Therapy by John Grey

Photo by Ihor Malytskyi on Unsplash

She’s a girl
who spends most of her life
lying flat on her back
like an upturned palm
that’s begging for
some of luck’s spare change.

She regards her room
as a kind of coffin
for those not quite dead.
Which makes the house
a mausoleum,
the entire surrounds,
a graveyard-to be.
And her parents, one brother,
one sister, make for
some jowl-faced undertakers.

Yet there’s always the window.
Her eyes aren’t disabled at least.
And she can only look up.
The moon may be as useless as she is.
But stars light their far fires on cue.
They get such brilliant notions.
And her imagination isn’t paralyzed either.
It has such legs at night,
it can go anywhere.

Her body’s as dead as old boots.
But something of her is alive and free.
Folks whisper how the therapy’s
going as well as can be expected.
And that’s without knowing
what the true therapy is.

About the Author: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Cape Rock and Spoon River Poetry Review.

Exposure by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on UnsplashLike the pin-up on the calendar
in the neighborhood garage
she feels male eyes as if they
were fingers greasy from car parts
rub over her body. They linger
on bumps that seem mountainous,
probe like dirty wires into folds and crevices,
laser with surgeon’s skill
on every mole and blemish.

She’s new to the game,
hasn’t picked up the model’s saucy strut,
the flare of the toreador’s cape
as she unveils her flesh.
The camera loves the sweet young package.
The man who promised her fame
at a so-called chance meeting
leers behind the lens,
ignores the naked terror
trapped in her eyes.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

Sunday Salon: Inspiration

As creative people, we often think about inspiration. What compels us to the page, or the easel, or the keyboard? What sends us running to the kitchen to perform alchemy with spices, what puts us in the garden planting bulbs and seeds for the promise of color and scent to come?

And what do we do when that sense of urgency doesn’t arrive? When days or weeks or even months go by when our creative juices seem to have run dry?

There are those who will say that creative output is more perspiration than inspiration, that when you begin the work, the inspiration follows. “Inspiration usually comes during work, not before it,” wrote author Madeleine L’Engle.

Others swear by a pre-work ritual – moments of meditation, lighting candles, preparing a special blend of tea, wearing a particular shirt or piece of jewelry – to inspire the flow of creative juices.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for inspiration these days. I’m in one of those ubiquitous dry spells, when nothing seems to provide the creative inspiration or satisfaction I need to get going. It’s pervasive throughout all the creative parts of my life – writing, reading, music. Nothing seems to set off that spark, the one that puts me in search of the nearest pen or makes me excited to settle my fingers on the keyboard.

So as I pondered this the other day, wandering through the house aimlessly fingering the notebooks and index cards scattered here and there, I began to think about my life in general at this moment. In the past few months I’ve gone through quite a sea change in my lifestyle. We lost both of our dogs last year, and suddenly I am free of responsibility for any living creature except myself. My husband retired from his job after 44 years of working, and is now home all day, excited about the prospect of all his free time and looking for pleasant ways to fill it. We are enjoying our new lifestyle enormously. Maybe you’ve heard the saying about grandchildren which goes – “If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first.” We are feeling the same way about retirement. If only we’d known it would be so much fun, we would have done it first!

It occurred to me then that building this new life IS in fact a creative effort on my part. I am changing my routines, building in more time to spend with my husband, looking for meaningful and enjoyable things we can do together. We’re actively planning our future – travel, possible moves, bringing another dog into our family. It’s all new and different, but also exciting. It requires creative energy.

Life and Art usually intersect for me in words and music. But perhaps right now, Art is intersecting with Life itself, and my creativity needs to be put in service of building an entirely new life, one that will carry me forward into the next decades.

Come to think of it, I’m finding the whole idea quite inspiring.

How about you? How is your real life requiring your creative energy right now? Is it affecting your artistic inspiration?

About the Author: Becca Rowan

becca_rowan_bio_may2016Becca Rowan lives in Northville, Michigan with her husband. She is the author of Life in General, and Life Goes On, collections of personal and inspirational essays about the ways women navigate the passage into midlife. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. If she’s not writing or playing music you’ll likely find her out walking or curled up on the couch reading with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) close at hand. She loves to connect with readers at her blog, or on Facebook, or Goodreads.

Gravity’s Never Been My Friend by Pat West

I remember falling¬¬¬¬

out of a pear tree at seven,
playing Follow the Leader
with my older sister.

