MiA

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MiA

The things you didn’t see:
the cat, this morning, ginger,
coiled like a spring and ready
to pounce on an unsuspecting junco;
five crows perched on the same
side of the tree, and the tree leaning
over on account of their weight;
the smile on my granddaughter
when we Skyped.

The things you didn’t hear:
the squawk of the bird
as the cat misjudged her jump;
those same five crows cawing,
cracking the day open like
an egg boiled for breakfast;
the joy in my granddaughter’s voice
when she spoke to me: “Hi Moo.”

And you didn’t hear the robin’s shriek
as the hawk’s claws pierced,
nor the tears in my voice
as I called out your name.

CROCODILE TEARS: FFF

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Crocodile Tears
Flash Fiction Friday
28 April 2017

The crocodile lives in the wind-up gramophone. The gramophone lives in the top room of the house. The boy winds up the gramophone with a long brass handle, round and round, till the spring is tight. A tight spring frightens the crocodile and he sits quietly in his cage. But as the record goes round and the spring loosens up, the crocodile roars and demands to be freed. He’s the Jack that wants to jump out of the box. His long-term dream is to eat up  the witch who looks out of the window and watches the boy as he plays in the yard.

Last week the boy decided to dig. He picked up a spade and dug a deep hole that went all the way down to his cousin in Australia. The little dog laughed and joined in the fun, scraping with his front paws and throwing earth out between his back legs like happy dogs do. The witch in the window cackled with laughter and the rooks in the rookery rose up in a cloud and cawed in reply. Only the boy is able to see the witch and he only sees her when she sits in the window. But he knows she wanders through the house, and the air goes cold when she enters and exits the rooms, especially when she brushes past the boy and sweeps his skin with her long, black gown.

When the boy got tired of digging, he drove the spade into the ground and left it standing by the hole. When his father came home it was well after dark. He didn’t see the hole but he saw the spade. So he didn’t fall in to the shaft of the coal-mine that went down to Australia. No free trip to the Antipodes for that lucky dad. He beat the boy for that, for digging that hole. Then he beat him again for lying: the hole didn’t go to Australia. Australia was too far away and the angle was wrong. The boy laughed when he saw that his dad didn’t know where Australia was.

“Ha-ha,” he laughed. And his dad beat him again, this time for laughing.

Sometimes at night the boy can hear rats running through his bedroom walls. They scuttle and scuffle as they hunt through the guttering. The crocodile growls from time to time in that upstairs room. The witch cackles with laughter. The boy puts his head under the blankets and cries himself to sleep. Sometimes he wishes the crocodile would come and eat up his dad. But he loves his dad like the dog loves his dad even though his dad beats both the boy and the dog. Sudden beatings, they are,  that arrive without warning: hail and thunder from a sunny summer sky.

“Well, you’re not laughing now,” his father announces. “A beating a day keeps disobedience away.  There will be no disobedience in this house.” When the father beats the boy, the dog cowers beneath a chair. The boy hears the crocodile growl and smiles through the tears as he wipes salt water from his eyes.

“Are you laughing at me? I’ll make you laugh on the other side of your face,” the father taunts the son and beats him again.

The crocodile growls. The old witch cackles. The rooks in the rookery rise up in the air and the father’s hair stands up on end like it does when lightning lights up the sky, and thunder rolls its drums, and the sky’s wheels rattle like an old warrior’s chariot whose wheels have not been greased. The veins stand out in his father’s cheeks as the old man raises his hand to the boy.

The old man tells the same old jokes again and again. The boy must always remember to laugh at them as if he had never heard them before. If he doesn’t laugh, his father gets angry. Some of the jokes are good, and the boy likes the one about the Catholic who goes into the bar in Belfast and asks the barkeep if they serve Protestants. Or  is it the one in which the Protestants go into the bar and ask the barkeep it they serve Catholics … anyway … whatever … one night, the boy dreams and it happens like this. The crocodile escapes from the gramophone. The witch hands the boy a leash and a collar and between them they restrain the crocodile.

“Walkies?” says the boy.

The crocodile nods his head and crocodile and boy walk down the street to the Kiddy’s Soda Fountain on the corner.  When the boy walks in with the crocodile, the waitress raises her eyebrows and opens her mouth.

