City of Death

I live in a city of death.

I know this because I’m forced to sidestep mangled, scorched bodies peppered down the walk every day when I bring in the mail, or when I lug in the groceries. Our block is a necropolis of hundreds. Roasted alive on their incomplete journeys to a better life. Or perhaps crushed to death by giants, and then burned like a funeral pyre.

I have to wonder at the death rate in this city, why no one else seems to be bothered much by it. Loud men on TV would say we have much bigger problems than to worry about spineless immigrants burned trying to get from one piece of land to another. This is our land, they’d say. Serves them right, they’d say.

Once in a while someone comes along with a broom to sweep the bodies away, and dig a big hole to hide the evidence. I think this could be me one day. I could be the one brushing away the sins of neglect, helping society forget what it’s allowed. But more than that I could easily end up a heap in the road, a travelling casualty, burned and torn. No one would lower the flag for me.

Maybe it’s a curse of exposure; we can’t mourn as much death as we see. So we have a value system in place. And I, on my errands and afternoon walks, can’t do anything to change it.

We don’t have the time for worms. In a city of death, their bodies are not our problem.

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The Creature (2015)

The creature born with scaly skin and large eyes said, “I must be a lizard,” and spent her days as lizards do.

All her greens and browns gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her colors, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no lizard after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a flock of flamingos who said, “Just look at your pretty pink feathers, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a flamingo underneath.

All her oranges and pinks gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her feathers, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no flamingo after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a herd of zebra who said, “Just look at your wide, crazy stripes, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a zebra underneath.

All her blacks and her whites gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her stripes, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no zebra after all.

She wandered in search of the place where she really belonged.

She came upon a swarm of butterflies who said, “Just look at your gorgeous soft wings, new friend!” and she marveled with joy that all this time she’d been a butterfly underneath.

All her blues and her yellows gave her comfort that she belonged.

But alone she would lose her wings, she would start to disappear whenever no one was near, and she began to think she was no butterfly after all.

And she trembled and whispered to her butterfly friends, “I’m not sure what I am anymore.”

The butterflies cried, “Well of course you’re one of us! But if you’re really not sure, ask the Owl.”

She flew to the top of the tallest tree to the hole where the great Owl lived. “Excuse me? I’ve heard you can help me find out who I am.”

The great Owl replied, “You’re an owl, of course! Just look at your tufts of grey fuzz, new friend!”

But the creature grew hot and exclaimed, “But I’m NOT an owl! I came here to ask for your help because I don’t know what I could be.”

“What you could be? Don’t you know all the things you were?” asked the Owl incredulously. “For in order to know what kind of thing you are, you must remember the things you’ve been.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand,” said the creature. “I’ve been many things. I’ve been a lizard, a flamingo, a zebra, a butterfly, and now an owl, but I don’t know which one was me.”

“Then my dear, perhaps you’re a chameleon. That’s not such a bad thing to be. Chameleons can blend in wherever they choose, and be whoever they wish.”

“A chameleon?” asked the creature, excited. “But are there others just like me?”

And the Owl replied, “No one’s just like you. But there are other chameleons- you’ve met a few.” He whistled through the trees and they came into view- two lizards, a flamingo, a zebra, and three butterflies. “We’re all chameleons, too!”

“Sometimes,” said the Owl, “you get to choose what you’ll be, but deep down you’ll always be you.”

And the creature was happy because then she knew- the best thing she could be was herself, no matter what she looked like.

Apocalypse

At the end of the world, Pink Floyd is playing. They planned it this way, the creatures who pity us and are finally doing us the greatest kindness. It’s a lovely shade of pink, our last sky, and getting deeper into mauve so thick you could scoop it like the berry sundaes we spent our whole lives dreaming about. There are cherry-flowers bursting with fire throughout the heavens, raining the smoke of some last-ditch resistance from those who no doubt believe they have something to lose, and even that is beautiful at this moment. I think they put something in our water.

We are an anthill faced with the knowledge that the Queen is dead, and some of us appear to be really worried about that. I know that screaming through the streets is pointless. A group of us has assembled a huddle of lawn chairs, hammocks, and couches on the grassy hill outside the post office. I am sitting on one of those battery-operated Barbie cars like my sister Amy asked for every Christmas until she was 11 but never got. When she was 12 she was dead. I would’ve liked to give her the one I’ve taken custody of now but I know she would’ve wanted it for more than just a seat from which to watch the government try to blow up the moon.

I’m only assuming that’s what’s happening, of course, because they wiped out the internet and cut out all the news feeds from tv. I’m not sure why they think Full House reruns would be necessarily calming to anybody while the world is ending, but that’s all they left us to watch. I’ll find out later about their unfathomably complex algorithm which calculated the average preferences of every human and animal mind in the world and came up with a pink sky, Full House reruns, a Pink Floyd album, and bananas as the most universally perfect end-of-the-world setting. Freakin’ bananas everywhere, they just appeared in boxes all over.

Sandy doesn’t like bananas, she never has. I think of her now and wonder where the hell she thought she was going after she figured out what was happening, after she spit a panicked, “I can’t spend my last moments with you” in my face and ran off. Later I’ll find out that she tried to call her parents in Nebraska but after discovering the cell reception was gone she settled to ride out the end cuddled up with her ex-boyfriend. Later I’ll find out a lot of things.

Later me and Amy and a few of the people from the post office lawn are going to replant some of the trees that got ripped into the sky when gravity reversed. That part of it wasn’t exactly necessary but it made for an exciting finish. Sandy and her ex-boyfriend will be gone along with the government bomb-cannons, but I don’t know that right now. Right now I just know that I am an ant, and everything around me is beautiful, and I’m going to die along with everything else while Pink Floyd plays in the background.

