Tag Archives: Prose

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have already gone leathery, taking the chill with stodgy, taciturn dormancy, blinking against the freeze, half asleep, withdrawn.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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

American Catacombs

 

In the dim chambers of the lowest levels of the parking garage dwells eternal somnolent twilight. It is cold, too; the kind of cold that seeps from the corners of places entombed in deep earth.

Things which fall here remain here. There is no rain to wash away the spilled coffee, dried into long sticky drips that stretch toward the center of the floor. No friendly disinfecting sunshine can undo the collecting or molding of misplaced, forgotten items. Instead objects are mummified, fossilized, everything being dried and pressed and dusted into a uniform concrete gray. An old apple carelessly dropped out of the flow of  creeping traffic is now a wrinkled wad, its color and vitality sublimated, as it oozes into partial union with the floor.

There is a drain, but if the rain ever falls hard enough to touch this place, the water runs UP instead of DOWN. The single round grate, intended as a point of exit, rushes and gargles under inbound pressure, a burbling fountain of runoff and dried leaves, as the things above push their way down, struggle to get here, vie for their own, so to speak, parking space.

It is a vault, a modern catacomb, an unnatural cave. The darkness rests here. It whispers to you in the hissing of cars passing overhead. It asks you to stay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Still There

 

Anthony touched the pendant around his neck. It had been made for a girl, but he kept it under his shirt and nobody seemed to notice.

He felt the reassuring carved pattern. It was still there.

Last month he had almost left it at a friend’s house after using her shower. When he’d noticed it missing, he felt physically ill. Fortunately his friend had found it. She gave it back to him without questions. She hadn’t needed an explanation. She knew.

He rubbed his thumb over the pattern. It was wearing flat already from his constant fidgeting with it. He had to stop or it would break. He sighed. He couldn’t wear the necklace forever. It wouldn’t last. It was just a cheap dollar store necklace.

He could follow her.

He watched the blood pulse in his wrists. He felt the thumping of his heart. He relished the feeling of his active brain and functional, painless eyeballs.

She wouldn’t have wanted him to.

Tink.

The charm fell off of the necklace, and he caught it in his absently fiddling fingers without thinking. He fished it out of his shirt and examined it.

Bright red flowers. The small plastic loop which connected it to the chain had finally torn through.

He would never be able to repair it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

The Vermeer

After the manner of Vermeer: a beautiful redhead in silk performs her household chores in quiet peace. She squats before a litterbox, scooping feces and excrement, but the fortunate child does not grimace, as she cannot smell anything. This is rendered apparent by the artist’s acute attention to detail: notice the watery snot dripping from one nostril, straight into the bag of scoopings. Her eyes are distant, as if imagining a sunny pasture far, far away, or perhaps she is writing a blog post in her mind. A shaft of light from a household 60-watt bulb basks the scene in a warm glow, drawing the viewer’s focus toward her nostrils, which are brightly limned in variegated reds.

Yes, dear ones, this is my current reality. Remember, it is a sin to envy another’s situation. I’m sure everybody wishes they lived in the domestic bliss of a Vermeer.

 


 

 

That was last night. This is today:

 

IMG_20190326_075927012.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Incendiary

 

Sitting at the kitchen table by the window, smoking and watching out the open window. The screen had long since been torn away, by animals, perhaps. The scent of a dying fire on the cool evening breeze carried from the city: a primal, inviolable, deeply human smell.

I’d just come from there. My work for the day was done, and there was nothing to do now but rest.

They said the cigarettes had given me cancer, and cut out my larynx. Them. Doctors. Hospitals. People whose profession was to help you live. It all sounded so phony. Laughable, even.

I hadn’t wanted to go, but my husband had pleaded and begged me into it. In the end, I went for him.  He wasn’t afraid of what he called my paranoia, but he was terrified of losing me to cancer. He might have been naive but he was kind, and he loved me, and I could never say really say no to him; not when it mattered.  So they weren’t the ones who took my voice. I had given it as a gift to my husband, to stop his tears. After all, I still had hands to write, feet to run.

Now he was dead, too. Taken away by the same men in white, in an ambulance. Halfway through dinner, he’d fallen down. I hadn’t been able to protect him after all.

I tamped out the butt of my cigarette and lit up a new one, breathing deep. The sunset’s pink light caught the edges of the dissipating cloud over the city.  It was a beautiful evening. They couldn’t touch that.

A laser focused over my heart. I pretended not to notice, gave the marksman time to aim, and took one more long drag, relishing the flavor, the last thing left to me.

Aim well, bastards. I’ve already made my mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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