Friday, August 17, 2018

2 Minutes. Go!

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.

This is how your mind gets broken. It starts like most things. A crack. A worn spot. A sharp knock to the head. A sharp knock to the heart. There are so many ways to get broken, it’s amazing any of us work. Amazing we aren’t all in the shop begging the mechanic to buff out the scratches.

Shit deteriorates. Your brain is looking for ways to betray you. You hear warnings from the central nervous system. Fight or flight shit, but you freeze – trying to unravel the knots in your string theories. For a smallish ball of goop, the brain can be very, very loud. Mine screams at me sometimes. Sometimes, it is chill. Often, it is screaming.

Some people deliberately damage their brains. Ask me how I know. Most people do it by accident. The world is full of brain traps. You are constantly under assault. Breathing carcinogenic fumes and dodging Kardashian bullshit. Some people shut down the whole works. We feel bad for them, but maybe they found the fix they needed.

Brains ain’t simple, see? Not one damn bit. We don’t even really know how they work. We’re just glad when they do. Glad when we haven’t had so many concussions that life becomes the enemy. Glad that we didn’t spend our high school years huffing oven cleaner.

Shit smells gross and isn’t good for your demeanor.

I want to remove my brain and turn it into a punching bag. Do my fast work on the frontal lobe. Beat that shit senseless.

Is there anyone not broken? That’s a fair question, but it kind of depends on your definition of 'broken'.

#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...#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...

71 comments:

  1. And I broke the part that defines words... and by the by, I'm grateful your brain is still intact and calling truth to power....

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    1. Sometimes your rhymes catch me utterly by surprise. I'd love to hear you do a reading on pieces like this. 'There are so many ways to get broken'....indeed.

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    2. Is there a word for something that doesn't rhyme at the end of a word but does so at he beginning? I love the juxtaposition of carcinogenic and Kardashian.

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    3. Off-centered rhyme is the closest word I know to describe it. From Wikipedia: off-centered rhyme is a rhyme scheme characterized by placing rhyming words or syllables in unexpected places in a given line. This is sometimes called a misplaced-rhyme scheme, or a spoken word rhyme style.

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  2. These were the colors of his rainbow.
    Black for the depression he fought for years, born of emptiness and pain
    Dark gray for the weather of his soul, with squalls of salty tears, and the sound of his thunderous heart
    Eldritch gray for the ghosts of lovers he’d once come to know, now long dead
    Silver for the metal refined by the fires of hell, the part of him leftover from the bonfires of hate
    And white, for the color of ashes of a life well-lived.

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    1. I like it - and not just because you used eldritch. Compelling.

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    2. lol... it's your fault... I couldn't get the word out of my mind until I used it!

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    3. Sigh... So much emotion in those darker colors of the rainbow.

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    4. This is a sadly accurate description - matching the tone of our times.

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    5. Eldritch is such a great word. Oh, and in another example of the synchronicity that happens here every week, we both used the word squalls. And yes, what everyone else said.

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  3. The raven gave one caw, lifted off, and soared in the air above him. He heard the steady beat of its wings until it found a current to ride. He watched the sun glint off the feathers everyone thought were black, but they were filled with greens and blues and violets, like an oil sheen, but beautiful.

    It was August, and the bird flew away, leaving the man to his thoughts.

    When he was younger, he had a list of things he wanted to do, wanted to be. For forty-seven years, he’d maintained that list, adding a few things, checking off the ones he’d achieved.

    The paper was nearly worn beside "Be in love." He’d fallen in and out of love too many times to count. One more erasure of a check mark there and the paper would tear.

    He’d not made the same mistake with "Get a dog." There were five lines with that text. When each crossed the rainbow bridge, he added a new line, and left the check mark by the others. There was no erasing of dogs, metaphorically or literally.

    There was only one item on the list without a check mark. He looked at the word. What had provoked a twelve-year-old to write it? He no longer remembered. But the word still intrigued him.

