Friday, November 30, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: Danette Beavers: Polish


On the fourth day, she unpacks the flatware.  Bits of it are missing, left in her parents’ house by some old coot who lived on the property before them.  Came with the house, you see.  Pretty.  Thing is, she only has four salad forks.  She will shine them, anyway, and not invite more than three guests.

            Her first place.  All hers.  No roommates to accommodate.  Only herself to please.
April sun fills the white ply-board kitchen.  The stuff of all trailer houses.  Flimsy.  Light.  A misplaced elbow puts a hole through cabinet doors.  But the white is clean, and spring…well, spring is spring.  She has crisp linens, glass translucent as air, and soon she will have polished silver.  Peace in her trailer kitchen.

            Wright’s silver polish, her mother had taught.  No other.

            She pours some into the rag and sets to work on the serving spoon.  Amply dipped at its center, it tapers to its graceful stem and billows again into a wide handle that welcomes a firm grip.  Polishing it is pleasure.  No small details to vex her.  Only smooth generosity with a curled lily at its end.

            Be sure to rinse in hot water.  If any polish remains, it will ruin the plate.

            The hot water beads and skates out of the bowl of the spoon.  The silver shines white.  Silver plate.  Not real silver.  And only four salad forks, but she will have only three guests.

            She picks up a starched white dish towel and presses it into the bowl of the spoon with her thumb.  Black nicks in the surface.

            She lays the spoon in the top drawer, lined in paper towels.

            “Now, let’s see,” she says.   “Whom shall I invite?”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Poetry: Rebecca Ochoa

Speaking to an Empty Room
loops around nothing,
like the skin
of a bubble,

slowly sighing full.

Like reaching your hand into
an empty pocket
and discovering

there is no cloth,

or reading the obituary of
someone you lost

in a maize field,
his green eyes fading beneath the dusty

Hear that soft, strong beat of wings
as the flocks of birds fly by - I

am lost,
afraid of the dead,
mirror surface of water;

rippling eyes that spread out to nothing
like heat, 

            like time, 
                        like longing
that have no shore.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: Ellen Hawkins: Frame


Freefall: the frame catching the images as they tumble down the screen.
I like frames, the way they define an event, draw attention to its essence. A picture without a frame is the whole lens-full: a manuscript, not a poem. A good frame may hold a conversation with its subject.
“I feel a bit nervous, being exposed like this.”
“Stay cool. I’ve got you.”
So I wrote on Wednesday.
But Friday’s frame-in-the-making was brash and rang like hammer on steel when a gastric bug approached. I’d like to think it knocked before entering but I only heard a moan in the night. During the prelude, I wrote emails and sorted papers; welcomed a friend for a visit. Then wham, awash in sweat, I excused myself and reeled to the loo where I up-chucked the wee bugger and its army of invading bacteria. I retired to my office wrapped in illness and malaise. Then, wham, two hours later, I upchucked another battalion. 
At the hospital, where they wired me for IV fluids and drugs, my world was framed in bedside rails, white uniforms and glaring overhead lights. They applauded my exit, in a wheelchair, and hoped not to see me again.
Wham! With the fury of a secondary squall, another wing of the invaders struck the next morning: diarrhea and its attendant ills. They said little but spoke in loud voices. My whimpering gut and I cuddled in the aftermath of the storm. Our day was now framed in gurgling waves, grey sky and a tiny worry. Would this end?
Lethargy softened this morning’s frame. Hunger, its captive, distorted the words on my computer screen. I listened to a conversation.
“If you eat,” said the brain to the gut, “you may upchuck again.”
“If you don’t eat,” said the gut, “I’ll bring you crashing to the floor.”
So I ate, and drank. Nothing happened.
I may be on the mend. I may have had food poisoning, not a bowel obstruction. I picture my gut in an ultrasound. It is framed in rainbow colours, silent and smiling.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tuesday Prompt: Susan Siddeley: Beads

