Friday, March 9, 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.


Open Bracket, Closed Bracket.

I don’t want to be fenced in. Literally or metaphorically. I don’t want you telling me where to stand or what the barriers are. I’ll just try to climb out and find a place less confining. That’s me, undermining. And I understand that your intentions may be good, but let’s not be misunderstood. You have an agenda or I wouldn’t be braced and bracketed, lectured and straight-jacketed.

Don’t tell me the barrier is there for my protection.

Can’t you just open things up a little bit? Can’t you just give one tiny little shit? Or admit. That I might know something and that we might be able to govern ourselves with a little guidance. We’re pretty astute.

Keep me out of your cattle chute.

I like ellipses. Lots of freedom there. You can go damn near anywhere. Brackets? They lock you in and the walls get thin and you start thinking … where did it all begin? I’ve got my beginning. I’ve got my end. But it isn’t providing any insights and, lord knows, I try to listen.


I try to keep things open and keep the ellipses flowing. But the bracket police are always right around the corner. Get back inside where you belong! But I want to smell the wildflowers, how can that be wrong?

I’m going to stop using periods. Every sentence will end with those three beautiful dots – every action open to interpretation and extended periods of thought. You can keep your brackets. You may be selling, but I can’t be bought.

The silence after the music stops…

It’s quieter than everything you’ve ever heard before. It’s more than silence. Because there’s no noise, but there are also ideas and colors and pictures shooting through your brain like crazy bees. Sometimes, they hide epiphanies. If you’re open to it, you can pull out a symphony.

Because I’m all about extending that song and that silence. I’ll keep it going and going. Until the next song starts and sometimes even after that. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, and that’s why I like it so much.

Some people start talking right when a song ends, and it drives me crazy. I want to say, “hey man, you’re missing the best part.” But I know you’ll just say that the best part is done. The song is over. And I can talk for hours about those few silent pulses after the last chord rings out. I’m not going to be able to convince you. And I don’t have the energy to try.

Go ahead and talk over the end – I’ll just start at the beginning and play the whole thing again. Call me stubborn; I’ve been called worse. And I know some people understand. You can see them everywhere you go. They get that thoughtful look on a shy-smiling face. And you just know. They’re in that place. 

That silence after the music stops.

#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... 

35 comments:

  1. Fun read. And I like the ellipses (ellipsi?) too. And dashes - lots of dashes!

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    1. The last line made this all come together. Punctuation, whether in words or in music, has always fascinated me, and this piece feeds that fascination. Well done!

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    2. The brackets are for your protection...for your protection...for your protection... Nice!

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  2. A different sort of tale for me, sparked by an image I saw online of a lighthouse. Feedback and criticisms welcome :)

    I trudged up the circular staircase, the firewood in my arms growing heavier with each step. One hundred and seven steps up, I paused at the first landing. I told myself that the number of steps was intentional, and based on the Psalms. I allowed myself to read the charcoal letters I had drawn on the rough stone wall, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.”

    I couldn’t remember the rest of that verse, but in my heart, I knew that for a lighthouse, those words were the right ones.

    The next series of steps was shorter, only forty-six of them. Perhaps the builders made them that way because the tower grew narrower as it got higher. I liked to think it was a reference to another Psalm, and I had inscribed what I could remember. The inscription was at eye level where the steps widened again, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

    My legs no longer trembled as they did when I first arrived. Six months of climbing the stairs had rebuilt my strength, sapped from my time on board ship, and my ordeal in the water. I no longer wheezed for breath as I ascended the final thirty steps to the lantern room. I felt the significance of that count as well, and with the burnt end of a stick, I had etched another verse, and a reminder to myself.

    I had worked carefully, applying the soot and ash to the wall without smudging the letters. This verse was the reason for my presence in the lighthouse, “Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.”

    The reminder was a form of healing as well. I had seen nobody for more than half a year. The seagulls were alive, but they refused to speak to me. These letters were bigger. Blockier. They weren’t a message of beauty or love, just survival. A way to tell myself each day that I am still a man, that I still have a name, even if there is no one else to say it to me.

    “My name is Steven,” I whisper the words aloud, as I place the wood in the crude framework next to the lamp. I am the tender of this lighthouse, and the Lord has placed me here as His instrument.