    He looked up. The raven was nowhere to be seen. There was, he thought, the slightest tinge of gold in the cottonwood leaves, which in a month would be bright yellow, and then would be gone.

    He looked down at the list again. He knew he could do it. It was one of the rules of the list: no matter how far-fetched, to be on the list, it had to be possible.

    He took off his shoes. Tossed them higher up on the bank, and then dangled his feet in the creek's cold water.

    Closed his eyes. Imagined it, felt the word becoming true. Imagined harder. Saw it in his mind, the word and the reality.

    The afternoon faded into evening, and still he imagined.

    As the first star came out, the raven came to watch from high in the old trees. Ravens feel shifts in the currents of the air and the currents of reality. The bird tilted its head. As the sheet of paper fell to the ground, he swooped down to look.

    The word was "Vanish."

    And the raven marked the word in the only way that birds can mark.

    And night came.

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    1. Wow. Love this line: "There was no erasing of dogs, metaphorically or literally." I love going back and forth between the raven and the man, and the many colors of the raven's feathers that are rarely noticed.

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    2. I like this piece a lot. And as a bird nerd, I like the oil feathers, too. Very fable/parable-y tone, too, which I love.

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    3. Great take on magic realism and bucket lists!

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  4. Ray Bradbury would understand......."Remembrance"

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    1. One of my heroes. His poetry rarely gets attention, but that is one of my favorites.

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    2. Wondrous. So much happens in this one unseen and off-screen. A masterful telling.

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    3. (and now I'm going to have to google Bradbury's poetry. Thanks, Leland...)

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    4. "Remembrance" is a good one to start with.

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  5. "9-1-1, what is the nature of your emergency?" the dispatcher asked for the hundredth time that night.

    The line was silent. Or was there breathing? She turned up the volume.

    "9-1-1, please state the nature of your emergency."

    Still silence.

    "I will be dispatching a uniformed officer to your address..." and suddenly dial tone replaced the silence.

    She pushed the button that called the number back. It answered on the first ring. And yes, there was breathing this time. "This is the Brooks County 911 dispatcher. We had a call from this number..." and there was dial tone again.

    She looked at the screen that provided details of the calling number. A shiver ran down her spine.

    She typed a summary of the call and pushed a button that sent the information to the closest unit.

    Officer Wesson was an old timer. His partner, officer Smith was a rookie. Smith read the info off the screen. "Quiet caller at Davis Mortuary. 117 Spruce."

    Wesson looked at the younger man, raising one eyebrow.

    "I don’t make this shit up, I just read it."

    Wesson pulled away from the curb and drove the three blocks to the mortuary.

    The lights were all off. The cruiser parked at the curb.

    "Waddya think, kid?"

    "Maybe a prank?"

    "It’s not Halloween for two months."

    "Think old man Davis was working and had a heart attack?"

    "The lights would still be on if he was working."

    "They have windows where they work on the bodies? That sounds creepy."

    "Not as creepy as working on dead bodies in the dark. Let’s check it out."

    Smith knocked at the door. There was no response.

    Wesson tried his hand at knocking harder. Still no response. “Let’s check in back.”

    They shined their flashlights on each window. All unbroken.
    But a door at back was open. Only a little.

    Wesson put his finger to his lips, and then pointed to Smith to go in.

    Smith drew his weapon and pushed the door wide open with his elbow. He covered the room. Seeing nothing, he looked beside the door for a light switch.

    “We don’t need that,” a cold breathy whisper said next to his ear. The door slammed shut with Wesson still outside.

    Smith whipped around and fired his gun… at… nothing.

    The whisper was replaced with maniacal laughter.

    It took a few minutes for Wesson to break the door down. And it took a few more for him to grasp what he saw on the floor.

    Smith, was naked and smiling. And dead.

    “Please come into my parlor,” a voice whispered to Wesson.

    And the telephone was ringing. And no one answered.

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  6. Outside the Ward

    My phone glares blackly at me,
    hatefully silent.
    I swipe it to life,
    confirm the lack of calls.
    Text screens are a bitter void.

