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Last Run Before Ice Over

Sweetwater Sirens call from the black
Their winter gumbo in need of my head
With its old man's mental allspice
My secret recipe

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Anthrópinos Biblio

You were the novel I had 
somewhere on my book shelf
(i never read you)  

the one I wanted my arms
to wrap around some day.
(I never held you) 

I wanted to feel the weight 
of your spine
(how heavy was your cross?) 

to let your words 
send shivers 
down mine.
(tell me how hard you fought.) 

I wanted to see how 
your sleeve 
caught the sun’s rays
(I didn't see you at all) 

in a hot-as-an-oven July,
on a warm-as-ever August day.

I wanted to crash 
into your world,
and crawl beneath its sky.
(I should have) 

Oh but how I hate spoilers,
don’t we all?

I hate them.

I hated the finding out;
(life cheats us all)  

I hated the shapes my mouth made.

Saturdays hurt now.

October smarts my tongue,
it’s too cold.

I was told 
that you were
(too cold) 

because
like oral tradition,
your 
circulation
stopped

Fuck ‘the end’ and 
all the ‘never agains’
I will always 
love y—

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The Truth is in the Pattern

The medium says she wants to talk about the father figure in my life.  Every muscle in my body finally relaxes.  Out of all the people I have lost he is the only person I want to hear from.  I’m not spiritual but I have been praying for hours for him to come to the medium, so when he did it felt like sitting down after standing all day.  My father and I had an interesting relationship.  There were times he showed me unconditional love yet more often he didn’t want anything to do with me.  He would brag to his friends about how smart and talented an actor I was, then shun me at the dinner table.  I more than loved him, I admired him, he seemed so confident, I wanted to be just like him, so on the times he rejected me it was like lightening without thunder.  I think he knew I was different and that confused him.  When he passed suddenly I was unprepared.  The medium’s head tilts to the side and explains, “I’ve never seen anything like this before; he’s showing me a room full of ties?”  I laugh a little too loud.

My father was a hoarder of ties.  We counted them once, 237 exactly.  He hoarded ties the way CEO’s hoard money, proud of his collection; each tie had a purpose and he wore one or more a day.  Until the age of ten, I was convinced he wore the tie with stars to bed, when he turned around the light from the refrigerator revealed he wore shorts and a t-shirt.  It is the only memory of my father without a tie.  I came to understand he cherished them, more than he cherished me.  He had a complex system of ordering them, depending on length, color, and pattern that I never understood.  He kept them under plastic bags; he said it was because he wanted to preserve their energy.  He has been gone for two years, I have kept all his ties in the same order, who knows what ramifications would come if I moved them, or wore them.  The entire world might crumble beneath me.  The first one I remember was a white and blue paisley tie he wore to church.  He said it connected him to God.

The medium then asks, “What’s the connection to Johnny?”  My father was the typical strong silent type.  He was never the center of attention.  He was an observer, I think that’s why he liked Johnny Carson so much – he was the opposite of my father, an outgoing man, who always had the punch line.  He was the type of guy to come up with the punch line a week after the joke was told.  I could feel his eyes grow with envy in the evening.  I inherited all my quite from him.

The thing about my father is that he had a tie for every occasion.  He had one that was brown with torn edges for the horse races.  He once told me a thread broke every time he won big but that he was never the one to prick the strings.  For the concerts, the plays, and the recitals he wore this bright red shiny tie that could be seen anywhere in the auditorium, simply so I knew he was there.  I would search the audience for him; he never acknowledged my eye contact.  When I started playing t-ball he actually took me to buy a special tie just for my games.  It was the only time he let me pick one out.  I had no idea what I was doing; at the time our team name was the bumblebees so I picked a yellow tie with thin black horizontal stripes.  I knew he hated it but he wore to every single game.  By the time I graduated high school dirt and dust had changed the yellow to brown, he refused to wash it in fear of messing with karma.  And of course he had a different themed tie for each holiday.  Santa for Christmas, bunny’s for Easter, American flag for the fourth, fireworks for new years, and one that looked like the butt of a turkey for thanksgiving.  We could never eat or open presents until he changed to the festive tie.  No matter the colors he always wore a tie with these weird oblong geometric shapes with a pink and purple color scheme to weddings.  It was hideous, and always clashed with the bride’s colors.  It was the same tie he wore at his own wedding, he would say “I have been blessed with a beautiful family because of this tie, and I want this couple to experience that.”  For funerals he wore a simple skinny black tie.  It’s the only tie I don’t have.

When I say my father wore a tie everywhere, it is not an exaggeration.  Imagine a 45-year-old man behind a boat swerving between the wake and open water wearing a blue tie with abstract waves outside his life jacket, flapping in the wind behind him.  It was my job to hold the flag in case he fell.  I held the orange so tight and high, every boat knew he was down in the water, I was panicked he would get caught in the propeller of someone else’s boat.  When it came time for him to teach me to ski, he didn’t give me his tie, even though I asked many times.  He claimed I was not responsible enough to be trusted with a tie that held the universe.

