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Sonnet 1

I’m taking a poetry class this semester. So far, I have learned that rhyming is hard and iambic pentameter can die in a fire. To quote Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, “I was not born under a rhyming planet.” Either way, here’s what I came up with. I don’t even care that it isn’t in iambic pentameter because–as I stated above–the damn thing can go die.

Thunderstorms

Clouds cover the moon, leaving the night black.
Lightning flashes streak through the darkened sky
Perfect darkness momentarily wracked.
Thunder comes seconds after, miles away.
There’s something calming about storms, soothing.
The best nights are those with no rain or snow
When the wind is warm, whipping, wild, wailing,
And the grass is cool beneath my bare toes.
The thunder calls and I must go to it,
Swaying in the yard, peaceful, blissful,
In the noise of wind and crash and spirit
Eternity awaits in thunder’s lull.
I have never slept so well as during a storm,
Peace in my bed, trusting thunder to bring me home.

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Potential Submission

GUYS!! I want to submit something to my school’s literary magazine. I wrote a thing and I think I might send this one in… thoughts? Please?

Strings
She comes to me and holds out a package.
“Here,” she says. “I got this for you.”
It is not my birthday nor any holiday.
The perfect wrapping teases me,
Shiny with pink and yellow smiley faces.
When I ask what for, the reason is “just because.”
A gift, thoughtful and heart-warming,
But I can see the strings.

Invisible to all but me, attached on every side
Gossamer thin, tripwire-taught,
With the package in the middle
Like a lure in a spider’s web.
They fade into the future,
Waiting for something to trigger them
And call the spider to collect what she claims is owed.

Years later, my husband brings me a package.
“Here,” he says. “I got this for you.”
It is not my birthday nor any holiday.
Wrapped in newspaper, haphazard and messy,
Covered in tape and what may actually be cellophane.
When I ask what for, the reason is “just because.”
A gift, beautiful and thoughtful and lovely,
But all I can see are strings
.

On The I-80

This is a piece of flash fiction written for my Intermediate Fiction class. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

—————–

“A two-way ticket from Des Moines to Los Angeles is $400 without short notice!” she cried as she rifled through her closet. “It’s Tuesday! I need to be in LA by Thursday. That ticket is $800 at least.” She held up one of her nice sweaters, then discarded it and kept digging. “Driving makes more sense, here. It’s only a twenty-four hour drive. I can totally make that!”

“That’s such a long trek, though,” her mother fretted.

“I can make it,” she promised, throwing the chosen clothes into her duffel bag. She didn’t need much. Even so, she mentally checked things off as she packed them. Clothes? Check. Folder with resume and references? Check. Cooler? Check. Beef jerky? Check. Twizzlers? Check.

“Make sure to pull over if you get tired,” her fiance cautioned as she double-checked her bags and snacks.

“I can make it,” she assured him. The luggage was tossed into her passenger seat.

“Make sure you check your tires every time you stop,” her father reminded her.

“I can make it,” she told him. She kissed everyone’s cheeks and got into her car. “Wish me luck!”

“Good luck!” her parents and fiance obediently chorused. They waved from the front steps as she started her little blue car and sped off towards the highway.

The first couple hours of her trip were uneventful. The traffic was minimal, consisting of semi-trucks and the odd car or truck here and there. At one point she got stuck behind a station wagon. It had a ‘Honk if you love Jesus!’ sticker on its bumper. She narrowed her eyes in an annoyed glare. She gunned it and swerved around the offending vehicle.

When she reached Nebraska the world turned to flat brown plains. The only thing that broke up the monotony was the occasional barn or cow. Even the barns and cows were brown. It was brown and empty and boring.

“Thank fuck for music,” she muttered to herself. She popped a CD into her stereo and let the music occupy her mind. “Whoa, we’re halfway there! Whoa! Livin’ on a prayer!” She sang along at the top of her lungs.

After nine hours of driving Nebraska gave way to Wyoming. If she had thought Nebraska was boring, Wyoming was worse. Even with the setting sun to cast everything in an orange light, Wyoming was flat and made up of fields and scrubby plants as far as the eye could see. Even the traffic thinned to almost nothing. It was as if the Wyoming state line were some invisible warning to stay away that she wasn’t privy to.

She was almost grateful when night fell and hid the landscape. The world narrowed to what she could see in front of her headlights. Looking out the left or right windows showed only blackness. Every so often another car passed her. Their headlights revealed a little bit more of the world. Otherwise the black was all-encompassing and comforting.

The only downside to the black was that it reminded her that she had been driving for something like eleven hours with only brief stops for gas and to stretch. Her eyes were heavy and she longed to close them.

“I can make it,” she declared. She rubbed at her aching eyes and pressed her foot more firmly on the gas. The car sped along the dark highway. The rubbing helped a little bit, but the longer she drove the harder it got to keep her eyes open. At one point they closed entirely and her head nodded forward.

