Monday, May 31, 2010

Almost heaven

We traveled west and south, to hilly West Virginia. A state of contrasts -- majestic mountains and soaring skies anchored by desolate trailers and time-worn farms long abandoned. A funny state. Yard sales contest with the service sector for first place industry. Not a decent cup of coffee (and not a single Starbucks; the three coffee shops we passed by all out of business) ot a book store in a hundred miles. The Harley hogs keep the 7-11s and Liberty gas stations in business.

We hiked Seneca Rock, then ate Drumsticks and sucked down colas after the sweaty climb up. Fried up angus steaks in the evening, tender-sweet melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness, downed by 8 hours of sleep, sleep, sleep to the sound of crickets, not the whir of a far-off highway, rest and then, this, the next morning greeting us from the cabin.

A patriotic state; every small hamlet posted flags along the street, rippling in the wake of our passage. When we lived in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, the town decorated the town streets with flags, to remember those who served, those who didn't make it back from whatever war waged far from our shores.

Next time we'll bring our fishing rods, sturdier boots, more days, and our flag.

Peace, Linda

(Photo by Henry Simoni-Wastila)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daisy Chain Poetry Gang --> Focus on Robin Stratton

Robin Stratton has the privilege of granting me my first ever poetry rejection. Editor of Boston Literary Magazine, she has exacting criteria for the poems and flashes she runs every season. She also granted me one of my first story acceptances, a drabble (100 words) relating to my father's battle with the big third letter of the alphabet. She exudes enthusiasm and compassion, in her work and in her dealings with other writers. I adore -- and respect -- this woman.

We grabbed a couple of ice cream cones from Steve's and walk around Harvard Square, poking into Grolier's and chatting about how young the undergraduates looked, about how grand her upcoming debut novel will look on the shelves of the Harvard Book Store, and snuck in a few words about her poem and the writing collaboration...

As far as I was concerned it was just one more day
in that summer of gloom & bitchiness

The stores were filled with the same old new so we
took ourselves out to the bright old

Parking lot where we tossed mirrored balls in the fire
Pit & they shattered in glistening silence

We didn't plan to cut and bleed onto someone else's
ashes. But the pressured heat of the sun told us to try.

So we secreted ourselves and our thin skin behind cotton
too long, and fed dandelions poking between upheaved asphalt

To tiny chameleons who roared in approval
their tales shimmering neon

Heat rose from the asphalt and clung to our ankles so
We ran and stirred dust that lay dormant for millennia

Lungs bursting, full hallucinogenic dust
Dust of our ancestors, I know them now.

You write poetry and prose - which calls to you more, and why?I've always been a novelist, nothing else, never dabbled in poetry at all... but when I started Boston Literary Magazine, dammit, I had to try... I always admired poets... my first poems were free verse, but timidly structured, with lines ending on a natural pause. As I watched other (much better poets) end lines where it would never occur to me, I liked it and started doing it myself... I like the result a lot.

How would you characterize your poetry voice? your prose voice? Extremely narrative... I am not much into descriptive poetry... I always feature a character doing something ordinary but with a universal result; I like to write something that I think people - women mostly - can relate to and say, OMG, I do that too!

What inspired the first lines of your poem? I borrowed the tone from the first line of Kerouac's On the Road (which is my second favorite line in the book) something about him being down and out on account of a bad split with his ex or something... I wanted to see where that energy would go.

When you wrote the first line(s), did you have a preconceived idea of how your poem would shape and form? If yes, what was that vision? Yes, I thought people would stay with the character, and they didn't.

What surprised you about the final version? I was surprised by the power and finesse of the writing, but personally would like to have gotten to know my "I" character a bit more.

What are you working on now? Three chapbooks - Interference from an Unwitting Species (poetry), Some Anniversary Dinner! (based upon an idea that Doug had... half the book is one story and you turn it over and the other half is another story) and a chapbook about the Beat Generation (About the Beats - Who They Were, What They Said & Why.) I also just received very exciting news - that my novel Of Zen and Men will be published by a brand new publishing company based in San Fran... wicked wicked cool!!