“And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon…”

Many Practical Purposes for a Love Letter

Anabelle,

You’re golden. We’re golden. I love you.

Tom

 

There was never anything wrong with that letter. Nicholas Sparks could’ve had a field day with those little words, I’m sure, because Tom wrote me that letter every day of our lives. Tom has been writing me that letter since the day I was born. Sometimes it came with a $5 bill folded inside and an extra line about “can you pick me up some cigarettes on your way home” and sometimes there were doodles or quick multiplication problems on the side and one time he couldn’t find a pen and so he used his finger and chocolate pudding. But those words were every day and inherently, in the grand scheme of everything, there was never anything wrong with them.

There’s still nothing wrong with them, although I don’t wish I could have them back. These days I don’t get any letters but I’m working on a really good one- just one, one that I would’ve traded all the other ones for if I had known that it could exist. Because there are many practical purposes for a love letter, and only one of them has to do with the person who wrote it. Whatever anybody tells you, it’s about what you want to hear anyway.

I know about your nightmares. I know that whenever a man sleeps next to you, you dream that he lets you get murdered. I know about when you come home and empty your pockets and you think your life is just a chapstick and a crumpled dollar bill. I know about fighting that last-leg shaky treadmill, about how your goal was 20 minutes but you celebrate 12 because 5 used to seem so far away. I know the exact day you realized the sweat dripping down into your mouth tastes the same as tears, and how often you remind yourself to riot. I know you know there was never anything wrong with Tom’s letters. I know you wish there was. 

You did not have to tell me these things. You couldn’t. But I know them in back-of-your-eyeballs ways that nobody could put in a letter. There was never anything wrong with Tom. But you can write your own letters now.

Anabelle

Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do (And Some News To Share!)

I think it’s time I explain to my no doubt perplexed readers my somewhat erratic behavior of late: skipping poetry days, not writing any more short stories, suddenly developing an interest in rapping… I’ve been at a plateau for a while and this is my wonky way of squirming out of it, that’s all.

It’s been a weird, frustrating couple of weeks as I’ve been dealing with writer’s burnout as well as tenseness at work and some challenging new relationships. With regard to writing, I’ve been caught up in a cycle of trying to keep myself motivated and wondering why that’s so important in the first place. The one-poem-a-day disciplinary system I put myself on back in 2013 is just not working for me anymore, I don’t think. I’ve been reluctant to pull myself away from it because I don’t want to get lazy and end up not writing at all. But at some point I have to ask myself, “Is this goal serving me or am I serving it?”

Lately I’ve been dreading the sludge to the computer to write, and it’s more than just a matter of buckling down to eat my vegetables. It’s unnecessary torment because by now I know when I’m cranking out a mediocre product for the sake of getting it done and out of my hair. And I’m tired of doing that. I seldom have time to work on lengthier projects I truly care about because I’m stuck on this never-ending conveyor belt of what amounts to little more than pleasant writing exercises. I want to be in love with my writing again.

So I’ve been diddling around with this sortof laissez-faire attitude, just letting it come when it comes and only writing when and what I want to. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my productivity hasn’t decreased too drastically, and I’m generally more satisfied with the things with which I’ve allowed myself to experiment. (Raps? Who would’ve thought, right?) Even better, it’s cleared room in my schedule to focus more on work, friendships, and general “chill-the-eff-out-Char” time. Turns out I’m a happier ladybug when not strapped to a desk chair ^_^

But what does this mean for you, dear readers? Only that we’re gonna have to make a swap deal: higher quality for lower quantity. I won’t be posting daily anymore, but know that it’s because I’m giving things time to breathe in a way that I haven’t so far. There are so many projects I want to tackle and life’s too short to sit around wishing I had the time, y’know?

Speaking of projects, I’m pretty excited about my newest co-author gig! Author Paul Morabito invited me to be a part of the Mirrored Voices: Best New Poets anthology which was released today, and I’m proud to be included in such a great compilation of talents. I’m ordering my copy today, can’t wait to read over 100 poems by today’s emerging poets (5 of which are mine!) Check it out!

mirrored voices

 

Blessings and happy reading,
Char 🙂

52 Flashes of Fiction: Week 25 – When Strangers Roll Through Town

Never have I known a stranger to come rolling through town without making a beeline straight for me. It’s because I’d be spectacular if I didn’t let them get away with it, but as such I do just as well. I’m one cracked star short of there, and as such I’m stuck here with the stragglers lining up. We both always know it’s temporary, and we both always say it doesn’t matter. The truth is, it doesn’t.

It’s the simplest way I know to count myself out- to cross myself off the list for a while and not have to worry about any list I’ll ever want to be on. And it’s easier to pour salt than to bear some townie else trying to pour honey. All the best parks I’ve ever been to were closed in the middle of the night. It’s something about jumping fences; I’ve never walked in free and clear and had any fun.

I don’t have a sign but I think that sort of inclination shows itself in subtle ways. The sort of inclination that lies dormant but whispers to anyone listening “I like it this way and I’ll let you get away with it, as long as you leave quickly and don’t come back.” Strangers aren’t looking for china dolls to break, so they find me and we do just as well.

52 Flashes of Fiction: Week 24 – Advice

I told that girl not to jump. I told that girl to dump that sleazebag and get a driver’s license and apply for nursing school and cut her hair and stop wearing those baggy jeans and make an online dating profile and spend more time out with the girls and meet a nice guy and put her kids in a private school. I was just passing on some of the good advice that’s helped me through the years. I am in fact a driving registered nurse who wears my hair short and my jeans tight, who made an online dating profile and spent more time with the girls and met a nice guy and put my kids in private school. But I never had to dump a sleazebag because that just never happened to me. I wouldn’t say I was too smart for that, no. Well I was just trying to help. I told that girl not to jump.