If you couldn’t tell my father was a very spiritual man.  He didn’t identify with any particular religion, but he always attended church.  He believed that everything is connected, that what tie he wore and when could cause earth to fall out of rotation, make volcano’s erupt, and stars explode.  Ties could only be worn once every two weeks, with the expectation of holiday’s or any other special event.  It was ritualistic.  When I was 10, I went into his room and tried on a few of his ties, I put them back in, what I thought was exactly the same order.  He knew they had been tampered with. He found me in the dining room doing homework.  It would be an understatement to say he simply yelled at me.  He was changed, morphed into something else, at that moment he was no longer my father but a werewolf.  My mother, a peaceful woman came rushing in, grabbed me, threw me in my room and went back to calm him down, but there was no stopping his rage.  I was a child being introduced to wrath; I hid under my pillow, while I heard my father.  I heard lamps shatter, dressers cracking, and my mother scream in pain.  The next day, I went to apologize and saw my mother applying concealer to her eye.  My father was not home for a week, when he came back it was as if nothing had happened.  He walked through the door, kissed my mother, patted me on the head, and started reading the days newspaper; he was wearing a tie I had never seen before.

My father never taught to me shave, instead he taught me to tie a tie but only after years of begging the night of prom.  I rented a tuxedo that matched my dates from the quilting store downtown.  It was supposed to have a tie that zipped but they ran out before I had a chance to order mine.  I wasn’t planning on attending prom but after my date Sarah’s boyfriend broke up with her, I became her replacement.  It was minutes before I was supposed to pick her up.  At first I tried myself, I had seen him do it so many times I thought it would be easy.  There is a difference between watching and doing a task.  I wanted him to be proud of me, to walk out my bedroom door and show him I could do it.  He taught me not out of wanting but out of necessity.  I took the knotted fabric to him, he stood behind me, over, under, up through the neck, wrap around, up the opposite, tuck under, shape until you look like a God.  It was a right of passage with my father, even if he wasn’t ready.

I set up this appointment with the medium because I wanted to know if my father knew what I never told him.  The words ‘I am gay’ sat on the tip of my tongue for years but there is no tie to give when you come out, trust me I shopped for days.  I knew I would see the rage in his eyes again and as the years went by it started to melt my sand into glass, so when he passed, it shattered me.  I stood over his cold and stiff body the smell of formaldehyde and ethanol coming from every pour.  I leaned over the casket, placed my head in his chest and told him threw snot and tears who I was.  I went back to my husband who held my hand like a vice grip. 

The medium tells me he is showing her a blanket and holding his arms as if to hug me.  She tells me that my father knows about my partner and that he was there on the day we got married.  She smiles and relays “it was his proudest moment.”  All the words have left my tongue; I am emotionless attempting to wake the synapsis that can process what I just heard.

The last thing my father says is he kept the ties for me, so one day I could feel as strong as he felt wearing them.  He’s gone, again.  I beg the medium to bring him back, that I still have a wealth of language to share with him.  She holds my hand and says, “It doesn’t work like that, once they are gone, we can never speak with them again, but he is still looking over you.  You can still speak to him, he simply won’t reply.”  I can’t tell which is more painful that he can still hear me or that he can’t respond.  Both of us living a one sided conversation.

After she leaves, I take the ties out of my basement storage, slowly peel back to the plastic that now sticks to them, and lay them neatly on my bed.  I look at them, trying to decode what type of legacy he left.  There are so many colors and patterns; it’s hard to pinpoint my father.  I guess that’s what he was, a character wanderer, trying on different people, desperately wanting to stand out in a world louder than him.  I understand the medium could have fabricated most of what she told me but right I know my Dad loved me.  I take the white and blue paisley tie he always wore to church.  I make the same knot he taught me, over, under, up through the neck, wrap around, up the opposite, tuck under, feel his hands guiding me, look in the mirror, and see him.

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Colourless.

Rid of emotion, isolated
It's your own fault, they say
The voices in your mind echoing

Busy, forever occupied
But for what? you have no friends
they taunt.

You cry under the covers
Sob into sleep
next day claim you got soap in your eyes

not that anyone cares
not that you've got anyone to talk to
more like you shut yourself from the world

Why not let it out instead
you do have love, and love many, so many -
but they don't know

don't know at all.
they think you're cold.
cold and colourless.

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To-do list.

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Call me reckless.

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The River and the Ocean

The river bled into the ocean. I had a lifetime of supplies, or so I thought, and I was right.