I didn't touch the poem - the end result really fascinated me... I loved the image of "tiny chameleons who roared in approval, their tales shimmering neon..." damn, I oughta steal that sometime..... and the sense that "They" were running away from their desperation... and you got the sense that maybe they could find escape... and then Doug's line snatched that away and the tone turned so melancholy... which was how the poem began. I was just really super impressed by everyone's writing! I think that every single one of you captured that Beat energy, maybe without even realizing it!

Bio: Robin Stratton is a writing coach in the Boston area, director of The Newton Writers and Poets Center, editor of Boston Literary Magazine, and author of Dealing With Men and The Revision Process – A Guide for Those Weeks, Months or Years Between Your First Draft and Your Last. Her fiction has appeared in Word Riot, Poor Richard's Almanac(k), Antithesis Common, Chick Flicks, 63 Channels, Blink-Ink, Pig in a Poke, Shoots and Vines and many others. Visit her at Robin Stratton.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Daisy Chain Poetry Gang --> Focus on Laurita Miller

Lovely Laurita. An unassuming writer whose words pack a quiet punch. Laurita is new to poetry -- or so she says -- but the daily poems she dropped this past April during National Poetry Month bespoke someone wih a natural ease around meter, rhythm, rhyme, and song. Her daisy chain poem IMPETUS is no exception.

I traveled North to Newfoundland to visit Laurita. We walked along the coast, kicking at ocean foam, then went inside for tea and scones, chatting all the time of words, wonderful words...

You write poetry and prose - which calls to you more, and why? I’m not sure if either calls to me more. I write what inspires me at the moment. Sometimes that’s poetry, sometimes prose. I never really thought about my poetry writing until this past April when I wrote one poem a day that month. I really enjoyed experimenting.

How would you characterize your poetry voice? your prose voice? I’ve been accused, for lack of a better word, of being poetic even in my prose. Mark said something in his post about my short fiction being unassuming. I think he was exactly right. Most of my fiction, perhaps excluding some of the horror pieces, are rather quiet little things. I tend to write about things under the surface.

Wooden floor

Cool against my skin

There is no motivation

To move from this place

What inspired these first few lines? Honestly, I was a little intimidated when starting my poem. I had already received several beginnings and additions and I felt they were way beyond my capabilities. I wanted something that had a distinct feel, yet could go in several directions. I was kind of afraid to start, yet I knew that I had to get going. These lines just came to me one night just before bed. They described how I felt about starting my poem, and I liked the literal thought of lying on a cool floor, knowing Ihad to get up but wanting to just stay there.

When you wrote the first line(s), did you have a preconceived idea of how your poem would shape and form? If yes, what was that vision? I didn’t have any visions of the end result. I was just happy to have something to send along. My whole focus was creating a few lines that could be taken in any direction.

What surprised you about the final version? What surprised me most about the final version was how well I related to most of it. It became a poem about a woman, a mother, needing to find her place. Robin’s verse was really the turning point there and one word brought it into focus for me – guilt.

What are you working on now? I’m trying to get back into my writing groove after a couple of weeks spent volunteering with the Show Choir. I have a long list of fiction pieces that I’m hoping to work my way through in the next little while. I’ll be jetting off again soon so there will probably be a couple of travel pieces in my future.

Bio: Laurita Miller lives and loves in Newfoundland. Her writings range from horror to literary to slice of life to poetry to... name it, she writes it. She blogs at Brain Droppings.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Patriot Ford

Flags rippled in the faint evening breeze. In the dim light of the just-set sun, the plot gleamed with a newly-buffed sheen. People moved with reverence among the flags. Except for the children, who ran with yelps of laughter. Eugene Kosinksi looked down from his bunting-draped platform and grimaced, worried about the kids ruining the refined ambience he had worked so hard to create. He worried whether too many people would visit, worried not enough would come. Most of all, he worried he had given away too much. No, no… tonight was the least he could do. The dark deepened. He reached for his cell phone. Now.

