Whirring blades of helicopter on the flat-screen darkened the diner counter, while I pulled my gloves off. I’d come straight from the protest rally on Main Street in Nyack, New York, where my inauguration-day mood had shifted from black to a mere dark gray. But, staring up at the event about to tumble into history, I recoiled, feeling grateful that the usual spot for our writing group is all the way in the back, next to the chalkboards announcing smoothie flavors and Nespresso options.
Writers arrived with muted greetings, spread themselves out at the long table. Some glanced over at me, probably wondering what might prompt creative writing in this dim light.
I pulled a round tea-box from my bag and opened it, revealing many strips of paper printed with verse. “Take a line, and use it as a starting point,” I suggested. The box passed from hand to hand, with some taking several, others taking one and then trading for something else. Then inspiration pulled us all into the silent focus of writing, and it kept us well past my ten-minute warning to wrap up and begin the readings.
Here are a few of the results of that exercise, from slices of William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” and “Wild Swans at Coole.” Some brought image and individual experiences to the signs of our national moment, while others veered into satire. But we all took a collective deep-breath and nodded encouragement to each other in our micro-democracy: our open circle. Many thanks to the writers for community, for inner voice striving and shining through…
by Steven Swank
The falcon has broken the bond,
no longer hears the falconer;
flights are now of her choosing,
no longer tethered to his will,
she sleeps alone in nature,
lets hunger define the kill.
Writers trouble the politics,
debate the call to peril, yet
join the street for justice’s sake,
compose the freedom carol.
I saw, before I had well finished
by Lilly Nin
I see, said her brain.
I felt it, said her heart as it drummed like a flicker bird, loud and mighty on the highest branch.
Well, said her brain, then why did you not listen?
I don’t know. I did hear it too, far in the distance, but I heard it. I know I did! But it was too loud for me. My ears lost their sense.
There will be punishment for not listening! said her brain. You have worked so hard for it. It will hurt, it will bleed. You will hear its cries. They will wake you up at night. The scar is still not healed from before, and it will open up again.
I feel it, ouch! said her heart. Why do you do this to me, again and again. I am tired!
I was taking care of you, said her brain. I was doing my best for you. I was trying to prevent this, prevent more pain for you but you did not listen. I saw it coming, way before I had well finished.
“The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned”
by Mike Seliger
Today, I turned off the Internet,
scheduled a day of quiet
Uninterrupted Creative Concentration.
Today in a parallel universe
there is great joy in Mudville,
where Mighty Casey prevailed.
Today, in that place, Great News!!
A benevolent leader stepped forward
and righted wrongs from the past.
Today, in this Universe,
the Dinosaurs fell off the edge
of a cliff as the Earth quaked,
and waved his short arms,
and stood on the top of a hill
proclaiming “Long Live the King!”
while all the Warm-bloodeds
cringed and watched from their caves.
Today is Junior’s birthday.
Someone forgot the candles.
Someone stole the cake.
“I was going to take you
to the Circus” Daddy said,
“but there are no more elephants
and soon no more circuses,
only bright-lit, loud spectacles…
“It’s okay, Daddy,” said the boy,
“clowns scare me, especially
the ones with orange hair
who blow big bubbles
that burst into nothing in midair…”
Today is the First Day
After the Giant Earthquake.
Survivors emerge slowly,
as do birds and flowers.
There is nothing left
for Tyrant-O-Saurus to eat.
Disgusted, he turns away.
From behind a Cloud
the sun peeks out
and the songs of birds
herald a new day…
“Their hearts have not grown old”
by Steve Green
A wide-eyed child, riding upon a wave of innocence, faces the world with wonder and curiosity.
After many storms and upheavals, the weathered pensioner squints out at a weary planet.
The young man, with a fresh degree and a promising career, captivates an energetic crowd.
The older man, sculpted by the knife of experience, is avoided by the suspicious throng.
The child, buried deep, wonders what happened. The fires of curiosity are still burning. The anthem is still held in tight grip to cut away delusion and uncover truth. His arms are still expanding to embrace receptive cohorts.
But the new bark around the old tree, tough and rough, frightens the younger seedlings.
The wide branches of the old timber serve to protect the saplings. But age is a reminder of temporality, a rather disquieting piece of information.