Off a bicycle onto gravel,
grass and blacktop
unable to push through the wobbles.

Solid on my tailbone in the Crystal Theater.
(Mouse Merriman thought it funny
to fold my seat up when I wasn’t looking)

During a high school field trip to Chicago,
first time maneuvering high heels and an escalator,
I fell down the up staircase.

Busy reading the bio of the visiting conductor,
missed the curb outside the Schnitz. Stumbled,
parted the crowd flailing, perfect four-point landing.

Over backwards from a ladder holding a full pan of paint,
Martha Stuart butter-cream yellow splattered
like a Pollock painting on kitchen cabinets and floor.

The tumble off that sloped-roof
shed behind the barn
doesn’t count. I was pushed.

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

Sunday Sensations – Power Outages, Baby Chicks, and Miracles

 

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in miracles. Slammed in the face with harsh reality day after day, you soon start closing your eyes to the world’s wonders. In the current political, social, and cultural climate it’s hard to believe in miracles.

Spring is a confirmation of miracles. The dead earth brings forth new life, exactly on a schedule. The sun remembers it’s duty and comes back from a long extended nap. Even when I lived in Los Angeles, where the sun always shone, spring was when everyone could breathe a collective sigh of relief. We’d made it through fire season, mudslides, and general chaos.

This spring, after a particularly dark winter, we had our own miracle. Enter, Nova.

If you’ve followed my column for long, you know that I have chickens.

Nova started out her* life as an egg, mailed from Ohio to Maryland. Due to the post office, she came to our house days after she should have and that ruined her chances of even being viable.

The one thing that you need to know about hatching chickens is this — to have the best chance at hatching they need to be kept warm and at the right humidity consistently or terrible things can happen.

Nova was placed in a terrible inconsistent incubator (we’ve since returned) that kept running too hot or too humid.

Then, we had a multi-day power outage that ruined her chances even further. My husband hurried her over to our neighbor who still had power, then she made a 20 minute trip to our temporary housing. Then, after three days, she came back home.

Every single one of these should have made it impossible for her to come into the world.

Yet, she did.

We had given up most hope. My husband hadn’t even looked at the incubator that morning. Then, out of nowhere, a crack in the shell. 

Nova was born.

Due to her hard start, she’s missing a toe. Her legs were bent. Because of this, the flock of other chicks we bought the same day, may have rejected her.

But she was accepted. She’s growing stronger every day.

She’s a miracle.

There’s so much joy every time I look at her. She’s a little ray of sunshine and hope in the midst of any dark day.

I hope you find your miracle today.

*We have no idea if Nova is a boy or girl and won’t until she feathers out. But for now, she seemed fitting.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith. A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.

Romance by Æverett

curve of your back

the curve of your back
against the navy cotton
of your t-shirt as you remove it
and the sage sheets an hour later

he loves you
he hates it
he has commitment issues
just give him time

the curve of your spine
as you dance
in the dazzling sunlight
out where the monsters are

you’re not afraid of anything
you’ve got your Red Devil
and Precilla
you know?

he laughs
it’s a good sound
and then he kisses you
the surprise is real
for once not private

and dark hair under broad hands
and the curve of your back

skin like leaves on water . . .

i lay my lips against his skin
and breathe
we are one—   none.
give me time.
i’m not ready yet.

not for this.
not for the curve of your back
or the silk of your side

my laptop sits abandoned
on the coffee table in front of my sofa
the music’s still playing
as you melt me.

damn.

red head and broad shoulders
what a thing
all thighs and cries

you still hesitate when i kiss you.
yeah, commitment issues.

but  the curve of your back
is worth it
as you stretch in the mornings
with the light bright through the glass wall
and your feet tripping
on the clothes left on the floor

the curve of your back.

Photo by Jason Schjerven on Unsplash

About the Author: Æverett

ÆverettÆverett lives in the northern hemisphere and enjoys Rammstein and Star Trek. He writes both poetry and fiction and dabbles in gardening and soap making. She has two wonderfully old cats, and a dearly beloved dog. He also plays in linguistics, studying German, Norwegian, Russian, Arabic, a bit of Elvish, and developing Cardassian. Language is fascinating, enlightening, and inspirational. She’s happily married to her work with which she shares delusions of demon hunters, detectives, starships, androids, and a home on the outskirts of a small northern town. He’s enjoyed writing since childhood and the process can be downright therapeutic when it’s not making him pull his hair out. It’s really about the work and words and seeing without preconceptions.

