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Falling vs. Flying: just a matter of vision

Sam Diellor Luani, indie post-modern author, brought up how perspective colors whether you believe you are flying or falling – that depending on where you are in the atmosphere, your perspective could be completely different.

What a marvelous concept.

Lately, I seem to vacillate between believing I am floundering or flourishing. I go through these extreme poles of thinking. I have had a difficult past couple of days, but if you read my last blog entry, “Flourishing”, you would see that I was thinking of how far I would get. How different things would be.

I don’t want to inflate my blog with false promises, nor do I want this blog to become a diary, but I think sometimes, like Sam Diellor Luani stated it’s difficult to tell if you’re falling or flying.

I have said before I understand how Icarus felt – the sensation of soaring close to the sun only to plummet to the depths of the sea. But what if it wasn’t falling but just flying in a different way? Perhaps it is all variant, depending on where you are in the atmosphere.

I’m determined. I’m determined to see success, even if initially it feels as though I’m falling into an ocean after my wax-and-feather wings began to melt.

Flourishing

"if they woke at their wake
they might not recognize that woman
in the front making all that noise."

-from “waiting on you to die so I can be myself”, Danez Smith.

For so many years, I’ve figuratively tossed and turned the idea of displaying my authentic self to the public. For too long, I have feared what people would think of me. During my childhood, I was raised to be a people-pleaser. Any time I showed my real self, I was shunned, teased, laughed at, or stifled.

As I grew older, I found partners who I changed myself for, whether it was the metalhead who liked it when I spiked my pixie cut with gel and wore black boots with mini skirts or the stoner who didn’t care what I wore as long as I smoked a joint with him and wore the hemp chokers he made me.

A few years ago, I met someone who encouraged me to be the realest version of myself. He told me what he saw in me and encouraged me to chase that idealized version of myself – the artist with paint on her hands and lyrics on her soul, the girl with eyes bright and sparkling. He encouraged all aspects of me: my screaming emotions, my fiery passions, poet, artist, tarot card reader, whoever I wanted to be.

He taught me to accept myself. To treat myself like I treat my best friends. “To delight the dreamers when they see you,” he had said.

I have learned about surrounding yourself with people who love the authentic you. That’s how you will be successful, regardless of what’s in your bank account or what’s written on your resume.

I mentioned on social media that I have a new outlook. I am no longer waiting on others to die so I can be myself. I’m ready to flourish. I’m ready to be my favorite version of myself.

Hiatus

I have taken some time away from writing to go on a small vacation. I traveled about fourteen hours from home to get to the Atlantic Ocean. I immersed myself in healing and relaxation. I didn’t think about my novels, my chapbooks, or any of my writing projects.

I watched the sun rise, smelled the brine of the ocean, and threw myself in the world if vacation. It was a much-needed break from everything. The day before I left, I had a two-hour phone call with my brother.

He and I discussed many things, and even without using the language I have been with my therapist (flourishing vs. languishing), he told me if I made the decision that my head and heart knew were right, I’d flourish. I would discover myself more deeply. My art would improve. My writing would be less timid. I would begin a life that didn’t revolve around seeking approval and apologizing for my existence. The bonds of shame would shatter.

Simply put, my life would become my own again.

This is exactly what I have been desiring. I had an opportunity to start fresh. I told myself I wouldn’t look at my writing until I was home. Okay, so on that part, I fibbed a little, but I am refreshed and looking at things with new eyes.

Thus, the hiatus – but I’m back and ready to pierce a vein and watch calligraphy spill on the page.

PS: The publisher who is releasing my chapbook announced me as one of their poets!

Gasoline: a Poem

The sins of my past tasted like cigarette smoke
and drinking my depravities straight from the bottle.

My broken bones always set
and the lacerations rarely left a scar,

but your words burn through layers of skin.

I never contemplated my future
until my skull hit the floor after
the guillotine slammed shut.

(I wonder if hindsight is 20/20
when you have less than stellar vision.)

I’m the greatest self-saboteur you’ll meet,
but even before he doused his kisses in gasoline,
I was busy learning how to tape together scorched pages
of a survival guide.