    I pace, outside of time.
    Forlorn.
    Scraping a vacant network for updates.
    My wife has vanished,
    lost within hospital paperwork.
    A miasma crushes my lungs,
    harvests my will to act.

    Dark-winged carrion birds
    nest between my ears.
    Shrieking ill tidings
    into the vacuum of my spirit.
    Pecking at my nascent hopes,
    popping them open,
    feasting on my wet eyes.

    I grasp the bottle with drab bravado,
    tilting the double shots
    at double time.
    Ingesting the meaning of silence,
    absorbing ghastly forecasts.

    Worshipping guilt,
    kneeling in forbidden idolatry.
    Scourging myself for unconfessed sins
    opens fresh trenches for my malaise,
    and gains no measure of relief.
    Yet I continue, helpless to stop.

    I spy conspirators
    in the dark shadows of mobile devices.
    Assassin mimes celebrate my fall,
    and sharpen their jagged blades
    as I plead for mercy from their granite tongues.

    I long for my princess,
    caged in a dungeon of the mind.
    My fears gloat,
    tell me that she turns her back,
    that she weeps at my overtures,
    that my vows of devotion
    send her whimpering
    for the counsel of gentle healers.

    I swing the saw-toothed lash
    with howling ferocity.
    It snags and tears my tender parts,
    and still the bite is less
    than the debt of pain I owe.

    Concrete trails of my anxiety,
    show weary ruts
    where my circular path repeats.
    Phone remains mute.
    Chat windows stay blank.
    Endless circuits of miserable thoughts.

    The crows sense my weakness,
    my absence of will.
    They gather in a rustling murder,
    the grim idol chants approval,
    and I wonder if this is the night:

    The night I
    lower my flag,
    yield to the tribunal’s judgement,
    lay my neck down on the headsman’s block,
    taste the axe’s sweet atrocity.

    My white horse withers from disuse,
    in truth, it is a grey steed.
    Lame, prone to biting,
    unfit to perform a rescue.
    I am too dark a knight for heroics.

    Text screens are a bitter void.
    I confirm the lack of calls,
    swiping my phone to life.
    Hatefully silent,
    it glares blackly at me.

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    1. Dark... dark indeed. Our inability to take care of those we love, to "fix" things for them, shines through this piece. In those shadows, you've offered us a reminder that sometimes we need to put our own oxygen masks on first. My favorite lines from this are "double shots in double time" and "assassin mimes"... one is perfect for a cowboy song, and one for a city lament... and you offer both in the same verses. Well done!

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    2. I love "the debt of pain I owe" - that would make an awesome name for a poetry collection. This is a dark, real place. That reminds me why I don't drink anymore.

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    3. Yes, I love some of the memorable phrasings: sweet atrocity, granite tongues, drab bravado...

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  7. The pen

    Pages torn, thrown into a light of spiralling
    Might, incandescent streams of being; we are
    Born individual, respected or adored; it is
    The choices we make that define us. Bring the
    Nightshade, happy in its existential knockout,
    Fruitless but serene. Wake it, lest it vanish
    On the back of this dying tide. Make it last,
    Lest these days are but a pretence, a lie
    Before the curtain drops on an empty stage.

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    1. uplifting in how it encourages defiance

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    2. I like that defiance too, and the images of light and shadow. "light of spiralling" and "incandescent streams" poke at my photographer's imagination. Well done!

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    3. I'll speak to the language then. Just beautiful, lady.

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    4. I've loved watching your evolution as a poet, Vickie. This is so assured and deftly written. (Uh, I sound like a creative writing instructor, I know, but I don't know how else to put any of this!)

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  8. Floating

    She floats among stars of her own making, a light
    As bright as the oceans full of waking jellyfish;
    The myriad hopes of many lie heavy, and the escape
    Is the only thing that will not seek to drown.

