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Dennis Higgins, author, father

This installment of Finding Your Writer hits close to home for me. Dennis is an author of light, fizzing, and youthful novels concerning time travel and murder. Dennis is also my father.

His novels, boarding pastism surreal science fiction, are far less concerned, to my joy, in presenting a grand addition to human literature, as they are in indulging us with a revelation into the author himself. Reading him, the feel is unmistakable that Dennis writes in order to understand himself better, a long tradition of artists grappling with their craft. Dennis writes to find his voice, to wrestle out distinctions of a blurry past, and as a means to self discovery. Biased or not, I love him for that; I believe in him for that.

The day he announced to our family he was publishing a novel, we had questions. Could he write? Did he always have an interest in literature? I remember his joy of journaling long ago, but here it was, a stack of fresh and glossy novels laid open in brown boxes at the foot of his stairs. It felt like Christmas. I reach in to grab one. It was this exact moment, in my confusion and wonder, that I felt I knew the very least about my father, that I had a world yet to know, and the day my copy arrived in the mail I began by reading though the inscription into chapter one, into a whole new insight of him, of me, of us.

Amongst other similarly cerebral novels he has written, for his work in Steampunk Alice, Dennis’s take on Alice in Wonderland, a naive young Alice is whisked away to a mechanical, leather strapped, 1900’s industrial revolution styled, Steam Punk alternate universe, and must find her way back home. Campy, fun, thrilling and brilliant. What else can I say?

Now, will Dennis write the next great American novella? Not in the next few years I suspect, but this was never the point for him, for me, and for my family.

Dennis writes novels of exploration into the human condition simply by writing himself, his fears, his joys and interests into each book. And so I have gotten to know him, that is, the universe expanding in his head, his heart, more than I ever have been able, as neither kid nor adult, and that is the true point.

My father writes.

Writing to find ones self.

Because perhaps, in an unfinished world, creation is far less about the art we sculpt, and more about the men we become at the kiln.

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Home is Where the Mind is

“I really like it here.”

“I know you do,” he replied. “I like it, too.”

“The last time I came here, I was happy—you wouldn’t believe it. Going back was…” I looked away from his knowing gaze and snorted bitterly as I recalled leaving the only place I considered home. “I felt really—everything was just really different and…wrong,” I finished meekly.

I thought he stopped listening after my snort which was why, when I looked back, I was startled to see him still focused on me so intently. For three breathes, he said nothing—just watched me the way you’d watch someone after they describe to you every wax and wane of the calla lily they keep locked away in their heart, every curve of its single petal, every kind of bow to its bending stem.

“I see it in you,” he said and before I could ask him what it is he saw, he was already telling me. “The sadness, I see it in your eyes. The struggle to—“

“—happiness takes work,“ I interrupted defensively, trying to justify what he saw.

“—I know it does. But, you know, happiness isn’t about the place you’re in.” He tapped my temple gently with his index and middle fingers before saying, “It’s in here.”

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And when you look back
On everything in your life
Will you remember
When I was a child
That I trusted you?
Will you remember
That I loved you?
Will you finally admit
That you made a grave mistake?
Will you feel remorse?
Or will you deny
The things you have done
With your dying breath?

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If I was a drag queen . . .

I would never become a drag queen

but if I did my name would be

Miranda Hill.  A southern diva

that’s one part stupid and one part crazy.

The kind of girl that doesn’t

know who the president is

but will shoot your ass if she

finds you with another woman.

She would rock a sequin mini dress

short enough to get kicked out

of class, hair that tickles Gods feet,

trailer trash glamour, Bud light

in one hand, cigarette in the other

dancing at the bar, life of the party,

gun slinging beauty queen.

all in red fuck me heels never complaining

that her feet hurt.  She drives diesel

cause she likes the power between

her legs.  She’s been with all the boys

most of the girls, and everything in between.

She doesn’t discriminate when it

comes to pleasing the body.

But I haven’t really thought about it.

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Rebekah

She was tall and skinny, lanky really.

Could have been pretty, given the right

clothes, hair, makeup; to be honest

I had to pull out my high school yearbook

to remember what she looked like.

She was not smart, she was

an eighteen year old sophomore.

I always wanted to ask if it hurt

when her body twitched uncontrollably.