Leaving a Legacy by Keva Bartnick

My sister sent me an article about not going viral, but leaving a legacy thru small contributions. My “legacy” is raising children who aren’t afraid of being. In doing this I’m helping heal seven generations forward and seven generations back. When you heal something in yourself, that one act of healing heals more than you realize. You start to reverse the damage done in the past and what would have been possible in the future.

Other than that I have no idea what my legacy will look like. This year in fact I’m only worried about doing two thing…living in the moment, and taking care of myself. I’m not worried about what is happening out of Facebook, or the interwebs. I’m taking my moments one at a time. I’m spending time working on refining my inner lover of Hygge. I’m taking the time to figure out who I really am, and what I really think, how I really feel about life in general. Self-care is paramount this year.

I’m also branching out to experience things outside of my comfort zone. It’s been said that if you don’t do one thing a day that doesn’t scare you then you aren’t truly living. Now, that’s a huge stretch for me. I’m a homebody, seriously, an introvert that loves to introvert. I need my space, but with that said, once a week doing something out of my comfort zone wouldn’t kill me right?

I’ve decided that this year I’m branching out and taking an interest in cooking. Let me be clear, I can cook. I also bake, but I’m a better baker than a chef. I figure that while I’m teaching myself new things I can spend this time sharing these new experiences with my girls.

They can see that I’m trying, that I too can expand, taking pleasure in life. I want that to trickle down to them so they know life isn’t always so serious. That there is a time and place for that, but right now I’m choosing to live my best life.

It’s not outside the possibility to Hygge the crap out of this whole cooking thing. When your perspective on a situation changes, the situation itself changes. I’m embracing and exploring what food and nourishment means to my soul.

I’ve always looked at eating as something I had to do to survive. Not something that could be enjoyed, should be enjoyed, or take in pleasurably. Look at the Italians, the French…they love food. They are passionate about food, they take it to the next level of enjoyment and pleasure. I want that. I want to experience that. I’m the one that is the last to sit down at the table and the first one finished, plate cleaned. It’s gotten worse since I’ve become a mother. I want to change that this year.

Leaving a legacy starts with the smallest step forward. A constant step forward into your best self every single day. For me, my constant stepping forward begins with morning gratitude for all things; ending the day in the same way.

I hope that my legacy looks effortless from the outside when it’s my time to transition to the other side. I want people to know that I didn’t struggle to leave a good legacy. That my constant everyday act of becoming better than I was the day before be the mark I leave on the world.

That I leave my daughters in a better sense of self then they were when they arrived into this world. That I teach them that it is possible to leave people and places better than you found them. The act of becoming is our legacy, for better and hopefully not for worse. That becoming is our birthright that we give to ourselves everyday. For me, I will make mine a great one just by becoming me.

About the Author: Keva Bartnick

Keva Bartnick is an artist, writer, and lightworker. Happily married mother of three; she’s been inspiring people to be their most courageous selves since 2015.

Sunday Brunch: 28 Plays Later

Last month, I wrote about the first few days of an intense writing challenge I was part of: writing twenty-eight plays in twenty-eight days. The project, sponsored by Theatre Delicatessen in London, involved a couple of hundred writers from around the world (mostly in the U.K., though) and one Evil Overlord (well, he’s not really evil) named Sebastian.

Every day at 4:00 PM (U.S. Central Time), we’d receive the daily brief from Sebastian, and then we’d have thirty-six hours to write a play using his brief for inspiration, although the last twelve hours of a given brief overlapped with the first twelve of the next.

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_dedivan1923'>dedivan1923 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Very quickly, I began to question the wisdom of committing to the project. I’d never written a play before (not really, anyway) and I spent a good chunk of the first week fighting with formatting. WORD, my software of choice, has a downloadable screenplay template, but not one for stage plays, and even the screenplay one is kind of klunky. Eventually, with some encouragement from friends, I scrapped the template and did my own thing. Freeing myself from the constraints of someone else’s formatting did much for my mindset.

But I was still floundering.

The first few briefs had been relatively simple. The initial prompt, for example, was the phrase, “Brave Little Soldier,” with bonus points for setting it in your hometown. Well, my actual hometown (as opposed to the town where I live) had a significant number of losses when the towers fell on 9/11/01, so I made my characters the adult children of people who had died that day. Emotional, yes, but relatively easy.