The three spotlights flicked on. The huge flag hoisted up the pole, America the Beautiful thrummed the night. A large ooh wafted into the air. The crowd stood reverent, even the kids, hands held hearts, and gazed at the red and blue filling the field of night. The song ended with raucous applause. Eugene’s chest swelled with pride as he observed his seven-acre empire of F-150s, Explorers, and Fiestas glittering under the light beams criss-crossing the sky. Just wait until the free hotdogs, he thought and rubbed his hands together. Just wait until the balloon launch.

Lots of holidays celebrating all things American -- Memorial Day, Flag Day, the 4th of July. This piece inspired by a challenge -- use the word flag and patriot. Love any suggestions for tightening this up, word choice, and so on.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Daisy Chain Poetry Gang --> Focus on Tony Noland

Tony has a rep as being a bad boy on the block, churning noirish words of horror and intrigue. But he's got a soft spot, too, as evidenced in his poem EARLY SPRING. Prolific, quirky, his stories always amaze. And so does his poetry. We caught up over steak and cheese subs, a messy delight, washed down with cold Yinglings.

You write poetry and prose - which calls to you more, and why? I'd have to say that prose is what brings out the best in me. For me, poetry is like a swimming pool - a place to play around and stretch out some unaccustomed muscles. I can swim the basic strokes well enough, and I enjoy the time I spend in the pool, but I know my own proclivities well enough to stay out the way of the real swimmers who are working over in the lap lanes. No "best times" and "target heart rates" for me when I'm in the pool... I'm the guy in the shallow end, pina colada in one hand, cigar in the other.

How would you characterize your poetry voice? your prose voice? It's easier to characterize my poetry voice: humorous light verse. Oh, an occasional deep insight or blue note might creep in, but it'll be wrapped in funny.

My prose voice is harder to characterize. I write in several different genres, and the conventions of them call for different styles. I'm not afraid to be surprise readers by being unconventional, but some things work better than others. I've gotten a lot of positive response to a hard-edged, noir-thriller style of writing that I'm doing for my ongoing serial, "Just Enough Power". However, I've also had readers say that no matter what the plot or situation, they would recognize "a Tony Noland story." Maybe it's because I tend to use obscure vocabulary?

What inspired the first lines of this poem? My poem is titled "Early Spring". The first line reads: "Cooking hot dogs when I wanted ribs"

It was an early spring day, unexpectedly hot. I was running behind that day, considering what to do for dinner in late afternoon. It occurred to me that it was warm enough to fire up the grill for the first barbecue of the season. However, I'd thought of it too late in the day to do anything fancy - no briskets, no ribs, no marinaded chicken. I had none of that sort of thing on hand and I didn't feel
like running over to the store. What I did have was a few packages of hot dogs in the freezer. My kids would have loved the dogs, but we had no buns. Serve hot dogs on sliced bread? Or run over to the store after all, for their sake if not for my own?

The situation led me to thoughts of compromise, of sacrifice, of finding as much joy as possible in a less than ideal situation.

Did you have a preconceived idea of how your poem would shape and form? Sometimes parents don't get much credit for all the little sacrifices they make - I was setting up a scene for some of that to happen.

What surprised you about the final version? That it took a turn toward the morose and joyless. The dad in the final version didn't get much credit even for trying.

What are you working on now? I'm mapping out my serial in such a way that I can turn it into a properly structured novel, and I'm trying to get a little further ahead on my #FridayFlash stories. Also, l'll be publishing in an
anthology of my flash fiction, some of #FridayFlash pieces, some never seen before. My plan is for that to be done before the end of July.

