Category Archives: Amherst writers method

Get Me Out of Here

A prompt response to “get me out of here.”

Short version — life sucks, but there are pockets of joy.

1) Horse hair lath. Dust of decades. Darkness. I scrabble away. Can anyone hear my frantic efforts?

2) The leg, it is broken. The well, it is dry. I watch the sun fall off the rim of the stone like it’s the end of the world.

3) I cannot see myself in the mirror. He has smudged me out with benign disregard. “Oh,” he says, “I didn’t tell you?”

4) The legs crowd my relief. Chairs, staid and those that rock, ladies feet, socked and shoed. Get me out of here!

5) Twelve at the table. Eating. Pass this. Pass that. Nine people tied for saying nothing.

6) It would’ve been funny if it weren’t tragic. Abominations launched. Lies tolerated and worse. Quick! Change the channel.

7) In the dusty cellar, the ten year old clutches the Bible recently purchased at a flea market for ten cents. Fifty years later she wonders, ‘do fallen Catholics have any protection during tornadoes?’

8) Sandy wore pigtails, ate her boogers, and laughed at all her father’s dumb jokes. ‘Will childhood never end,’ her brother wants to know.

9) Ronnie slobbered because of cerebral palsy. Ronnie leaned in for a fourth grade kiss. Wet. His mother where? Sandy called home. Her mother would not come.

10) At the will signing, Jennifer thought her head would pop off in panic. ‘Was it the business of witnessing,’ her therapist later asked.

11) Brad sat in the corner of the lodge, cold French fries on a plate, his wrist broken. His mother couldn’t be reached.

12) The uncle that declares ugly predictions as if doing a service. “Most don’t live for more than three years,” he opined. Her father’s staples not even out.

13) There’s Robert De Niro acting as if he’s a young thug. Only problem is, he’s got an old body. Is this ever gonna end?

14) Herculean restraint collapses and spite retaliates agains the crazy that is her sister. The silent tolerance never credited.

15) It’s 10:30 am. Her boys have been rocketing around the house since before six. Time is a liar — surely it’s dinner time?

16) She wept by the tomb, her blue robes darkened by tears. Three days is a long time to wait.

17) And behind that rock? Waiting, why exactly? Was God the Father brewing up some special elixir to elevate His Son or was the Holy Ghost off on a distracting mission in Egypt, perhaps, or Mongolia?

18) Even 47 minute masses are too long.

19) Why not give them sacks of grain? The potato blight did not cause catastrophic death and emigration anywhere else in Europe. Genocide, an old game.

20) What was her name — the girl in the well? Now we remember the scuba diver who didn’t make it out trying to save that trapped soccer team.

21) ‘Get me out of here,’ thought every single one of those boys. How polite their desperation!

22) Hamburger grease and twitter thumbs do not go well together. Can no one stop the man?

23) All the saviors fall down. They, too, might as well be trapped in a damp cave in Thailand with a flooded egress. We holler and holler for their help when they are the ones in need of rescue.

24) Can no one stop the man?

25) Traffic on the Bourne Bridge crawled to an absolute halt. There was no way out. An existential crisis. Would Jennifer eventually slide forward past the narrow rails and be reborn. Get it?

26) If I count to ten or a hundred will it go away? If I count to ten or a hundred will I go away? If I count to ten or a hundred and vanish, who will I be after?

27) The Committee chairs bored even themselves. Why keep talking?

28) The partner in the corner office humiliated her with a guffaw at a department lunch. Much later Jennifer will rail out loud: “I’d rather be a decent person than a good lawyer.” Fucking boilerplate!

29) Interminable wait. Wooden benches. Dead, hostile faces at the counter. 84. Oh god, I’m 110.

30). Wait for it. Wait for it. She’s still waiting for it.

31) Her apartment smells rank — a vile combo of garbage and urine. There are so many boxes and piles of crap everywhere, there’s no where to sit. ‘Did I want to watch CSI-Los Angeles reruns?’ she asks as if everything was normal.

32) At some point, we all shed the body.

