Experiment: An American Story


by Debi


My first word was boat.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay near the spot their family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay near the spot their family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner who were descended from Puritans who crossed The Pond on the second boat to Plymouth.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father was a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the Coast from Coos Bay near the spot where the family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner who were descended from Puritans who crossed The Pond on the second boat to Plymouth whose ancestor was a second son of royalty who came across the North Sea from Sweden.

My first word was boat as my grandmother pointed to their wooden yacht upon which my father as a boy traveled to Alaska where his father had been a fisherman like his father before him in Anacortes where the family settled after moving up the coast from Coos Bay near the spot where the family landed after sailing the Plains in a Prairie Schooner who were descended from Puritans who crossed The Pond on the second boat to Plymouth whose ancestor was a second son of royalty who came across the North Sea from Sweden who was descended from Vikings who circled and settled the Norwegian Sea from Norway to Iceland to Scotland to Ireland and possibly Greenland and even America.

My first word was boat.


Writing Prompt: Where would you be if you hadn’t left your hometown?

This resembles the landscape in my recurring dream.

This resembles the landscape in my recurring dream.


Where would I be if we hadn’t moved? Who would I have been if we had stayed? I’m not sure I would’ve been alive for long.

Moving bought me time. Time to live a life removed from the places and people of childhood. Away from bullies and abusers. Away from those who still haunt my dreams and waking moments.

But then, no escape. Nowhere to run.

Bullied at school. Bullied on the street. Those ever grasping, groping hands in back lots and clubhouses. Insanity at home. Everywhere I turned, I saw only myself and my screaming face of desperation—like being trapped inside a dead-end House of Mirrors.

Let me out! Let me out! But no one hears. No rescue comes.

Help me? Please?

No. Hush, child.

A child left in the care of mental illness. They were blind. Deaf. Dumb. Numb to normal feelings.

The recurring, on-going dream of my childhood was about being buried alive. By my family. Every night. Every night beginning where it left off the night before. The nightmare that perhaps told the story of my childhood.

It went like this:

For far too many nights, tied down in a cart full of hay. Pulled by an old horse. Up and up and up and up the winding unpaved cart path.

Past the homes of friends, homes of family. Past the school, the shops, the weathered farms. To a field of grass and flowers. And a gaping grave.

They took me down from the cart, setting me quietly into the hole in the ground. Throwing clods onto my tiny child body. No! Stop! Please? Please don’t! Was I unable to make a sound? Or were they unable to hear? Or did they choose to continue despite the pleas and cries.

They were silent. Ever serious.

One handful. Another. Covering my legs. My tiny torso. My arms and hands. My face. The dirt collected in my ears, my mouth, my eyes, my nose.

The earth is cold and smells of damp. Smells of earthworms. Beetles. Clover. Grass tufts. The silence covers, envelopes, crushes me.

The lens of my dream retreats from inside my earthen grave. New scene: My family all walking away back down the hill. Silently.

The shot pans through the grim parade. The parents. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Single file. Returning from the hill.

The shot pans once more. See the empty field? A freshly dug space, no larger than a child. A view of the mountains. The soft touch of gentle breezes on wisps of grass and weeds.

The dreams ended then. The burial was complete, haunting my waking and dreaming moments.
For the rest of my life.

Who would I have been if we hadn’t moved? Still buried. Still silent. Still watching.

Without leaving, there would have been no future. No me. There is nothing to see or imagine in that alternative timeline.

It would have been

The End.

Experiment: Sirens


by Debi


police lights

Ooooooh, dammmmmn … red lights blue lights heart racing shit shit shit he’s moving in behind me what did I do I’m not speeding tail light burned out tabs expired no all good what the fuck does he want I didn’t do a thing but there he is and here’s the panic crap the panic shit breathe normally it’ll be okay sirens scare the crap out of me just pull over stay calm stay calm stay …

Oh, wait.
Somebody else. Some other call.
Breathe. Just breathe.
False alarm.

Experiment: The ABC’s of “5 W’s and an H” According to Google

5 x Ws and H


by Debi


WHO

who am I
who baptized John the Baptist
who created God
who died today
who edited the Bible
who framed Roger Rabbit
who gives a crap
who hates Christmas
who is Allah
who just died
who knows
who loves the Sun
who must die
who named Earth
who or whom
who pissed in your Cheerios
who questioned God in the Bible
who rocks
who sold Mike out
who trained Yoda
who unfriended me
who vulcanized rubber
who won
who x rayed DNA
who yelled eureka
who zoomin who

WHAT

what a wonderful world
what becomes of the broken-hearted
what century are we in
what depression feels like
what eats snakes
what Feminism means to me
what gets wetter as it dries
what History forgot
what is the third eye chakra
what just happened
what Kardashian are you
what lies beneath
what mixes well with Tequila
what not to wear
what oh my god
what pity means
what questions
what room has no walls
what say you
what tattoo should I get
what ulcer gets better with food
what value(s) of θ make(s) x=-y
what we do in the shadows
what Xanax feels like
what ya gonna do
what zup

WHEN

when active voice is used in a sentence
when breath becomes air
when cells divide
when darkness falls
when enough is enough
when friends let you down
when giving is all we have
when Hell freezes over
when I grow up
when Jesus wept
when keeping it real goes wrong
when Libras get mad
when my time comes
when no one cares
when offering advice it’s important to be sure
when pigs fly
when quitting is good
when rocks cry out
when Soul meets Body
when Time stood still
when ultimate warrior died
when voices meet
when we were young
when X-Files tells the truth
when ye pray
when zombies attack