BIO: Originally from the Midwest, Tony Noland is a writer and blogger (and poet!)living in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. He writes literary fiction, science fiction, horror and fantasy. In 2010, my stories have appeared in the "12 Days" and "Unluck of the Irish" anthologies. Later this year, my work will be in the "Chinese Whisperings - Yang" and "Best of #FridayFlash - 2009" anthologies. I'm also one of the team of associate editors for the latter. My most successful poem to date is "Ode to the Semicolon". I'm active on Twitter as @TonyNoland and my
writer's blog is LANDLESS

Monday, May 17, 2010

Daisy Chain Poetry Gang --> Focus on Michael Solender

Michael Solender -- writer, essayist, journalist, and poet extraordinaire. Also the third link in the daisy chain poetry gang. I've had the pleasure of flashing and poeming with Michael for over a year, and all I can say is -- wow. Michael is one of the most versatile writers I know, and one of the most talented. You can find his colloborative poem OUR DISTANT FRIENDS at The Not. I time traveled to Charlotte, where we kicked back on the front porch and threw back a couple of icy cold brews while talking all things writing.

Michael, which calls to you more, poetry or prose? Prose, I think, has a stronger pull for me. I have difficulty with structure in poetry but ironically can find the discipline liberating so I do try. I went through a Villanelle stage and Pantoums which are variations on that theme. Prose allows me to be more loose with conceptualization and flow that seem to better fit my mood.

How would you characterize your poetry voice? your prose voice? I really like to experiment. Trying second person, female characters in prose is challenging and fun for me. I think of it less as voice and more mood.

What inspired these first lines of your poem?

They reside on shores unseen
waiting, wanting,
wrestling with weighty wonderment
Do they feel what we feel?
Know what we know?
Care our cares?

I was actually thinking sci-fi for some strange reason and about parallel universe!

When you wrote the first line(s), did you have a preconceived idea of how your poem would shape and form? If yes, what was that vision? I really had no idea whatsoever... I was looking to be surprised and I was.

What surprised you about the final version? Just how tight and seamless it was, the flow and cadence were wonderful.

What are you working on now? I have a story (non-fiction) I'm pitching about two local documentary filmmakers who have produced a film celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Newport Folk festival and they have hundreds of hours of interviews and concert footage with major principals like Joan Baez, Odetta, Pete Seeger etc. The back story is incredible and I anm expanding my comfort zone and taking the story to some big name national publications..we'll see.

Bio: Michael J. Solender is editor of On The Wing. A recent corporate refugee, he foolishly turned to writing for salvation. His opinion and satire has been featured in The Richmond Times Dispatch, The Winston-Salem Journal, and Richmond Style Weekly. He writes a weekly Neighborhoods column for The Charlotte Observer and contributes frequently to Charlotte ViewPoint and Like The Dew, Journal of Southern Culture & Politics. Solender’s micro-fiction and poetry has been featured online at Bull Men’s Fiction, Calliope Nerve, Danse Macabre, Dogzplot, Gloom Cupboard, Full of Crow, Right Hand Pointing, Shoots & Vines, The Legendary, Metazen, Writers’ Bloc and over one dozen other venues. His essay, Unaffiliated, will be featured in the upcoming print anthology TOPOGRAPH, New Writing From the Carolinas and the Landscape Beyond, published by Novello Festival Press in the fall of 2010. He blogs almost daily at Not From Here, Are You?

Peace, Linda

Oh Thank God...

Happiness and well-being increase after age 50!

Peace, Linda

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Daisy Chain Poetry Gang -- Focus on Paige von Lieber (The Dream According to Us)

I've been penning poetry beside Paige for over two years. I think we've gone through THREE April PAD Challenges with Robert Brewer. But she's not just a whiz with words -- she also has a keen eye with a camera and snaps what I term 'photopoems'.

You can read Paige's poem The World According to Us --> HERE. Then, pull up a chair and a icy glass of cyberade, and listen to her talk about making words sing...


