppresses it. Trying to fight it is too rich for my blood. One day it's going to come out, and I won't be able to stop it. For a while, the only thing I could do to distract myself from it was to walk the long stretches of desert, but lately, the moon is looking deceptive, and the hazy heat mirages are my only company. I feel like I have nothing left in me. My busy schedule has wiped me clean of any imagination or free thinking. Nothing of substance or note is contained in me, a dry well in a never-ending drought. It gets you.

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    1. Sometimes it is good to be still. Without the blank page, no words can be written. This piece, though desolate, reminds me that sometimes life clears the table to make room for a beautiful meal.

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    2. Enjoyable read, gives a good look at the feelings. For my taste, some paragraph breaks would have worked, but maybe the intent was to keep it all coming, running right over the reader.

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  16. You gave me your words
    I gave you my love
    You gave me your company
    Not the commitment I gave
    You offered me time
    I gave you forever
    Not a half-hearted promise
    But an oath that I meant
    But eventually I realised
    That the fences you built
    Would never be dismantled
    Would never be removed
    And so, I broke myself first
    Not giving you the pleasure
    Knowing only that I needed that
    More than your goodbyes

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    1. beautifully heartbreaking story of unrequited love...

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Please leave comments. Good, bad or ugly. Especially ugly.