Make a start. See what happens.


From the writing group

10-minute free writes inspired by weekly prompts

I’ll never understand…

By Tess Bradley

I’ll never understand the truly polite woman.
The one who stands like a first lady on my left shoulder.
Is she real? Or is she artificial, poised like a human figure sitting for a portrait to be painted.
Is grace real?
Can we find it in nature?

Yes, yes, yes!
Hordes of voices are yelling from my mosh-pit mouth.
There’s loads of grace in nature.
Take trees. Take birds– any birds!
Okay, maybe not penguins particularly.
No! Even penguins!
Take peacocks. The stillness, the still life.
The profile of a woodpecker.
The wood print of any profile.
The beak. The crest.
The backward leg joints.
The fan of feathers resting or spread out in the sun like a hand of Bicycle cards, red or blue playing cards.
Surely you can locate dignity in your own body, if not in your mind.
The bones of your prehistoric wings.
You, hanging upside down like a bat, a butterfly.
Cobalt blue against white and black, with harvest moon yellow orange.

Is my beauty the same thing as my dignity?
Is my dignity the same thing, or at least holding hands, with my divinity or our collective will to fly, to be driven, to be grateful, to be still and to honor life?

Can we be still?

I’ll never understand…

By Hao Tran

When I close my eyes in search of a memory, something comes to my mind right away.  I see an escalator moving up and I am on it.  The steel steps move smoothly under electrical power of some machinery underneath.  So powerful, they lift me up and up against my inertia, my will.

I kid you not, this is the first thing that comes to my mind.  I am holding onto the black rubberized railing gritty from many sweaty palms.  It moves along too with the escalator.  I am heading to a bright lit space above, with thousands of kilowatts of neon lights.  It is so quiet.  So quiet.  No motorcycle noise like a thousand lawnmowers going off at the same time.  No cigarette smoke.  No people talking loudly.  No chanting in a pagoda nearby.  No jost stick smell, the kind of smoke that reminds me of funerals and cemeteries.  The kind of smoke that is comforting as it is hurting at the same time.

It is the transition of leaving, entering, and reentering.  I never understand how I always climb that elevator thinking about the dark place lit by candles and kerosene lamps and wish I could turn around and go back.

I’ll never understand …

I’ll never understand.

Period. End of story.

I’ll never understand numbers. Money. Time. The truth of mathematics is so elemental to the understanding of life on earth that my body naturally rejects it. I don’t want to understand this because if I did then I’d have to do something about it.

This is a temporary ride anyway. I’d rather just enjoy it – watch the swirling, blurring scenery as it rushes past, confused and inside out. Feel the breeze on my face, maybe even get a little sick. But I’ll still laugh and I’ll still scream and when the ride comes to a stop I’ll file off obediently and wander toward whatever’s next. I won’t argue or ask to stay on. I won’t even buy another ticket. I’ll walk into those woods that I’d only glimpsed for a microsecond before – seeing now that they are still and deep and hold secrets that I’ll never understand.

Don’t ask me to make sense of anything. Keep me from hard edges and known quantities. I surrender, my head snapping back as I’m pulled forward and backward through time – the coil both mortal and immortal. I’ll never understand how it works. Leave that to the beautiful physicists. I wonder if they get to heaven and go, “ohhhhhh, I never thought of it quiet that way, but damn, I was close.”

I don’t want to get close to anything but the grass underfoot. To the droplets of fog mist. To the gratitude buried beneath layers of worry. To the invisible beating heart of the world.

I need you to know / I don’t want to know

By Jan Martinez

Dear Mom and Dad,

I want you to know that the stories from my childhood still have the power to crack me up. What a funny expression, crack me up – to break apart, like a fragile egg, or the shell of one of those buildings on a wild west set, pure façade designed to break apart in a staged explosion. An explosion of laughter, in our case. Oh my, we had so many of those together.

Like that time in high school, Dad, when I was on the phone with Pam, extra long phone cord, curly like a piglet’s tail, wrapped around me and stretching over the kitchen island as I stood next to the refrigerator whispering and giggling. How you walked up behind me, tapped me on the shoulder and held up a giant green bug inches from my face, its acid chartreuse wings fanning calmly as I screamed and drop the phone. And you there laughing your ass off. I was so mad, but all that cracked away as my own laughter burst through.

Or Mom, do you remember that time in the Ozarks? You and Barb were in the front seat of Nana’s car. Nana was in the back between me and Bambi. She was the only one who knew how to navigate the winding roads to get to the picturesque town at the top of the mountain, but her directions were vague. At best. Beyond comprehension. Yet at every wrong turn you made, she let you know it. “Why did you turn there, Honey?”

Bambi and I were so car sick by the time we arrived, we talked about getting Halcyon along with our double gin and tonics. You and Barb were frustrated and furious. Nana of course was just fine. But after lunch we all laughed, and Nana ordered a chocolate dessert so rich she said it gave her tongue 10 orgasms. Yeah, Bambi and I still crack up over that one.

So Mom and Dad, I need you to know we’re still laughing. And I hope you all are too.

I don’t want to know the answer to all of life‘s mysteries. All of life’s questions. For example, why one bird sings before another. Why one person becomes dear and another does not. Or how it is a friend can climb high onto a cliff, so high that he then has to affix a cot horizontally onto the sheer rock face. Then to sleep risking a rain shower of pee from climbers higher above. Why this appeals to some and not others is something I can never know. Nor do I really want to. Somethings just are.

