Writing Memories 6

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Writing Memories 6

Module 2.2: Accidents

Accidents are not pleasant, nor are trips to the doctor’s surgery where the fear that something might have gone wrong and that the doctor might find out what it is and might then want to do something about it always haunts us, well, me at least. That fear is something I carry around in the back pocket of my jeans. Sometimes it hides in my backpack or my brief case. I am afraid that one day it will suddenly leap out and frighten me. That said, waiting rooms and coffee shops are among the world’s greatest places for listening and hearing what is happening, not to our selves in our own inner worlds, but to other people, real people, who also live and suffer like you and me. So here’s a series of conversations overheard in a waiting room. First, as always, the poem.

Waiting Room
words overheard while waiting

Back turned to the world, my good ear trained on two gossips
who chatter about friends, family, acquaintances,
the intimate details of childlessness, caused by
cancers and sudden sicknesses, all laid out before me,
willy-nilly, to root, grow, and fester in my fertile mind.

Never will I put a face to those girls with breast cancer,
the overweight women with diabetes, the old men
with their heart attacks, strokes, and haemorrhaged brains.

“Just one of those things,” one of them whispers, “my husband
gone and me alone with all the grand kids.” “Was it four years
ago? Or five?” the other replied, “I remember his name, but I forget his face.”

“I’ll cope somehow, and the fourteen-year old, with her belly
already swelling.” A subtle silence wraps a scarf around
their flapping mouths. Lives and worlds end and begin. Words settle.
Fine dust dances in a sun ray that spotlights floating motes.
I think of my own lost loves, buried before their proper time.

Commentary: This snapshot in time resonates with me. I never saw the faces of the speakers, they were behind me, and I only heard their voices as I waited outside the doctor’s office for my beloved. I usually take a book to read, or a notebook in which to write some of the snippets that come floating across to me. In this case, I wrote down the gist of the conversation, I would like to say verbatim, but there is more than a touch of creative in this particular non-fiction which transforms itself into fiction because it is no longer real, even though it may have started out that way. And that’s what happens: reality metamorphoses into a fictitious entity that, if it is well-written, then becomes a new reality, linked to, but not the same as the original itself. The secret of art is this process by which the real becomes fictitious then becomes real again. It’s like walking a tightrope blindfold or walking hands before your face in the dark trying not to stumble into objects. Clearly, some do it more easily than others, but all of us improve as we learn how to sharpen our creative senses of touch and balance. Here’s the prose version that I read on Sunday (March 10).

Waiting Room [Prose 1]
words overheard while waiting

Back turned to the world, my good ear trained on two grandmothers who gossip about friends, family, acquaintances, the intimate details of childlessness, caused by cancers and sudden sicknesses, all laid out before me, willy-nilly, whether I want to listen or not, to root, grow, and fester in my fertile mind. Never will I put a face to those girls with breast cancer, the overweight women with diabetes, the old men with their heart attacks, strokes, and haemorrhaged brains. “Just one of those things,” one of them whispers, “my husband gone and me alone with all the grand kids.” “Was it four years ago? Or five?” the other asks. “I remember his name, but I forget his face.” “I’ll cope somehow, and the fourteen-year old, with her belly already swelling.” A subtle silence wraps a scarf around their stricken mouths. Lives and worlds end and begin. Words settle. Fine dust dances in a sun ray that spotlights floating motes. I think of my own lost loves, my three missing brothers, buried before their proper time.

Commentary: The introduction of the intensely personal at the end changes the sense of an ending, but does not materially transform the piece. I have revisited this piece, but feel unable to transform it further. It is stuck in the sands of time and no amount of pushing and shoving will budge it. It is just there. And there I will leave it. The last thing I want to be, as a writer, is a dog who chases his tail round and round in ever-decreasing circles until, tired and dizzy, he keels over and drops off to sleep. If fresh inspiration is to come, it will. It will not magically appear just because I keep rubbing and rubbing at that old brass lamp, hoping for the genie to emerge and grant me one more wish. So, there it is and I’ll let it be.

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.

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