Thanks so much Linda, not only for this interview, but also for inviting me to participate in the Daisy Chain, it was my first. I enjoyed the challenges I was faced with, trying to not only figure out what I wanted to write but also what the starter may have had in mind. Of course the direction of every poem can change once it becomes spoken. You know that as a writer, even though we have our agenda and outline of sorts for what we think we want to say, but the words and characters know what they are.

You write poetry and prose - which calls to you more, and why? Poetry. Not to say that I haven’t or don’t ever write prose, it’s just that I seem to have issues with that whole hamburger theory. The top bun, burger patty and bottom bun not to mention with or without onions, cheese, pickles etc. Poetry just seems to happen for me. I mean I see it everywhere, the way the sun can shine just so or how a hawk seems to float and dive through the air. I also blame my childhood, my mother always did art stuff of some sort, any sort and I was better at creating than athletics and I see writing as a form of creation. Or could be because of the whole God syndrome that so many psychologists think humans strive for. I think it is part of our nature to imitate Him, just like children do with parents, you know wearing your mother’s high heels or your Dad’s jacket. Well that and I don’t have to do grammar junk.

How would you characterize your poetry voice? your prose voice? Wishy washy. In that I can’t seem to find a voice, or what feels like a voice to me. It’s all over the place, although sometimes there appears to be a sort of theme, but who knows. I tend to be eclectic in everything, the music I listen to, the types of art I try my hand at and my poetry falls in that category too. I liken myself to a dragonfly, I flitter about between so many things that it appears I’m not doing anything other than flittering about, except I’m really getting full of whatever it is I need at the time. Someone once said that I had style, but they didn’t tell me what kind and they didn’t use the term “voice”. All in all if you really pined me down I suppose I would have to say, an everyday type of voice. You know like everyone has, common and one most folks can understand…an inside voice soft and quiet even soothing; outside voice loud and obnoxious like the squawking mocking birds or that damn wiener dog that pounds and whines all day at the neighbors back door; love and death frequently voice their opinions sometimes in unison. Maybe I should ask, What do you mean by my voice?

What inspired the first lines of this poem? I asked the other poets for a 3 lined stanza in 1st person POV in the present tense, here is the starting stanza

The Dream
according to us

I saw a miniature black horse; its name was Ninety-two
standing before orange elevator doors
they chimed open, Ninety-two winked and leapt inside

The inspiration was a building number that flew past as we drove south on I-45, I only caught a portion of the number, and the song Black Horse, by KT Tunstall, was playing on the radio. I enjoy writhing dream poems and the fact that they can jump from one thing to another and thought it would be a decent enough theme for a group.

When you wrote the first line(s), did you have a preconceived idea of how your poem would shape and form? If yes, what was that vision? No, I had no idea where it would end up or if it would even stay with the black horse image. My main idea was a poem that I hoped would be fun for everyone. Especially since this was my first Daisy Chain experience.

What surprised you about the final version? I wasn’t surprised at how well it sort of fell together, they all are really good poets. With that said, I have rearranged some of the stanzas and changed some a bit… let me explain I have issues with balance and the way things look to the eye (my artistic eye) and felt from an editor point of view for flow they work better in this order. This question makes me uncomfortable, I’m usually a passive sort of person and don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I would so suck at being a real editor constantly saying “I’m sorry” and junk like that.

What are you working on now? I’m currently editing some of the poems I did during April and the PAD Challenge prompts by Robert of Poetic Asides. I am quite pleased with the way some have turned out. Funny I don’t seem to mind cutting and rearranging my work. I may grumble about some of the prompts, but once I convince my muse, named Genius, which lives under a chair in my studio to get to work she does. You see it’s her fault if a poem is good, bad or indifferent not mine. And that whole concept has opened a freeness for me; No worries, cause I’m not to blame, she is.

