Beneath God’s Tear

Halley's Comet in 1682 (Source: Wikipedia)

Halley’s Comet in 1682 (Source: Wikipedia)

On my pallet in the hold
of The Friends’ Adventure,
I hear their lamentations
above deck. The sun’s
dropped behind the shelf
toward our new home,
but something like daylight
shines here upon my family.

I tell Rachel this is a sign
from our Creator
that we are like Magi,
following a star to
a new Bethlehem,
where all may worship
in peace as he will.

I don’t approve of what
others call us, but
this September night,
seaman, farmer, heathen and Christian,
stand beneath God’s tear
falling from the sky,
and know what it means
to be a Quaker.

Here’s another 100-word drabble story-poem, this time based on a cool time and place prompt from Kellie Elmore:
You find yourself in the lower level of an old ship. A calendar on the wall says 1682. There is a small window, and the view is nothing but open sea and a setting sun. There is a staircase and you can see daylight at the top…
 That played right into this history nerd’s shaking hands. In 1682, William Penn began sending ships full of members of The Society of Friends off to settle what would soon be known as Pennsylvania. In the September of that year, the comet that became famous as Halley’s Comet hung in the skies as shown in that contemporary illustration up there and raised quite a stir in Europe.
I put those two facts together and imagined how George Pownall, a passenger on one of those ships, The Friends’ Adventure, would try to explain it to his daughter, Rachel. That’s how I came up with Beneath God’s Tear.

A Writing Process Blog Hop

Thanks very much to my dear friend Heather Grace Stewart for inviting me to participate in this blog hop about the writing process. I met Heather through some Twitter conversation a couple of years ago. It was like talking with an old friend. Strangely comfortable and most comfortably strange. She has been a great cheerleader and supporter of all my writing projects ever since. Thank you, Heather. There have been times that, without you and a few others in my corner, I’d walk away from this bloody and blessed obsession.

Heather

Heather Grace Stewart’s first novel comes out this June, but she is best known for her poetry, which includes: “Three Spaces”, “Carry on Dancing”, “Leap”, and “Where the Butterflies Go.” In 2012, she published the screenplay, “The Friends I’ve Never Met”, which has been well received on both Kindle and Kobo. Her two non-fiction books for youth are part of the Warts & All educational series on Canada’s Prime Ministers.

She has written for a wide range of magazines, including Reader’s Digest and Canadian Wildlife magazine. Her column in the Queen’s Alumni Review magazine, Grace’s Grads, was created in September 2005.

Heather’s poems have been published in Canadian literary journals, newspapers, and magazines, Canadian and British school textbooks, audio CDS, online journals, international print anthologies, and in the British small presses. She was awarded Queen’s University’s McIlquham Foundation Prize in English Poetry and the UK journal Various Artists’ “The Poet’s Poet” Award (2008 & 2012).

Heather can be found on Facebook , Twitter , her blog , and her website . Her women’s fiction/general fiction novel “Strangely, Incredibly Good” will be released by Morning Rain Publishing on June 5, 2014.

Yeah, she’s the goods. So, with special thanks to Heather, who still believes in me (and my future) as a writer, even when I don’t, here’s a look into how I do what I do:

What are you working on?

Until recently, I was worrying more than working. I’d suffered through a slowing down on day-to-day production for my blog. But since last year, I’ve gathered together a collection of poems and stories I call Penumbra, or The Space Between. It explores the observations and feelings, the radiance and darkness, of a man in his life’s penumbra, the space of partial illumination between perfect shadow and full light, no longer young but not yet old. The manuscript file gets tweaked a couple of times a week, depending on my mood and belief in myself that day.

I am gathering research for a novel I have gnawing at my brain and guts about a woman I read but a single sentence about from Somerset, England, who came to America in the 1700s. She is said to have been killed while fighting for the American side in one of the Battles of Saratoga in the fall of 1777. That, her date of birth and her name, Trish Bodden, is all I know. At that same time, a noblewoman from that same county came to America to be with her husband, who commanded a British grenadier regiment at Saratoga. I found the comparisons and contrasts of these women fascinating. It’s a push whether I’ll have an empty skull and abdomen before this novel sees its way to publication. But there it is.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Thanks for making me think about this self-centered mumbo-jumbo of the writing craft. I think my status as someone who’s written for publication and a living since 1975, yet only recently allowed myself to be open to creating things from my heart, makes me stand out a bit.

This is no doubt most obvious in my poetry. I straddle the line between dewy emotional ingénue and that gritty, seen-a-lot storyteller who wants you to listen his story and then get the hell off his lawn.

