Aberration, a poem

Winter, the air was as dry as unbuttered toast.
Ice formed from any moisture and hung onto any thread.
Children were bundled so if they fell
it would be face up
so they wouldn’t suffocate,
their identities unknowable behind scarves and hats pulled low.
Until a Chinook
when they threw off their stiff winter clothes
and ran in their socks and shirt sleeves
in yards of mud,
no, not ran, but hopped
like new little toads with tails abandoned,
this way and that,
with the randomness of joy.
And when it was over
they came home dressed in other children’s clothes.

I joined the Rusty Cast-Iron April Poetry Club, a closed club on Facebook for the month of April. I tried to write a poem every day. Some days I pulled old poems out of the moth balls and re-worked them. Honestly, it was really hard and time consuming. Whole mornings were taken up with my punching and kneading the raw dough! But it was an honest effort. I am going to post some of the ones I am happy with. NOT ONE A DAY, but maybe one once in a while. Thank you dear reader for you indulgence.

This was Day Five, I think the prompt was to write about a micro climate, which this is not, but it is about a climate aberration… We did experience something like this the first winter in Ottawa.

 

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About Oliver Schroer and Music as Inspiration

I started trying to write a poem previously called “Coasting” after watching a science program that showed the link between mankind’s developmental leaps and areas of great tectonic instability, (what would become lakes and coasts) the whole science of metallurgy literally bubbling out of the ground. The soil was often richer too as a result and so agriculture thrived and then communities formed. Trade and commerce followed as we pursed the ingredients needed to make metals and so requiring the development of new skills, boat building and new ways of living developed.

So the idea of LIFE being a coastline came to mind; Shorelines become places of departure and change but also our homes. Venturing out into the unknown was terrifying and exciting, the things of legends and ballads; Fear of Death at the heart of all our stories about the sea.

In Oliver’s own words:

“At the moment we pass through that portal, things rearrange themselves so thoroughly it cannot make any sense to us now. I have the feeling that, at the moment that I slip across, it will make ultimate sense. And I’m not going to look back.”

Listening to Field of Stars everything fell into place.

The greatest departure we can ever make is from life itself. But as we are of the earth, we still see the stars as we once saw the ocean, our next unknown, our next destination. Listening to him play “Field of Stars” I realized this was really what the poem was leading to, and how I would finish it with the tone I had wanted to convey. I never felt it was about the futility of life even though, “eccentric and wild-eyed” myself I have cried about it.  When I read more about him it felt like finding this piece of music was one of those events that sound like a clique, but nonetheless, was profound.

This is written by someone who saw his last concert:

““The first week I moved to Toronto I went alone to a random benefit concert for Oliver Schroer, a fiddler I had never heard of. He was dying of leukemia and needed money for an experimental treatment. His former students had flown in from the corners of Canada and put together an amazing impromptu show in a desperate effort to save his life. The place was packed.

Oliver was supposed to be at the hospital that night, but he snuck in toward the end of the eve, a frail sallow man in vibrant striped pjs, with a powerful frame, cheerful hands, and hulking Mongolian boots, such a striking visual contradiction. He was in the building for all of 15 minutes attended by a wild interweave of medical equipment and one very concerned-looking doctor, yet he managed to play a single song and see his friends before being rushed back. The doctor insisted that no one touch him. I remember thinking that must be hard.

This piece was played 3 feet in front of me by a man who had dedicated his whole life to music and knew it was likely he would never play another song; yet he had the fortune to play for his most desired and intimate audience. I felt so incredibly lucky to be witness to that. It was undoubtedly one of the most profoundly beautiful experiences of my life.

He died a few days later.

I bought the album, Camino and learned that the music had been composed during his 1,000 km walk along the Camino de Santiago, an ancient trail between France and Spain. With a portable recording studio, violin, and sleeping bag in his backpack he stopped in the churches to record what you hear.”

And finally, though it seems a bit of a conceit, the poem, AGAIN. It’s just that I don’t think I am the author as much as the cobbler, and maybe it’s not very good but it says something I thought I couldn’t say and now I’m just excited to say it. (Thank you for your indulgence). You can accuse me of defaulting to a sort of religious or spiritual delusion to answer the unknown. My punk youth would argue it is  a cop-out, but my old lady blues would admit she just doesn’t know and that makes room for everything we can imagine.

A Field of Stars to Light Your Way
There were the beaches of your youth
where you marked impossible feats in the cool
sand
that you tossed up in cartwheels,
piled up in castles
and burrowed under.
You built and destroyed and built again.
You shone with the dust of eons on your skin.
You
collected tales of seafaring folk,
like polished stones
that you shifted
in your pockets and carried home
Older, you watched the sky for storms.
You got a dog that barked at sea foam.
You never stayed long
then older still,
eccentric and wild-eyed
you climbed to the top of the cliffs,
and you cried:
“I lost everything here. Life was so hard.”
THE COAST with its cliffs jagged and worn
and rivers that spilled and mixed with the brine,
forests old before prophets were born,
all your kin, all your life, all your time,
all those who would have called you back
are gone and you’re
adrift
like a tiny raft lost in the ocean’s sway
alone beneath
a field of stars
a field of stars to light your way.

Being Wrong

I got in an argument when I was a kid about whether a certain plant was poison ivy. I was certain it was a Trillium that was not yet flowering.  “So rub your face in it!” was her response.  I did. I was wrong. Boy was I wrong.

We all hate finding out we are wrong.  We might enjoy the humiliation of someone else, especially a blow hard being proven wrong or laugh at the slap-stick that a wrong premise can lead a character to repeat over and over. We recognize it because we have all known that often uncomfortable realization.