Happy weekend, and peace... Linda

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Poetry Daisy Chain Gang - Focus on Mark Kerstetter (From Speedball Into the Blue)

To celebrate National Poetry Month this April, I asked some of my favorite writers to participate in a collaborative experiment -- a poetry daisy chain. The idea was simple -- each person contributes the beginnings of a poem, some possible constraints or requirements, and then pass it along to the enxt person in line. By the end, everyone would receive their original start with everyone else's 'take'. The hope: to approach poetry a little differently, to churn the creative juice, to build community, and, most important, to have some fun. We succeeded in all these goals, and ended up with some fascinating results.

For the next couple of weeks, I will feature several of these adventurists. First up -- Mark Kerstetter. Poet, philosopher, prose writer, artist, Mark takes a multi-media and multi-genre approach to creating provocative, lush, and sometimes uneasy beauty. He posted his 'before' and 'after' poems, as well as a fascinating piece on the process behind his poem --> FROM SPEEDBALL INTO THE BLUE. A must read for anyone wanting to get an inside view of an amazing writer's mind.

Mark kindly agreed to an interview, which we conducted in the shade of an ancient cyber oak over several glasses of cyber Bordeaux...

You write poetry and prose - which calls to you more, and why? I don't think poetry calls to me more than prose, but I have an older and closer relationship to it. As a little kid I wrote rhymes as well as stories. For reasons unknown I stopped writing stories when I turned 11 or 12, but continued with poetry. I began writing fiction again in my twenties but it was of an experimental, "poetic" type, and remained so for years. Only fairly recently have I begun to write straightforward stories again (many of the shorter ones are posted on my blog), and so I still feel like an amateur in that area. But my relationship to poetry has been constant, so it feels like home to me.

How would you characterize your poetry voice? your prose voice? In general my poetry voice and my prose fiction voice are the same in that I tend to go for a speaking voice. I want my poems and stories to sound natural or musical when spoken out loud. The stories I've been writing are for the most part a much simpler voice, a natural sounding voice, even though they are not necessarily me personally. My poems cover a wider formal range, but always I go for either a natural voice or language that sounds musical when spoken aloud. I don't go for poetry that is meant to be looked at silently on the page. I want to hear someone, speaking from the heart, telling me something real from their own experience. That is what I try to do.

The first line you sent us is strong and evocative:
Swept into that maelstrom,
in the still eye
and spinning faster than we believed possible

I like the idea of a meditation on speed, of a calm lucidity in the eye of a tornado. I think it's rich ground for writing. A few years ago I wrote a long poem on this theme. The first sentence completed the last sentence, so that the whole thing, in the experience of reading it, turned like a sphere in orbit.

When you wrote the first line(s), did you have a preconceived idea of how your poem would shape and form? If yes, what was that vision? I had the idea that everyone would write one line of the same approximate length as mine; it would therefore have been a short poem. But that expectation was based on my own lack of foresight. I did not lay that down as a rule, so there was no reason for me to expect it.

What surprised you about the final version? A lot of things surprised me about the final version. There was a high degree of counter-movement, which surprised me since the concept already allowed for the opposing movements of speed and stasis. For example, Paige wrote, "But that was yesterday..." which felt (to me, anyway) like taking the reader right out of the situation described in the first line. Not to blame it all on Paige, but the resulting text was a picture of chaos. I didn't expect a perfectly formed thing, but the degree of chaos did surprise me. I blame myself. I should have picked a simple theme and imposed an order on it. I couldn't help but notice that counter-movement occurred to some degree in all the texts, sometimes to an extreme degree. Ironically, when "Speedball" became "Into the Blue", Paige became my starting point, and Doug, the person who most consistently went his own way in the game overall, ended up giving me the thing that captured my interest the most. He gave me the wonderful name Edwin "Speedball" McCullen and put him in a place I saw as a nursing home. He is a man with a past: a hippy in Haight Ashbury, a wanderer in Amsterdam. Then Robin gave me Sedona, a place I had to google. Since I've been to Arizona I've seen the saguaro cactus. Now I had a man escaping the confines of his nursing home in Sedona, to wander the desert in freedom one last time. I could never have predicted that, and how beautiful it is!