    I turn back to the steps, and begin to make my way down to the beach for more driftwood. There is fog coming in, and there may be sailors tonight who rely on this beacon for safety.

    “My name is Steven.”

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    1. I really, really like this.... and the use of the Psalms as a metaphor/reference point works well. And then there's the whole notion that the "light bringer" is a solitary soul (a hermit even!) giving light not for himself, but for the rest of the world... really good stuff!

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    2. I agree with Leland. I also really like the way the backstory unfolds. There's something about the first sentence that sits weird with me, but I don't know why. I might reword it. It might just be me, though.

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    3. I think you're right. Trudged isn't quite right. Doesn't fit the rest of the piece.

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    4. What they said.

      This is such a powerful little story. So much emotion and intent in such a tiny package.

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  3. When the stars began to fall early that morning, he held only a pen to record their descent, and it was too dark to write. So he held his eyes wide open, and let them tumble into his heart instead.

    He knew the science behind them, the meteors burning through the upper atmosphere. He even knew the Greek root of the word meteor meant “lofty.” But this knowledge did not lessen his reverence for the falling stars.

    He dared close his eyes, only for a moment, to make a wish, and when he opened them again, the heavens answered with a volley of five more shooting stars.

    Now the eastern sky glowed violet with the promise of dawn and sunrise, and still he stood on the ridge, waiting for something, anything, to happen.

    A hermit thrush trilled somewhere to his left. A moment later, a raven circled in silence against the now pink sky. The air grew colder, as it often does before sunrise. He shivered. He should go home. Should. Ugly word, that.

    And then the sun exploded over the mountains, beams of light touching the cotton candy clouds. Crepuscular rays, if he remembered right.

    When the sun was completely exposed above the mountains, he walked home, laughing a little at himself for wishing on stars, and yet, who knows?

    He made coffee, and spent a half-hour staring at the phone, willing it to ring, to fulfill his wish.

    It remained silent, and the house remained empty, and the closet was less than half-full, with only his clothes.

    Magic though they are, falling stars cannot make all wishes true.

    He poured another cup of coffee.

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    1. Oh. Oh. Right in the feels at the end. Well-written. Love the phrase at the beginning about the stars tumbling into his heart. Nicely done, Leland!

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    2. I agree. Right in the heart part. When I started this piece I was thinking it was strangely devoid of color for your writing - that changed midway through, but part of me wants to see the stars more in the beginning.

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    3. Such beauty in the beginning with the stars tumbling into the heart, and such a painful ending. That's the way it is sometimes, though, isn't it? <3

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  4. When they were young and foolish, he traced the scars on her belly with tender outrage as if he could murder the men who had marked her. Now that they are older and more foolish, and he has his own war wounds, his touch is even more delicate, as if he can heal the memories. It does not work.

    It will never work. But she appreciates his motivation.

    “Still, Lana, you won’t have those removed? If it’s a question of money…?”

    “It was never a question of money.” He knows that. Still, he persists. High-ranking men like Grigori want to solve problems, even when none exist. He is good at making new problems. Especially for her. She should have remembered this about him before she’d accepted his invitation to meet him in New York. Before he’d ordered their first cognac. Before she’d agreed to come back to his room.

    “That’s right,” he says, the left side of his salt-and-pepper mustache lifting. “For you it’s a matter of pride.”

    The scars make me stronger, she wants to say but stops herself. If she’s learned anything from the business of love and war, it’s never to reveal one’s tactics. The hateful words those skinhead thugs carved into her flesh—“Jew bitch” in Russian—fuel her. Time has blurred the Cyrillic letters beyond recognition. Changing her name has solved other problems, moving halfway across the world others, but some things can never be erased.

    “Does it make me less desirable to you?”

    His soft kisses along her neck form part of her answer; his words complete it. “Not in the slightest.”

    Her best move, she knows, is to stay silent about her past. But war looks inevitable and she’ll need his protection. To cement that, she needs more of her cards on the table. Maybe just one more card. She doesn’t want her outer shell to be so impenetrable that he feels she doesn’t need him. Men like Grigori also want to be needed.

    But the words are too difficult; the risk too great. She decides instead to let her body do the talking.

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    1. Yeah, I like this one a lot. That ending is especially dope. One thing, the way you handle the tense in the first P threw me off. And it kind of kept me off balance throughout the piece. I might be nitpicking though.