As the challenge progressed, the briefs became more demanding. When I wrote about this in February, I mentioned the first weekend challenge, about nightmares, but once I got past my fear of the material (my nightmares are weird… and personal…) I ended up having fun with it. After all, the brief also said we had an unlimited budget to work with.

More than once, I was tempted to throw my laptop into the pool and never write again. Ever.

More than once I whined to friends, family, and the dogs – basically whomever would listen, or pretend to – that I was too stupid or too boring to respond to these things that expected you to come up with edgy, even avant garde ideas.

More than once my husband had to talk me down from the proverbial ledge.

My friend Clay, the Creativity Guru I mentioned in my previous post – the one I’d convinced to do this challenge with me – finally gave me the key to my frustration.

“Look,” he said. “You’re a level 40-something human.”

“Forty-seven,” I specified.

“Okay, but you’re only a level one playwright.”

“That’s fair,” I responded, “But I’m a level thirty-seven writer.” (The first ten years of your life don’t count.)

“Yes,” he said, “but you’re using that writing muscle in a new and different way. And really, this shouldn’t be called ’28 plays in 28 days.’ It should be ’28 shitty first drafts of plays.'”

That conversation became my guidepost, and parts of it morphed into a mantra, over the rest of the month.

And as things evolved, it turned out that the briefs I balked at the most, or felt like I had nothing to offer for, ended up resulting in my best work.

An instruction to “write shite” and “let yourself go” inspired me to pull a bunch of my notecards (sticky notes leftover from the 100 Days of Making challenge, each with a scene, sentence, or snippet of dialogue) off the fridge and order them into a play. A couple of weeks later, given a time-restriction exercise, I went back to the fridge for more notecards, and I really feel that the two plays that resulted from those  – “Scenes From a Marriage” and “Theories of Everything” – are the most cohesive of my creations.

But there are others I’m proud of. The math brief led me to a piece where the dialogue was all based on the Fibonacci sequence, and mentioned Phi and the nautilus shells. (“Nautilus”) A brief asking us to interview people and then write a monologue suitable for teens, making it seem as if it was one person speaking, gave me “Wo(Man)Hood” about a young woman who experiences anxiety but is also bi-gender, and a brief asking us to write about truth and art inspired me to write a monologue about body positivity – and the really cool thing about that one is that when my friend Nuchtchas read it, it inspired her to make art.

One brief, in particular, I have dubbed “Calvinball from Hell,” and when I read it, I told Clay that I was certain Sebastian had once been kicked out of an improv troupe. Here are the instructions we were given:

Let’s be super duper strict. Below are the rules for your play:

1. You must have 4 characters in the play – and the gender for 3 of them must be undefined! You can add two more – but only if they are not human.
2. One of the characters plays the banjo – really badly, and one character only speaks in rhyming couplets (can be the same if you like).
3. There must be a minimum of 3 pauses in the play, one of them must be a super long pause (think Pinter to the power of Pinter).
4. One of the characters has had relations with everybody else in the play (as well as characters that are mentioned but not seen).
5. Every line of dialogue must have one of the following: either 7 words, 12 words, 22 words, 29 words, 56 words or 99 words (you can punctuate as you like).
6. The play will contain three acts/scenes, but you can add one more if it’s a dream.
7. At some point, everybody on stage falls down to the ground.
8. Each scene/act must contain one person being told off for shouting (even though they didn’t shout), and another person revealing a big secret (even though it may not be true).
9. Each scene/act must have at least 10 lines of dialogue and 10 lines of actions.
10. Oh – and you must pick one letter of the alphabet (not Q, X or Z) for each character (each one can have a different one or the same) that they are not allowed to use in their dialogue at all.

If just reading that gave you pause, you’re not alone. And I admit, I whined about it  and railed against it for a good chunk of my available writing time. But in the end, I ended up with a play called “Frapping Pachelbel,” where all the characters were the instruments in a string quartet, except the Conductor, and Cello complained about their part, but in the end Viola was jealous over Conductor’s relationship with Cello, and started a duel (with bows used as swords, obviously) and everyone died.

Admittedly, it was kind of silly, but being outrageous felt like a breath of fresh air at the halfway point.

Others of the difficult challenges were less happy.

One of our challenges was to write something that would offend people. The obvious choice would have been using a lot of blue language – and honestly, that was one of Sebastian’s suggestions – but after nearly twenty hours with zero ideas, a meme posted in a feminist forum I belong to resulted in a play about the way men who commit domestic violence are not out of control, but so very in control that a group of them was able to come to a consensus about how long to wait, after starting a new relationship, before actually abusing their partners.