What are you working on now? I am almost finished with a review of a wonderful new book of poems by Peter Davis, an essay on Salvador Dali, and I've been taking a lot of notes on the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Of course I always have poems going on and stories in my head.

Mark Kerstetter loves to read, write, draw and make art out of salvaged wood and other found objects. He selects poets for the arts and culture webzine Escape into Life and blogs at The Bricoleur

Peace, Linda

So I've Got a New Job...

One of my New Year's Writing Resolutions was to get more editing experience, so when JMWW a fabulous litzine operating out of my adopted hometown, offered me a gig with their amazing editoiral team, I jumped on it.

I've followed JMWW for almost 2 years, reveling in their poetry, flashes, and longer shorts, featuring writers whose work I respected and enjoyed. Like THIS, their latest all-flash issue.

So here I am. Already wading up to my knees in the slush. But what wonderful slush it is.

Peace, Linda

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hint Fiction --> See My Name? Squee!

In celebration of the first HINT FICTION anthology, due out Novemeber 2010, Robert Swartwood held another hint contest. James Frey was the esteemed judge this year. With over 350 entries, the competition was tight, but I managed to snag an honorable mention for PINK SLIP.

For those of you who know me well, you understand I have this thing for Frey - the energy he brings to the page, the way he makes the substance-addled voice sing. I STUDY his stuff (and Brett Easton Ellis', another master of the screwed-up head) to get my characters' voices right when they go on their benders or sink into their otherwise impaired states. So... this means a lot to me.

Meanwhile, I'll try to find a home for PINK SLIP.

Happy Monday! Peace, Linda

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Motherless Child

I hate this day.

Mother’s Day.

On my back, my legs and arms stretch to the bed corners, the sheet shrouding me. I hear Ben banging around in the kitchen, singing off-key. Lying still in the pale dark, all I remember is how her final hours unfurled with slow-motion precision, each second forever seared in my memory: how I perched beside her on the narrow hospital bed set up in the dining room, how the feeble May sun flickered through the sheers, casting her face into yellow shadow, how that morning was strangely quiet.

That Mother’s Day, ten years ago.

An odd, sad noise had woken me up, it sounded like Pumpkin meowing to come in. When I snuck from bed, the plaintive cry circled up. Crouching behind the railing, I heard my father’s voice soothe, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow, darling… I promise.” I remember wondering what would happen the next day, what promise he was making to Mom. I crept back to my too large bed, too excited to sleep – maybe tomorrow she’d be better.

But she wasn’t better. Daddy hovered, tucking cool, pink sheets around her wasted body, fingering the IV line for kinks, injecting medicines into the drip, his eyes strangely glassy. I clasped her hand, the skin stretched parchment-thin over bird-like bones. My stomach felt leaden. That hushed morning was an instant that seemed like forever. She gazed at me, her eyes half-open, narcotic glazed slits.

“Phoebe,” she rasped, a hoarse whisper, “Live.”

Those were her last words. I try to honor her wish, to give life shape and purpose, but her absence left a gaping hole which only grows larger and more painful, much like the cancer that consumed her. Resentment wells, smothering the good memories. I flip onto my stomach and cry in the warm, flanneled dark.

The bed sags. Hands travel my shoulders and neck, hot through the sheet, stroking my hair smooth against my head. Ben lies on top, hugging me from behind.

“I’m sorry.” He holds me close, trembling with me, his fingers erasing my salty tears. “Hey, you need to get ready. Time to go to church.”

“I don’t want to go.” My voice quakes, laced with petulance. I know I’m being churlish wallowing in self-pity, and all I want to do is hurl my body to the floor and pound, pound, pound my hands and feet. But I don’t; I have no idea how to throw a proper tantrum.

“Up,” he says, tugging my hands. “We’re going.”

“You’re coming with me?” I struggle up. “But you don’t like to go to church.”

Ben rolls the blanket down to my feet and cool air rushes over my legs.

“I want to be with you,” he says. “All day.”