    The imagination fails where the dreamer wakes,
    Amid a rush of storm, brewing through the years;
    She talks where sound is but a vacuum pulling
    Her inside out, murmuring a sweet sanctitude.

    We are borne here to stumble, wandering mazes
    Of garish thoughtless action and hopes squashed
    Under foot. They know not what they do, we tell
    Ourselves, but they stampede on purposefully.

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    1. purposeful stampedes - I like it

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    2. That first stanza... wow... the whole thing is beautiful, but I'm blown away by the first stanza. "stars of her own making" is just flat out lovely.

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    3. Yeah, you have such an amazing gift for gathering beautiful words.

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  9. Blessed Sacrament

    In the ever-Summer glare and heat
    I found my life's pain and regret
    sanctified into something replete
    with but little Hope baptized in sweat.
    So the torment, no matter how holy,
    still rips around my beaten heart
    as if it was something mad and solely
    bent and intent to rip it apart.

    Perhaps I can hallow my vessel so hollow
    with the heat from a different kind of light,
    as good for my soul as the heart to follow,
    soothing all my pain with its godly might.
    And that’s why I’m here dipping pen in ink,
    the black sprung from my soul to my heart.
    Drawing pictures in words so we all might drink
    of this sacrament that heals me called Art.

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    1. I feel the truth of this. art from pain sometimes, surely

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    2. Man, y'all are killing with the poetry. This is sad and strong. Thank god for art.

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    3. I like how the odd capitalizations almost foreshadow the last and most important one. Art from pain, as Gry said, but also as a salve and comfort to rival religion.

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  10. When the revolution began, no one saw it coming. At least no one with enough money to matter.

    It was not the first time it had happened. A woman rich enough to be a princess in any other country, was indignant when her hairstylist raised his prices by ten percent. She retaliated by withholding his tip.

    He simmered for a week. His stomach churned over her arrogance. What was fifty dollars to a billionaire? He didn’t sleep. He planned. Nothing violent, mind you. At least, not at first.

    She came in the following Friday. He smiled. He offered her a free facial, to make amends for his recalcitrance.

    Pleased that he had learned his lesson, she accepted.

    His fingers were so gentle. The clay in the masque smelled of forest and waterfalls, and she relaxed. The astringent felt like the sea was washing her clean. And the moisturizer, mondieu, it was divine.
    "Voila!" He proclaimed, and rotated the sumptuous leather chair to the mirror, and removed the warm towel from her face.

    She screamed.

    It was dark, too dark to be mistaken for a tan. It's a bitch to remove henna from freshly scrubbed skin.

    "Now," he said calmly, "what shall we do about that dull, lifeless hair?"

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  11. The air in the basement was so thick and close, Jacquie struggled with her breathing, and more than anything, she wanted to go home and play her Aretha Franklin records and cry. But last week she’d begged for this open mic slot, and beggars don’t get to be divas. Not in dives like this, with ceilings so low she could reach up and touch the dank acoustical tiles while her Vans stuck to the spilled beer on the concrete floor. She couldn’t even imagine how much worse it would have been back in the days of smoking in public places. “Count your blessings,” her mother, who’d sung in those smoky clubs, once told her. “If they pay you to sing, you show up and sing, come hell or high water. Even if they don’t pay you. Never know what it might lead to.”

    Might lead to suffocation, Jacquie thought. She’d been ticking off acts in her head and knew she had maybe ten, fifteen minutes tops to step outside for some air and a hit of asthma meds before she was supposed to go on. She waited until the young guy on stage was done with his rap—not bad—to sneak out the side exit. 

    The relief of the cool night kissed her skin. Traffic wound through the neighborhood, people went to bars and restaurants, oblivious to the ache in her chest, the gaping chasm in her soul. “The show must go on,” her mother also told her. Every time Jacquie’s nerves acted up or she was coming down with a cold or even that one night when her father was in the hospital and she was supposed to sing lead in the school play.

    Jacquie went on.