The blare of a semi-truck’s horn jolted her awake. Her hands jerked the wheel, making her swerve dangerously for a moment. She looked around her, wide-eyed, heart pounding. Frantically, she looked around her. There weren’t any other cars in front of or behind her. She was alone on the highway…

“It must have been going the other way,” she sighed, relieved. She relaxred into her seat. Her hands gripped the wheel tightly to stop them from trembling.

She kept driving, thankfully not tired, anymore. The scare that truck had given her had woken her right up. Almost an hour later, she realized that she hadn’t seen any signs or mile markers as she drove. Where was she? It was too dark to see anything outside her windows. All she could see beyond the area illuminated by her headlights was choking black.

“What time is it, even?” she demanded. The clock on her dashboard was no help; it was flashing 0:00. She tried resetting it to no avail. The numbers continued flashing, somehow mocking her with its stubbornness.

“Fine, then,” she huffed. “Be that way. We’ll try the radio instead. Some DJ somewhere will tell me the time eventually.” She turned the radio on and was met with static. With an irritated scoff she hit the scan button to find the closest station. To her chagrin, the radio scan came up with nothing.

“Oh, come on!” she whined. “I know Wyoming is the literal middle of freaking nowhere, but this is ridiculous!” She hit the scan again. This time it hit a station almost immediately.

“Welcome to the Hotel California,” the radio crooned. “Such a lovely place, such a lovely face.” She felt relief wash through her and waited for the song to end. A DJ took over.

“Hello, Listeners! This is Peter and you’re listening to Your Favorite Music!

“Whose favorite music, exactly?” she wanted to know with a snort.

“I hope you’re ready for more,” Peter exclaimed. “Make sure you sing along and we’ll all get to where we’re going!

“Weird-ass nighttime radio host,” she grumbled. “He didn’t mention the time at all! I swear DJs are supposed to do that, right?” She ran a hand through her hair and groaned.

She tried to scan the radio for another active channel. The only one that came up was Peter’s. She cursed her luck and the state of Wyoming and Peter and his damn show. At least the music was good…

Finally, she saw a sign that read ‘REST STOP – 2 MILES.’ She breathed a sigh of relief. A few minutes later found her pulling off the highway. She reached a well-lit parking lot with a small building. The building had a set of glass doors but no windows. There were no signs anywhere telling her where she was. The place was simply bare.

She parked her car and hurried into the building. Inside was just as bare as the outside. The racks that normally held maps or information about nearby attractions were empty. There was a men’s restroom, a women’s restroom, a drinking fountain, and a vending machine. The vending machine was empty except for a pack of Twizzlers and a Snickers bar. There was literally nothing at the rest stop that told her where she was. She stormed back to her car and got inside, slamming the door harder than necessary. She started her car and sped out of the parking lot, back onto the highway.

She found another rest stop fifty miles further. It was the same as the first, right down to the Twizzlers and Snickers bar in the vending machine. The one after was the same. So was the one after that. By the fifth one she was beside herself with fear and confusion.

What the actual fuck?” she demanded, gesturing furiously. “This is ridiculous! What kind of backwoods bumfuck-nowhere state is this?!” She kicked the vending machine, jostling it hard enough that the Snickers bar fell out of its ring. She ignored it; she wasn’t hungry.

She kept driving. She listened to Peter’s station because anything was better than the oppressive silence. Song after song played. There were no commercials. The only interruptions came from Peter himself.

“And now for a quick traffic update!” Peter exclaimed cheerfully during one such interruption..

“What traffic?” she snorted, eyeing the empty road.

“An accident on Interstate 80 today leaves two people injured and one dead,” Peter reported. “From what we can tell, three cars were involved. Officials on the scene are estimating that a blue Camry drifted out of the right lane and into the left while a second car was attempting to pass. The two cars collided and ended up in the path of the semi-truck, creating a pile-up. Officials say that the driver of the Camry was pronounced dead on the scene. The other two drivers were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.”

“Ugh,” she murmured to herself. “Poor Camry. I hope the other two are okay.”

“That’s some sad news, there,” Peter continued. “Well, let’s get back to the music, Listeners. Make sure you sing along and we’ll all get to where we’re going!”

Music began playing again. “Don’t worry about a thing,” Bob Marley sang. “‘Cause every little thing is gonna be alright.” Something about the tune soothed her and made her feel less afraid. She gripped the steering wheel tightly as calm settled over her again.

“I can make it,” she said. She put her foot on the gas and kept driving into the night.