Chilling stuff.

Writing it made me squirm, and after I submitted it, I had to have my husband bring me a mug of cocoa and stay with me for cuddles.

The final week was my favorite. One challenge was to complete an unfinished piece of our own writing. Since I didn’t have any unfinished scripts, or any scripts from the challenge that I was ready to revisit, I adapted one of my own pieces of flash-fic into a play: “The Weather Man,” and for the penultimate challenge, which was to pick a previous challenge and go a different direction with it, I asked two of the people who’d read everything to pick for me.

My friend Fran asked me to revisit the challenge that required us to begin with this line: “Take of the girdle, Gertl, and tell me everything about Onun’s onions, or else little Dicklberg here will get it.” My first use of the line went in a science-fiction direction. My second use, for challenge 27, went to a more noir place, though, technically, there was a voiceover line before the first exchange of dialogue. Still “Up in Smoke,” is one of the pieces I’m really proud of.

So. What did I learn from this experience?

Well, I’m probably never going to be a playwright – and that’s okay, because I don’t really want to be a playwright. I much prefer to watch theatre or perform on stage. When it comes to writing, essays and narrative fiction are where I’m really comfortable, and I prefer to exercise those muscles.

Still, it’s good to stretch, from time to time. I accomplished something that scared me, and I learned a lot about myself, as a person and as a writer, in the process.

Will I participate again next year?

Ask me next January.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.  All 28 of the plays she wrote for 2018’s 28 Plays Later challenge can be found here: http://www.missmeliss.com/category/28-plays-later/

Under the Candles by Selena Taylor

Under the Candles via Flash PromptThe afternoon from hell was finally wrapping up and crashing into night. Today was supposed to have been her day. The best day of her life. Except “best” had been completely skipped and she had been given “crappiest.”

He wanted the outdoor wedding. He wanted the vows to be exchanged at dusk.  He wanted her dress to be dark red instead of a white one.

He also wanted her maid of honor, her sister, and his co-worker Lauren.

He wanted so much.

Her dress now represented the blood she wished she could spill.

She thanked the stars that they’d never actually spoken the “I do’s.”

What kind of life would she have had with that kind of man? The thought gave her chills. She snorted, appreciating  the sudden irony: just yesterday, she couldn’t have envisioned her life without him.

The remaining guests were getting drunk and she was right there with them.

He, on the other hand, was gone.  He’d been outed as the controlling bully he was, and embarrassed in front of his family, but his embarrassment was nothing compared to hers. She’d been treated like a possession – a mindless doll – humiliated, and made to feel like a fool.

Open bottle of wine clutched in her hand, she let her wandering feet carry her to the place where he’d wanted their vows to be exchanged. Under the candles, which were hanging from trees. Under the candles with their sickly, glowing light that was already attracting bugs.

She stood under the candles a free woman instead of a married one.

She stood under them, and she smiled. Then she lifted the bottle in a toast to herself and turned to go.

At the edge of the candlelight, where the waxy warmth merged with the cool night air, she raised her free hand and gave the candles the bird.

About the author, Selena Taylor

Selena TaylorSelena Taylor is a wife, a mother, and a woman who strives to tell the many stories that occupy her mind. She is active in the Rhett & Link fandom and appreciates dark humor.  She and her family live in Illinois, where she takes every opportunity to lose herself under the stars and let her imagination run wild. For more from Selena, check her out on Facebook.

 

 

 

Josie Says What She Thinks by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

You may think I look blowsy and fat,
perched here naked with that red
ribbon dangling down my cleavage.
Not quite naked, matter of fact,
as I’m wearing those wicked
high black boots and a sparkling
butterfly clip in my storm-tossed hair
(that’s what one guy called my ‘do).

Sure, I billow over that ridiculous chair
the artist sat me on and my flesh waves
and ripples in enticing hills.
But, honey, my breasts are soft pillows
where grown men nestle their heads
and sigh and my hands have cute little dimples
they like to lick. I could go on…

Men want a bit of comfort, you know,
and that skinny arm candy with their lettuce leaf
diets don’t offer much cuddling
with those bony frames. Nope, I’ll keep
my billows and pillows, deck them out
with wild colors, big sizes, and swallow
every bite of everything tasty
that comes my way.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.