    As she held the medication in her lungs, she wondered how she was supposed to go on tonight. “Respect” was the first song she’d ever sung. Two and a half years old, singing with her mother in the living room. Her first memory.

    The door opened; the guy who’d done the rap stepped out, gave her a nod, offered a cigarette he took back when he saw her inhaler, but he lit one up for himself and blew the smoke the other way. Close up he didn’t look so young. Maybe twenty-five, thirty. It could have been a trick of the street lamps out here, or an illusion of the stage lighting in there. Whatever. Age is just a number. People have been telling her she’s too young to even know about Aretha, too white to like or even sing her music. Screw that.

    “You on the list?” he asked. “Or just didn’t feel like staying home?”

    “Yes,” Jacquie said.

    “I hear that.” He dropped his cig on the sidewalk, ground it out with a big-ass-sneaker toe, crossed his arms over his skinny chest. “Way I figure is, they can’t do it, so we gotta.”

    She nodded. Letting that soak in and make sense.

    “You know,” he added, “I think it would be a damn shame if you didn’t go on tonight.”

    “Really.” His eyes were sweet, his smile was warm and friendly. “And why’s that?”

    “Cause then I wouldn’t get to hear you sing again. Best version of ‘Chain of Fools’ I ever heard coming out of a white girl.”

    She didn’t know how to react to that, but he laughed. Which made her laugh. She remembered that night. Her first open mic at this same club. A friend dared her to sing, and sing she did. She felt so good after she didn’t even need her inhaler.

    Then she fell serious. “Is it disrespectful, you think? To sing her songs, especially tonight?”

    “Hell,” he said. “I think the whole world should be singing her songs. Especially tonight.”

    She hooked an eyebrow at him. “You have some nice musicality when you rap. You sing any?”

    “Little bit.”

    “You know that duet she sang with Ray Charles? ‘Two to Tango’?”

    “Oh, damn yeah. That was one of my favorites.”

    She stuck her inhaler back in her pocket and reached for his hand. “Come back in and sing it with me.”

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    1. Now that's something more than beautiful... you've taken my mourning and transformed it right into hope. Thank you for this... it matters more than you know.

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    2. Seriously... the physical moves you give your characters... that hand reaching out at the end... and the flaws you make them fight... sigh... so real.

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    3. love the scene placing. Great!

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    4. What Leland said. Every bit of it. Hope and transformation. Thank you.

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    5. Sigh. I love this. Aretha was such an amazing talent and presence. This is a lovely tribute.

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    6. Oh, and this is made powerful:
      Jacquie went on.

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    7. Wow, yes. What everyone else said. This is perfect, not a word out of place. Plus, you made me want to go watch The Commitments again. :)

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  12. I stare at the sky, eyes raw with grit, at this shroud of burnt orange and corpse-grey where blue once smiled its summer brilliance. The alien sun a faded blood-coin suspended within the rattling final breath.

    Extinction. Exhalation. Wanting rain, fearing squalls.

    Leaves and boughs caked in layers of sandy clay, encased like a warm dry antithetical ice storm.

    Nobody has been this way in weeks. I sent my children far, not from ego but the opposite. So they might find some good beyond this. So they might have a chance.

    Emma-Lynn and Aaron, if names become monuments.

    But I fear we didn't do it right. Gold limbs among the shadows. Tales a-walking, ploys a-dancing.

    And this pain needs a name.

    ***

    "This is so sudden! You sure it's a good idea?"

    "I do. We need this."

    "But camping? Hiking? We never did this before."

    "Sure we did. Not together, but we did it."

    "Yeah, I was basically a kid then."

    "So was I."

    "So why'd you think this is a good idea now?"

    "Trust me."

    ***

    I read the classics here. Over and again. Mary Shelly's lost and tender monster; a watery spectre looming over Manderley; passion daubed across rugged, brumous moorland; Brontë, du Maurier, Austen, Woolf; odes to girls, dirty precious love songs etched into bones of landscape and carnival machinery. The Overlook. Hill House. Montauk. Joyland.

    Our blessed migrant wake.

