Here come our two cats for my breakfast,
but I am not eating, rather looking down,
making the pen move with familiar loops
and a certain steady slide across the page.
Cats bore easily when they see that ink smears
and doesn’t taste a thing like chicken. So
the leader pushes her nose into an African violet,
which I can’t allow. Given her way, she will destroy
leaves and get soil all over the table, along with
pretty purple flowers. I pluck her from the pot,
but not before a clump of dirt hits the table
and she finds it didn’t taste a thing like turkey,
which was what she had on her little kitty brain.
Off the two go to explore the kitchen, tails entwined,
leaving me in solitude with nothing more than
steam rising from the electric facility at the end
of Korean War Veterans Bridge and downtown
Nashville waking to another day of rain.
Now I hear the cats discussing how bacon is cured
and the virtue of Costco’s brand, Kirkland,
fully cooked, naturally wood smoked, thick cut,
microwaveable, pre-sliced, ready in a mere 55 seconds,
reminding me we can have bacon for breakfast.
P.S. and by the way, I cook one piece for each cat.
Nothing is real in October!
There is a cat on the roof—
He sits there watching me on the porch⎯
the two of us
loving the wild light wind makes
moving through trees,
casting shadows on the patio
then drenching us in bright light.
Leaves turn the color
Birds call back and forth
busy with business of the day.
Nothing is real
but this savage joy
in a world I have made for myself
and is as arguable as color
flung from a palette
on a morning
when the wind is up.
LIKE A PALETTE OF RAIN CLOUDS,EYES THE COLOR OF YOUNG RICE
She is silver, signifying wealth.
Each blue hair
is tipped with shine,
and she lets me know she thinks
I’m a dud, even though I’m the one
who put a toy mouse stuffed
with catnip into the bathtub
so that she could slip, paw, tumble
and chase it all about.
She chews each corner
of my journal, has been known
to stick her nose in my coffee,
fish shrimp out of a temporarily
unattended bowl of steaming
Top Ramen, and steal
anything she has a mind to steal
from my kitchen counter.
She has the mentality of
a five-year-old with an awful
case of the terrible twos.
Kaylee is a Korat. Google that,
then be filled with wonder,
dear reader, at the mental
instability of this author.
THE LONGEST DAY
I’m not happy, I told a therapist, I have no place to write.
I didn’t mention a friend said I could use her guesthouse,
a church down the road offered a pew, my husband said
I could use his studio, but those won’t do. I need solitude,
no one waltzing through on the way to life. I can’t write
with a cat in my lap, I’ve tried bedrooms, living room….
I would be happy with a place to write,
but it has to be the right place, no one smiling,
asking if I need a refill on my coffee. No!
I was brought up better than to say, Just go away.
So, tonight I’ve come to the fifth floor deck of our loft.
Far below, notes from a cello waft up and settle around me.
It’s summer solstice, my birthday, damn near dark.
A bat just flew by and katydids are rubbing their wings
together or whatever they do to make that razor noise.
I find them distracting, but not quite as distracting
as a cat in my lap making little star feet all over my body.
My birthday, so many now, it’s become an embarrassment.
I think about my mother, dead fifty years, how after the funeral,
her sister said, Your mother always was a turd of misery.
I am not my mother.
For those of you who would like to get an overview of my course, I teach writing. Whether it’s poetry, memoir, short story, novel, flash fiction, self-help, newspaper, travel, or trade journal articles, even instruction manuals, it’s all writing. I teach people how to write.
We’ve all had the experience of reading and find our eyes sub-consciously skip to the top of the next paragraph, and then skip again. We think it’s our fault, we’re not concentrating. It’s not our fault. The writer has failed to vary the energies so that each word draws the reader to the next word. It’s like listening to music that sounds “dah, dah, dah, dah… dah” until after a while, of course our mind wanders.
People in my beginning class often have a difficult time with exercises, preferring to just write and go with the flow rather than focus. If they've taken classes before, they usually write on some theme or subject. But I teach Method Writing. The theme or subject doesn’t matter. It’s is all about how to use tonal changes to create a work of art that is vibrant and alive, one that involves the reader.
My students will find I suggest adjustments, so the work reads better. Response to the "written product" is natural. After all, the world is real. We cannot live in process all the time. But if we are doing our work, what Frost calls "playing for mortal stakes," we are going to begin by working from process toward product, and not the other way around. Practice, practice, practice,
Anders Ericsson looked into why some people are more successful than others. For example, conservatory students… some in his study went on to brilliant solo or orchestral careers, while others ended up as more workaday musicians. The naturally gifted students didn’t necessarily rise to the top. Others did. What set them apart?
He found that those who worked harder achieved more success. Duh! We know that. We don't need a research paper to tell us that.
But Ericsson also came up with a statistic, one that has become something of a handy-dandy number. On average, you need ten thousand hours of practice to become truly successful at anything.
How many hours do you already have in writing? Wherever you are, that’s where we’ll begin. We’ll travel together for a short way. And when you feel you’re ready, off you go!
In the meantime, here are some suggestions:
Write like you talk.
Use the transformation line.
Give the reader an event that contains moments, what I call image/moments.
See what happens when you throw in tonal changes.
Practice. Make it fun, imaginative, deep, personal and dark.
Write like you talk, oh, did I say that TWICE?
Let the truth come to you.
Allow for accidents of genius.
Read books you don't like, by writers from whom you might learn. See good movies. See good plays. Go to a concert. Visit a gallery or museum. Then write. Deliberately. With focus. With intention to practice the exercise. Don't try to write well. Write truly. And finally, write like you talk. Oops!