Hurricane Mother Revised

Hey, look! A revision! My teacher said that I should focus on showing the storm instead of using so many “I” statements. I’m not sure I like it… but that’s what revision is for! 😀

Feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

I am five.
Mother lies. I don’t know it.
Mother’s attention is my happiness.
There is no fear for she is the sun,
Beautiful and everything.
“You will be as pretty as me, one day.”
She speaks and I take her words as Truth.

I am thirteen.
Mother lies. I think it, but I do not believe.
There is a storm brewing,
unimportant.
Thunderstorms are not so scary, after all.
But I am haunted by a feeling.
Something is not right.
She asks questions.
A truth is offered, rejected.
She wants the truth but not the truth.
Hurricane Mother descends from nowhere.
Disobedient.
Windows rattle with the force of the wind.
Ungrateful.
Rain slaps against the roof.
Disrespectful.
Thunder claps, deafening in its intensity.
A lie. There is a right answer.
A truth. There is no right answer.
I knew better. She taught me better.
No, she did. I did know.
Desperation. I’m not crying.
Please. Nothing is wrong.
The winds cease their shrieking,
The rain eases leaving only tear streaks behind.
Mother forgives and offers the comfort
of her embrace once more.
“I wish you wouldn’t fight me,
I only want what is best for you.”
She speaks and I cling to her words as Truth.

I am twenty.
Mother lies. I know it.
She knows it, too.
Trade a favor for a screaming session,
A request for a snide comment,
A reminder for an insult.
Nothing is nothing.
Sharp hailstones litter the ground.
What’s a little blood between family?
Cut my fingers and my heart will bleed.
Reinforce the roof, walls,
windows, and doors of my self.
Any moment now.
The storm is smiling.
Winds sharp and cold,
Strong enough to make me dizzy.
Rain falls in torrents, soaking, blinding.
Her storm leaves me scrabbling at sanity,
Only to have it plucked from my wet fingers.
Confusion, blindness, second-guessing.
It happened, no, it didn’t.
Memory unreliable.Give in.
The flood waters beckon me closer.
The waves will cease if I abandon what I know.
I fight to close myself off,
to board up the windows and doors
against the destructive gales and rising waves.
To escape. It isn’t enough.
There is nowhere to go and nothing to take.
Everything I own is hers.
There is nothing to do but batten down the hatches
and wait, caught in a never-ending storm.
Trade half-realized truths for a respite.
Hurricane Mother quiets but it isn’t over, yet.
“You never used to be so difficult.
I’m sorry that you feel the need to be like this.”
She speaks and I lie to fit her Truth.

I am twenty-seven.
Mother lies. I am sick of it.
Enough.
Clouds gather sinisterly above my head,
and the hurricane surges forth.
Everything within me swells,
pulling away from the beach, into the surf,
Emerges a huge wave, a storm in its own right.
Howling and raging with years of neglect.
Every insult, every denial,
Every undeserved cruelty,
Crashing down upon the shore.
“Look at me! This is what you have made.
Look at what I have become to survive you.”
Enough. Enough. Enough. Enough!

She is forty-eight.
She does not speak.
She finally listens. She finally sees.
The rain softens. The hail ceases.
The wind stills and falls silent.
The hurricane subsides.
The clouds clear and everything can be seen.
“I am sorry.”
We speak and there is finally Our Truth.

Hurricane Mother

I wrote this for my class as part of our poetry unit. The exercise was ‘tension.’ The poem itself is about a narcissistic mother from a child’s POV. It is longer than I meant it to be. I’m still tweaking it. Feedback welcome.

I am five.
Mother lies. I don’t know it.
Mother is my warmth, my light,
That which I base everything good off of.
She is beautiful and everything.
Her smile is my contentment.
Her attention is my happiness.
H
er embrace is all I long for.
Hurricane Mother is active but I am not aware.
I am safe within the eye of the storm.
She tells me I will be as pretty as her one day.
Mother speaks and I take her words as Truth.

I am thirteen.
Mother lies. I still don’t know it.
I think it, but I do not believe.
Mother knows. Nothing is wrong, she says.
But I am haunted by a feeling.
Something is not right.
A storm is brewing but I don’t see the signs.
She asks questions.
I tell her the truth. She refuses it.
My answer is not what she wants to hear.
She wants the truth but not the truth.
There is a right answer but I don’t know it.
I lie. There is a right answer.
I lie. The answer is still wrong
and Mother catches me in the lie.
Hurricane Mother strikes without warning.
Angry words fly like shrapnel.
Disobedient. Ungrateful. Spiteful. Disrespectful.
I flinch. She doesn’t stop.
How dare I lie? she demands.
I try the truth again.
Stop lying! she howls. You’re lying.
I cannot give her an answer.
I don’t know it. She won’t tell me.
How dare I? How dare I?
I cry. Stop crying. Why are you crying? I’m not crying.
I knew better. She taught me better.
I don’t know, I don’t. She never taught that.
No, she did. I knew, I say. I did know.
I’m not crying. Nothing is wrong. I’m sorry.
I beg. Please, I say. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
The raging winds calm.
Mother forgives. She offers the comfort
of her embrace once more.
I wish you wouldn’t fight me,
I only want what is best for you.
She speaks and I cling to her words as Truth.

