fiction flashscapes and the carnival is postponed

Yeh, I haven’t blogged in a long time. Why? Because I didn’t feel like blogging. To blog when you don’t feel like blogging is Bad Faith. Am I a broken necklace of vowels? Am I a mechanical plug of radishes? No. Also I’ve spent too many weekends in hotels. Too many weekends eating vegetable burgers from BK since most other fast food outlets will not offer a veggie burger, the bastards. Backyard Burger in Mississippi had a good veggie burger, but that’s was it. BK. BK. Chili’s has one, but that’s not fast food, it’s just shitty food. The best veggie burger was in St. Jospeh, Michigan, right alongside the beach and the carousel and the hard, cold rain. I forget the name of the place. But it was good. In New Orleans I didn’t eat veggie burgers. I ate shrimp and fried green tomatoes and oysters and tuna and octopus and vodka and hot sauce.

Did I mention someone put a giant shark in my glass of vodka?

The first few days the hamburgers only grew. But eventually they became a new sort of thing. They were small statues of people and then these people were equipped with weapons. Handguns, rifles, lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows and even tiny daggers. Then the tiny people began to grow real flesh. It looked painful. They all writhed and twisted, but eventually the flesh was grown. In the days after, they continued to tremble and eventually began to weep and I ascertained that they had grown tear ducts. And probably other organs. Hearts, lungs, spleens, kidneys and any of the other necessary organs.

-Brandi Wells.

Damn, check out this new James Salter interview!

But now I’m back in fucking Indiana. Here‘s an Indiana poem for you by Jeffrey Bean. BTW, Indiana looks like this:

Anyway, I did write a prose poem about supermodels for xTx. She is having a “Supermodel Summer.” XtX is ALWAYS up to something, as you know. I met xTx at a dance once and she was very nice and said, “I’m xTx” but I still don’t believe that was xTx. Not at all. I think xTx is a mystical force and most likely only takes human form when convenient. Xtx might  also be a flower, a barn, a bathroom mirror or a hornet. The walls shook. Music. There were so many Internet writer people at this dance that I can’t believe the ceiling didn’t collapse and kill us all. That would have been a good day. A good day indeed.

I’ve give this prose poem of mine a solid 4. While it’s instructive formally, I also feel it’s forced and in need of revision. It is scarcely larger than a muskrat. It reminds me of irrelevance and hitting a large nail with a lawnmower. And while obviously many of my later poems bring us all up against self enclosure of some variety, the lines here resemble a plate of overcooked spaghetti locked inside a can of flat Dr. Pepper thrown off a cliff into the sea. Then again, you have to know when to maintain control and when to lose it, correct? Ever seen a cloud? Well, there you go.

Hey, here’s a better one. This is flash I wrote and sent to elimae. Thank you very little.

Anyway I was in a hotel, a Super 8 a few days ago. It was awful, awful. It smelled like a crypt. It smelled like a crime scene, a ragged spleen, like something moist but then coated in a layer of smashed fireflies, a goo, a yellow goo, and then a tint of bird bones, some paste, no not bird bones, fuck all that poetic blar, I mean it smelled badly, like above (minus the bird bones) but maybe add a lump of Play-Dough like when you mold Play-Dough around a light bulb as a kid and then your dad says, “Get the fucking Play-Dough off the light bulb!” and you get a wet rag and SHOCK! Bad idea the wet rag. I stuck a nail in a light socket once and it threw me across the room! I of course grabbed onto an electric fence. Teeth! I forget the other times I have known electricity. It makes me sleepy.

Is that even how you spell Play-Dough? I have no idea and I’m not going to look it up. Sometimes you have to not look it up. I’m not a shadow over here. I move, the shadow moves. I have a higher ratio of window in my life than of walls, I think. I’m still standing. So I’m not looking it up.

Hours later, maybe days, we will wake to ribbons of melted wax, the room still except for breath. In those small morning seconds, everything is realized in stone. There is patched clothing in the closet, the dented radiators, the faded curtains, the cracks in the wall. Then there is the stink of the dumpster outside, only masked by lingering sex.

