I don’t remember the first time I wrote something for the fun of writing it, but I do remember my first ever Haiku.
“A red flower seen
by a yellow bumble bee
soon had no pollen”
Third grade baby! Now that has all the elements of great poetry.
I do remember the first time I tried to write anything resembling a story. I was around 11, full of dreams of becoming a famous author and since I was 11, science fiction was my ticket to fame and glory. “The Ice Planet Adventures” was destined to become the epic sci-fi tale of the decade. It had all the elements of fantastic fiction: Strong characters with moral dilemmas, an ever evolving young love, random death and destruction where no person was safe. Here is a lovely photo of the first page, complete with bad handwriting and horrible spelling.
I used the actual names of friends and crushes, thinking I would never share this with anyone. I was surprised how cathartic it was. Like most kids, I had good and bad moments with friends. The ones I was currently mad at, didn’t make it out of the first three pages. I mercilessly tortured, burned and shot whoever I wanted. It was my first experience with the freedom writing could provide. I have since murdered, beaten up or severely wounded lots of people who represent all or part of someone I know. Am I supposed to reveal that? Is it a writers secret? I doubt it.
This fine story moved on in the second part to become a screenplay, then back to a narrative. It is very lazy writing, full of cliche and bad metaphor, but I am surprised at the creative thread. It is actually a good idea, if not have been already done to death.
I didn’t write much fiction after this piece until I was a sophomore and wanted to write myself into love stories. I was smart enough to give myself a different name and try to disguise the love interest a bit. As is still typical of my writing, the protagonist never quite gets what he wants and often is bitterly disappointed. Strange how I couldn’t even give myself success in my writing. I was very good at deifying the girls I had crushes on. So much perfect this and perfect that.
It was about this time I discovered I liked writing poetry. This high school stuff is classically bad, but all the ladies seemed to like it. It was over the top melancholy, so passionate(ly bad) and full of raw emotion. Here is a small sample, copied out with slashes for line breaks:
Still– Why me?/ I don’t understand./Of everyone/ and everything/ you had to choose from,/ why me? / The darkness/it keeps me awake,/thoughts of you/fill my head,/they keep sleep from me/entirely./I want to ask you/I need to understand./Where are the words/to end the confusion./the sky grows light/and still I am awake.
Oh boy! Full of self deprivation, which was so sexy, right? While there is so much to hate about this poetry, I really do miss being able to just pour them out. I used to date all my work, and sometimes I would write seven or more in a day. I miss being able to, even if poorly, throw my emotions out. In many ways, writing is the most difficult thing I do every day. It may sound over the top, but it is physically draining. It takes all of my effort and patience to compose anything anymore.
Poetry was very good for me. As I got better at it, became more able to express myself in less words, better words, better images, writing became a sanctuary. When I was struggling with events or experiences, writing was the way I got through them. Often it was how I made sense of my life. I wrote earlier about journal writing and how I wished I had more of those day to day things to read. I reference a part of my LDS mission where I didn’t want to document the emotional difficulty I was having and while I do wish I had more explicit memories of that time, I do have the poetry I wrote. When I read it I can feel those old emotions. I am surprised how while I was writing, without knowing it, I was leaving myself glimpses of understanding. Some of that poetry offered clever insights that I still value today.
Really, that is what writing is to me: A way to understand my own experiences. I began writing just for me then I wrote to be told how clever I was. Then I wrote for myself again, spending years sharing with no one. Now I still write for me, but I also like to share. I try not to think I have wisdom others don’t already have, though I do think it is through sharing my experiences that I connect with others. I have come to understand that when you strip out the details of an experience, what remains is a more universal moment, something most of us have experienced and understand. I love to leave them incomplete, open to interpretation.
If I have any talent at all, it is for telling these incomplete stories. They are best when they avoid judgement, when they just are. I hope they connect on some level with a part of people that understands that naked experience, the event itself. I hope I am still getting better. I hope I have much more to share and to tell. I really do appreciate anyone who reads them.
One thing I do miss. Someone to critique them in their early forms. I once thought writing should have two parts: Throwing it up on the page, then making that page cleaner. I might still think that but without a consistent external editing voice, I find myself unable to just write it out. I edit as I go, which is a slow, slow process.