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    2. Good stuff - also in my 'like it a lot' category. The hints of what is going on outside the story, intriguing

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    3. Your tactile descriptions mesmerize me, always... and yeah, there's another story dancing outside of this one, and like all good flash fiction, you invite the reader to imagine it... well done!

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    4. I really, really dig this piece. I love the story possibilities it opens up. And that ending is powerful.

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  5. Stacy watched him, mouth open, her lips still. She could barely breathe now; the tape shrouding her pulled tight so her chest could hardly move. The daylight had become grey, darkening to black.

    “You were always my favourite waitress.” The man smiled, fumbling with the tape. The end was being troublesome, and he was struggling to start this, the final roll. He’d been careful; buying the duct tape in another town where’d he’d not be recognised, making sure he’d bought no more than three rolls in any one store. No-one would have noticed him or the nature of his purchases. He’d been anonymous. Unremarkable. Unthreatening.

    Just another Joe.

    He’d told her all this, his face impassive. He’d let her scream – he’d encouraged her to shout and curse and threaten him, enjoying her rage and her frustration. Now her voice was gone, broken, her words nothing but whispers. But he’d insisted she continue to speak to him, narrating everything she felt; every single ache, pain or indignity. Her hands were numb now – her wrists had been the first things he’d bound, followed soon after by her ankles; immobilising her, making her vulnerable.

    “I’m afraid.” Her voice was flat, devoid of emotion. She wouldn’t give him that now.

    The man nodded, tearing the tape loose. He began to wind it about her head; covering her ears, her nose, her eyes.

    “I can’t see anymore. Please…stop.”

    The man shook his head and continued, finally silencing her.

    There were no more words after that.

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    1. Man, this is terrifying and powerful - really digging it. Since I'm being nit-picky today, though... :)

      I think every piece of dialogue should be it's own line. It's so integral, and offsetting it will make it more powerful.

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    2. Now this scares me to death... it's like a spider wrapping a fly in silk to save it for later...

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  6. Apostrophe

    You think you know who this belongs to? You want me to tell you, don’t you? It’s killing you. But I won’t do it. Let the mystery tear you apart if that’s the way you want it. I don’t have any stake in this. I’ll play my punctuation like a pernicious poker hand. And I keep my cards close to my chest.

    I’ve done my part. You can do the rest.

    There are too many angles here. There are too many things to wrangle here. It’s not important who has what and who doesn’t have shit. It’s all a wash and it can be gone in a minute. So, switch.

    I don’t just mean you should switch perspective or socks or paint schemes for your living room. I mean you should switch up your entire world view. And quit asking for answers.

    What works for me ain’t gonna work for you.

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    1. "play my punctuation like a pernicious poker hand." Now that's poetry, pure and simple.

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  7. I didn’t want to say anything. Didn’t want to appear rude. The cheese hanging off your chin like a jazz goatee. Doesn’t really mean a thing to me. I can riff of it.

    I enjoyed it. Let’s be honest; I didn’t say anything because the cheese was entertaining. It danced every time you said something you thought was important. If I’d told you to wipe the cheese off your chin, I would have been bored. And that’s no way for a dinner to begin.

    I was placing bets in my mind. When is that fool going to notice the cheese dripping off his chin like a pendulum?

    Sure, it’s iffy. I know that I shouldn’t be entertained by other peoples' cheese fiascos, but things get so boring once you’re an adult – you take what you can get. Even if it’s a string of mozzarella that can be gone in a minute.

    See, that’s the way it goes and goes. Inside jokes circle like vultures; where they stop, nobody knows. There are only so many dance steps. So many do-si-dos. I want to watch cheese sway like raindrops quiver on a rose. And, really, there are worse things you can do with your time.

    Trust me.