WHERE

where am I right now
where bad kids go
where cool things happen
where did I park
where else can I go
where fun goes to die
where God left his shoes
where have you been
where is my refund
where Jesus walked
where kids eat free
where love is illegal
where miracles happen
where no one goes
where oh where
where party at
where quartz can be found
where rainbows never die
where sin abounds
where the wild things are
where unicorns are real
where vultures feast
where women create
where x and y meet
where yesterday lives
where Zeus was born

WHY

why always me
why baby why
why can’t I sleep
why do we dream
why education is important
why fit in when you can stand out
why good employees quit
why have you forsaken me
why ignorance is not bliss
why just why
why keep living
why love hurts
why me Lord
why not me
why oh why
why people lie
why quit
why Rome fell
why so serious
why thank you
why us
why vulnerability is important
why wants are unlimited
why xoxo is hugs and kisses
why you give up something for Lent
why zoos were created

HOW

how are you
how big is the Universe
how can it be
how deep is the Ocean
how earthquakes happen
how far away is the Moon
how great Thou art
how hot is the Sun
how I almost died
how Jimmy came undone
how kinky are you
how little we know
how mountains are formed
how not to cry
how on Earth
how Paris became Paris
how quaint
how rude
how soon is now
how time flies
how urgent do you need it
how very special are we
how will I know
how x affects y
how you carry yourself
howzat

Poem: Habits

Habits book cover imageI’ve been playing around a bit with erasure and found poetry lately.  Today I decided to grab a random book off my shelf (specifically not poetry) and construct a poem of sorts from words/phrases in the first few pages/chapters.

The book I chose to play with today was Habits by Charlotte Mason (a British educator from the last century).


Habits

We are all mere creatures of habit
we think our accustomed thoughts
make our usual small talk
the trivial round
the common task

The mother’s thoughts run on her children
the painter’s on pictures
the poet’s on poems

The philospher—
a thinker of high thoughts—
apt to forget that the thought that defiles
behaves precisely as the thought that purifies

The child—
born with the future in his hands—
the habits of the child
produce the character of the man
an act of faith resting on experience

The effort of decision is the greatest effort of life
not the doing of the thing
but the making up of one’s mind
which thing to do first

Random Bits: Shifting the Lens

Notes from discussing Georges Perec’s “Approaches to What?


Rather than focus on the scandal, the news event, the cataclysm, focus instead on the mundane, the ordinary, the “what’s happening when nothing’s happening.”

Don’t be a daily newspaper but be a daily record of the little things that make up the very fabric of our lives.

Question the habitual even though it’s difficult to see because you’ve been habituated to it.

“Look with all your eyes, look.” – Jules Verne

Ask the questions journalists focus on (“5 W’s and an H”), but turn the focus to the small common things rather than the more significant, yet abnormal, happenings.

Microscopic rather than macro.

Shift the lens.

Reflections after Fall Quarter in the MFA program

by Debi

While always believing that writing can be a means of healing, I find myself learning this lesson afresh in the early stages of the MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics graduate program at the University of Washington Bothell.  The writing prompts given in class have nudged me into looking at aspects of my life which I’d been ignoring and not wanting to talk about.  Ever.

I’m also reminded of the complexity of each person’s life.  Someone can grow up in a wealthy suburb like Bellevue and not be wealthy or a snobby suburbanite.  A person can have warm family memories and have recollections of abuse side-by-side in the same life.  In many ways, I think I’m developing a poetic of self.

On a somewhat egocentric track, there’s something appealing about the thought of words and ideas living on after I’m gone, maybe to be discovered anew in the back recesses of a bookshelf in some unknown future.  Writing has the potential to change an instant into an eternity, a moment into something monumental.

Ideas, art, and writing can live on after we die.  For example, Mary Shelley’s “hideous progeny,” Frankenstein, has probably affected more people in more places throughout more generations than any natural born children would have ever produced.  Any given author may die, but their words can live on, animated by the ideas of the dead author–yet inanimate, too, with no breath, no heartbeat.  Almost a zombie-life.

At the 2014 Fall Convergence which began the Fall Quarter, Canadian author Gail Scott talked about wanting to recreate the cadence of Montreal speech in her book, The Obituary, by blending together both English and French, thus creating an almost musical score from the words.  Cia Rinne’s work also produced a similar sense of musicality in the written and spoken words.  Ronaldo Wilson said at one point during the Convergence that he wishes to “sing in tune with the many songs I come from.”

And I realized, so do I.

As a parent, I have spent many warm evenings cuddled up with my children, reading aloud from classic stories.  The books we shared came alive in the reading.  The characters became our friends.  The plots felt like part of our histories. The fact that I was reading aloud gave us opportunity to listen to the writing, to feel the rhythm of the words, to hear the refrain of that dear little engine as he chugged up the hill to the reprise: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”

I want my writing to be something that can be read aloud.  I want to find ways to express the musical cadence of speech of characters in a story or people in a memory. And like Ronaldo Wilson, I want to learn to make my writing sing in tune to the many songs I come from.

One of my personal goals while starting the MFA program was to discover (or rediscover) my creative writing voice.  After years of academic writing and writing for popular non-fiction venues, giving voice to my inner self has become somewhat lost, blurred, or buried.  I believe it’s time to find that voice.  Whether this means I rediscover my former writing voice, or find a new voice all together, is yet to be seen.

Wordle: UWB MFA