If anyone wants the job, I am good at reciprocation. Plus, I would love, love, LOVE to discuss ideas on writing. Please comment or talk to me in person. I miss sharing.
Feeling a double dip today. My brain is in this spot again, the spot it was when I wrote this a few years back. I am clinging to it. Help!
There is always someone else.
In front of me rest broken books, bindings cheaply done with adhesive rather than sewn, which are easier to repair. I thumb the pages of one, leading up to the break, then the spine where it is exposed on the inside, a rubbery and rough surface, opaque and riddled with lint and dust; so easy to destroy; so easy to overlook.
These have been silent hours, since you have returned. Fingers smelling of one too many cigarettes run under my nose. Drinks poured for two rest on the counter, giving us the illusion of company. They are easily downed, forgotten and refilled. They will numb for a moment. Then when the drilling begins, the persistent pushing in the front of my head will push everything but you in black aside. Pages and pages written here. I read them with different voices to pretend they are not about you. I have colored a cover in bright blues to make everything seem pleasant.
You’re casual as usual. Something in that pretty accent that brings me back to your mouth. “These are my broken things.” You say with a tiny inflection on the center word, a cautious reminder that there are things we do not share, though we have both touched them, both carried them. It is easier to assign a label, a name for them, make them be. I am sewing with heavy twine, the broken sections together, forcing them to interact in unnatural ways. They will resist, much like I do when you offer another set of expectations.
I am over sewn.
“No, it wasn’t like that at all,” Jill said. “It was more like when he came back from London, bragging about the good beer he drank and that gigantic bruise on his cheek where the bouncer hit him.”
“That’s right. I don’t know why I always get those two events mixed up. Later, he told me he’d fallen over while drunk, arms against his side and hit his face on the street. I asked him if it was cobblestone. He couldn’t help lying. It was his nature to be deceitful.” Charlene closed her eyes like she was remembering. Jill felt her face flush.
“No, he could help it. He just chose not to.” She let that phrase linger. She knew him best; better than Charlene.
A southern breeze blew over the tops of the trees but not low enough where she could feel it on her skin. Looking down at her evenly tanned arms, she could see the beads of sweat clinging to the fine hair. It had been a hot summer and it showed little signs of changing soon. She knew, even in these humid conditions, she looked beautiful. Her sun bleached hair, soft green eyes and pouty mouth, the heat only added to them, highlighted and magnified them. Why should it matter that he slept with someone else and that someone else had been her best friend. She knew she was better than Charlene and that was what counted. Charlene was clever, that was fact. She had a willowy, airy laugh that seemed to make boys weak. She could seduce them with her eyes, with her voice and she was pretty enough, just not beautiful. Beauty was more important.
“Though I have to say, I did enjoy the chocolates he brought back. They were extra sweet.”
Jill forced a smile. “He always wanted something when he did that, brought you candy. You could never believe him.”
She looked over towards the pond where a female duck was leading five ducklings to the edge. Without hesitation they followed their mother into the water, swimming directly behind her in a tiny cluster. She longed for that kind of trust. To be able to accept another person so completely and feel secure and safe. She wondered what it would be like to give yourself over like that, to silence doubt. You would sleep a heavy and peaceful sleep. The ducklings would follow their mother anywhere with complete certainty, with complete hope. They would follow her right into the mouth of a dog, smiles in their hearts, if she led them there. And that was it, Finally. That was the answer. Trust was an illusion. That was what complete surrender always got you in the end. That is where trusting someone always left you-bloodied and torn in the jaws of a dog.
If you ever needed a guide to the ridiculousness of Utah politics, the mentality of far too many people in this state, read this article. In one sentence, Governor Herbert condemns federal interference and overreach while ignoring Utah’s elbow deep grab at federal disaster money. His argument that Utah pays into some kind of rainy day fund with the Feds is laughable. Wouldn’t state rights be better served by investing that money in Utah rather than sending it off to the malicious federal bullies?
I do think the federal government of the United States is a bloated, bureaucratic mess, but wasting time, energy and money fighting for some outdated idea of us versus them, is not a good idea.
Herbert’s rhetoric of an overreaching federal government is hypocritical when his own state constantly restricts personal freedom. He bemoans Washington’s interference, saying it stifles business and economic growth while at the same time running a state government that denies access to liquor licenses, making it months and sometimes years before new restaurants and businesses can open. The Utah Hospitality association is suing the state for these practices.