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  8. Stephanie WilliamsMarch 9, 2018 at 3:09 PM

    One of the worst feelings is when you realize no one around you really knows or understands you. Even the people in your life who think they know everything there is to know about you, don’t know you. So instead I invest my entire being, my entire religion, my entire heart, and my entire soul into my writing. But being alone with myself for that long is tiring, and things get monotonous. Food doesn’t have a taste, flowers don’t have a smell, but most of all no one can really understand it. In a strange way, I feel like I’m dead, detached from everything.
    But then people confront you about, and they say “Hey man, you haven’t been acting so well lately. Is everything okay?” And immediately forgetting how I’ve been feeling for the past four years, all I can say is, yes, I do feel okay. Because who wants their time wasted on me going on about not feeling real, or how I only sleep to get some color back in my life? Or how no one, not even my best friend, really know who I am and how I feel? Because even if I told them they would just nod sadly and make a joke and I would pretend to laugh and try not to think about how they really will never know how I feel. It hurts sometimes, lots of times, when I think about it. I don’t want to be the only person who knows myself this well.

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    1. I can definitely relate to this. The feeling of detachment and the detachment inherent in writing. It's a weird one. I actually have this internal conversation a lot. I know I should tell people how I feel, but when I'm depressed or anxious, I feel like I don't want to invest more time in it by talking about it. But I should. And I try. And I usually fail, and then I write some cryptic shit that obfuscates it even more.

      So, I don't have any answers. But I have the same Qs. And sometimes I think writing is my salvation. Sometimes it feels like an obligation.

      I wrote something once. Something to the effect of: I'm sad but I don't know how to tell anyone. Maybe if I pour enough whiskey down my throat, they'll think to ask.

      They didn't.

      But part of the beauty of this space is that most of us get it. And we may or may not be able to help, but we can listen. And we can tell you for sure that you're not alone. <3

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    2. Definitely get this. Sometimes I'm pretty convinced only my characters and my dogs understand me. For a long time I blamed it on being gay in a rural community when I was growing up, always on guard about not letting any clues drop if I wanted to live. Then I made it to cities where I was accepted, but I still felt alone. One of my greatest fears was being alone and it was matched by my fear of vulnerability. It's a tough tightrope to walk.

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  9. She sits at a small table off to one side of the raised stage, alone, sipping from a big, red plastic cup. Just before the segue into the last set of the night, she pulls a red Sharpie and a five-dollar-bill from her small crossbody bag. Her focus moves in a circle: performers on the stage; drink in her cup; blank napkin lying on the table beside her Sharpie.

    Once or twice, she picks up the marker, but then she sets it down again, uncertain. What does she want to write on the tiny cocktail napkin? As she dithers, others carry their own napkins to the stage, along with bits of green to tempt the performers into choosing their request over all the others.

    The songs are usually much the same, night after night. She should know; the bar is practically her second home. She knows all the performers, the servers and bartenders, the bouncers and the folks who work the door. She even knows the manager. They know her, too, if sight if not by name.

    She checks the time on her phone and sees that it’s now-or-never time. She uncaps the Sharpie and jots her request on a napkin. Balls it up and stuffs it in her purse and scribbles a second draft on a fresh napkin. She carries the napkin and the fiver up to the stage, lays it in front of the long-haired youngish guy with the tattoos and six-pack abs—the one nearest her. He reads her request and flashes her a grin. Tucks the five in his tip jar and then balls up the napkin and tosses it across the back-to-back piano shells to his partner-in-crime.

    The other performer smooths the napkin out even as he sings, some top 40 party song that she doesn’t really know. It seems strange coming from him. Then again, most songs do. He looks more like Hollywood’s idea of an accountant than a multi-talented musician with a golden throat.

    He glances at the napkin and grins. After his song ends, the young stud takes a turn. Another party song. When it comes to an end. The older man glances her way and then launches into a raucous song by Buckcherry, aptly named Crazy Bitch. She laughs, not because the song is funny (it’s kind of sad, to her mind) and not because his singing is funny (he does the song well) but because he’s managed to surprise her. But then he always has. That’s what kept her coming back, in the beginning. That’s what’s kept things interesting, night after night.

    The show closes a few songs later, and the staff begins to encourage people out the door so they can clean up. She ignores the other patrons, and she ignores the staff. She has eyes only for the accountant/musician, who can’t seem to take his eyes off the napkin she’d laid on his partner’s piano. As if he can feel her eyes on him (and maybe he can; who knows?) he raises his head and meets her eyes. He grins.

    “I think this request might be worth more than five bucks,” he says.

    She fights back a smile and ends up smirking at him.

    “I think I might need to save my pennies,” she replied. “Depending.”

    He turns toward his piano shell and reaches for something—a pen. He scratches something onto the napkin and holds it up.

