Poetry by Steve Swank from our virtual circles

Dyslexia
Steven Swank 15 Myao 2020

As onesome who nowks,
say I,
Lexdysias of the wordl untie!

Feeling Lost

When we feel lost—
there are days that we
might,
when even our friends
can’t make it alright,
I lie down in nature
and take off my shoes.

My sister has cancer,
is planning the end,
takes comfort in memory,
but does not pretend

My sister is passing,
is choosing the how—
that will come later,
she’s living the now

When we feel lost—
there are days that we
might,
when even our friends
can’t make it alright,
I lie down in nature
and take off my shoes.

She is walking the path
her routines daily change,
sometimes it’s math
and her battery range

Today as we talked
she laughed on the phone,
she’s not a complainer,
that’s clear as her tone
When we feel lost—
there are days that we
might,
when even our friends
can’t make it alright,
I lie down in nature
and take off my shoes.

Grateful and content
spending time with her
kids,
and talking most days
with one of her sibs

My other sister says,
folks wait in the next
room,
she sees them anticipate
the joyous retune

When we feel lost—
there are days that we
might,
when even our friends
can’t make it alright,
I lie down in nature
and take off my shoes.

Some wonder what happens
when the body is done,
some say we go on,
of them I am one

I’m sure we’ll share
stories
about our lives past,
be true and sublime
when together at last.

Memoir by Marianne McGowan from our virtual circles

In the Night

Anna tells me over and over again how exhausted she is. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was tossing and turning until four in the morning. I think it was after four when I finally fell asleep.” She tells me how she has taken Xanax for years, tried weaning herself off the medication, but simply cannot function without it.

Anna tells me how she thinks of her son all night long. She lies in bed awake, wondering how he died. Nate was only thirty-one.

Continue reading “Memoir by Marianne McGowan from our virtual circles”

Prompt for August 7 – Virtual Barat House

You miss it when it’s gone.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

This prompt was the title of an article by Bryan Washington in The New Yorker, June 1, 2020, a pre-social-distancing slice-of-life montage.

Prompt for August 5 – Virtual Didier Dumas

A storm in a storm

Dramatically, you’d call this “escalation.” Hurricane Isaias—or any major storm system—might offer a profound example to inspire your work, whether you think on a grand scale (a hurricane during a pandemic) or a smaller scale (a tornado during a tropical storm). Step out of reality into fantasy (a zombie attack during a domestic dispute) or twist the image into one of joy (a surprise ice cream party hosted by your crush after you win a balloon race).

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Prompt for July 31 – Virtual Barat House

Perseverance

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

A little more inspiration

“Perseverance” figured prominently in the news this week: as the theme for President Barack Obama’s eulogy for Representative John Lewis and in the NASA launch of Mars Perseverance Rover . The occurrences were completely independent of each other—President Obama did not relate Mr. Lewis’s work or persona to NASA’s mission (though his own journey was as remarkable), and NASA’s mission was named years ago (though long after the Freedom Riders demonstrated for Civil Rights).

Prompt for July 29 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Athena, is that you?

Sometimes the goddess is out. Sometimes you find a stranger in the sanctuary. Or maybe she’s come to your place, knocking at an unexpected hour, just to see how you’re doing. She doesn’t always dress the part.

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Deeper dive into the prompt . . .

“Naked Athena” caused a minor sensation when she appeared at the #BLM protests in Portland, Oregon, wearing nothing but a hat and a mask, and stood down a line of law enforcement wearing riot gear. In the Willamette Week she is quoted: “I just wanted them to see what they’re shooting at.” In the New York Times, Mitchell S. Jackson questioned the value of such Portlandesque “weirdness,” a mark of white privilege, in support of Black Lives Matter in Oregon, a state founded on the explicit exclusion of Black people. Cf. this piece by Shamontiel L. Vaughan, who acknowledges that naked yoga by a non-Black protester is “noise” for the Black Lives Matter movement, but also respects a woman “showing how her own fragility still made officers step back and temporarily be peaceful.”

Prompt for July 24 – Virtual Barat House

The brightest star in the sky is invisible

During this time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, Sirius rises with the sun. This is why, although it’s the brightest star in the sky, we can’t see it in the summertime without technological intervention. Ancient civilizations associated the heliacal (“with the sun”) rise of Sirius with certain seasonal trends: a blessed inundation of the desert, a sinister season of heat and plague in the cities. What other superstitions or folk wisdom, real or fantastical, might be conjured from mapping invisible (heliacal or otherwise) stars and constellations?

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Deeper dive into the prompt . . .

We derive the “Dog Days of Summer” from Sirius’s invisible season in the sky, beginning some time in July and lasting until some time in August. The Farmer’s Almanac makes July 3 to August 11 the Dog Days for 2020; in Finland this year, the Dog Days began on July 22 and will last until August 22. I mention this in case you’d like to write some more about dogs.

Prompt for July 22 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The dog ate my grief

Feel free to apply a “fill in the blank” approach to this prompt. The cat scratched my sense of humor; the frog croaked my homework. Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Join our virtual meeting at 8pm for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

A deeper dive into the prompt . . .

In December 2019, O, the Oprah Magazine began publishing fiction online in Sunday Shorts. In what may or may not be just a weird coincidence, three out of six stories published so far use extended animal metaphors. Laura Van Den Berg’s “The Upstairs People” and Kristen Arnett’s “Birds Surrendered and Rehomed” feature a Great Pyrenees dog and a parrot, respectively, as metaphors for loss and grief. (In Arnett’s case, I can’t help also reading the story as a wry twist on Maya Angelou’s title, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”) Curtis Sittenfeld’s “White Women LOL” portrays a community’s pursuit of a runaway pet and the ways in which its own shameful weaknesses elude its control. Think you might have written something that’s a good fit for the section? O, the Oprah Magazine invites story ideas and other queries at the email address on this page. Oprah and her editors don’t explicitly seek stories involving animals . . . but now that we’ve read between the lines, maybe we know better.

Prompt for July 16 – Virtual Barat House

In the night . . .

Thank you to River River writer and board member Karen Clark for the prompt, inspired by a friend’s insomnia.

Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm here: Zoom meeting

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

And just because a new comet doesn’t come along every day, here’s a picture of NEOWISE, an in-the-night phenomenon viewable above the Northwestern horizon for the next few weeks.

NEOWISE photographed by Jim Tang over Emerald Bay, California this week

Memoir by Jennifer McArdle from our virtual circles

Learning to Lie

I was born in December, which means I’m a Sagittarius. They’re supposed to be blunt to the point of rudeness.

When I was a kid, I informed my mother about this aspect of my horoscope. She said, “Yes, that’s true.”

My dad often told me that he knew I didn’t lie, which made him proud. For most of my childhood, I am not sure if I actually was incapable of lying, or I just didn’t have any interest in it. I never cheated on an exam or on homework. I never stole anything.

Much to the annoyance of my parents, I also didn’t like lying when I was too old to get the discount for children under a certain age. I didn’t like lying when people gave me presents I didn’t like. I couldn’t lie to be sad when a relative died.

I did lie through omission sometimes; I remember when I was in third grade and had to switch seats with this boy who was always made fun of me and encouraged other boys to be mean to me, too. He had written under his name tag on his desk: “General. Captain. Hero. Man.” I erased all those things and replaced it with, “Stupid”. When we returned to our seats, that boy stared crying, and my teacher asked me, “Was it you?” I just kept coloring, but I never said No.

Continue reading “Memoir by Jennifer McArdle from our virtual circles”