Tag Archives: confidence

Confidence Building

 

I once was a mountain
I now am a mote.
I tore myself to pieces
yanked the fragrant stands of pine
tumbled the elegant waterfalls
bloodied my hands
tore my nails
bent my back
ground the last pebble
under my heel
until I was just
miserable dust.

I once was a mote
I now am a castle.
I built myself up
bricks to crenellated battlements
magnificent masonry
exhausted and proud.

I light a match
and burn me all down again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Haibun, “Pride Before Fall” – writing process

 

Three drafts of a haibun, for those of you who like to analyze writing to pieces. If that sounds awful to you, just read the last one (in bold), since it’s the final draft.

 


First draft: stream of consciousness. Passionate, but lacking cohesion. Doesn’t really make sense here and there. Many repeated words.

 

I drive through a frosted urban landscape. A sudden cold has passed through in the night. The grass is fuzzed white with frost.

It’s the tail end of the changing colors. The more vibrant trees, shocked, have dropped their leaves on the sidewalk. Heaps of vibrant color piled under the trees. No one yet has walked through them and disturbed the perfection of their distribution. The leaves coat the sidewalk an inch thick, pour over the curb and into the street, forming a perfect ombre circle underneath each tree. Only the most vibrant trees, the ones with the most to lose, have collapsed this way. As I drive by, they are still raining steady drops of color.

A death so graceful and extravagant, it looks like a wedding.

 

 


Second draft: the first draft edited to death. Reordered some, added some explanatory and expository phrasing. Rewrote most repetitive usages of “tree” “leaf” and “color.” 

Turned out awfully proper, don’t you think? I actually liked it a lot. But it doesn’t read easy.

 

Early morning. A cold snap passed through in the night, leaving the grassy urban landscape fuzzed white with frost.

It’s the tail end of the changing colors. Many trees have already gone leathery, taking the chill with stodgy, taciturn dormancy, blinking against the freeze, half asleep, withdrawn. The prouder, full-feathered trees, vulnerable by virtue of their vitality, shocked by the abrupt weather change, have dropped half their heavy pride overnight. Heaps of vibrant color pile on the sidewalk under the trees in crisp lemon yellow, or blushing peachy orange. Untossed by wind, untrod by morning commuter, nothing yet has disturbed the perfection of their distribution. Leaves coat the pavement an inch thick, pour over the curb and into the street, forming perfect ombre circles. 

Even as I drive by, they still steadily rain drops of brightness.

 

a death so graceful

and extravagant, it looks 

just like a wedding.

 

 


Went to lunch, came back, rewrote from scratch. The parts that stuck in my head were the keepers. I already had lots of alternate words in my head so I didn’t have to worry so much about repeating too much. It has more passion and flow like the first draft, while also retaining some of the form and vocabulary of the second draft.

 

The trees are raining color.

A cold snap has passed through, fuzzing the grass with frost. Most of the older trees sensed the turning of the seasons, and have already gone leathery and mute; they squinted through the onslaught as the first of many, prepared for the siege of winter. The young maples and honey locusts, vivacious and blustering in ostentatious reds, yellows, and peachy oranges, have suffered a setback. They lost leaves at an astounding rate: half of their burden dropped in one night. The sidewalks underneath them are buried in brightness, inches deep. Unable to contain the bounty, it spills over the curb and onto the road.

No people have passed through. No playful wind has yet mussed the heaps. The trees drip their pride, leaves falling fast like vibrant rain.

 

a dignified death

generous, extravagant

feels like a wedding

 

 


 

Aw crap. I looked at it too long and now I don’t like this draft either. Maybe I like the second one better. I couldn’t decide and that’s why I posted them all, under the guise of a “writing process” post. Tricked you.

Well, that’s the process. Now do what I do! Go out there and write something you won’t like!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Dumbass

 

Nancy sits quietly in her bed, coloring.  Her brother comes in and glances at the work. She tries to hide it. He overpowers her and holds it up.

“Pink, purple, purple, pink!” He jeers. 

Her mother, drawn into the room by the commotion, catches him by the ear. “Give that back to her, Aaron,” she says.

Nancy snatches the papers out of his weakened grip. “Dumbass,” she hisses.

“Nancy!” her mother says. “Nice girls don’t say nasty things. And they color inside the lines, to practice their hand-eye coordination.”

After they leave the room, Nancy puts her crayons away.

 

Nancy sits in the back row in her high school class.

“Who knows the answer?” The teacher calls.

Nobody answers. If no one else is going to try… Nancy raises a timid hand.

“Yes, Nancy?” the teacher says.

“Twenty-three?”

The teacher shakes her head. “No, that’s incorrect. How did you get that answer?”

“Um… in my head.”

