Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Last three stanzas of “The Fish” relined

In Journal on February 27, 2011 at 12:55 pm

All external

Marks of abuse

are present on this


Edifice – all the physical

features of


Accident – lack

of cornice, Dy-

namite, grooves, burns

and hatchet

Strokes, these things stand out on it; the

Chasm is


Dead.  Repeated

Evidence has

Proved that it can live on

what can not

Revive its youth.  The sea grows old

in it.


The Death of the Hackberry Emporer

In Creative Nonfiction on February 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

The car rounded the last corner.  She saw them outside.  At first she didn’t see the smallest.  Stop, one foot out then the other.  Two bright faces burst through the gray space that had settled outside.  Look at this! one said.  He was followed by the second who said nothing but kept eyes on the fragile third.

It sat perched on his index finger.  We’ve been this way for half an hour! he said.  We  took a picture!

A dull butterfly, dark little circles in the dirt move outward to black wingtips that someone never finished painting.  The dusty wings draw shut and show their colorless negative.

Do you want to hold him?


The thin jointed legs belied their power to latch securely.  It blew over, nearly horizontal, a sail whipping and rising and falling through heavy winds.  She held her hand steady though it did not need her to.  Million things to do.  Can’t sit here staring at a bug.  Should I touch its wings?  I’ve heard you shouldn’t.  I want to touch its wings.

Her finger shook.  It sat in perfect balance, in perfect calm, and she felt like a child on sugar as she tried to emulate that gentleness.  It did not fly away when she slid a finger across the underside of its wing.  She thought it would but it opened its wings instead.  Deliberate and slow.  Then closed them again and she said hello back.

Virginia Woolf once wrote about a moth, a “tiny bead of pure life,” that someone had decked “with down and feathers,” and “set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life.”  She saw struggle with the eyes of a god, a Victorian god, and the vision left her without hope.  Her subject attempted escape from the thick glass that showed him the wide world, but never let him touch it.  He never succeeded.  In the end, she could do no more than commend him for “having righted himself” before death and laying “most decently and uncomplainingly composed” after.

Many years have passed.  The glass in Woolf’s room has 18 million cracks in it.  Women butt their heads against it, then flinch when the shards fall in their eyes.

She sat unwilling to move.  Chained to the unknown needs of the creature.  It continued opening and closing its wings for its audience.  A spellbound audience.  A microscopic face to read.  Her eyes squinted nearly shut trying to zoom in on it.  It rotated its position on her leg then looked up at her and she gazed into the eyes of a butterfly for the first time.  Doesn’t seem normal.  Something’s wrong with it.  Helplessness settled into the pit of her stomach.  Sit and watch.

The butterfly in question belongs to the species Asterocampa celtis, commonly known as the Hackberry Emperor.  Not a moth at all, though they do both fly by day and share the same drab sort of color scheme.  She once wrote a response to Woolf’s “The Death of the Moth,” and in that response she railed against the inequities of a world 100 years gone.  She once thought it very clever, very snarky of Woolf to call the moth “he,” when it so clearly represented the woes of “she.”

The Hackberry stayed.  An unusual thing, to spend so much time with a butterfly that one begins to wish for a hastened parting of ways.  The gray sky gave way to a black night.  There was no warmth.  A rectangular planter sat on the stoop next to the front door full of dirt and spilling dead and dried cilantro.  She told herself it would make a fine bed for any bug.  Guilt whispered to her.  She ignored it.

It will be gone from here tomorrow.  Nothing to keep it down.

A new day came.  Her head popped out of the house.  Ignoring it didn’t work.  It’s still here!  One finger stuck out.  Come back.

She thought about the fluttering legs Woolf wrote about, and recognized that death would play in this story, too.  It jumped urgently up and down.  Up off the denim.  Fall back.  Jump again.  Fall back.  Eventually the activity stopped and she built a bed of blades of grass and laid the creature back in the planter.  She abandoned it to its fate and for some time after avoided the area all together.

Many months have passed.  Sometimes she goes outside and digs through the dead leaves and dirt to see if she can find it.  She never does, because that would defeat the purpose, and because this lesson only gets harder with time.  She laughs at how clever Woolf was to call her troubles “he,” and disguise the fact that all along it was “me.”

The Road, continued

In Journal on February 25, 2011 at 9:35 am

Figures of Speech

In the selected passage, I found one metaphor (tattered gods slouching) and two similes (like a fallen plate, as senselessly as insects.)