Finally, well, there is no finally — just strings of intolerable moments punctuated by sweet spring air, a perfect omelet, the well-timed embrace, passionate release, the just-right pocketbook, friendships that endure, a cool glass of bubbly water on the deck in July with a good book, oak trees that rattle all winter, catalpas that litter the ground with orchids in spring, the devotion of dogs, the quirky affection of cats, a difficult catch made, dancing into remembrance, the blues, rock and roll, the sound of pounding surf, the smell of pounding surf, foaming surf on ankles and knees, a dip in the cold Atlantic, his clever wit, my laughter, your beauty, purple shadows on snow, the old dog relaxing in his bed at last.

Writing Prompts, Collection I

“That joy you’re experiencing is not only contagious, it’s necessary and urgent and irresistible.”

Wesley Morris talking about Black music / Sept 7 episode of The Daily, a #1619 episode

“The ghosts shudder, but they do not leave.”

“We hold hands and pretend at forgetting.”

“There is soft yellow sunlight and drifting pollen where he was, and me and [Pop] embracing in the grass. The animals are quieting in grunts and snorts and yips. Thank you, they say. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, they sing.

Jesmyn Ward, Sing Unburied Sing

“… All the patience lost with holding on and finding out the cost of being strong.”

Amy Wedge, “Not Enough” — soundtrack to “Keeping Faith” TV program

“Where is the ground we can stand on?”

A friend, about the current state of American affairs

“She slid like a seal out of any old sadness she carried.”

“Why does death catch us so by surprise?”

“The slightest clue can give us away.”

“Dizzy, I eventually found the car…”

Colum McCann, TransAtlantic

“She didn’t tell me anything until we were standing by the river.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the #1619 project speaking on one of The Daily shows

“And that is the way she saw the land, with no difference between the different kinds of yesterday.”

Anne Enright — sorry not sure which novel

“There is no full circle, tidy conclusion, or simple solution to any of this.”

Suki Kim, Land of Darkness, in The Best American Essays, 2018, talking about N. Korea

After reading Maureen Jones’ poem titled “Nuptial” (blessed are the menial chores) and Robin Greene’s poem titled “This Old Dress I Call Jewish,” (Illuminations, Expressions of the Personal Spiritual Experience) the prompt was simply: write about a dress.

“… in the next age, the forests will prevail, not you humans.”

Goddess Alchemy

“… a shard of ice shivered through me. I was aware of a terrible voice.”

“His voice — his beautiful voice — rang high and light.”

Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord These two voice prompts worked well one right after the other.

“Nature has the talent to soften, forgive, and remake, to create something beautiful out of our mistakes, paradoxes, and counterpoints — even when it comes to you invisibly.”

Mark Helprin, Present Tense in Paris

“My soul. She was eating my soul.”

Mather Schneider, “Suicide Lane,” Rattle, Vol. 61, page 35

These next seven prompts were given at six minute intervals. I was worried about interrupting the writers’ flow, but it worked marvelously. These are headings from one of the fairy tales in The Complete Fairy Tales of George MacDonald. With each heading I supplied a few words from that section of the fairy tale, to use or not.

1. Where is she? (rose bush, sultry, ethereal, mischief)

2. She laughed too much (awkward, abandoned, consultation, peculiarities)

3. Try metaphysics (ecstasy, mineral, imponderable)

4. Try a drop of water (condescended, balcony, wind)

5. Look at the moon (canopies, knot, trembling)

6. Hiss (horizontal, unlocked)

7. This is very kind of you (fate, joy)

Enjoy!!

Stingy ink pens

A few notes on exhaustion and restlessness.

Life is too short to:

  • Write with stingy ink pens,
  • Spend your days inside,
  • Fail to do the one or two things that you know make you feel better.

Okay. I’ve tossed out a suck job bic medium point. I’ve walked the dog twice. But the third item above? Let’s talk Daily Pages and keeping up with friends (both here and in the neighborhood).

What’s with all the blank Daily Pages? Day after day, blank. Does it mean anything? There was a time when I would ask that as if there might be something worth knowing about my resistance. Not now. Nope. Just resume!

Same for friends. Tonight is a birthday celebration. We’re going downtown! We’re going to a restaurant that Roxane Gay recently dined at and no, I’m not a stalker, I just read her twitter feed.

So, it’s cold again. Winter cold. The scarves and gloves have been unearthed from the bins in the basement. I may have to make a polar fleece apron for the long down coat of mine because it won’t snap all the way closed (ugh!) While out today, it took a FULL MILE for my head to clear.