Something else I don’t want to know

To a fellow diner at Taverna Rossa:  I don’t want to know your excuse for sitting down next to our table in a crowded restaurant and greeting your friends with a joke: How many Mexicans does it take to cut down a tree?I don’t care about the excuse that led you to this place. The way you sat down, opened your mouth, and didn’t stop talking for the hour we sat near you. I don’t take it personally. I doubt you noticed the friends sitting across from you, so how would you ever possibly think I might be offended?

I need you to know / I don’t want to know

by Michelle Hynes

I need you to know… That I care. That I hurt. That I didn’t mean to hurt you.

It’s hard to write today, from this place of distraction. This pen, or that one? The purple sparkly marker will have to do. It moves across the page so smoothly. Who cares, if it’s hard to read later?

I need you to know that showing up means I love you. My hair might be a mess, and I can’t find my shoes or my keys. But here I am. Do you want some tea?

Sometimes showing up is the best I can do. I might be ill-equipped or under-prepared. I’m not proud of that. But here I am.

Here I am. I need you to know that the best I have right now might not be my best. Maybe tomorrow I will be sparkly and bright and my shirt will match my socks. Today is not that day.

Here I am. I need you to know that I care about being here, now, with you … even if I don’t know what to say. Let’s sit a while. Have some tea. Maybe you will hear all I need you to know. What I need you to know. I need you to know. I know I need you. I need you to know.

I don’t know what to do with this minute, this time, this space. The end.

I don’t want to know what you think. Honestly, thanks for offering — But I just want to sit here a while with what I think. There are too many other voices, some days. I just want to hear my own. Selfish? Sure, maybe. But have you ever craved the deep quiet of no voices? This is how the forest feels to me, or the ocean — just the murmur of leaves, the rhythm of waves, alone with the soft sounds of nature in my ears and under my feet. I don’t want to know. Just listen.

I need you to know …

by Hao Tran

… that I fail every day.  I am stealing this line from a recent movie “The Dig”, and that’s the line I still remember.  That’s the best line of all because it is so true.  It’s so assuring to know that I am not alone, and it is OK to admit failure, and it’s OK to live with it, and it’s OK to try to do better.

The fact is, or the truth is I am not sure if I have left any impact that has changed the world, a world remade as my friend David eloquently said it.  I think I did, and after sixty-six years of trying, I must have done some good and made a difference somewhere.

Many years ago, I was on one of my trips to Đồng Tháp province, the poorest place in the Mekong Delta, the place my father called the end of the earth.  It was the place where the landless and the displaced peasants went because there was no place else to go.  It was also the place where the cranes returned because everywhere else in the Delta had been destroyed or farmed to death with rice fields and shrimp farms.

I was with my friends from the International Crane Foundation and we spent weeks helping the villagers, if you call it that.  We did what we could to sample the soil, teach the kids water chemistry, help teachers with lab equipment.  We were the rich and environmentalism is the luxury of the rich.

One day I was walking around and I saw a small house, a hut, and woman with a toddler were looking at me.  The child was so small like a malnourished primate.  She was unwashed, almost naked with so little clothing.

I reached out and cleaned her face with a Kimwipes.

The mother looked at me with wet eyes.  “Strange man,” she said.

I write into being …

By Michelle Hynes

I write into being the shape of my grief. Or, sometimes, my joy. I work things out on the page. Friday writing is a special place — just my voice. And yours. Each in its own time.

First thing this morning — 7:30 — so early! My brain was filled with the voices of rural teachers. It’s my job to write into being a year of work, of toil, of learning. To somehow make many snippets of interviews into a quilt that honors the space between and among people I might never meet in person.

I write into being who I am, who I’ve been, who I aspire to be. I write into being, and offer to you, the world outside my window. Well, that’s not quite right. The world exists without me. But I see just a square of it, for most of each day — and  I offer you that square, my view of it. A square of dark chocolate, or quickly made cake, or the raised bed in the garden that might hold flowers or fruit.

I write into being my own view of what is. I write into being my own view of me, in this season of life. It’s just a moment, not something that endures. I write into being a dandelion, a bit of fluff, that might be blown away by the next strong breeze.

I write into being …

by Leann Sewell

I have to start today with a confession. Bless me, Group, for I have sinned.

I realized last night I lay awake in my bed on Thursday nights trying to guess at the prompt for the next day and constructing potential first lines. This isn’t a mortal sin and it still needed to be let out.

I am a weak, large baby who just wants to be loved and the only way I can maybe succeed on my mission is to try and plan ahead for all possibilities. Semper paratus and all that.

With that out of the way maybe I am free to just scribble my little pen across my little paper and trust whatever comes.

As Joy read the blog post about grief this morning, I had the sense maybe not for the first time, that I am a twin. That I was not born alone. Did not gestate alone.

My twin is Grief and I ate her up inside our mother’s womb and carry her with me now.

We speak our own special twin language. I hold the memory of her hand in mine.

I can’t take a deep breath because she lives in the space around my lungs, my heart, my diaphragm.

I write her into being – let her guide the pen since she has no mouth to speak for herself.

I have enough …

By Ana Lucia Jardim

I have enough tension on my shoulders to crack a walnut against the wall. This armour has been with me since the beginning, likely since my birth. Maybe it was the forceps, or maybe it was the waiting and waiting for the OB guy to come back from his lunch break. My poor mother. She must have been so tense that she passed it on to me, unwillingly. Now it’s kinda cute when we walk down the street together: who’s got the toughest shoulders?! These days, I like putting my arm over my mother’s shoulders, and kissing her on the cheek.

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