She most likely had a mild form of torrents,

but her family could not afford

proper medical treatment so her head

would accidentally bang against the desk.

 

I remember Spanish class being one

of the few places I actually felt cool in high school.

I sat at my desk trying to conjugate verbs,

looking behind me watching her head convulse,

I mocked what she couldn’t control.

She threw her pen hitting me in the head.

I picked it up, shoved it in my bag

told her she was a retard and mimicked

her shaking body. I remember watching her

hold back tears. I may have humiliated her

but she never let me take her pride.

 

On the high school popularity scale

I was somewhere towards the bottom,

but she was even lower than me

somehow that gave me the right

to throw stones through her window of self-worth.

And now I write about being a victim of bullying,

my poems are hypocrites, it’s true.

I cried listening to Jamie Nabozny’s story.

Screamed in outrage the day

an 11 year old body was found

dangling from his third-floor railing.

Fell to the floor when I found out

Tyler Clementi’s bully will serve jail time.

I am appalled when I see schools

doing nothing to make sure children are safe.

I remember feeling bad about what I had done,

I will never have the opportunity to apologize

 

When her car slid under the trailer of the truck

I want to know if her life flashed before her eyes.

I want to know if her last thought was happy.

I want to know if her death was truly an accident,

or if she found a way to leave this world

without writing her loved ones a poem.

When they pulled pieces of her body

from the wreckage; the only way to identify her

was the license plate. Her father was

on the ambulance driving to the crash site

they had to pull his thrashing body from the vehicle.

 

This is the hardest poem I have ever written,

the thought that I may have hurt

someone so bad they would want to take their life

has been consuming me for weeks.

My chest tightens with shame.

I can feel the tar in my fingertips,

all I want to do is explode.

Go ahead judge me; go ahead break me.

We all have things we regret

and the ones who don’t

are either lying or too blind

to see the ones they stabbed willingly.

We focus on our own pain,

failing to mention the ones

we wrapped in barbed wire

and pushed down a hill.

The ones we shove aside

to make room for shinier skin.

 

Her face was so mangled, the mortician

sculpted a new one from wax.

They pulled shrapnel from her arms

the day they laid her casket in the ground,

school was canceled, I didn’t attend the service

but watched one by one as people

who treated her worse than I

walked out on their education

like their sins would somehow vanish

and tonight, as I sit in my parents’ house

I wish I had done the same.

The yearning to change

what has already been done

strips my stomach clean.

 

If she were alive

would I feel remorse?

Would I want to face her?

I heard, she got married.

I heard, she was thinking

about starting her own family.

I heard, she was finally happy.

These thoughts tear through me

as I stand over her grave.

I place white tulips on the stone

whisper, “I am so sorry

for the way I treated you.”

A gentle breeze makes the hair

on my arms stand upright,

I like to think she heard me.

 

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My scars are real even if you can't see them.

The day my pants were ripped from my body

as my classmates laughed at my exposed skin

was the first time I wanted to die. I walked out

on my education to hold a knife to my wrist

ready to remove my blood. I could see my body

on the kitchen floor a sea of red under the refrigerator.

I could see my mom finding my body wide-eyed

limp, cold and lifeless. I could feel her silent

scream in my bones. Her imagined devastation

forced the knife back where it came from.

 

The second time I was just legal to drive

the world just beyond the windshield.

But the loneliness; the pain I cannot name

was growing inside me, a plant I kept watering.

I grabbed a mechanical pencil repeatedly

stabbing my wrist hoping I would penetrate skin

tearing tendons and veins. My brothers ran downstairs

to play video games stopping and staring at me.

I ran away to place I could be alone.

 

I just turned twenty-one the third time.

Everything I had ever felt was held inside,

like a Pepsi can rolling down a rocky hill.

exploding in my lungs, fizzing up my throat

until I was choking on bubbles

and leaving was easier than staying.

I broke down in my dorm rocking

like a broken fetus. My roommate

held my wrists from my mouth,

so I wouldn’t chew them like a dog with shoes.

The next day, the first psychiatrist told me,

I had the lows to be considered bi-polar

but not the highs. For the next year and a half

I ingested a mix of drugs to keep my canines at bay.

 

The last time I wanted to die

It had been two years since I swallowed a pill

My life had no direction. I wasn’t writing.

I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t laughing.

I was stuck. Another sleepless night.