-Elysia Smith

The Super 8 I’m saying. There was an empty indoor swimming pool. No water. That’s a metaphor. Expectations unrealized. The uselessness of a giant empty pool. It rained. Could the kids swim in the pool? They could not. They could leap in or fall in and die there, but no cannonballs, no look-how-long-I-can-hold-my-breath, no I’m Michael Phelps! etc–no JOY. Just an empty swimming pool, a giant sore, a toothless mouth, a stink of nothing.

“Fitness Center” is one hell of a word for a tiny glass cube with one broken stair climber, once broken bike/bird looking thing, one functional set of weights. No TV, no water, no towels, no nothing. I pushed some weights about, did some crunches. The floor stuck to me.

The bathroom had scratched painted walls. The shower wouldn’t drain, so you stood there in several inches of wretched memory water. The memories in that water, the hair and hope cells and vomit and blood and razorblades and screams and devil semen and GOD KNOWS WHAT of that fucking Super 8 hotel bathtub water. I complained and they fixed the drain while I was out eating perch. The tub was the color of knuckles.

They had this lonely basketball goal, but see below the goal was a giant puddle of water. You can’t play basketball in water. The ball will not bounce, see? No bounce, no basketball.

The room has a spider and a giant can of Coors Lite behind the bed. A crypt, I’m telling you. This was the Super 8 in Stevensville, Michigan. A SUPER crypt. A sad, bad place. I felt like a failure to have even brought myself, myself and my family, to such a wretched den of fools, a back-road to hell, hulking, hollow tree leaning so precipitously over our heads and souls. For awhile I thought we all might be murdered. Why not just throw my life into a volcano? Sleep was jagged, a crossed knife and fork, a tangle of thin sheets and barbed wire. I had mad dreams. The eyes of spiders, blue forests, I felt lost in a corridor of pure black bone marrow, some shaky cage, a carnival ride night of screeches and tumbles, sounds of trucks farting in the parking lot, children screaming, blickers of light and darkness, some great, wounded bird falling like an unhinged jet engine onto the roof…also the coffee sucked.

*

Hey, here are some flash fictions I enjoyed today:

1. Seamus Heaney by Nicolle Elizabeth.

I like stalking. Ever read the lovely Stalking Dave Eggers by Elizabeth Ellen? You really should.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth airport bookstore I hold up Dave’s book, show his picture to my six-year-old daughter.

“This is mommy’s new boyfriend,” I tell her. She glances momentarily at the picture but doesn’t say anything. She is clearly not impressed.

“Isn’t he cute?” I say. “Look at his hair. Isn’t that cute hair?”

Ah, now I’m getting sidetracked. Way leads onto way, Frost told us, the gorgeous fart. Fart is a word not often used in literature. It’s a silly word, isn’t it? A few weeks ago, I dropped into a poetry workshop and the instructor (the most glow Kathleen Rooney) gave us a big-ass poetry prompt and you had to put a word into your poem not often seen in poetry. I used the word fart.

Can I say something about Dave Eggers? Once, on my birthday, I drank a lot of sake and yelled out to Dave Eggers, WHERE IS TOPH?! He stopped his reading and said, “What is this, an insurrection? Toph is fine. He’s in the coast guard.”

I recently had a student faint while discussing Dave Eggers. Not a great situation, though it worked out fine, in the end.

I shit you not.

Can I say something about writing prompts? Yes, yes I can. It’s my fucking blog. I always thought prompts were bullshit. I think now I was wrong. All of the prompts I used for that poetry workshop worked out just fine. I actually wrote several decent poems. In fact, I went out and bought the very book containing the earlier prompt. The book is The Practice of Poetry, by Chase Twichell (have no idea who that is) and Robin Behn (Robin is a wonderful poet and was one of my MFA professors at Alabama.)

So I might try some more prompts. Or the book might just sit there like a muskrat eating an apple. If I was a muskrat I would secretly move through your backyard, leaving long meandering trails in the grass. The next morning you would see these odd trails and think, “What is that?” I’d be hiding in the nearby tall weeds and I’d giggle and think, “It’s a muskrat!” I would then go home and listen to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, over and over and over…My record player would be made of a boulder and my record needle would be a pine needle…I think.