“Come up to the board and show me.”

Nancy feels a flush spreading as she walks up to the board, in front of everyone, and slowly hashes out her incorrect question in front of her bemused classmates. The pressure makes her slow, awkward. She can hardly hold the chalk, much less think.

“No, see here,” the teacher says. “You’ve skipped this entire row.”

 A titter from behind her.

“Don’t worry about them,” the teacher says. “We’ll go as slow as you need to go.”

 

The family eats together at the dinner table, Aaron declares his acceptance into Penn State.

“Of course you were accepted,” her mother says.

“We’re proud of you,” her father says.

Nancy focuses on her potatoes. 

 

He walks into the drugstore where she works. Underneath his T-shirt he’s lean as a whippet, unlike herself. She appreciates the nape of his neck as he picks out a drink, making sure to avert her eyes before he makes his way back to her register. She’s good at watching people without being noticed.

He pays for the drink in cash. As she accepts the money, she risks another glance at his face, and is caught like a moth in his electric blue eyes. 

He isn’t looking at her the way others do.

He sees her.

 

Nancy’s hands are shaking. She sits crumpled next to him on the bed.

She should have been smarter about it. But she could never say no to him. No, that’s not right. She can’t blame him. It was her responsibility to prevent this kind of thing. She has simply failed again. What will her mother say?

“You don’t want to get it taken care of?” Robby says.

She cradles her hands around her belly. “If you think I should,” she whispers.

“Well,” he says, pausing to irritably suck his cigarette, “we’ll have to get married then.”

Even when she doesn’t ask, he always knows what she wants. She’ll be able to move out of her mother’s house. He is doing this for her. He is saving her. She feels a rush of gratitude.

 

Nancy is six months along. She is making dinner when she delivers the news to Robby.

“A girl, huh,” he says. “Shit. She’s not going to be much to look at.”

“No, Robby,” Nancy says softly. 

Robby glowers at her. “What did you say.”

Her voice remains low. She can’t even look at him but she must say this now. “You don’t get to talk about her that way. Not her.”

“You don’t get to fucking tell me what to do!”

He hits her for the first time. She turns to protect her belly from hitting the stove as she falls.

They never talk about it again. He quits drinking and doesn’t hit her for a year.

 

When their baby is born, Nancy watches, tense as a predator, whenever he draws near to the baby. Robby senses that anything directed at Elsa will be the end of them. Eventually he learns to avoid their daughter.

Nancy isn’t always safe. She can accept that as long as Elsa is safe.

 

Elsa is four years old, coloring quietly. Robby sees the pages on the floor, bends over to examine them. Nancy stiffens, but Robby is focusing on Elsa and misses her warning. She sees in his body language what is coming.

“C’mon Elsa. There’s no such thing as a green dog,” he says.

Before Elsa’s eyes even have a chance to widen, Nancy is there. She scoops her daughter up in her arms. Robby and Elsa are both startled by her interference.

“What?” Robby says. 

Nancy heads to the kitchen counter, grabs the car keys.

“Are you crazy?” Robby says.

She leaves the house through the front door. Elsa starts crying.

“What is your fucking problem!?” 

Nancy shuts the car door and calls out the window at him. “You dumbass.”

She drives away, leaving him standing in the doorway, unable to believe.

She fears the future, protecting Elsa alone against the world. But she’ll figure something out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Empty Self

 

Empty self
Empty self
Mantra is to empty self
Pull your feelings off the shelf
And pour them down the drain.

Nobody needs that shit in their life.
Nobody needs the nasty voices
The gut punch of insecurity
The sharp ream of loathing
Nobody needs that mean little chewing creature
In their heads.

Some people don’t have mean little creatures in their heads.
Instead they have burning skyscrapers.
Some people are trapped in a crashing plane,
Or whole self sunk deep under quicksand, waiting for a breath.
Some people have something inside them so damaging,
They can’t even bear to look inward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

I do this for you.

 

I do this for you.
I am relieving you
Of the burden
Of myself.
I love you too much
To destroy you repeatedly.
Instead, this way, you are only destroyed once more.
Please forgive me.
I know you will.
You’ve forgiven me for worse.
You forgive me
Daily
For worse.
I don’t deserve your forgiveness.
I don’t deserve anything.
I don’t deserve your presents or love or encouragement.
I don’t deserve your tears, your money, your heartache.
I don’t deserve your long-suffering, painful red eyes.
I don’t deserve the way
You just keep bending.
I deserve your hatred.
I deserve blows.
I deserve prison.
But you
Will never give those things to me
Not you.
Not ever.
I will never change.
I have tried and I have tried.
I’m giving up on me.
Something you would never do.
Then again, I was never
Good enough
For you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

« Older Entries