Staring at the ceiling, praying for sleep

I saw the bed soaking the life from me

my wrist dangling over the edge.

I saw myself as dead because at that point

I might as well have been. I rolled off my pillow

slept on the hardwood floor found another

psychiatrist who brewed a different potion

I have been drinking ever since.

 

There are no scars where knifes wanted to cut.

I do not wear my attempts to die like a medal

of honor on my wrist. This doesn’t make it

any less real. I know what it feels like to free-fall.

To fantasize about jumping the guard rails

driving engine first into a redwood.

I have felt the cold hand of depression

hold my cheek. I have let the monsters

hold my heart in their mouth. I watched

as the pulse slowed, slobber ran down my arteries.

I have tattoos where scars should be.

Speak – for strength. Write – for sharing my stories.

Even the one’s I have not boxed up.

The ones that are still barking at my door.

Because there is no running away

from holding a knife to your wrist

from stabbing yourself with a mechanical pencil

from chewing your own veins

or seeing yourself as dead.

 

Today I wrote a list of all my reasons to live.

To marry my someday best friend.

To laugh so hard I fall to the ground.

To see my childs smile.

To finally have abs.

To watch wrinkles of my past iron into my skin.

To scream ‘I am enough’ at the sunset.

To carry the weak across this black tar world.

To run a marathon.

To carve my story on my bones.

To absorb this world in the pours of my lungs.

To motivate a new generation to keep moving forward.

To beam with the moon on the darkest nights.

To blossom like a rose.

To chance everything’s going to work out fine.

To love.

To laugh.

To evolve.

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Handsome

Every day after work I sit on the floor

Leaning forward stretching muscle and tendons

I stand pulling one foot towards my ass

Hold, count to ten, then the other

I place my feet against the wall

My calves tighten; I lock my apartment

Put my headphones in and press play

 

I have always wanted to be handsome

To be more than what this face allows

To walk into a room and see heads

Turn and jaws drop, the guy with

The chiseled jaw and muscle tearing

Holes in his button down Gucci suit

 

After seven minutes I have reached

My fist mile, my pace is faster than normal

For the first time in weeks my legs feel good

The music keeps my feet pumping

I will run further, I will push harder

 

I would give every poem I have written

To have abs of steel instead of the

Cushion that has crept from my stomach

What the fuck does that say about me? 

That the way I look is more important than art

That I have sat in my high chair

And let over the people spoon feed me

Their idea of beauty and masculinity

I can wear confidence like a cheap suit

No matter how well it fits the fabric

will always be second rate

 

Around three miles a bead of sweat

Runs down my cheek, splashes on

The corner of my mouth; it is salty

My shirt is drenched and my mouth thirsty

My pace has increased because it’s the

Only way to silence the voices growing

Louder in my head

 

I have counted calories, tried the Atkins regime

Drank protein shakes and pumped my

Veins full of steroids been to rehab and back

Let my finger touch the back of my throat

Tasted breakfast twice

Left dinner in the toilet

Pushed lunch around with a fork

Like I actually tasted something

 

Mile six and my thighs burn with the intensity

Of lava flowing down the mountain side

My ankles are melting, soon my body will erupt

But I can’t stop; I must torture my body until

It resembles more of a machine than a man

 

Given the chance, yes, I would augment my bones

Like fire turns sand into glass

I want to reflect the sun off my surface

I want skin you can see right through

To the heart that beats like a drum

Or the lungs filling with the gold

In the air and the bones that hold

This rickety being together

 

Mile nine finally gives into my body’s desire

I feel guilty over my slowed pace

Mile ten I am back home, I unlock the door

Stretch my aching muscles

Drink a glass of water for dinner

Go to bed hungry

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The Biographer

Writer’s Block
A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

(Prompt: Escaparate / shopfront by ~juanmadiaz, via writeworld)

I sat down to write a scandal because I'd grown altogether tired of just living one.

At first, I admit some trepidation. I mean, there are limits to self-indulgence, and fiction is a step beyond my usual line. Wine in the early afternoon, dancing in the early morning, breakfast at any sinful time of day... these, I can do. But to set my meager set of words to page?

Vanity has its limits. Then again, limits are for the limited. I can fake my life to the contrary.