    Why are you faking your presence? The headaches bunch like midway rides, subsequent cars of dissatisfied riders, gathering and griping, demanding redress. My blinded echoing skull is occupied by cutthroats. We usher in revolution.

    ***

    No one could have scheduled this or made of it a scheme. We were young. A cleft in the land was damp and vulvar, and we followed it down—breathless, scowling, and leaning female. Moistened breath. We took our hints from the dreadful land that shouldered us.

    "These bugs," you said.

    Battalions of mosquitos and lone earmarked deerfly.

    "What of them?"

    "I need to leave. They terrify me."

    All composure gone, you ruined our trip, quietly shrieked your dissent, made of me a wounded fool.

    Although pluralities concurred.

    The land was the land, and still is. Our trifling dramas dissolve in the face of everything, each item, all entireties, the kit and caboodle, the whole shebang, this thing we can never fully understand, all gone, so gone, so bereft, so utterly arrested.

    We're lost. Blinded. Quieted. Hurt.

    But still we need a name.

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    1. familiar and disquieting at the same time

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    2. Love it. And this line: "The alien sun a faded blood-coin suspended within the rattling final breath."

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    3. Ms. Shelley's lost and tender monster would be proud to be cited in this story. It reeks of desolation and desperation, and yet, under it all, there is hope, and power, for what is more powerful than granting a name?

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    4. This one has an understated power and sadness that hits exactly the right note. Really brilliant, D.

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  14. [IDK why my compositions are often so dark. I'm really a very happy person]

    It's amazing how many plants have heart shaped leaves.
    Like nature is calling out for all the world to love the land, just breathe.
    Hearts of green quaking in every breeze.
    Entertaining us with beauty'til the very first freeze.

    The cold sweeps in turning greens to golds.
    The yellows and reds flaming proud and bold.
    The tour buses come disgorging their load.
    And the camera shutters click like insects of old.

    Do these leaf peepers really appreciate the sight?
    It's hard to tell when I know of a blight.
    They poison the earth in their daily life.
    Never sensing the damage they cause with their strife.

    One day the heart shaped leaves won't appear.
    And human hearts will fill with fear---of the loss of all they'd held so dear.
    The land is dead, barren and brown.
    And the people?
    They're nowhere to be found.

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    1. I don't know if I would say I'm a happy person, but I'm certainly happier than my writing would imply. Sometimes, you have to write out the darkness.

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    2. There's much darkness in the world, I think... and I think Dan's advice is on target. Write out the darkness, which is better than riding out the darkness. This is a poem that does what fiction and poetry is supposed to do... it holds up a mirror, and it points out potential consequences, and it does that well.

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    3. Writing is catharsis, so yes. And there's often beauty lurking in darkness, waiting to surprise us.

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  15. I've got this splinter in my soul. It nags at me - a constant spiked pain. I've got words to write, but I can't think of my own name. I met success and failure and treated those motherfuckers the same. Or tried to.

    Who takes advice from a racist anyway? Fuck Kipling.

    I found two alley ways that diverged from a grey, city jungle. I followed the junkies and they showed me truth. The ugliness of humanity when the curtain drops. Drug dens and hooker flops.

    I never wanted to be at the top.

    I wanted to be invisible, but you keep seeing me. I wanted to be someone else, but I keep being me. What a sad state of affairs. What a bland epiphany.

    I wanted to be powerful, but it scared you. I made myself meek, and you lost all respect. What did I expect? Logic? Magic? I know all the good stories end tragic.

    Just let me be the mist that ruins your woodwork. Slowly, over years, I will persevere. I will be the termite of your undoing.

    I will be the seer.

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    1. Trademark MaderRap at its best... cynicism, anger, and at last, perseverance. Well done.

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    2. This one really works. And I love how, if anything, it gets exponentially darker and more ominous as you go. Those last four sentences are perfectly balanced and also lovely.

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    3. I'm with David - great stuff throughout, but the final bits...amazing.

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