“Trauma, Trau-ma. The sessions were like a cocktail party every night—people everywhere. We ended up staying in these weird hospital rooms … and of course John and me were not exactly the best of friends.”

—Christine McVie, on the emotional strain when making Rumours in Sausalito

Ok, back to the flash fiction by Nicolle Elizabeth. It’s creepy. No, it’s eerie. I like eerie. Whispers in the night, clammy things, the weight of dreams, etc. This flash is a great example of control of tone. With tone, in a brief work, you need to stay consistent. This is a process of accumulation. A dune of sand is really just many individual flecks of sand. One day you go, “Damn, that’s a dune.” Note how Elizabeth ‘stacks’ certain sounds, images to control tone. Very technical, and reminded me of another master of tone, Robert Bly.

Snowbanks North of the House

Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house …
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more
books;
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no
more bread.
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a
party, and loves him no more.
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls
leaving the church.
It will not come closer
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch
nothing, and are safe.

The father grieves for his son, and will not leave the
room where the coffin stands.
He turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.

And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.

The toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust …
And the man in the black coat turns, and goes back
down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away,
and did not climb the hill.

2. The second flash fiction I admire today is by Arron Teel, capturing that odd moment (that seems like years [or is?], that odd age of transition, from kid to adult, all of the odd stirrings, the painful misunderstandings and painful understandings…the wonder of life. And what a final line! Ending lines always matter, but with less words, you really need to zap out, like a poem, like a poem…Glow dat. Here, Teel catches the blue, he contains it and compresses the blur. Like a poem.

Did I ever tell you about when I was like 14 and shot bottle rockets up into a bee hive? Yeh, it set the entire forest on fire. Smoldering hive of bees. That was a bad day. Later I would shoot out a giant, glass door with a slingshot. Not sure what I was thinking back then.

3. Monic Ductan has a memorable name and writes about Wal-Mart.

The thing about Wal-Mart is you don’t want to be there, really ever, and then you find yourself in Wal-Mart. Everyone I know hates Wal-Mart but we don’t really do anything about it. There’s a lot of things that way. It makes me feel pretty empty sometimes.

Hand reaches across breast, elbow to nipple.
Oh my god! Excuse me, m’am.
It’s just a titty, sir, whispered between painted lips.
Excellent flash, and really contains some of the chaos of family, relationships, the things that just happen, the things we can’t always communicate clearly about…It’s a strong work, and structurally inevitable, the lines cascading to the end.
I’ve pretty much enjoyed all Catherine Lacey. Personally, I’m in the “No one knows what they are doing” camp, and, like anyone, I enjoy reading literature that validates my view. Lacey really mines the terrain of confusion. Confusion. Confusion.
5. Amelia Fucking Earhart is a great title.
This is the first I’ve read of Angela Allen. It’s an odd one, wonderfully odd little tale, leaning to metaphor, twisting and snapping, moving us along–over here, over there–always grooving the imagination. The imagination is hope, isn’t it? I don’t know. I enjoy the cliffs of tension. This piece made me smile.
*
Ok, so there you go, I blogged, in my own way. I said to the world: I AM NOT A TARRED TELEPHONE POLE!! I’d like to end today with a muskrat dream and some advice to AVOID Super 8 Stevensville, MI, and, here, a little poem for you:
I title it INTIMATE ROTEL DIP
*
Velveeta is our long yellow jig
All day we hop
with a wobble impossible by night
kissing one another
like a single pepper
under the blank melting
grease knows where to find grease
bubbles reach for bubbles
we suck the bowl’s familiar curl
and vanish
deep into shrieking stomachs
delivered from the emptiness
of a dip half-eaten
of having to learn
that difficult, cold hardening pause
without a chip at all.
*
And, finally for today, I write about a box of Velveeta for Banango Street.
S
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2 responses to “fiction flashscapes and the carnival is postponed

  1. I hear you re blogging and veggie burger availability.

  2. Dude sorta has a moose knuckle going on.

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