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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Word Prompt: a Shark

Lurking in deep sea shadows

Through dark recesses she glides

On the hunt for a scent

Her true nature can’t be denied

She’s out for blood

But of a particular kind

Treading waters, learning to swim

She craves the fresh, most raw

For gods and muses they dive

Naive of the jaws

Their flesh ripped with one bone-crunching bite

To feed upon souls of sunken flaws.


Word Prompt: Road trip

Fourteen hours of gently rolling green dunes and acres after acres of cow pastures made me doubt my eighth grade science teacher’s enthusiastic lectures about America’s diverse geography. Obviously she had never driven through the Midwest. Flat monotony was how I described it as I crafted a lethargic, uninspired poem about a cow who gets lost in the flat lands of Nebraska. How was he to know which farm was his when everything looked the same?

My drive from Chicago confirmed one thing. The middle of America had nothing to offer me. Not one tree or mountain of inspiration. And I still had two days to drive before reaching my new home in California.

As I sipped my coffee and stared at the long road ahead, something gold and purple on the horizon caught my eye. A mirage in the sea of green, perhaps, or the eastern sun playing tricks on me as it crept up from behind. I waited for the colors to dissolve into the blue skies and leave me along with the pastures, but the gold and purple remained in the west, growing bigger even, as I drove toward them.

“Welcome to Colorado,” a giant sign greeted me. Not five minutes later, the America I’d pegged as bland, flat, and stuck in her traditional ways transformed before my very eyes, shaking out her skirt of amber grains, waving her wheat ruffles in the cool winds romping across sloped hills. They beckoned me toward the tallest figure I’d ever seen. Jack’s giant was never as large and looming as the body of jagged purple mountains blocking my view of America’s west. This was the wall I had to overcome? Having seen the Appalachians almost every day for 22 years, I thought I knew mountains like the back of my hand. The Blue Ridge was an overconfident braggart, a fake, I realized now. What lay before me was the real thing. These were the mountains of majesty about which I crooned in my elementary school chorus group.

Virginia’s winding roads were meager ant hills compared to the vertical spirals I was climbing, my car wheezing and groaning as we labored up the giant asphalt trail. My foot pushed against the gas pedal with all my might, and still it wasn’t enough to move us more than five miles an hour up the mountain. I prayed that we’d make it to the top, and somehow we did, only to see more of the Rockies’ endless walls sprawled left and right. If we wanted the West, we had to earn it.

With one of many mountains behind us, I pushed the car into neutral and coasted down the back side, preparing my soul for the next steep hike. There was nothing left for me in the plain and simple east, but there was ample for me to gain in the wild and reckless challenges of the west. I wanted to be tested. I wanted to know if I could conquer her greatest feats.

Word Prompt: Mask

The face of our modern protestor —

Speaks few words and wears a mocking smile,

Subtle and wry under his plastic shield

Masking a scowl and discontent

Rage inside a heart burning fire-red like coals,

Struck in blustering winds

Our Guy spreads his plague of justice

Growing the virus which complacency demands

To blacken the numbed corruption

We allow within our zombie selves —

Blank stares and raised hands,

Shrugs and shaking heads

Move less than the patriarchal glint

In the cavernous stare from our anonymous friend

His fearless attempts to raise questions

Where he notices the wrongs we ignore

Brings to light a timeless struggle

The cause by which we define our souls —

Do we fight the main who protests behind a mask

Or challenge the one who claims to wear none?

Word Prompt: Music

Fifteen minutes before the day goes dark

Trapped within walls where conformity reigns

She listens for the songs

Prays for three, will settle for two

It’s a bad omen when there’s only one

Between the drone of talk show chatter

Flicking fingers at her ear,

Taunting the child who craves a hum,

A melody, harmony, flowing beneath words

Lyrics she understand better than laughter

Voices that touch her soul

Break free her imagination

She’s carried to worlds far away

Where love and adventure give her hope

The mundane life will not always be so

When the radio hosts silence their wagging tongues

And let the music play.

Word Prompt: Hair

“I’m going to style your hair,” Bea’s little sister said. “Let’s play beauty shop.”

Bea loved when someone brushed her long, blonde hair. Particularly when the hairbrush bristles tingled her scalp. It tickled a little behind the ears, but she didn’t mind. This must be why dogs shook their hind legs when someone scratched their ears, she thought.

She sat cross-legged on the floor and waited for her sister, Dora, to return with the brush and elastic hair bands, which their mother left on the bedroom dresser.

“Want some gum?” Dora asked when she walked in the den.

“Where did you find gum?” Bea wanted to know. Their mother forbid them from having any sweets in the house.