    “Duh!” is scribbled in blue ballpoint just beneath her request: “Jimmy, Will You Marry Me?”






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  10. I didn’t realize how what I read, what I watched, what I saw in the news affected me. Everyone said that violent cartoons, graphic depictions in video games, and all the horrible stuff on the news programs would mess with us kids. I didn’t believe that. Not for a second.

    But the things I surrounded myself with did make a difference. I took self-defense classes. I didn’t take crap from guys who kept telling me they were better than me. I believed that I could effect change. I paid attention to the world around me. It didn’t just make a difference. It made all the difference.

    I could see the revolution coming the way that animals can feel a storm coming. It wasn’t a rash reaction. It was too late coming, in my opinion. I went to the parts of the city that a young girl wasn’t supposed to go and found a guy who would sell guns to a kid. Lots of guns. I stored them in the basement. No one went down there but me, not even my brother. I kept in good shape. I paid attention. I stayed vigilant, just like Moody said to.

    One day the “President” visited our humble city. Okay, so it was one of the biggest cities in the world. He made all of us feel like it was humble because he didn’t live there anymore. Like we should be honored by his presence. We didn’t feel honored. We really didn’t feel honored.

    It wasn’t the shot heard ‘round the world. It was more like two dozen shots fired at once. That dick and all of his guards went down like bowling pins.

    After that our world descended into chaos. I was happy to hand out the guns. There were too many people on this continent, anyways. A few less wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all. I might have helped a few of those people get dead, but dead people tell no tales and I’ll admit to nothing.

    Oh yeah, those books and movies and programs helped me more than I could have known. I learned that the spotlight was the worst place to stand. The real power was the person who fed the guy in the spotlight the words and concepts he should feed to the public. And maybe the public wanted that guy to be a guy. No one cared much if it was a guy or a girl whispering in that guy’s ear. No one paid attention to how old the puppet master was, either.

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  11. "A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun." — W. B. Yeats

    Does anyone know what this is? Can anyone pinpoint it? Dissect it?

    Probably not. In fact, I'm almost sure not.

    It's quite literally unspeakable.

    The only thing with depth is the blackness. It's a hole in the Earth. Gray is just edges, cloud forms, the drab flat odor of clay, geese already passed, the sucking sound of wetlands.

    I won't fall in. The hole, I mean. That's what I say. But here's the truth: I don't care if I do or if I don't. If I fall, fine. If I don't, also fine.

    "If I Fell" is my favorite Beatles song. Do yourself a favour and go listen to it again. It once ached so lovely.

    A chorus of rodents convene to sing a version, their great harmonic squeaks echoing across Piazza San Marco like bats. They know our sapient pride is sinking, our architectural love increasingly rejected by a spurned and hostile Earth. They feel for us, in a way, these tiny hitchhikers on our finite journey. But empathy or not, they told us over and over that they don't wanna swim. And for a while, they envy the bats.

    I quit. God or Satan help me; Loki, Kali, Zeus, I never even fought.

    Our open veins are mere topography. This is hubris.

    But back to this thing. It has a surface, featureless and bland. It has depth, impenetrable. It makes us drop our gaze to the ground, give up. It leaches song and story from our world. The fact I can't quite capture it in words accentuates its triumph, only augments its cruel trophy haul. It revels in our inability to gather its essence and make of it a portrait or a tale.

    It drains most every thing. It is emptiness.

    Like some doughy, noisome thing, eyeless and scentless, it squats, its shapeless perimeter leaking over the edges of my world, its gentle throatless moans a quiet abomination. The aftermath of a tsunami. Long years since the genocide. Afterward. When no one cares. When it can do its rank worst harm.

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    1. I know this thing. I recognize it here.

      This rings very true: "It revels in our inability to gather its essence and make of it a portrait or a tale."

