Writes With Pencils

fiction, memoir, essays and poetry

Tag: Community

1st Anniversary of a New Voice

Version 3

In response to the supportive urgings of my writing group to put my work out into the world, I created this blog one year ago today. At the time I’d first met them more than a year before, I’d been working on a novel scene by scene for a couple of years, much of which I then shared with this revolving community of fellow writers in the back room of a Belltown cafe we met in twice weekly. Hearing the diversity of their work, from poetry and memoir to sci-fi and urban fantasy, was as helpful and inspiring to me as the thoughtful, constructive feedback I received about my own work. From Smeeta I learned to dig deep and tell the truth; Mark’s action-packed narratives taught me to inject energy and movement into my own stories; and Kay recognized and encouraged the voice of a poet in my rambling prose.

Six weeks before signing onto WordPress that first time, I had sustained the most devastating trauma of my life. Five weeks after that day that shattered my universe, I discovered something that intensified and distilled the trauma. I couldn’t sleep. Anxiety and despair gripped me, caused me to scream and wail while driving, to dig my fingers into my unwashed hair in an attempt to extinguish the pain of overwhelming anguish. I tried to write about it, but alone at home the page remained blank. Finally, after four desperate days, I headed to the cafe to sit in silence among my tribe of fellow writers knowing that if nothing else, I would find acceptance and understanding there of my blocked state. Forty-five minutes of free-writing later, Found Receipt emerged in powerful verse from my pencil. It was only the fourth poem I had ever written. The first had been a child’s gift to my parents for their anniversary, the second a high school English assignment, and the third an abandoned experiment.

Completely cracked open by this unimaginable trauma, I discovered a new voice that day and have written over 100 poems since. I would never have chosen the tragic events which led to that discovery, but I am incredibly grateful for this growing voice. To honor it and commemorate its birth, I am submitting some of its verse today for publication consideration. Regardless of the outcome of that submission, I will keep writing. It has been a salve to this deep wound which still bleeds but is healing, an invitation to others to share their own grief, and a bridge of connection to people who would have otherwise remained strangers to me. It has led me to the desert of Utah and the Highlands of Scotland and back home again to my own writing desk. I will keep writing. The characters of my dormant novel have even appeared on the page again for the first time in over a year in recent weeks. I will keep writing. Thank you for reading.

 

Found Receipt

Found Receipt

Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
Why didn’t you pay cash?
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
You’d have gotten change back from a ten.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
You charged it on your credit card.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
You left it for me to pay for.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
They were cheap and there were lots of ’em.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
For a box of fifty.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
Forty-nine more than you needed.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
Because it only took one.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
For a bullet in the brain.
Eight dollars and seventy-five cents,
To kill yourself.
Life is expensive, but death is cheap.

The inspiration for and the power of a new voice discovered: The Value of NO

 

Good News Tuesday

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After perusing the pastry case
and deciding on nothing,
before I ordered my coffee
it was sitting there, on the counter
a single, short latte
perfectly made
served in a hand-painted cup
exactly the way I like it
made by a young woman
whom I’d barely noticed on previous visits
whose name I didn’t know.
In response to my look of disbelief
she responded simply,
“I know what you drink”
and she did.
I smiled and asked her name
as I thanked her.
I’d been seen without even knowing it.

Earlier in the morning
I’d walked with a friend who was troubled,
the sunshine and air
birdsong and motion
gave her no comfort, no sense of ease.
So I listened and walked,
walked and listened, and finally shared
a story of my private struggle
to which she responded
“You sound just like me”
then she shared with me
an unshared story
and I watched her shoulders drop
and felt her breath expand
as she began to release her burden
of many years
as she felt seen, no longer alone.

As I drank my perfect coffee
I read the local news
of a young man who decided to forego
the flash of a single night
of dinner and dancing
the end of high school,
to throw a party for homeless women:
the forgotten, ignored, and invisible.
I imagined the women dressing
in donated evening clothes
and selecting their dinners
from the menu prepared by student cooks
and sitting at tables covered with cloths.
And I thought of the gifts he would give them
not only of dresses and dinner and fun,
but of choices and respect
and most of all, of being seen.

 

The Dish Café

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Long-haired waitresses with ponytails
serve plate-sized hash browns
and bottomless cups of coffee
to dinette sets of friends
and single men,
their elbows on the counter,
as they check their phones
or flirt to incite a friendly smile.

Undecided between the merits
of sweet and savory,
I order my usual
but choose bacon over sausage,
at the waitress’ recommendation,
as the salty counterpoint
to the syrup-soaked pancake
as big as my head
and the perfect over-medium eggs.

Generosity on a plate
feeds more than the belly.
These angels of the morning
take care of the hungry,
un-caffeinated, and sleep-deprived.
After estimating the tip
I round it up a couple of bucks
and start my day
fueled by the comfort
of the last bite of bacon
and a warm goodbye.

The Lunacy and Truth of “We are OK!”

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Seven strangers sit
holding mugs of herbal tea
as warmth and comfort.

Each tells a story
of love lost to suicide,
mysteries remain.

Sobs of grief and pain,
full of questions and self-doubt,
punctuate some tales.

Factual, detached,
chronologically precise,
one mourner reports.

Numbed in disbelief
a recent death stuns and dulls,
eyes fill silently.

Lives ripped and ruptured
try making sense of chaos
where none can be found.

Sweet memories shared
of life before the madness
brighten sad faces.

In the tragedies,
left to puzzle and survive,
we search for meaning.

Some prevailing truths
limited to suicide
can be ludicrous.

Then one smiles and laughs
and with solidarity
another joins in.

Grateful for this place
where talk of horror, lunacy,
and death shock no one.

We seven all are
members of a lonely club,
no one wants to be.

We all understand
life’s foundation’s been destroyed,
but a roof remains.

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