The trouble with starting new stories…

Oh! Is this as much a pain for other people as it is for me? I struggle so much with deciding what to write, especially if it’s for a class assignment. I’ve got one short-short written, 80% of an average short story, and have been playing with three completely different ideas as well! And that’s all just since this weekend.

I am not like this with poetry! I can bang out a decent poem in a couple hours, revise a couple times, and it’s done. Short story is like pulling teeth! I think it’s alright, and my language is decent, but I get to questioning whether the plot is any good and I just sort of spiral into a rabbit hole from there.

Or I stare at the screen, start another idea, write a page, and feel a very, very false sense of accomplishment.

Ooph. I just need to remind myself that I love it. I love writing, I do. But I am so stuck!

And because I love you oh, so much, I am including Donald Hall’s “Safe Sex” in this blog for the third time. I don’t care. It’s wonderful. Please revel in the awesome rawness that is this poem:

If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;

if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other

as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,

no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated

apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge

I cannot say enough how much I love this poem.


Love in a Warm Room in Winter – James Wright

The trouble with you is
You think all I want to do
Is get you into bed
And make love with you.

And that’s not true!

I was just trying to make friends.
All I wanted to do
Was get into bed
With you and make

Love with you.

Who was that little bird we saw towering upside down
This afternoon on that pine cone, on the edge of a cliff,
In the snow? Wasn’t he charming? Yes, he was, now,
Now, now,
Just take it easy.


So, I’m incredibly fond of James Wright, so much so that I’m actually doing a paper on him and his poetry for a class.

I was searching for poems by him that I hadn’t read before and stumbled upon this little gem. I love short – or fairly short – poetry. I think there’s a lot to be said for brevity and simplicity in language. Anyway, I was awful sad to find out that James Wright died in 1980 of cancer, but I love his poetry, and I think that knowing he was dying definitely influenced some of his later work in substantial ways.

This isn’t really “older work,” I suppose, but it’s got nice humor and bounce to it, and the speaker makes me smile.


Picking Blackberries (draft 2)

Behind a house, in the corner of one small-town
subdivision, two sisters pick blackberries.
The brambles tumble thickly, overgrown and wild;
They mingle with other vegetation of their ilk:
some poison sumac, pokeweed and stinging nettles.

The girls, though carefully avoiding thorns
of every sort, find small wounds unavoidable
in prickling bushes such as these. The sweet reward
of blackberries makes minor scratches tolerable,
small badges of honor from the briars.

Car Crash Youth – draft 2

Car Crash Youth
for Boe

The kids in my town lived their youths out like car crashes.
We were teenagers and I was too innocent to understand
the grittiness of growing up. Back then,
I didn’t realize I was friends with three coke dealers.
They all hid it from me. Finding out, the weight
of it all nearly smothered me. My favorite
mechanic, the boy with unruly black curls;
I’d known Zachary Lachlan
since we were children. I dated another –
that one hardly counts. Then there was Greg Maddock,
who made me promise not to tell anyone
as we huddled in couches at my favorite coffeehouse.
He was the last to spill his illegal secret.
I was glad for the honesty but I cried
for days, mad at the people I loved
because I saw them hurting others, scared
their indiscretions might lead them into jail cells.

I wish I could say that everyone worked
the partying out of their systems, but you know
as well as I do that that’s not how it works.
Some people managed it, toned the craziness down
and started to play it a little safer
with their cars and their livers and everything else
that makes having a good time just a little bit
dangerous. But some people grow up and some don’t.

Some die at nineteen, at 2:13 in the morning on Old Shelby Road
when they’re driving a girl who isn’t their girlfriend home
and they don’t make the turn and instead wrap their truck
around a tree. A half-empty bottle of Jack shatters
on the floorboard. Whiskey puddles on worn floor mats as the sirens start to

This is all so cliché: rebellion, car crashes, teenagers playing
Russian roulette with their lives
because they’re young and invincible.
But it’s cliché because it happens. Teenagers die
being stupid, and the people who love them are left
picking their broken lives up off the bloody pavement.
It’s cliché because it’s real.
We ought to deal with that.

A Scene at a Bar

There are only two men in the Maple Leaf Hotel bar and grill at three in the afternoon on a Thursday. One is the bartender, Nick Rash, and the other is a fellow Nick hasn’t seen in the hotel before. The unknown man wears a pinstriped three-piece suit in dark grey with no tie, and he slumps over his glass of red wine as though he has no intention of leaving anytime soon. Nick glances intermittently at the man while he tidies the bar, dusting the bottles and polishing the smooth mahogany surfaces. Nick usually likes to chat with his customers but is irritated on this particular afternoon because he was called in to work right before he and Laney walked out the door to go hiking. He’d been planning to propose at Hanging Rock, and instead was working a twelve hour shift. The man didn’t look very interested in talking anyway: the way that the hostess, Vicki, had smiled at the young, clean-shaven man had enticed many previous customers to slip her small slips of paper on which were scribbled phone – or room – numbers, but this man had entered the bar without a second glance in her direction, heading straight to a barstool and ordering a glass of shiraz. The one currently in front of him would be his third.