Note to self: A walk less than a mile is like a stingy ink pen.

And now for a Not Apology.

When considering a wash of discontent or sleeplessness, there is always the news to blame. But! The news right now is historic, dismaying, compelling, detailed, alarming, and evidencing the highest national stakes since the Civil War. I make no apology for being riveted. Whether I would be happier or more calm or sleep better with less information is not something I care to spend time considering.

As for what ELSE might be making me a little tired? How about — being an adult. K and I are considering end-of-life directives, long term health insurance, retirement funding, and how to sensibly pass assets down to the boys. The bottom line is so much better than I thought, so there’s that! Because the picture is better than I thought, mostly these considerations provoke relief, but not entirely, for obvious reasons.

And then off I went to writing class. Having two classes a week is nice — one to teach, one to attend. I’m noticing how different one is from the other and enjoying the differences.

 

 

 

Walking toward something

Just completed a five day Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) facilitator training. Who-hoo — intense, exciting, and the best people, including my weekly facilitator, Kathleen Olesky, and from Amherst, Mass., Maureen Buchanan Jones (blog: Writing at Full Tilt).

Since I haven’t obtained permission to post peoples’ pictures, here are a few blurry shots, a form of photography I seem to do rather well lately!

Now it rains. I’m home. I feel like I’ve been through something. Finn is out with the Handsome Dog Walker for the last time.

Lots of changes.

Because of the workshop I haven’t had time to respond to the incredible comments people have left lately. Know that I’ll get to them. In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to comment so extensively and personally.

** If you’re interest in the AWA method, check out their website.

Western Mass is good for the soul. So is writing.

img_5811I expressed interest late and was told the workshop was full. Facilitator, Maureen Jones, would put me on a waiting list just in case. I discussed Dog care with husband and confirmed that he wouldn’t be in Russia or China that week. Then I forgot about it.

Imagine my happy surprise to learn that a space had opened up! My writing teacher and her sister were going. We would make the trip west on Route 2 together. There was an ease and a flow to it all.

(Except for Finn, maybe, who according to K spent an awful lot of time at the side door, waiting for me).

img_5849Every morning I wake with unnameable dread. “What’s so awful, again?” I wonder. It’s how I felt after each of my parent’s deaths. It was how I felt when my sister was hospitalized in 2009. It’s how I feel most mornings now.

‘Oh, yeah, Trump. The whole awful mess.’ Which is why is was so good to get away. Not that I didn’t look at news, I did, but with rolling ancient hills stretching out in the distance in unbelievable beauty and the quiet, it was hard not to feel restored. Also, having been born not far from there and lived in the Berkshires or the Connecticut River Valley for 15 years, this is the landscape that most feels like home to me.We stopped at a funky place near Charlemont for ice cream. I passed on the sugar — it being Day 8 of my new regime.

It was hot. Really hot. There was no AC and the fan/outlet/screen situation was far from ideal. It was a big presence, the heat. It made all of us go more slowly. Some of us took regular cold showers, including me. Not tepid or body temp showers, but bursting cold showers. There was an outdoor faucet equipped with what they called a “fog nozzle” (sounds like a sex act) which delivered a delicious mist of cool water. I stood naked under it, but some enjoyed its spray fully clothed. Just to cool off. One woman had to quit early. We all understood.


img_5817We were thirteen, counting facilitator — all women (remind you of anything? Just kidding). Half the group was trained as teachers themselves but came to write as participants. Maureen Jones, pictured in closest Adirondack chair below, was lovely. She knew how to open up to the imagination AND keep time. She was thoughtful in her responses to EVERYONE and shared her own work. She helped all of us cope with the oppressive air by here and there adapting the schedule. If she judged anyone, it didn’t show.


There she is again, on the right.

The couple who ran the place produced one delicious meal after another, often featuring produce from the garden. Because I was neither procuring nor preparing food and because I was vigilantly excluding sugar (and gluten) from my diet, I DID NOT THINK ABOUT FOOD EXCEPT WHEN I WAS EATING IT. I cannot tell you how unusual and liberating this was.

I woke up in time to see the sunrise one morning. One evening, a lightening bug flew into my room and made a flashing circle around me before exiting. One afternoon there was rain and a double rainbow. Nothing like my day to day, in other words.

Next post: something about the writing part of the getaway.