I'd filled my deck to bursting with the fruit of fevered memories - the heat of joy, the chills of well-remembered sorrows. I'd packed in and preserved them in songs and poetry, in written words and water-proof recordings. I filled my drums and my barrels with the waters of wisdom - piss-poor decisions and the tears that follow after. Life had left me all too ready to survive.

I would not hunger. I would not thirst. The ocean lay before me and the current led me on.

I had ways to keep myself in health. I burned away the bloat of easy living with the weight of harder habits. The silence of an open day turned to the music of a metamorphosis. When you can't sing, grow. When you can't speak, grow. When you can't breathe? Grow. When you can't think? Grow and grow, because tomorrow is another day. And it is. Another day. Then another.

Eat. Drink. Read. Remember. Always grow. The ocean lay before me and the current led me on.

I had ways to keep my mind in focus. I honed my silver tongue and polished it with wax from honeyed words. I told myself new stories. I made fantasies from memories, with wild flavors you almost wouldn't believe. I told the clouds tales until I wrung loose rain. I told the sun secrets until night fell into my arms. I made seasons turn from too much purple prose and cheap, bruised imagery. Sometimes, after all, purple's a fine color. Sometimes, after all, the cheap blow sticks.

I made a thousand words, new foods to savor, new drinks to sate me. I spoke until I understood.

The only word that didn't work was 'shore'.

The stories rose in wonder, but no climax ever came.

The ocean had never promised me an ending. It just lay before me as the current led me on. 

In the end, I didn't drown so much as dive.

See? Sometimes the cheap blow sticks. Or does it?

  Prompt: Anonymous asked you:

Write about your biggest fear.

That...wasn't fun to write. Back to the genre July tomorrow!

(c) 2013 Lawerence Hawkins

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True Reflections

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Nightmare

i found myself

with bits of skin beneath my fingernails

knees pressing into couch cushions

curled up fetal position

star-visioned

 

tears turning to acid

i've cried too much - i need to stop

writing a letter without mentioning love

but seeing my emotions watermarking the page

this is my nightmare

 

three pills in my hand

smooth rough smooth

bulbous elliptical flat

 

falling in love - falling into a fitful sleep

falling into the place I miss most

staring impossibility in his eyes

a feral cat sized as wolf lunges

slashing open my chest

 

there are bits of skin beneath my fingernails

i am lucid in my nightmare

pressing my knees into the chest of my friend

nudging me every so often to be sure i'm still alive

curled up fetal position heavy lidded vision

 

this is my nightmare

in the house of my family lost years ago

running down an extending hallway

master bedroom - master bathroom

door locked behind me

bits of skin beneath my fimgernails

disappointment heavy shoulders

sand dollar scabs bloom on my mirrored face

 

this is my nightmare

waking down asleep

falling up gasping on the floor

pain spreading  - chest caving

i crawl into my bed anxiety soaked

cocooned in comforter - pressing back into wall

pretending wall is alive - taking comfort in that

 

but there are still o - positive stains on my face

this is my nightmare

i am glass eyed anthropomorphic iceberg

red handed with bits of my own skin

beneath my fingernails

fresh lattices on my back

angry nerves babbling insanity 

to my unresponsive brain

 

a shadow crashes into me

plunges into my chest

i kick into consciousness

i find myself with bits

of my own skin beneath my fingernails

cold wall behind me

this is my nightmare

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Crater

Colors fade. Life hurts.

People talk about love and justice like they're going to last. They're not. You know they're not. Every single story, every song, every  life you've ever let in to interrupt yours comes with a promise. We know it. We face it. Some of us even accept it. The stories all have meaning...

...and then they end. Every single goddamned one. Every story ends. Every story has a right to.

Colors fade. Stop crying.

Yeah, I feel it, too. There's this hollow crater, this depression cracked inch-by-inch into my ribs. It's not a material indent - it lacks substance; that's the whole idea. Like an implosion, life fills in the spot that shone bright for just a second. I watched a hero rise. Then the chapter ended. I shared her tears. Then the action rose to climax. Sweating and shivering, I rode her down to her destiny...

...and then the pages didn't turn. The scroll bar bottomed out. The Amazon ran dry. No sequel.

Colors fade. Get up.

That's the deal. You rise up on a hang-glider of someone else's ecstasy. You learn just how much air lungs can hold. You witness unimaginable, but well-told wild horizons. You are given a better life - one with answers, one with hope, one with promises. Then it ends. Then she leaves you, going back to the island of the muses. She leaves her knife behind. That was the promise. 

Colors fade. Pick it up. Do something with it.

Those colors didn't come from nowhere. That's part of the promise, too. 

 

Prompt: whataboutwriting:

This is your road to redemption.

This is a writing prompt. Without you, these are just words, but you have the ability to make them come to life. Write the first thing that came to your mind when you read the sentence above and develop that idea.

Tag “waw prompts” in your writing so we can see it!