Lately when sorrows come—fast, without warning— whipping their wings down the sky, I know to let them. Not inviting them, but allowing each with a deep breath as if inhaling a wish I can’t undo.
Some days the sky is so full of sorrows they could be mistaken for shadows of unnamed gods flapping the air with their loose black sleeves: the god of head-on collisions, the god of amputated limbs, the god of I’ll-dress-you-in-mourning.
Is the buzz in the August trees, that pulsing husk of repetition, an omen? I hear it build to a final shaking. I hear it build louder and louder, then nothing. Like a long, picaresque novel that’s suddenly over. Like the last inning of kickball until the rain.
What falls from the sky is not always rain or any kind of weather. Call it precipitous. I’m fooling myself, of course. Wearing sorrow is nothing like skin shedding water. It’s more like the weight of a cloak of crows.
And yet the sun still shines on the honey locust arching its fringe over grass. Lit, too, the pasture and its barbwire strung from post to leaning post. See how the stump by the road is rotting and how the small yellow leaves, twirling, catch light on their way to the ground.
Susan Laughter Meyers, of Givhans, SC, is the author of Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press), winner of the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize, the SIBA Book Award for Poetry, and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Her poetry has also appeared in The Southern Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and other journals, as well as Poetry Daily, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column. Her blog is at http://susanmeyers.blogspot.com.
It is tempting not to speak. Rather, to breathe in cold catacombs with eyes wide open. I think I understand the way you hope. In your mind, above, crisped spring: white plum blossoms icing up saplings. Belief is like this, getting carried away by progress. I cannot believe in history. Still, the fisted buds flare into wicks burning atop stone- cold facades tipping deeper into silence.
Michelle Matthees lives and writes in Duluth, Minnesota. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s MFA program in Creative Writing. Recent work of Michelle’s can be found in PANK, The Prose Poem Project, Cider Press Review, 22 Magazine, Proof, Memorious, Anderbo, Defenestrationism, 5 Quarterly, Humber Pie, Specs, Third Wednesday, Paradise Review, The Mom Egg, Sou’wester, Thrice Fiction, and elsewhere.
Chipped plaster, termite-infested walls, cockroaches— that which is worn, desecrated, lived in; ghosts, overtaken gardens, tilted fences, scattered tool pieces— that which is overwrought, still growing; tree houses, sibling truces, midnight pillow forts, mailboxes— that which we build together, try maintaining; grief, malicious gods, tsunami aftershocks, gravestones— that which we dread, yet still want to cling to; cradles, mothers’ eyes, fathers’ hands, port dock posts— that which nurtures us, kept us tethered; toy ships, beached debris, tropical hurricanes, scorched sand— that which topples, adapts to destruction; moving trucks, interstate traffic, 80s rock & roll, cardboard boxes— that which is in motion, sequences go, going, gone.
Starr Herr recently graduated with a BFA Creative & Professional Writing and BA Philosophy at Converse College. She worked on her high school literary magazine staff as editor-in-chief and her college literary magazine staff as a poetry editor.
The Blues down south would cut you like a paper mill and let your rotten stink blow all the way north on a hot summer breeze. That’s how she left, you know.
She was the second oldest of thirteen, stocky as a sawed-off shotgun, red hair, freckles and plump green eyes that traced an un-retraceable line.
When I met her, she was Sunday dressed in a full-length cashmere coat and matching camel-colored hat. The wide brim tilted over her right eye leaned into each heavy stride.
Legend has it, she snatched a black snake out an oak tree in mid conversation and ripped his head off in the street. She gripped my hand and pulled a knife one night –
we stayed too late at Menlo Park Mall and had to walk out the service exit. I was just tall enough to see the blade flash in the corner of my eye.
Her anointed hands could rub a rash clean and make me believe the Blues were always one bitter snuff can away from spittin’ out the truth.
Valerie Smith delights in writing poetry and creative nonfiction. She is currently studying Creative Writing in the Master of Arts in Professional Writing program at Kennesaw State University where she is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant of first-year composition. Most recently, she presented her poems at the 2016 Decatur Book Festival. Her poetry has also appeared in Exit 271: Your Georgia Writers Resource and BlazeVOX15.
I have a confession to make. I don’t write every day. I don’t even write every other day. Despite the advice of every writing instructor and every craft book I’ve encountered, I have never managed to write more than once a week, and never more than two or three hours at that. And I’ve spent a long time asking myself if that means I’m not a Real Writer.
In my day job, I’m an academic, so I have plenty of experience with imposter syndrome, and it’s plagued my confidence as a writer for years. I know that most of us have full-time jobs in other fields, so I’m not alone in finding it hard to carve out time to write. But so many other people seem better at accomplishing it. I can’t get up at four a.m. to write before dawn; I object to four a.m. on principle. I can’t squeeze in fifteen minutes of writing during my lunch break; I just get settled in when it’s time to go back to work. What I’m left with is a jealously guarded window of time on Sunday afternoons when I hunch over my laptop or notebook and descend into a caffeinated frenzy of creation.
Astonishingly, writing once a week actually seems to work for me. In the past year, I’ve drafted one full novel and published several short pieces. And in that year, I’ve realized that the physical act of writing is only one part of the writing process. I’ve discovered that, while I’m only at my desk typing away for two ours on a Sunday, I’m actually preparing for those two hours every other day of the week. While I work out, I’m mapping my plot, imagining my beat sheet superimposed over the screen of the elliptical. I recently had a terrific revelation about a troublesome character while I was flossing my teeth. In the shower, I’m trying out lines of dialogue: yes, out loud. This habit must be particularly entertaining to my downstairs neighbor when my characters start arguing.
Some writers can compose in snatches, a sentence on the subway, a paragraph at lunch. The fact that I can’t do that has often made me feel unprofessional by comparison, as though, if I was a Real Writer, I would be able to wrestle my brain into submission and force it to produce art on a schedule. But the truth is I will never be that kind of writer. I need a large, uninterrupted swath of time to sit down and write: time to stare at the wall, gaze vacantly out the window, type and erase, type and erase. What I know now, though, is that I might not be able to write in short intervals, but I can think in them. My brain is at work even if my hands aren’t. So when I do sit down on Sunday with my coffee and my two hours of writing ahead of me, I have a head full of material waiting to be drawn out on the page. And whether that makes me as a Real Writer or not is beside the point: I’m writing, and that’s all I care about.
Christine Schott teaches literature and creative writing at Erskine College. She is Pushcart-nominated author whose work has appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Dappled Things, Casino Literary Magazine, and Wanderlust. She holds a PhD in medieval literature from the University of Virginia and an MFA in creative writing from Converse College and has been working for South85 for three years.