He pulls me from the bed. The cold lump that seems to always settle in my chest melts a little. With a soft “thank you,” I kiss him and shuffle to the bathroom.

After toast, we make our way to the Unitarian Universalist church and sit in my usual spot, four pews from the front. The sun peeks through grey scudding clouds, brightening, then darkening, the austere white sanctuary. Ben holds my hand and looks over the order of service. I feel strangely calm. I squeeze his fingers; he squeezes back. The organ’s sighs fill the open space.

When we rise for the opening hymn, apprehension crowds my throat. His hand settles in the small of my back, steadying me. We sit back in the rigid pews and the minister reads a poem on the difficulty of a mother relating to her daughter but loving her all the same. My heart trembles again and he knows; his hand caresses the top of mine with his thumb in time to the metered cadence.

A hush follows. My fingers relax from his grip and he cocks his head at me, surprised when I join the choir at the front of the sanctuary. The hymnal shivers in my hands. It is time. Can I do this? Can I? I’ve practiced this for weeks. The director clears her throat and lifts her eyebrows, questioning. I nod and she signals with her right hand. I breathe.

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
A long way from home,
A long, long way from home.

My voice quavers, then steadies and strengthens. Ben’s intent eyes glisten in the stippled light. I look away; I can’t break down, not now. I focus on the music, staying on pitch, and when the choir joins in on the second verse, the tension leaves. My eyes fill and the faces in the pews smudge into my mother’s.

My life has accelerated towards this moment for months, maybe even years. The heaviness persists – perhaps it always will – but here, now, it seems thinner, more a bittersweet ribbon flowing through me. Shadows dance over Ben. He gently smiles at me. For the first time in what seems forever, I feel a little less alone.

For my mother and all mothers.

(Excerpted from BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, a love story). Peace, Linda

Love in the Sand --> Over at BRAINDROPPINGS

Laurita Miller held a flash contest on all things ocean. LOVE IN THE SAND garnered an honorable mention. While you're there, check out grand winner Lily Mulholland's story, along with those by Michael Solender, Cathy Ouliffe, Lou Freshwater, Jodi MacArthur, Alan Davidson, and Barry Northern. An eclectic take on the seaside.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Interview at Every Day Poets

Everyone knows about Every Day Fiction, a place to get your daily flash fix, but did you know about EDF's sister site Every Day Poets?

Nothing like a daily poem delivered to your email to make your day taste smoother.

The good folks over at EDP interviewed me after monday morning when the garbage truck comes got a showing. Take a look, then read a poem.

Thank you Oonah Joslin and the rest of the fine editors at EDP for giving my poems a chance, and for sharing the beauty of so many other poets' works.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, May 01, 2010

I penned my final poem of April last night, and felt a combination of relief and sadness. Relief that my days could now turn back to PURE and concentrating on finishing that novel, and sadness because I'll miss the liberation of knowing my prescribed daily writing task (yes, it is liberating to have someone tell me what to do every now and then).

BUT... poetry's not going away just because April showers bring May flowers. Nope. you see, a group of us played poetry daisy chain, yielding eight collaborative poems. I'll be introducing you to the poems -- and the authors who originated each one -- in the coming weeks. These writers -- Michael Solender, Laurita Miller, Mark Kerstetter, Paige von Lieber, Tony Noland, Doug Mathewson, and Robin Stratton -- pen poetry and prose, and when you read their stories and poems, you can see the influence of each genre on the other. Paige wrote a poem to honor the Poetry Chain Gang.

Out this week ===> 6S:V3, featuring some of the finest six sentence writers and edited by the excellent Lydia Davis.


You say
follow the breath
so I do
and listen to your mantra
mild, measured

on the inhale
guts, liver, lungs
float, oxygenated
cushions, and relax me
into the moment
the now
the be

but as my stomach
hollows on the exhale
air clutches somewhere
higher, afraid on the
to be.

Prompt: letting go

Peace, Linda