Oh, the best-seller I could write! Not because of any particular talents at prose nor any death-defying feats I've managed, unless you consider brunches defy death. (And why wouldn't you?) No, I simply believe that I have a market aged to tap for a little nest egg to fund my silver years.

You see, I'm going to write about them. You, really. I'm going to write your fake biography.

Oh, yes. I'm going to put down words that may speak the faintest truths about my life - over-dramatized and with a cheater's sort of polish  - but that's not the big trick. No, no, no. The big trick is that I'm going to make my largely-imaginary narrative into a mirror. Into yours, in fact.

Every time I'll admit to crying, I'll put your heart onto crisp, clean paper and squeeze out ink.

Every time I'll triumph, that same heart will pump and thump out their own imaginary memories.

Every lover that I'll have taken, you'll have a fictional nibble at. Most of them, I'd recommend.

Every lover that I've lost? Oh, you'll lose them, too. For some of them? Good freaking riddance...

And for my last great scandal? I'll promise you that every word is true. And you'll believe me.

It will be sweet. It will be bitter. It will be savory, but most of all? It must be marvelous.

Oh, and it will be marvelous. I mean, I know I've certainly enjoyed it.

And what little I didn't? You'll never know.

writeworld:

Writer’s Block

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!

It's odd. My most noted pieces generally are gpoys of the TWC as a whole. Writers. Go fig...

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins. Always looking for prompts, review requests, or random questions.

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An open letter to my bully *Edited

Maybe you felt as different as me.

Maybe you had jumping jacks in your brain

that made you say those things.

Maybe your tongue karate chopped your teeth

chipped the enamel until the word faggot

fell from your lips.

In a small rural town in Nebraska

where everyone is straight and white

you were the only person of color

and I was the only homosexual

so tell me why you made my life a living Hell

from preschool till high school graduation

 

Did you have cannonballs for fists firing at my face

the day you forced my pants to the ground

exposing my 12 year old naked body

to everyone in 6th grade band?

When you laughed at my tears

did it fill the void in your ego?

I can’t be naked in the privacy of my own home,

my body still carries that humiliation

 

Did you think my life was a hiking trail?

You ran all over, without thought

of killing grass trying to grow into

a wonderful man - leaving my body as dirt.

 

Did you willingly take the knife

from the kitchen cupboard

simply to carve canyons across my plains?

I have given each bloodstream

a name you called me;

Fag River,

Gay Lake,

Pussy Creek,

they empty into Queer Gulf

where the pain will evaporate

forming hurricanes of depression

devastating my self-worth

triggering the thought

that I will never be good enough.

 

When you called my brothers

told them you knew where I lived

explained in excruciating detail

how you would smash my face

against the pavement tie my feet

to your bumper and drag me through the streets

until my heart stopped beating.

Do you know the amount of fear I lived in?

I didn’t leave my apartment for three weeks

wore my best running shoes for months.

When I finally walked into the sun

I kept looking over my shoulder

Searching for a face I could recognized

 

I still search for a face I can recognize in the mirror

scouring for the more confident me

but you took that from me

before I could develop into the man

I thought I would become.

Your bullets have left me

on the side of the road

like a wounded deer

gasping for safe air.

 

I still hear people saying

High School will be

the best four years of your life

I know for a fact this can’t be true

every year I grow

further away from you

gets better and better

my best is yet to come.

 

I am a shape shifter

trying not to let my past

get the best of me.

I am not looking for remorse

I have rivers full

I am not looking for pity

I am simply trying to find

answers to questions I will never ask

and no amount of fake apologies

will make me forgive you.

 

I know hate is a strong word

and there is not a doubt in my mind

when I say I fucking hate you.

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Rising Action

In my fantasies and little frissons, it's never that last kiss - it's the shared breath between former strangers.

When I imagine my idea of victory, it's never the end of the road - it's the wall's first bright crack.

When I don armor and draw chimeric steel, I never dream of the killing blow, but of suiting up.

When I imagine your arms around me, it's not a wedding day or the twirling in the air at airports.

I live on waiting for, "Hey."

I ache and fight and train for the day when I say, "Hey," back? You really get it.

I'm in love with that first capital letter. I mean, who knows how the sentence will

 

Prompt: Anonymous asked you:

Write about what you value the most

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins - Submit prompts, requests for advice, or items for review to prompts@aprompripost.com.