I have, I’m told, a unique voice and vision. That’s probably true, since I don’t read much other poetry and fiction from which to absorb any influences. Couldn’t remember them anyway. So my voice is unique to me. But what writer’s isn’t, right? I just hope mine is more ruggedly handsome than the next guy’s.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I do because I can. Or, rather, now I can. It’s exciting to express myself as I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself only a few years ago. I think I have a lot of stuff I don’t even know I do that I can share in my own way for quite some time to come.

Every day I have to write something. Most you will never see. It may only be a line of a poem, or a horrible first paragraph of a story, a research note for a book I might someday write, or a list of words I free associate upon a subject that might become a poem or story I can dash off. But to not write something would be to stop treading the water that would draw me back into the shadowy swells of my old empty obsessions. I could sink so easily into them again.

How does your writing process work?

It’s changed slightly since my dog Mollie died. Not much in my life hasn’t. When I’m really open to the world and my feelings, some image or emotional expression will inhabit me when I’m falling asleep at night, on a walk or when Mollie and I would go out at 5:30 in the morning. By the time I finish my walk or my commute to work, that something has become an idea with strings of words attached. While my computer boots in the darkened office, I grab a pencil and pad and write…fast. I figure the poem doesn’t have to be an arbitrary good, it just has to be.

My story-writing process is a little less, oh..ethereal. For that, I somehow place myself into a scene, actually crawling inside it as 3rd-person observer or inhabiting the skin of the protagonist. And I mean, Daniel Day-Lewis Method-acting “inhabit.” I see, hear, feel and smell everything, which probably is why I tend to infuse a lot of deep detail into my story drafts. Maybe I’m a poet trying to write prose, or a prose writer trying to write poetry. Or maybe even a ham actor trying to portray each.

I have recently tried something new in my creative process that I’ve borrowed from Ray Bradbury and the terrific Canadian writer Sarah Salecky…lists. I’ll grab my notebook, write a word or image at the top of the page and then write 1 through 10 down the sheet. From there, I write whatever words ooze from the shelves in my head. Very free. I look at the list and find connections and off I go. Weird, eh? Don’t do it all the time, but find it a good way to get the ball rolling when I’m stuck.

The most important part of the process, though, revision and polishing, I have a major problem with. Some of it’s not knowing how to really revise, right down to the DNA, a story or poem. The rest of it might be..let’s call it Editor’s Block. Paralysis by analysis. In other words, I probably ned an editor until I learn (and am viciously brave enough) to do it myself.

And that’s the big secret of what you read here. It’s all pretty much first drafts with a tinker here and there.

PLEASE visit these following writers, who will be posting their answers to these questions next week, Monday, April 7, 2014. They are terrifically talented writers and have become some of what Heather calls the “friends I’ve never met.” They have the passion for expressing their true hearts and sharing them through the written word with you that I don’t think I ever could.

Beth

Beth Winter writes poetry, prose, and anything else her itchy pen decides to scratch. A self-taught poet, she has written nearly 800 poems, nearly as many journals and has possibilities piled around her. She lives and works in the beautiful Kansas Flint Hills. She maintains a website called Eclipsing Winter where you can read more of her work.

Emmett

Emmett Wheatfall lives in Portland, Oregon where he reads, writes, and performs poetry. He has published four books of poetry entitled He Sees Things (2010), We Think We Know (2011), The Meaning of Me (2012), and Bread Widow (2013).
He has published four chapbooks under the titles Queen of the Nile, I Too Am A Slave, The Majestic, and Midnight In Madrid. Also, a number of his poems have been published by online journals and periodicals.

He has released three lyrical poetry CDs. When I Was Young (2010), I Loved You Once (2011), and Them Poetry Blues (2014), all of them contain great poetry writing set to jazz, blues, gospel, and pop musical influences.

Liberation

Cardinal

Months of muted tones
too long held sway
over this northern land.
Even once-bright snow
lies dingy like porridge
flecked in blacktop dust
and salt crust.
Against slate skies,
crows croak their primacy
and even gray goose chooses
to fly beyond.

Sounding my forgotten clarion,
I decree audience.
See me, hot spot of rainbow
resplendent, perched atop
charcoal skeleton of ash.
I am your King of Spring,
and will daub all in hues
you’ve missed since last
Sun dropped its rays
like raindrops.

I am Cardinal. Have faith.
April dawns and new life
like kaleidoscopic dreams
approach just over horizon.

New 100-word drabble poem shared with friends at dVerse looking to impart or share color.

Photo by Lonny Holman

Go to the Light

TTT ~ Go to the Light

Photo by Heather Grace Stewart

Sun’s face on white
x-rays winter’s condition.
Terminal, I hope.
But the frigid old
superannuated bitch
just won’t let go.
I’m no doctor, but
just look at that angiogram
silhouette of birch, dear.
Little red droplets
on its fingertips
are your cue to skidoo.