‘Ladies day tomorrow. My treat, Mum!’ Cries my daughter, whirling through the house, shedding lightness and luggage in every room. ‘Find me a list of local spas.”
            ‘Spas, Love, well I don’t know about that. A film would be nice. It’s lovely to have you visit!’
‘Well, I’m here to show my appreciation. I missed your birthday. I want you to relax and enjoy.”  As we sit down for lunch, she says,
‘Sorry, Mum, can’t eat this. In fact - can’t eat anything with flour, milk or sugar.” She scratches her arms, ‘Allergies.’
‘Allergies, Love, but you always ate like a horse.’
‘Exactly, Mother!’  Red meat is also off. As she sips water and tucks into some lettuce, we go over her recent travels, work schedule and the way her life is turning out.
‘I should have studied math at university, Mum. You should have persuaded me - not sat back and watched me sign up for Spanish literature.”
‘But you were dead set on it!’
‘Was I?  Well, if you hadn’t made it so obvious you wanted me to be a teacher…” 
I think back, but can’t remember ever having had much influence on anything she’s done, whether it was studying, dating or planting trees up north.
‘But you never listened to me,’ I say.
‘Oh, I did, Mum. And to prove it, tomorrow, we’ll go shopping for you.’
Next morning, after breakfast, we waltz into the biggest mall downtown.
“Top floor only,” she announces.
The light upstairs is marvelous. Most of my shopping is done below ground, in the gloom. We browse exotic boutiques and designer rooms, with me being careful not to look at price tags or mention how far a dollar used to go.
‘Today is for you!” She laughs and pushes me and armfuls of swish clothes into gilded changing rooms almost as big as our house. After I try on four nice, but-not-quite me, outfits in Sasha’s Separates, her eyes light on a chic black top on a side display.
‘Hang on a minute. Look at this!’
I turn back.
‘Oh, I couldn’t wear that, Love.’
‘No, no. For me! It’s egggsactly what I’ve been looking for.’ And she snatches up a black, skinny-rib sweater with a crossover, high-cut, fringed front, and darts into my dressing room. The top fits her like a dream. The six-inch strings of tiny, sparkling beads forming the fringes swing with every hip twitch.      
‘Yes!’ she breathes. ‘Purrfect.’ Holding it whilst she redresses, I notice some of the bead-strands are fraying.
‘These look a bit dodgy,’ I say when she emerges.
             ‘Agh, that’s nothing. I’ll soon re-sew them.’ 

Sew beads? I doubt she knows one end of a needle from the other - not that she isn’t up to tackling anything, more - who mends clothes these days? But it doesn’t matter, because the saleslady, offers a discount, and that’s that. As if swaddling a newborn, an assistant wraps the garment in tissue and presents it to the happy shopper. 

Back home, the shopper dons the top immediately, humming as she irons her wash loads, rummages through the house and sorts her suitcases. As I follow, watching, she tells me how to restyle my hair, prepare couscous and update the living room, all the time stroking the little sweater she’s hardly had off her back. The fringe dancing with every move.
‘I love this top, Mum.’ she sighs. ‘Such a good buy. A great souvenir of our day together!’

I tread on the first bead as I set the table for supper next morning and on a second as I wash up.  Another lodges between my toes in the shower. I pick a couple more off the carpet beside the guest bed, and a few from under the kitchen table. How many beads that wonderful fringe contained.  How seductively they twinkled. How they pleased her. And how she cheers me up, I think as I go to find a jar to put them in, knowing full well I’ll be picking up the beads until she returns.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Announcing the Annual Writing Workshop: Shaping Fiction!

Los Parronales: Local Workshops:

 Shaping Fiction: How to Harness the Hybrid
With Wanda Campbell
Mon & Tues, Jan 28th & 29th 2013
Parcela 50, El Noviciado
(Turn right to village, 1 km past the end of the Costanera Norte on Ruta 68.
Full Directions on emailing interest.)
Sessions 9.30am to 1.00pm
Cost, including coffee, drinks & snacks, Ch$37.000
(or $18.000 for one session. Two strongly recommended)
Email: Susan Siddeley  to sign up and reserve a place

The short story is a hybrid. It owes much to the quickness, the objectivity and cutting of the cinema; it owes much to the poet on the one hand and the newspaper reporter on the other, something also to the dramatic compression of the theatre, and everything to the restlessness, the alert nerve, the scientific eye and the short breath of contemporary life. ~V.S. Pritchett

In these workshops we will explore both fictional shapes we can write into and strategies for getting our fiction into the best possible shape.

Wanda Campbell was born and grew up in South India. She earned an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Windsor under the supervision of Alistair MacLeod and a PhD in Canadian Literature from Western. She now teaches Creative Writing and Women’s Literature at Acadia University, in Wolfville Nova Scotia where she lives with her family in view of the highest tides in the world. She has published four collections of poetry, her short stories and poems have appeared in journals across Canada, and her debut novel is forthcoming from Signature Editions.