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  12. One line

    It’s not a book, it’s a song,
    Sung in a way of indifference,
    Notes flying like birds, but I tunnel
    Out, searching for the right word
    To describe the thing, the everything,
    The beat, the spark, the way of
    Revealing it all, yet still I look
    And still I wait, and I know you’re
    Listening, pretending to be doing
    Another thing, yet I hear you thinking,
    Wondering at the meaning of the song,
    The rhythm, the understanding at the
    Centre of your heart, mind – no matter
    Your limbs, unneeded by the song
    Until you dance, and I know you can,
    Though you pretend not to feel it –
    How could anyone not feel it, when
    It shows so much, reflects who you are,
    Who I am, and the body needs it,
    Requires this movement, this looseness,
    This stretch, just to breathe again; to
    Be able to breathe is to sing this song,
    And in the pattern of it you will find me,
    Walking slowly, following the line for
    A while until I bore myself and wander off,
    For no one found the meaning of anything
    While towing the line, and it isn’t me to
    Do the same as everyone else and say I
    Like it; no, I ache for the bend, the wobble,
    The rectangle, the triangle – the square
    Can stay where it is, stay idle, while I
    Get lost in the rectangular, the peculiar,
    Where I will find myself and ever find
    Myself, and the song can play itself out
    While I laugh at the absurdity of it all.

    Vickie Johnstone

    ReplyDelete

  13. One line

    It’s not a book, it’s a song,
    Sung in a way of indifference,
    Notes flying like birds, but I tunnel
    Out, searching for the right word
    To describe the thing, the everything,
    The beat, the spark, the way of
    Revealing it all, yet still I look
    And still I wait, and I know you’re
    Listening, pretending to be doing
    Another thing, yet I hear you thinking,
    Wondering at the meaning of the song,
    The rhythm, the understanding at the
    Centre of your heart, mind – no matter
    Your limbs, unneeded by the song
    Until you dance, and I know you can,
    Though you pretend not to feel it –
    How could anyone not feel it, when
    It shows so much, reflects who you are,
    Who I am, and the body needs it,
    Requires this movement, this looseness,
    This stretch, just to breathe again; to
    Be able to breathe is to sing this song,
    And in the pattern of it you will find me,
    Walking slowly, following the line for
    A while until I bore myself and wander off,
    For no one found the meaning of anything
    While towing the line, and it isn’t me to
    Do the same as everyone else and say I
    Like it; no, I ache for the bend, the wobble,
    The rectangle, the triangle – the square
    Can stay where it is, stay idle, while I
    Get lost in the rectangular, the peculiar,
    Where I will find myself and ever find
    Myself, and the song can play itself out
    While I laugh at the absurdity of it all.

    F47

    It’s breaking, this stasis,
    Where we are caught,
    Demanding a reckoning
    Beginning on an equal
    Footing – respect, a full
    Consideration of who we are.

    We have this right,
    As you have always had it,
    Despite the way you try
    To hold us back, hidden away,
    Controlled and rejected. Yet
    I pity you, pity this idle need to
    Erase us. Are you so weak
    That you need to call us so?

    We are the same, think the
    Same, breathe the same.
    Cut us open and you will
    Find the same. My heart
    Beats the same rhythm.
    Yet, in a way I am higher
    In not seeking to deflate,
    Push you down, demoralise
    In conjuring up excuses to
    Annihilate your identity.

    I am me, and you are you,
    And I know who I’d rather be,
    Into and beyond equality.

    Vickie Johnstone

    ReplyDelete
  14. Something silly

    This is the place I like to come
    To sit, to speculate in the sun,
    Like coffee perculating in a
    Cup. Alone with my thoughts,
    All else distant, as though life
    Exists in a bubble.

    At home the dust is mounting,
    The cobwebs sprouting hair
    To rival a good many beards,
    Likely to house the same little
    Spiders, wriggling their many
    Legs in the air.

    Vickie Johnstone

    ReplyDelete
  15. Today is a quiet day: a day of no speaking. A day for listening and for thinking. Nothing good comes from words; they’re a base, animal medium for thought. Necessary for the unevolved and for the impure, but of no consequence to the higher-born creatures. Those who are unblooded and ethereal and not of this world.

    The man wakes. He’d been uncomplicated while he slept; simplified and more elemental, not like he’d been earlier. He’s making noises now; first creaks and then muted footsteps, his loudness increasing as he rises to full consciousness. He’ll not hear me, though: standing here beneath him with my breath held close.

    “Serina?” His voice. He’s becoming more animal as he gains awareness, regressing to the child; needing company and food and feeling other, more pressing needs taking him over.

    “It’s okay. I found it.”

    I say nothing. There is no need. I sit silent with my thoughts and wait.

    He'll be with me soon, there's no doubt of that.

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