As Nick reaches up to shelve several low-balls, he notices the man’s glass is getting low. “More wine, sir?”

The man looks up. In the moment before his eyes slid into focus, Nick recognizes pain, the same look his girlfriend got when they took their ancient Labrador, the one she’s had since she was a teenager, to the vet to be put down. “How about a full bottle?”

Nick comes out of the restaurant’s back room carrying two bottles of shiraz. At the rate the drinking gentleman is going, it won’t take him long to drink a single bottle. Nick sits one bottle down behind the bar and screws open the cork of the other. While he pours the man another glass, the man slides a credit card across the counter. “Might as well open up a tab. Thanks.”

Keying the card information in, Nick reads the man’s name: Richard Gregory. Richard isn’t paying attention to anything other than the stem of his wineglass as he swivels slowly. By the time Nick finishes at the register, Richard is filling his glass nearly to the brim.

Nick holds the man’s credit card out, tentatively. “Are you…doing alright, sir?”

Richard shakes his head. “My best friend is getting married in the ballroom here at six.”

Nick doesn’t know what to say other than, “Congratulations,” which he immediately regrets.

“My best friend is the bride.” Nick breathes in sharply, surprised, and he can tell that Richard notices. The glasses of wine are taking their toll and he says, “She’s getting ready right now with all her bridesmaids. She asked me to be a groomsman but I don’t know the others and it’s awkward. You’re supposed to marry your best friend, right? That’s what everyone says. And in three hours or so, I’m going to be standing at the front of the aisle watching her walk down it. Except I’m not the one she’ll be walking towards.” Richard throws back the glass of wine like it’s a shot of something stronger.

Nick doesn’t know what to say. His girlfriend is his best friend.

Writing assignment for class with the following parameters: two men, strangers, and some type of restaurant/bar.


After the Movie – Marie Howe

My friend Michael and I are walking home arguing about the movie.
He says that he believes a person can love someone
and still be able to murder that person.

I say, No, that’s not love. That’s attachment.
Michael says, No, that’s love. You can love someone, then come to a day

when you’re forced to think “it’s him or me”
think “me” and kill him.

I say, Then it’s not love anymore.
Michael says, It was love up to then though.

I say, Maybe we mean different things by the same word.
Michael says, Humans are complicated: love can exist even in the
murderous heart.

I say that what he might mean by love is desire.
Love is not a feeling, I say. And Michael says, Then what is it?

We’re walking along West 16th Street—a clear unclouded night—and I hear my voice
repeating what I used to say to my husband: Love is action, I used to say
to him.

Simone Weil says that when you really love you are able to look at
someone you want to eat and not eat them.

Janis Joplin says, take another little piece of my heart now baby.

Meister Eckhardt says that as long as we love images we are doomed to
live in purgatory.

Michael and I stand on the corner of 6th Avenue saying goodnight.
I can’t drink enough of the tangerine spritzer I’ve just bought—

again and again I bring the cold can to my mouth and suck the stuff from
the hole the flip top made.

What are you doing tomorrow? Michael says.
But what I think he’s saying is “You are too strict. You are
a nun.”

Then I think, Do I love Michael enough to allow him to think these things
of me even if he’s not thinking them?

Above Manhattan, the moon wanes, and the sky turns clearer and colder.
Although the days, after the solstice, have started to lengthen,

we both know the winter has only begun.

Now I don’t know about y’all, but I’m with Marie Howe (or her speaker, at least) on this one. You can’t murder someone you love. You can’t shut that person out of your life. You can’t kill any of the good in them. Love is an action as much – or more so – than it is a feeling.

At least, I think so. But what do I know?

In other news, the widgets are still gone and I am sad.

I’m writing, I swear! Just nothing substantially different enough to post just yet. But, seriously, thanks to everyone who’s reading. It literally makes my day when someone says they’ve been looking at my blog, or when a comment pops up in my email. So, thank you. Thank you all for making me smile!

On my quest to write daily: success and failure

Well. I had such admirable goals whenever it was that I said I wanted to write daily. And I was successful, for at least a month! I wrote at least once every single day in September, and that was awesome. Except I feel like I’ve been pretty slack in October.

And now I’ve been sidetracked because all the Widgets on the right-hand side of my blog have seemed to disappear, and my tools say they’re there but I can’t see them. And this is irritating (and I’m not making good sentences but it’s 2 AM and my brain is fried.)

So, if anyone knows how to make my Widgets come back (or if they’re there and I’m the only one who can’t see them) will you please comment and help me?

And I’ll try to do better about writing more!