The thing about being wrong, as Kathryn Schulz author of “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” points out, it feels just like being right. Until we find out we are wrong we can feel pretty good.

Then, after we realize we are wrong we might continue to act as if we are right because we think we have too much to lose by making such an admission.

On the other hand we can believe that they are so wrong we have to bring them to justice, or to the court of public opinion, or just remind them, frequently. We can even feel pleasure from this punishing of others for their stumbles. It is unfortunate because we will be wrong again too.

Being wrong is part of being human. How a character in a fiction deals with the realization and all its ramifications can drive a story but in real life, it is an opportunity for us to learn and grow as a human being, and in real life we get lots of opportunities. Lucky thing because learning to be an adult human being is what your all too human life is about. It really is.

 

I Stammer When I Write, but I am brilliant when I read.

I do, and I have an odd habit of saying things in a back-assed way. It is as if addressing a glove that is turned insideout I imagine turning the world inside out to accommodate it. So it is of paramount importance that I learn to edit. If I want to share that is.   (What is the deal with EM dashes really?)

Unfortunately I am doing most of my reading through audio books these days. Presently I am listening to “City on Fire” by Garth Risk Hallberg and it is AWESOME.  It is set in 1970’s New York and that was MY TIME in history, –as pathetic as that may be– I feel at home there.

Mostly I am enjoying the writing. He is a beautiful writer. Every sentence I want to swim in, dive in, gulp.  Truly. And now I feel I need to see the words so I can discern the magic of them.

Ah words, you trap me everyday.

So that’s all I have to say: I stammer when I write.  I spent a year stammering as a child and had to go to speech therapy.  What I learned was if they take you out during regular class time you will get beaten up at recess.  So I fixed it because of my sheer determination to not be different. That’s what the 1970’s were, the struggle to be normal and the results of how impossible it was to be normal.  The punk, post humanist posture, and it’s darker preppy twin, the hyper vigilant, fake it till you make it, corporate minion was the result. All of this is delineated in his book wondrously.

I don’t know what started my stammer or really what ended it but it ended.

I can learn to write better, perhaps not brilliantly but better.  I just have to find someone to threaten me with a beating if I don’t. 😦

Getting there is not the issue.

I should have expected this. Right on time I went a bit crazy with anxiety over my writing. I know about the hard work of writing (and just about any creative endeavour)and I had the crazy idea that because I have overcome so many of my “demons” I would be able to slog through the nasty bits of finishing off my novella for possible publication. I also thought I could handle having to talk to other people about it. Instead I sunk into a black despair which I commonly call “being in the grip of the black dogs”. I think I have written about this and how it compares to grief, both of which are not really the same as sadness despite the social misuse of the term “depressed”.

*sigh*

Where I have fallen down and continue to fall down is not in falling down but
in trying to hide it.

I can’t write the “great novel”.  I can only write my novel and be as true as I can possibly be. That includes letting it fail but doing the work anyway.

Sometimes when I am riding my bike home with my groceries I am passed on the road by someone all suited up with the latest apparel and newest bike and I think of the old lady I used to see in Ottawa. She carried her groceries in the front basket of an old bicycle. She made lunches for a local day care. I would see her everyday. She always dressed in a skirt and wore a hat or scarf and she rode very erect.  She is the one I remember out of all the cyclists whizzing by me in my lifetime. I have no ego invested in the daily chores that riding my bike help me complete, I don’t compare myself to athletes or pretend to be other than who I am.

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Wheeeeel, Wheeeel, Wheeeel, BUTTERFLY!

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wilficecream

About Writing

 

 

Back in the good old days of Live journal I used it as my personal diary and sometimes forgot to click on “private” in the drop down so it was sort of like a Rear Window event only I was the victim or the murderer, not sure which.  I did share a lot of my attempts at writing fiction in that ghostly world of on-line journaling.  But it was unsubstantial, like a life that only happens when you are sleeping.

I recently gave my novella to a couple of friends and then to a woman who is a professional editor. She offered to give it a read and then an estimate for the edit…  This is about as REAL as I have gotten with my fiction writing beyond a few teen magazines when I was a teen and a cook book and short story anthology that I gave my oldest son.

btw, WHAT THE F*&K ARE EM DASHES?

forgive the brain fart

Here is what they have said:

  • Friend who makes her living writing, or a portion of her living, we will call her J.  “Hi Rio, I’m just starting to read your book. I love it! I don’t want to put it down!”
  • Friend who is very much the opposite of sanguine. Lets call her D.: “Hi my birth name, I’ve read half your story and here are the notes I jotted down while I was reading. (The majority are spelling mistakes.)”
  • The Editor, hence called “the editor”: I read the working name of my novella and found it very engaging. The storytelling is strong; you have a clear tone and good flow. I really like the stories within a larger story concept. You’ve created a dystopian environment that is still recognizable, and timely!” Then she said she would do it with suggestions for story for $1000 to $1200. I paid her $100 for the read and begged off for now.

Ack.  Should I go in debt to get this book published?  I am old.  Am I just an old fool?

I would say yes. I am an old fool. This morning I received my first phone call from my grandson. He is 1 1/2 years old.  He can say “Hi Nana” and his own name, and a bunch of adorable and clever things but when he gets tired of prompting he says, “whhheeeeeel, wheeeeeel, wheeeeeel” -which sounds like a British ambulance- and then, “BUTTERFLY!”

Gaud I wish I could do that when I feel overwhelmed by the pressure to do something awesome!  Oh, hey, I did!