“Do you serve grown ups in here?” the little boy asks her.

“Of course we do,” says the waitress.

“Good. I’ll have a glass of Dandelion & Burdock for myself and a grown-up for the crocodile. Please.”

The witch says grace, the boy sips his Dandelion & Burdock, and they all shed crocodile tears as the boy’s pet crocodile chomps on the fast disappearing  body of the boy’s dad.

Hollow

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Hollow

I am a hollow man,
my heart and soul scooped out
by worry, wear, and care.
Water fills my bones.
My muscles shake like jelly.

Hope?
I abandoned it long ago.

Faith?
In these changing times
it’s a series of corks
bobbing their apples
in a party barrel.

Charity?
Love grows old and cold
and loses its charms
as we shiver in each other’s arms.

For now, I’ll dodder
my dodo way
towards extinction.

As I shuffle
from room to room
I’ll rest for a while
upon this chair.

My mother went this way.
My brothers and my father too;
I soon will follow,
just like you.

Algorithms

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Algorithms
Wednesday Workshop
26 April 2017

I want to begin by confessing that I don’t know what they are. Algorithm: it sounds like a word pulled out of a lexicographer’s top hat or a question from a Grade 9 Spelling Bee.

“May I have the definition?”

“Certainly: it’s ‘a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer’ …” (Merriam-Webster).

Before we go any further, please watch this brief, very explicit (self-explaining, sorry) video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ

So, if I understand the video correctly, an algorithm, applied to literature, is a program that (a) analyses the structure of texts and (b) establishes whether or not a specific text follows the necessary steps or procedures for that text to become (b.1) a best seller or (b.2) an acceptable potential book in which an investor (aka publisher) could or should invest his / her money.

Where does this leave us as writers? We have spoken before about the Guardians at the Gates and the Judges who determine our fate when we enter literary competitions (see below)

https://rogermoorepoet.com/2016/05/31/winning-not-whining/

Suddenly, these Guardians are no longer fallible flesh and blood but infallible wires, nuts, and bolts joined by electronic circuits.

So, we have a story. Right? Right length. Right theme. We think it is good. We submit it to an editorial house. What happens next? Well, it depends. A major house won’t touch it unless put forward by an agent. No agent? It molders to a prolonged, slow, very slow death on someone’s desk. Electronic submission? Wait a minute. Some secretary may read the first five pages and find them good. Then, your submission may be sent to Death by Algorithm.

How is that algorithm prepared? Thousands of best-sellers and classics are fed into the computer program, analyzed, sorted into lines and curves, highs and lows … then your manuscript is fed in. If its computerized profile matches their computerized profile (the algorithm) then BINGO … you may have a foothold on the first rung of the lowest ladder that leads to winning the literary lottery!

Or not.

What can we, as writers, do about this? Absolutely nothing. We must believe in ourselves. We must believe in our writing. We must keep on writing. We must publish where and when we can … and, above all, along with Albert Camus and Sisyphus and his rock, il faut imaginer l’écrivain heureux / we must pretend that, as writers, we are happy.

And that, ladies and gentlemen and others, is a pretty sorry state of affairs and a pretty lousy (but very interesting) piece of translation.

Glass Man

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Glass Man

“I am made of glass,” I said.
“You can see right through me.”

But the harder you looked,
the less you saw.
You claimed
there was nothing there,
just empty air.

“Your glass is an illusion,” you said.
“It’s not half full
and it’s not half empty.”

“Glass is fragile,
I break easily.
Drop me, I shatter;
hot and cold will
make me crack.”

“Your fragility is in your mind,
not in the fact of your existence.”

“When light passes through me
I break into a million colors,”
I said.

“You are a prism,
the colors that you cast
change you and rain
rainbow  lights
that change others
too.”

 

Shadows

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Shadows

My front door stood open,
but I thought it was closed.
I tip-toed in and called:
“Is anyone there?”
Echo answered
‘there, there, there …”
then silence.

I walked from room to room,
startled by shadows.
I opened doors,
looked under the table,
searched behind chairs,
no one.

The house stood silent and empty,
save for the fear,
the silent fear,
that lurked
like a remembered cancer
and occupied each room.