Herbert talks of restrictions on state lands, talks of responsible energy policy, while companies like Energy Solutions and Rio Tinto respectively bring dangerous nuclear waste from other states for disposal and rip up the entire east face of the Oquirrh Mountatins, digging for precious metals.
The one party dominance of Utah politics has left no reasonable voice. Somehow, somewhere along the road, since there is no opposing political party to argue with, the legislature of Utah has decided to argue with Washington. To what end? All this posturing, it seems so childlike.
Nina sat on an uncomfortable wooden chair, staring out the window of her hotel at a large garbage pile, three stories below. Bird calls filled the narrow alley, ricocheting off brick walls, up towards her. Pigeons strutted, one gull cawed and swooped, magpies scoured the trash for bits of bread or orange peels while the solitary raven stood on a window ledge, biding his time.
“A true scavenger,” she said to the empty room. “He sees everything.”
It was near time. She looked over at the phone, the usual too dirty, cream colored, corded model sitting in nearly every hotel room in the world. They even had them in Tokyo. Maria had pointed it out, laughing while the two of them ate over easy eggs, brought up by a less than happy room service employee, and drank bitter coffee. Maria wore the bath robe she pulled off the hook in the bathroom, her slightly thick thigh showing through the fold. She had tasted like toffee. Even now, the thought of that weekend made Nina sigh.
A second raven arrived, crowing loudly at the gaggle of birds and landed heavy next to the other. One looked at the other, then up at the sky. The second stared down at the garbage then back to the sky as well.
Nina pulled a slip of paper from her pocket. A pencil drawing of the devil looked back at her. She ran her thumb over the image, stroking it lovingly. Closing her eyes , she turned the paper over. She knew the number, had no need to look but she did anyway. Ten digits, as random as any other ten, some repeating, some in descending order. They made her shake a bit. Ten numbers that when dialed would set in motion events that would cascade recklessly, one after the other, regardless of her wishing them to, or wanting to control them. Already she had pushed the first domino. So easy, like pushing a doorbell. Now here she sat, time almost upon her.
Three more ravens now stood on the window ledge. All five ruffled their wings and screamed at each other. A conspiracy of ravens. They had plotted and schemed and they knew what to do. Down below, the seagull ruled the pile. It dove and drove the other birds from the choice pieces. It stooped to pick up some rotten fruit when two of the ravens came down upon the gull, their black bodies blurring, blending with the asphalt of the alley floor. Startled, the gull stumbled backwards on its webbed feet, then pushed itself into the air, still clinging to the fruit. Another raven darted in, brushing past the head of the gull knocking the fruit from its beak. As quickly as it could, the gull flew towards the fallen item but the three airborne ravens drove it away. The last two ravens dropped casually to the garbage pile and began leisurely pecking and eating at the pile.
The pigeons and magpies knew the game was over and flew away, seeking other places but the gull was determined and tried to return to the pile. The three raven sentries would have none of it. After the third failed attempt, the gull tried to land on the road just beyond the garbage but the ravens would not let it. They hounded the gull, nipping at it, clawing at it whenever it tried to rest. The ravens took turns harassing the gull and eating from the pile. The gull was near exhaustion, its mouth hanging wide, its light pink tongue poking out in frustration. The ravens were relentless.
Nina stood. It was time. She went to the phone without hesitation and dialed. Her breathing, her chest, her hands were calm.
“Code in,” the voice on the line said.
A heavy click
She walked slowly back to the window. The gull was gone. On the garbage pile the ravens continued to peck and pick, looking for anything edible. One raven had found the carcass of a rat.
Another click. A secure line.
A different voice.
“Is it done? ”
She thought of Maria, her lips, the color of her hair, her heavy night breathing, the scent of her skin after a workout. She wold miss these things.
“Very well. You know where to go. We’ll be ready.”
She hung up the phone, looked around the room one more time then quietly left. It wouldn’t be long now. They knew who she was, knew she was out there. She had made her choices and they would be swarming, like ravens, waiting to pick her corpse clean.
