Writing Memories 3
Module 1.2 Disasters:
Last Sunday, the first module was titled Triumphs and Disasters. I have separated them here. My first thought for Disasters came in the form of a poem.
Age of Spillage
Fingers turn to butter, permit cups to slip,
flying saucers to take off, to stall and crash,
their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces
on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up and buried.
Worse: bottle tops screwed up tight refuse to open.
Plastic wrapping, flagrant in its defiance,
wages its guerrilla war against ageing,
uncoordinated arthritic fingers.
Tongue-twisters twist tongue and tones and speech,
filling mouths with glottal stops and threadbare words.
The rib cage is a cupboard barren and bare.
So many slips between palate, teeth, and lips.
So many precious things dropping to the floor.
I cannot always bend and pick them up,
not even with my new mechanical claw.
Commentary: Nothing wrong with this as a poem. It’s fun to experiment, though, and poetry takes up more space than prose. This is the prose poem, or prose passage, or flash fiction piece, take your pick.
Age of Spillage [Prose 1]
Fingers turn to butter, permit cups to slip, flying saucers to take off, to stall and crash, their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up and buried. Worse: bottle tops screwed up tight refuse to open. Plastic wrapping, flagrant in its defiance, wages its guerrilla war against ageing, uncoordinated arthritic fingers. Tongue-twisters twist tongue and tones and speech, filling mouths with glottal stops and threadbare words. The rib-cage is a cupboard barren and bare. So many slips between palate, teeth, and lips. So many precious things dropping to the floor. I cannot always pick them up, not even with my new mechanical claw.
Commentary: I liked this transcription. The changes came easily and are very few. A little expansion there and there, but not much. The challenge for me then became the desire to reach out from my private world to the world of the workshop. I felt that to do that, I needed to add some material, specifically I wanted to highlight and intensify some sensations.
Age of Spillage [Prose 2]
Fingers turn to butter but taste of nicotine, garlic, and soap when I bite my nails. My fingers encourage cups to slip, flying saucers to take off, to run out of energy, stall and crash, their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up, one by one, and buried in the waste bin. Arthritic fingers grown clumsy now struggle with bottle tops and glass containers screwed up so tight they refuse to open, even when soaked under the hot tap. I stick those jars in door jambs, lid first, closing the door with one hand, and twisting the jar with the other. Sometimes jars slip and crash to the floor, often with a portion of the contents spilling out. I hate these onion style plastic wraps, gathering together in layer after layer of wrapping. Flagrant in their defiance, they wage a guerrilla war against these ageing, uncoordinated fingers. I am often forced to use a knife, but a knife can slip or twist so easily. Occasionally, blunt, it will not even penetrate indomitable, multi-folded Saran wrap. On the telephone, names and numbers turn into tongue-twisters that twist tongue, tone and words, filling my mouth with glottal stops and threadbare speech. At times like these, my rib-cage becomes a Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, barren and bare, empty of all feelings, save panic. I reverse my numbers, putting them the wrong way round, calling by mistake so many unknown people. So many slips between plate, teeth, and lips. Multiple precious items drop to the floor. I cannot always bend to pick them up, and I cannot easily grasp them, not even with my new mechanical flexi-claw.
Commentary: This is the version I read on Sunday. I quite liked it at the time, but I now find the telephone passages at the end to be intrusive. I may well cut them out and concentrate on touch. I wanted the telephone ‘in’ to exemplify sound, but on second thoughts it should probably be a fresh piece on its own. I could easily incorporate sound, the crash of the jar, the splintering of breaking glass, and even smell, the rich scent of the jar’s contents, into the touch section.
“We have no time to stand and stare” but true art demands that we sit, stare, look, listen, think, re-think, write, re-write. Remember too that some results are delayed and that impatience is the worst enemy of art. Don’t transport your paintings while the pain is still wet and don’t pull your carrots up early to see if they are actually starting to grow.
Addendum: Participaction … don’t think about it, do it.
Fingers slip across the telephone key board, pressing the wrong numbers or punching them in in the wrong order. Strange voices reply from the other end. This morning a woman spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand, Then a man came on the line and yelled at me in broken English to “Go away! Go away! Leave alone!” I imagined him tearing the telephone from his wife and berating her for this call from a foreigner. Often, I am too clever for my own good. I think I recall the right number for a friend, but when punch it in, I find I have reversed two of the figures. I hear other people doing that when they call me: “Sorry, I say. I think you have the wrong number.” “Is that 472 …?” they query. I say that it isn’t and they say sorry and end the call. Then they call me back immediately and get the same answer. I hate running through my list of callers to get to the name that I want to call. But that’s what I have to do most days now. At least I don’t run into so many wrong numbers. And as for answering the phone … well … I am tired of robot calls, especially around election time. I am fed up with telephone surveys. I am driven crazy by the little men, I assume from their voices that they are little, who call me in the middle of the night or wake me early in the morning to tell me that my computer needs repair. “Suh, suh, we have discovered a werry nasty wirus [sic, or should that be sick] on your computer. Give me your password and let me in to your computer and I will repair it instantly. ” I have had calls from the telly-phony tax men who tell me the RCMP are about to knock on my door and arrest me if I don’t immediately give them my VISA Card number, passwords, and send them, right now, the $7,200 I owe them in taxes. I have grown to loathe the harbor boat hooter that announces I have won a cruise from Florida to Mexico on a super cruise ship …. that is probably a rusty tug boat that will take me twice around the harbor, be declared un-seaworthy, and leave me stranded miles from anywhere and paying a fortune to get myself home … and all I have to do is … Click! I think it’s the marketing surveys that really get my goat though. I am no expert, but I have read up on surveys and designed some myself. What I love-hate about telephone surveys is the lack of real choice, the forced direction in which they push you, the pre-determined result on which the designers are fixated. I know it’s a waste of time, but I occasionally indulge: “On a scale of 1-5, where 5 is good and 1 is poor, how would you rate … ” I explain that the question and the ratings do not work, but they are adamant that I must answer from 1-5. Yes, they understand that it can’t really be done, but yes, it must be done, because that’s what they are paid to do. O tempora o mores … “O tempora o mores” is a Latin phrase that translates literally as Oh the times! Oh the customs! but more accurately as Oh what times! Oh what customs! or alternatively, Alas the times, and the manners (Wikipedia). Oh boy, what an enjoyable rant. “Enough, no more. It is not as sweet now as it was before.” (Shakespeare).
Commentary: And that is another way to create. You find the splitting point in an already written narrative and, realizing that you have two narratives, not one, you divide the passage, rewrite the offending portion, and come up with something equally original, slightly different, and, in this case, hopefully funny. I leave that to the reader to judge the effect of the humor. The writing technique, however, is well worth recognizing, studying, and pursuing. One further point: sometimes it is necessary to be cruel to be kind. Splitting the earlier piece (oh cruel world) leads to the creation of two quite neat pieces (oh happy days).
By all means use these pieces and ideas as a prompt for your own memory writing. If you do, remember the suggestions I made earlier (and copy below). And, above all, have fun.
Suggestions for the writing exercise included in each module:
Write a prose memoir, just reminiscing.
Use 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person narrative.
Choose 6-12 words from the reading and expand on them using associative fields.
Write from an image or a metaphor.
Journal style: automatic writing, but try to select the gems.
Letter style: write to a friend.