McCarthy writes in a medium to low style.  He uses punctuation minimally, and often writes in very short but loaded sentences.  I think this lends a feeling of movement to the story.  We the readers follow the Man and Boy at their pace.  The short sentences are interspersed among longer ones, which prevents the story from sounding too staccato.  The Man speaks with grammatical correctness, but the dialogue is casual as opposed to formal.

Brief analysis of The Road by Cormac McCarthy

In Journal on February 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm

They stood on the far shore of a river and called to him.  Tattered gods slouching in their rags across the waste.  Trekking the dried floor of a mineral sea where it lay cracked and broken like a fallen plate.  Paths of feral fire in the coagulate sands.  The figures faded in the distance.  He woke and lay in the dark.

The clocks stopped at 1:17.  A long shear of light and then a series of low concussions.  He got up and went to the window.  What is it? she said.  He didn’t answer.  He went into the bathroom and threw the lightswitch but the power was already gone.  A dull rose glow in the windowglass.  He dropped to one knee and raised the lever to stop the tub and then turned on both taps as far as they would go.  She was standing in the doorway in her nightwear, clutching the jamb, cradling her belly in one hand.  What is it? she said.  What is happening?

I don’t know.

Why are you taking a bath?

I’m not.

Once in those early years he’d wakened in a barren wood and lay listening to flocks of migratory birds overhead in that bitter dark.  Their half muted crankings miles above where they circled the earth as senselessly as insects trooping the rim of a bowl.  He wished them godspeed till they were gone.  He never heard them again.

—pp 52-53 The Road


McCarthy uses concrete words, but doesn’t provide many  proper names for people or places.  This creates solid images, but leaves room for the reader to personalize the situation according to his or her own experiences.  This leeway will probably cause the reader to feel emotionally invested in what happens to the characters.  McCarthy uses idioms in this passage (threw the lightswitch, figures faded) which help to sustain the book’s reality.  We turn on lights and watch people seem to disappear as they walk away all the time.  His use of these idioms is natural and subtle.  I also think that he wrote a couple of these lines to have a double meaning, referring to not only the obvious, but also to create a world where every man, beast, and even plant is in the same predicament (barren wood, flocks of migratory birds.)  We’re told the Man “dropped to one knee,” and his wife was “clutching the jamb, cradling her belly in one hand.”  What is, on the surface, a description of the moment when they began to realize the world as they knew it had ended, also foreshadows how each individual will ultimately respond to the horror of it all.  The Man is humble.  He doesn’t believe he should be exempt from life, no matter how terrible.  He just keeps doing what he can.  His wife, on the other hand, is very resistant to the changes required for survival.  Her type must be dragged forward.  She stands in the doorway, clutching the jamb.

Definitions, continued

In Journal on February 23, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Allusion- Causes the reader to associate the material with something in either reality, or other works of art, by using figurative language to indirectly refer to the outside thing.

Hyperbole- A skewed description of a situation or idea that makes the thing more important than it may actually be, as in hyperbolic prose.

Definitions, continued

In Journal on February 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Metonymy- A figurative way to refer to one thing by naming another thing that relates back in some manner.

Synecdoche- A figurative way to refer to  a thing, in its entirety, by naming only one aspect or portion of the whole.


In Journal on February 21, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Analogy– A phrase or sentence that illustrates a concept or thing by illustrating common characteristics it shares with another concept/thing that is more immediately recognizable to the reader.

Metaphor- A phrase or sentence that helps the writer convey the feel of something, by claiming it is identical to another something.  Literally, the two things are different, but an effective metaphor draws its power from an overlap in characteristics.

Simile- A comparison of two unlike things (using the words “like” or “as”) that uses the familiarity of one to describe the other.

Wicked Witch Blog

In Fiction on February 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Day 1

I have been spending most of my time in trance.  My little grandchildren are so abused.  I can hardly bear to watch from afar, because everything seems too close for comfort in the mind’s eye.  My poor, dead daughter!  If she could see the misery her children are held captive in, she would rise from the grave!  This is the land of the living, though, and she shall never see it again.  Only I will see it, and only I will act.

Day 3

I was in the throes of concocting a strategy when my mind’s eye saw a wonderful development!  I have absolute confidence in my ability to train them, but how to get them in my care?  This point has baffled me for some time.  Their stinking step-mother has been scheming, of her own volition, to abandon Hansel and Gretel in the forest.  I must decide upon some ruse to get them on my grounds.  How redeeming it will be to see the look on that evil woman’s face when my beneficiaries return, not only with my riches, but with a new found sense of survival as well!

