Day in the City – Fiction

Late afternoon once again and the man moves across the empty street toward the park. Right away he sees a fat squirrel standing on the grass, its cheeks moving. He shoots it with his BB rifle and drops the body in his sack, looks around for a moment, then starts to head back home.

The man goes along his way, passing by abandoned cars. He peeks inside one. A while back, in one of the cars, he found an album with some lovely photos. Another time he saw a raccoon curled underneath a dashboard. He used to think about the people trying to evacuate, and him waiting for the imminent. But something in his genes disallowed his dying like the others. Now he peeks inside dead cars and buildings.

Later, as he walks through the basketball courts it catches him, a red soccer ball laying partially deflated in the middle of the empty court. He’s passed by it countless times, but now he’s struck. The half-of-something sitting there, touched only by the stolid air. The man goes over to it, squeezes and listens to its long wheeze. Then he drops it in the trash, even though it won’t go anywhere.

Sunday Photo Fiction
Sunday Photo Fiction

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction.

Gerald Contemplates God – Fiction

(c) Jen from Blog it or Lose it!
(c) Jen from Blog it or Lose it!

“I ain’t the most religious guy, but you’ve got to admit, those Bible-thumpers know a thing or two about art and architecture,” Gerald said to me as he gazed at the constellation of gold tiles that defined the chapel’s ceiling. “Maybe that’s why people turn to religion if they weren’t brought-up on it–they’re too attracted to beauty.”

Gerald rubbed his chin, “Then again, it seems a bit too tacky, like they’re trying too hard.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You would think they would do better if they’re trying to make a tribute to God.”

“Nah, they’re not doing this for God. Besides, do you really think God gives a crap about some shiny shit in a building? Haven’t you ever thought it weird that God would care if we worshiped him or not? Does God have an ego, like us?”

“Let’s hope not, for this artist’s sake.”

A non-story inspired by Bastet’s Friday Flash Fiction Challenge from We Drink. Check out the other entries!

Working Class Heroism

“You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.” President George W. Bush —to a divorced mother of three.

We need to support the poor
with handshakes and shoulder-pats
of patriotism. They need to feel
that the penny-jobs and the slumped bones
are the traits of True America.
If placed within admiration’s glow,
they will never see the endless hours
as slavery. Their children will grow-up
and be proud and never change
their fixed place, allowing perfection
to forever rule and remain.

An attempt at political poetry. Even though it’s supposed to be ironic I think it still comes off as a bit preachy.

Dverse Poets Sat. 14th

Michael Ashley’s Auntie Doreen

When Because We’re Poets asked us to introduce a poet it didn’t take me long to think of a few, but the one I’m introducing today is Michael Ashley. I’ve read and commented on other poems he’s written and posted on Poetry Circle, but it wasn’t until his poem Auntie Doreen where I was truly aware of his talents as a writer (that was also the same day where I discovered Aprille, another excellent poet whose work deserves more attention.) So with Michael’s permission here’s Auntie Doreen:

(I)

her laugh is a warm pair of arms
wrapped tight around my waist,
in the waiting room
every face is the shape of a bluebell,
every smile as precious as bright
yellow crocus tips
pushing their way, gently through snow.

(II)

there’s a heart as big as any tumour
thumping hard against the cage,
the jangling bones hold everything in,
and then there’s the eyes
fading away with each priceless blink,
slowly retracting to sleep,
to peace, and finally to silence.

(III)

at your funeral the children spoke
they said, “she’s in a better place”
light falls softly through the stained glass
across the furrows above the vicar’s eyes,
and I wonder about this better place
what colour the walls would be,
how a window would swing open
a large oak bench in the centre,
the yellow eyes of Lilies scattering their pollen
upon the whiteness of a table cloth.

The first thing that stood out to me was how this poem treats its subject matter. Usually poems about the death of a loved one are rather banal and melodramatic, but Auntie Doreen is far greater than most poems of the same subject matter. This is because the writing never falls into bathos; there are a number of places where the poem could have easily fallen into triteness but not here. The first two lines aren’t exactly cliches but they almost seem common and could have been written by others in other poems. This is the first place where Michael could have turned this into poem into common schlock but instead we get “in the waiting room” and four lines of strong images that are not only memorable but tell you more information about the titular figure of the poem. We get how Auntie Doreen affects everyone including the speaker (who I’m guessing is a child) and how she manages to bring comfort to everyone despite her presumed illness. I’m not one to tout the “show, don’t tell” approach to writing for there are cases where telling can be just as, or even more effective than showing, but in this case we are shown the kind of person Auntie Doreen is in just a few lines that also manage to contain good imagery. Any other poem would have created a list or stuffed description down the throat of the reader, but not here. The flower imagery, also, is not forced here and is not banal.

I think I might have told Michael that the second stanza was the best, but after rereading I realize that it is probably the weakest as it lacks the strong moments and breadth of information we get in the rest of the poem but it still serves as a good transition between the waiting room and funeral scene. The first two lines in S2 are almost a bit trite, but aren’t that bad, just weak compared to the rest of the poem. But we then get: “fading away with each priceless blink, / slowly retracting to sleep, / to peace, and finally to silence.” These lines are fantastic and contain a nice music. Notice how it says to peace instead of to silence. The switching of the words makes it more interesting for the reader and encourages the reader to think more about what is actually being said.

S3 is also great. We get some good lines such as: “light falls softly through the stained glass / across the furrows above the vicar’s eyes,” and the last line is utterly fantastic. Instead of getting pounded over the head we get a nice image and a great scene of what the speaker imagines what the afterlife might be like for Auntie Doreen. I’ve read a number of poems like this one and I’ve probably even read one or two with similar scenes in the same sequence, but none were executed as well as this. Instead, it reminds me more of Robert Frost whose poems contain a nice music and tone that carries you along with the poem.

Movement

Nick Cannon told everyone
that he thinks of things
and makes them happen.
But then I think of the millions
of Nick Cannons, pilgriming
West, spilling out of buses,
only to be a story shared
by everyone else.

I tried to climb-up trees, but already knew
I would never be my friend, who never fell
to where I am at. I was never lucky enough
to be born with my friend’s hands
just as many hopefuls and wannabees weren’t
born with the right stuff, or were born
at the wrong time.  I already knew
what my parents knew,
that I would never be president,
even when they told me I could be anything,
each time I fell.

I never ventured
West, because I knew
I would live long in this town,
with its many trees.

Written for the Thursday Prompt at Because We’re Poets.

The Insomniac Dreams

The center of night
stretches into the street,
hugging hovering lights,
the wet air
pummeling the sidewalk.

From this night I arrive
back to where they received
retribution for my misdeeds–
their fists sunk into me, my stomach
slamming into itself.

My mind carries along
to that old school, entering
a windowless room, imagining summer
sleeping in piles along the fence,
the gum-stained carpets
contrived into paw prints.

When I used to lie
in my room, I would turn
to the ceiling, waiting–
it was never calm, now
the night passes through me.
All those things
seem like they never were.

Inspired by the Sunday Scribblings post: Wander.