A little over a year ago, I was trolling through Facebook, randomly clicking on posts and links from friends, news-feeds and artists. I came across a link posted by Shirley Manson from Garbage . Those who know me can confirm that I have had a long standing celebrity crush on Ms. Manson. I am a big fan of her music as well as her personally. I find her witty, devilishly sexy (its the accent, boys and girls), and completely charming. She had posted a link to a video and titled it, “the next big thing”. I knew Garbage was back together and trying to make a new record, so my assumption was this was a link to some of the music from those sessions. Instead, the link was for a music video of an artist called FOE. I liked the song and the video was strange and clever. The lyric “are you ready for a clown in a G-string”, made me laugh but what stuck with me was her amazing voice. The singing seemed effortless. I listened to the song one more time and as more of the words made sense to me I really started to love the dark imagery, along with the organ and guitar. The overall sound was more poppy that I usually like, but the combination of beautiful singing and these dark childhood memories had me instantly searching YouTube for more.
At the time, there was only one other song I could find, but I did come across a video of somber, hair in the eyes Hannah Clark (aka FOE) covering a Nirvana song, Serve the Servants. Again, it was the effortlessness of her singing, her flawless pitch (to my untrained ear) that captured me. I found a link (that has been pulled by the artist) for a song called, A Handsome Stranger Called Death, which only cemented my appreciation for FOE’s talent and songwriting ability. This is still my favorite song of hers. Here is a live version *
FOE’s tumblr site offered me a vinyl copy of an EP called Hot New Trash, which I promptly paid the purchase price to own. It contained my second favorite (at that time) track, Genie in a Coke Can. It has a little heavier sound and is lyrically fantastic.
Her debut record was just released on the 16th of January. Bad Dream Hotline comes in at just under 40 minutes. I have played this record close to 15 times since it came in the mail. A new vocal version of Handsome Stranger is the highlight for me. Tyrant song, the link Shirley Manson put up, is also on the record.
FOE’s strength is her ability to take dark, dreamlike images and put them into well constructed music that, while very pop in nature, refuses to be categorized as such. The songs are often short, most coming in around three minutes and loaded with hooks that rival any artist currently making music. I wish she would challenge herself vocally, but that is the only real criticism I have. You should all listen to her and decide for yourselves if she cuts the bill. I am confident you will enjoy the journey.
I am linking a few more songs.
A live version of Get Money. A song I didn’t love at first, but now…woh boy!
Finally, a fantastic cover put out for Halloween. Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand.
There are also several short video releases that are darkly funny. Whatever you can find from her will not disappoint.
I am one of those people.
If I could, if it were possible, I would love to live for centuries. I imagine the history I would see, the changes in an already rapidly changing universe. Thinking of the world I was born into, then the world my father, then how his father lived. Side by side they are almost unrecognizable as the same place. Buildings cover once empty fields. People are always connected everywhere, for good and bad. I used to dream of friends all over the world, I even had pen pals in other countries, France, Germany, just to have words from someone who saw things differently. I could not have imagined how easy it would be, in my lifetime, to have an instantaneous, face to face conversation with someone half way around the globe. I can now chat with people in Australia, Germany, England, all at the same time. I can learn their lives, participate in what they do and think. How wonderfully, frighteningly amazing.
The wealth of instant information is staggering, really. If you think about the vastness, how much there is to see and do, people to meet and learn to love, it is hideously sad how short a time we have to do any of it. I want to wander through it all, learning, listening, figuring it all out. I want to take time out of the equation, knowing full well that a finite amount of time is what makes most of us do anything at all.
I even want the bad parts, the difficulty, the pain and suffering of watching everyone you know grow old, die. I firmly believe you cannot say yes to the good without saying yes to the bad. It is the terrible things in life that make the good things good.
I want to learn from all the mistakes as well, my own as well as the mistakes of others. I am a believer in always remembering your mistakes. It is the way I learn. If I forget them, if they don’t at least give me a tiny twinge of guilt or embarrassment at the thought of them, it would be all to easy to find myself in the same situations again. I am not talking about constantly beating yourself up or constantly apologizing for things you cannot change. All too often we wish our guilt away before it has taught us what we need to learn. Too many times I have tried to push that feeling down, then I remember why it is there, what choices lead to its existence. It is that moment that I can see more clearly, chose something else, or let myself be humble and submissive if necessary.
Yes, if they find a way, I will choose to try and live as long as I can. So much to do and learn and see. Sounds like a grand adventure. Anyone want to come along for the ride? I am sure it will be worth it. Walk this world with me…