Day 6

A happy mess my daughter’s successor has made of the whole affair!  After several attempts, she has finally managed to get them lost for good, and very near to my cottage.  I have abandoned all ideas to abduct them straight out.  If they understand that I want them here, my plan will be undermined from the start.  I must lure them somehow…

The poor babes will be hungry…

I will allow hunger to draw them to me.  Perhaps I could pose as a baker, and appear as lost as they.  Slaughter a pig, and roast it in the yard.  Such a rich odor will surely entice them closer!

Day 7

I did not sleep last night.  I have worked an enchantment on my house and all the grounds.  Every wall, every surface, every pocket, now looks, smells, and tastes delicious!  The walkways are lined with little gingerbread men.  The doorknobs are peppermint, and the window panes are pure sugar!  I even turned the water in my fish pond to warm bread pudding; the fish are the raisins!  I covered every inch of my roof with red licorice, then painted the walls with the fluffiest coconut icing they will ever see.  Hansel and Gretel will be so thrilled to see it, and I will be thrilled to see them! I can see that they are very close now.  Only a small gully, and a cluster of trees sits between them, with all of their problems, and me, with my solution.

Day 8

I have succeeded!  My precious grandchildren are in my charge.  Playing the “wicked witch,” however, has been much, much harder than I had anticipated.  When the sweet things found my candy house, they were the happiest children in the world.  Their bright eyes and unbelieving smiles made me want to sing!  All morning I allowed them to pick and scrape and scoop the treats.  After they had unmistakably lost interest in eating, I came out onto the yard.  I asked, “Would the little children like to see the inside of the house?” and told them I had many more tasty things for them to nibble.  They agreed, nodding heads and eyes growing even wider.  I shuffled them inside the door, and when the bolt made its “click,” I pounced on Hansel and threw him in the iron cage I fashioned yesterday.  The lad is growing so quickly, there could be no other way!  Gretel does not have the confidence to challenge me, so I will leave her to think that her back will break under the work I charge her with.

Day 33

How torturous these last weeks have been!  Gretel cries day and night, but still has the strength to sneak scraps of food to Hansel.  Even though imprisoned, he acts with such dignity!  My daughter would swell with pride if she saw them this way, each supporting the other in such clever little ways.  I have them fooled into thinking I intend to eat them, which was not difficult due to the rumors about me that circulate the village.  They are the innocents of innocence to believe I would do such a thing!  They do believe it, though, and I sense that I might soon bring this charade to a safe end.

Day 35

Today is the final day.  I have crafted the finest plan to allow them to escape.  First, I will announce that Hansel is to be roasted this day (I will have to try with all my might not to chuckle!)  I want them so worked up that they will abandon all timidity.  I think I will even have Gretel light the stove, just to be convincing.  After all the “preparations” have been made, I’ll pretend to have trouble opening the cage door, then swing it open with great force and fall backward.  I’ll make a great, loud mess, then fall to the floor in a tangled heap.  In all the confusion, they shall think I’ve been knocked unconscious.  I will not stir.  The children are nearly starving now, and will surely search for food as soon as they’ve determined that I no longer pose a threat.  The enchantment is withered now, which will leave them to search within the house.  They will only have to step beyond this room, and they will lay eyes on their glittering inheritance!  I hope it works, it has nearly killed me to put it all together.

Friday, February 18, 2011

In Journal on February 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Am going with the Hansel and Gretel option for my weekly writing.  I’ve ended up doing (in my mind) something similar to The Mists of Avalon, my favorite book of all time.  Maybe not doing something similar in skill, but most definitely borrowing the misunderstood witch character.  It’s strange how, without ever intending to, subject matter keeps coming up in my writing that I generally read/enjoy.  I guess that’s why they say if you want to write, you have to read!

p. 37, exercise 4

In Journal on February 18, 2011 at 3:35 am

Scarlett in The Boating Party….

-Part Two-

No, Scarlett did not care for the outlandish behavior she had seen from the French, but she was impressed at how efficiently they seemed to use their land!  In Paris now for two weeks, they had gone to do and see everything under the sun, yet had never traveled more than a few miles from their hotel.

“Oui, Monsieur!  Tres jolie!”

Scarlett’s thoughts were interrupted by a boisterous fellow who she figured was  congratulating Rhett on his  choice of wife.  “He doesn’t even have the raising to put on a pair of shirt-sleeves,” she thought.  The man motioned for them to join his dining party, which included a young woman and her imp of a dog, a couple, and yet another man with arms bare to his shoulders!