I am nineteen.
Mother lies. I know it.
I wish I didn’t know it.
Mother knows. She lies harder.
Nothing is safe.
Gifts have strings. Requests have consequences.
Nothing is nothing and nothing is free.
Everything has a catch. What’s the catch?
I won’t know until she wants it.
Sharp hailstones litter the ground.
I try to prepare: reinforce the roof, walls,
windows, and doors of my self.
The hurricane could strike any moment.
What is wrong?
Everything is wrong but that
is not the right answer.
I can feel it. The wind is picking up.
The air is growing cooler.
There is a sense of dread all around me.
What is wrong? Nothing is wrong.
I can’t say. I can’t explain. But I know.
You’re lying again.
What is this? Do you want attention?
Why must you be so dramatic?
You make yourself into a victim.
You’re very good at that.
Her winds blow strong, spinning me about.
I can’t see clearly for the torrents of rain.
I’m not crazy.
Really? Are you sure?
I am sure. I am not crazy.
You’re lying again. No one believes you.
How can you be so selfish?
Are you trying to tear this family apart?
No, I’m not. Nothing is wrong-
Hurricane Mother descends.
Something is wrong with you.
You are an embarrassment.
After everything I have done,
this is how you repay me?
I fight to close myself off,
to board up the windows and doors
against the destructive gales.
It won’t be enough.
All I ask is that you be a good child.
I fight to put up a boundary.
Enough, I try to say. It’s too much.
If you don’t like it, get out.
Nobody is making you stay.
You’re an adult, my obligation is finished.
I have to stay. I can not stay.
I have nowhere to go.
Nothing I own is mine for she gave all to me.
I can do nothing but batten down the hatches
and wait. There is no other option.
I can not stay. I have to stay,
caught in a never-ending storm.
Nothing is wrong, I lie. I’m sorry.
Hurricane Mother quiets though it isn’t over, yet.
Why do you do this? You never used to.
You’re always causing trouble, now.
I just want what is best for you.
I’m sorry you feel you need to be like this.
She speaks and I lie to fit her Truth.

I am twenty-three.
Mother lies. I know it well and despair.
I flee from the coming storm.
I pack the car and drive as far as I can afford.
She wonders why.
You never call, we never talk.
I used to talk to my mother every day,
Why don’t we talk more?
I want to tell her. I can not tell her.
We do not talk because you do not listen.
I want to tell her. I can not tell her. I must not tell her,
Talking is like slogging through waist-high flood water.
I say nothing. I am so tired of lying.
Hurricane Mother is approaching,
angry at me for the distance I have put between us.
I can tell it won’t be enough.
But the truth will bring an age of storms.
Why are you doing this to me?
She knows every chink in my armor.
Every conversation is a tidal wave aimed at my heart.
Do you hate me? I was there for you.
I was the only one, but you hate me?
I want to fight back. I try to fight back.
She is stronger. She pulls me into her spiral
and leaves me spinning and confused.
I desperately try to keep my eyes clear, to see.
This is my fault. I know it. I know it?
I know it. No, I do not know it. I refuse.
Mother is louder. She is fiercer.
She knows it. She knows me. She hurts.
She howls her rage and batters my walls.
Is it wrong to care for my children?
Don’t cut me out of your life.
I’m your mother, for Christ’s sake.
Maybe I should end my life
since you won’t have me anymore.
No, do not. I don’t want that.
I’m sorry. Nothing is wrong.
Everything is alright.
Nothing is alright but I cannot say it.
She speaks and I flee from her Truth.

I am twenty-seven.
Mother lies. I am sick of it.
Enough, I insist. Enough!
She begins to lie, kicks up words like too-large waves.
You are always the victim, aren’t you?
Familiar words. Am I the victim?
It doesn’t matter. I do not care.
Enough. I am finally strong enough.
I yell. I cry. I accuse.
This is what you have made, I howl.
Look at me! Look at me!
Look at what I have become to survive you.
I do not give her a chance to lie.
I am a hurricane in my own right.
My gale force winds clash with hers
and I am finally strong enough to push her back.
I howl and rage with years of neglect.
Every insult. Every too-harsh word.
Every backhanded compliment.
Every undeserved cruelty.
It all comes crashing down.
Enough. Enough. Enough. Enough!

She is forty-eight.
She does not speak.
She finally listens. She finally sees.
The rain softens. The hail ceases.
The wind stills and falls silent.
The hurricane subsides.
The clouds clear and everything can be seen.
We speak and there is finally Our Truth.