“In Jill’s room,” Dora answered nonchalantly.

“What were you doing in there?” Bea whispered. Their eldest sister forbid them from entering her room when she wasn’t there.

Bea and Dora were forbidden from doing many things.

“Looking for hair bands,” Dora said with ounce of guilt. She didn’t care about anyone’s rules.

Bea took a block of Bubblicious from her sister. Grape. She loved grape. After popping it into her mouth and crunching down on the chewy square, she relished the fruity sweetness coating her tongue as Dora brushed her hair. Life didn’t get any better than this.

“I’m going to make your hair look so pretty,” Dora told her.

In a relaxed daze, Bea purred, “okay.”

After a while, Dora set down the brush and began styling her sister’s hair. Dissatisfied with the hair bands, which failed to hold Bea’s silky straight hair in place, Dora impatiently tapped her foot on the floor and tried to remember how Jill did her own hair before she went out in the evening. What was the gooey, sticky stuff she dabbed on her head? That’s what Dora needed now. Something sticky. Like gum.

Dora’s mother used it to stick posters on their walls. Maybe it helped hair stick together, too. Without giving it a second thought, she pulled the wad of gum from her mouth and stretched it apart. As she wound Bea’s hair into a coil and wrapped it around her head, she jabbed a piece of gun at the end and smushed it onto Bea’s scalp. Over and over she repeated her process until her sister’s head was a mass of hair loops held together with gum.

“You look so pretty!” Dora exclaimed.

“Lemme see,” Bea said, rushing to the bathroom.

“Dora, how did you get that to stay in the place?” she asked, examining the bird nest atop her scalp.

“It’s a secret,” Dora replied. “A beauty shop lady never reveals her secrets.”

At that moment, their mother walked by and noticed the girls gazing at the mirror.

“Bea, what happened to your hair?”

“Dora styled it. Do you like it, Mommy?”

Her mom bent down and peered at Bea’s head.

“Dora!” their mother shrieked. “Is that gum in your sister’s hair?”

Dora didn’t answer – she had already bolted for the front door.

Word Prompt: Tattoo

The grinding whirr when needle scrapes against flesh

I should be stopped cold, frozen, panicked by second thoughts

Nowhere near the still waters attracting flies

Where the lizard waits on dry banks for its prey to hover in tongue’s view

The lizard that will soon reside upon my foot needs no food

To live forever, it subsides on ink etched into skin

My skin, my foot, forever altered by the colorful creature

I’ve chosen my friend to bring me luck and comfort

Loneliness is not possible when it walks with you to eternity

I need that loyal and persistent friend

A reminder that youth is forever, and I was young once

When playgrounds were my respite, before the knife sliced the cord

Dragging me from whimsical worlds, drugging me with cold truths

Lives we should not see until we’ve come of age

But that time is lost, not an hour I can reclaim

Unlike the hours I latch onto now

To carve out the permanence, a constant I desperately crave

A chance to feel the liberating pains of youth

Illustrated in the generational rites of passage, your self forever changed

In the imprint of a tattoo.

Word Prompt: Jungle

Through the leaves shaped like giant elephant ears, he marches, swinging his machete to divide the thick vines blocking his path. Hanging between trees like lazy booby traps waiting to catch the right victim by its neck and pull him high into the heavens. The man is smarter. That’s why he came armed to defend himself against nature’s silent predators. He will not get caught in their tangled web.

Half a cigarette dangles from his lip. A strand of white smoke trails from the burning stick, glowing orange at one end when he inhales. He doesn’t bother to remove it when he exhales a blast of gray smoke from his nose. Like a dragon. With smooth brown flesh instead of bumpy green scales. He plods deeper into the jungle to search for spoils.

People in the village told him about the ancient conquistadors who hid their gold deep in the forest before setting out to rob the trees and plants of their precious tonics and salves. The jungle killed every single man on that expedition and retained the gold for itself.

This man thinks he needs the gold more, and he’s willing to fight the trees and earth for the wealth which will save an entire nation from death by drought. He doesn’t want the medicine this forest holds dear, like the sacred family recipes that are taboo to share with anyone who doesn’t carry the same blood. He only wants the resources which this jungle doesn’t need, the gold that richer men value over life, a value he barely understands. He has never been financially rich. But he knows the wealth of love and respect, which is why he traveled across a vast ocean to find a cure for his people’s ails. They need water. The white man says they have to pay.

This man will show them. He’ll get their damned money and drop it at their feet. He won’t say a word in their language. He won’t even speak in his own. He’ll simply point to the fake well in their office and motion to the ground. This should be enough.

He hopes the jungle will understand.