There’s a verdant virgin
waiting on this room
and she’s got all the
boys’ fancies turning to,
you know, love…
and golf and baseball
and girls’ bare,
smooth-shaven thighs,
like the beautiful branches
of that white birch
you’re clinging to.

Just let go, babe.
Go to the light.

One More Time

“You know, she was my girl before Bobby, but she…he was always one to ruin everything he touched,” Captain Ed Hermanski said, wiping tears across his cheeks.

“Yeah, Bobby was crazy about Jen, and swept her right off her feet, didn’t he?” Officer Jack Donahue replied, feeling the acrid smoke sting his eyes.

“Sumbitch ruined what could’ve been…but poor Jen always told me he was crazy jealous of the least little thing, even threatening to…”

Donahue blinked at the firefighter and choked out, “I been here so many times over the past few years, hauling Bobby away after he beat on poor Jen, screaming about “cheatin’ whore this ‘n’ that, but she always took him back.”

Hermanski wiped his eyes again as turned to his radio, ordering some of his men to pour more water into the back of the blackened skeleton of what was once “his girl’s” home and said, “Yeah, if only she called m… you one more time tonight.”

A quick Five Sentence Fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word RUINS. I guess that word has more than one meaning. I may have captured a few here.

A Study in Scarlet

Study

Photo by Heather Grace Stewart

I enter the room and immediately sense a disturbance and a late presence.

My eyes glide to the fireplace, where a smudge of ash lies upon the polished tile hearth. I feel a faint warmth come from within the firebox and, with a gentle whistle into the ashes, I awaken seven orange embers from within their gray ash bed.

Swiftly, I turn to the coffee table behind me and note the magazines tossed somewhat haphazardly eight inches off its midpoint. Upon closer inspection, I find a dried ring upon its surface, two and five-sixteenths inches from the coaster. I lick my finger, touch its tip to the ring and tap it to the end of my tongue. I taste a ring of smaller diameter on the opposing coaster.. Hmmm… Sweeter. Yes.

Just inside one of the table legs I spy a broken bit of popcorn kernel. I taste that as well. White cheddar. I wince at the juxtaposition of flavours, but do not judge.

I advance to the south-facing window, through which morning light provides a three-dimensional stream for dust motes to course. Dust I was certain I did not raise.

Springing to the nearby bookcase I note, with self-serving glee and some bit of distress, the lady of the house has not deemed to dust the shelves in seven–no, nine–days. And THERE! On the fifth shelf from the bottom, bare spaces, binding-sized slots shining amid the semi-matte sheen of slovenliness.

A quick assessment of the shelf and its alphabetic array of volumes and I know I have solved the case. A D shoved amid the Cs. Elementary what’s happened here, I assure myself.

A call out to the hallway and the thirteen-year-old I hallooed enters the study. She carries with her a mug of tea—green with honey, as expected—and plops rather insolently into the chair with the scarlet pillow, placing her mug within the left side of the ring of my earlier investigation.

“My dear,” I say. “Were you and Hannah in daddy’s study last night?”

“No! I know we’re not allowed in here when you’re not home. How could you accuse me of that? Mother!!” she calls.

I raise my hand and softly say, “Don’t deny it. I have all the proof I need right here.”

I point out all the clues of the evening malfeasance perpetrated in my wife’s and my absence while we attended a dinner get-together at Hannah’s parents, the Watsons’ next door.

“Okay,” she says. “But we didn’t do nuthin’. Stupid books are nuthin’ but old-timey stories. No cool London scenes, slow and wordy. In our wildest dreams we couldn’t even imagine Cumberbatch in the starring role.”

“Grounded Friday night,” I say. “No phone, no computer, no Kindle, no iPad. Just a paperback version of A Study in Scarlet, which we’ll discuss Saturday morning.”

“Mother!!” she wails just a little louder.

“Oh, and his surname is Doyle, not like Conan-Doyle. D first, not C. Now where the hell’s my pipe?”

An unedited just-for-fun lunchtime write based on my dear friend Heather Grace Stewart’s Take Ten Thursday photo prompt up there. Sorry, Heath, the poem I thought I’d do for the winter scene got run over by my Holmes (Sherlock, not Mike) fixation.

A Thankful World Poetry Day

GRPG Meetup - London

A very happy World Poetry Day to all my versifying friends–those I’ve met and those I wish I could–around the globe.

Without poetry, I don’t believe I’d be so open to what this world has to offer.

And without you, I’d never believe I was a poet. I’m pretty sure I’d still be writing things in that odd way I do that some folks regard as “poems,” but I’d never believe I was one of those P-people.

Sometimes, I still don’t, which is probably why I so often refer to myself as a “poet guy.” It’s like I’m still occasionally holding onto the rail like a skater afraid of the open ice.

Happy Our Day to you all who have pulled me out to center ice, where the sunrises and salkows roam.