(If a metaphor was ever to be scrawled on my skin,
it’d be written in indelible ink,
the tattoo needle vibrating like a lullaby hum

None of this fountain pen sketching,
drawing ink from a piston.)

I have seen the skies ablaze with fire
because his love was arson
(a torching incineration)
and I was the love he poured gasoline over.

Poetry Writing

Olivia Rodrigo in an article by Ben Henry, BuzzFeed News.

I read this quote from Rodrigo defending her use of describing a “blonde girl” (when really, the girl in question, was a brunette) in her song, and immediately, her words resonated with me.

As a poet, I tend to get specific. I say an ex-lover’s eyes sparkled like jade with the rings of Saturn orbiting her pupil. I describe the way he smelled like piney marijuana and patchouli when he danced with me. I might say another’s name tasted like taking a bite of a red apple in autumn but later, all I could taste was the scorch of burnt ash.

So I understand the need to get descriptive, but as a fiction author, I also know it is frowned on to give a laundry list of description: “He was 5’7″ with a close-cropped beard and eyes that glimmered like blue topaz whenever he saw her. He had a freckle underneath his eye that lined up with a freckle she had underneath her eye, so when they kissed, their freckles exchanged intimate greetings as well. He wore oversized dress shirts with the cuffs hanging over his small hands. His hands were stained with tobacco and always moving with a nervous, frenetic energy. When he smiled, she could see his imperfect teeth, but it was a genuine smile. He weighed around one-hundred-and-sixty pounds and was self-conscious of the hair on his stomach.”

…did you enjoy reading all of that?

I tried my best to make it interesting, but let’s be honest – that’s a lot of detail.

So, an author might pick and choose so her audience doesn’t feel alienated from her. While a fiction author has the luxury of using more words, it doesn’t mean a pile-up of details forced down her readers’ throats.

That being said, a poet wants to create a specific person but still leave the details a bit hazy, so when you’ve finished reading, you can tell yourself that the poem was about you or your ex-girlfriend or your fiancé or your next door neighbor or your grandpa who died eleven-and-a-half years ago.

Also, like Rodrigo touched on, the drama can take away the song or poem’s impact because everyone is analyzing it, waiting for reactions, and caught up in the scandal. I prefer amalgamations of people or details that aren’t really details like some of what I’ve written above.

Just my thoughts.

National No Rhyme Day

If you search hard enough, the United States celebrates some quirky holidays – National Talk like a Pirate Day, National Peanut Butter Cookie Day, Let it Go Day, etc. etc. Today, according to a writing group I’m in, is National No Rhyme (No Reason) Day, celebrating all those strange words in the American language that don’t have rhymes.

As an author of free verse poetry, I decided it might be fun to collect a few of these words and see if I could develop a poem out of them.

So, here’s a list of some of the words compiled by the lovely folks at National Day Calendar:

  • Spirit
  • Chimney
  • Woman
  • Ninth
  • Silver
  • Month
  • Purple

In a shield of silver rain bulleting down
(like rain, like the spirit of a woman),
clouds of fog and condensation form on my window.
(My vision obscured – I see only outlines of you,
a phantasmagorical haze.)

It is the ninth month in a row;
time strips your perfectly chiseled memory from me.
As I claw to retrieve that which deceives me,
it becomes slippery (and rips from my grasp).
All this purple prose, yet the words I need to say most
are stripped from my mouth, rendering me dumb.

“Say it plainly,” I hear the ghost of you insist, “or don’t say it at all.”

How do I say these words like raindrops battened down on my chest,
ricocheting off my eyelashes like rainwater?
How do I say these words that have become a part of my essence
as familiar as goodbye, goodbye, goodbye?

“Say it plainly or don’t say it all,” the ghost insists.

Reluctantly, the age-old cliché falls from my tongue
clumsy and reckless,
“I love you. I miss you. I wish you were here.”

(I haven’t seen you in so long.
What if you’ve forgotten my name,
the way my breath falters in a crowded room?

I haven’t seen you in so long.
What if you’ve forgotten
the way my voice trembles when I read a poem?

I haven’t seen you in so long.
I love you.
I miss you.
I wish you were here.)

3:21 AM: A Poem

We make do with the banality of our days
as our spirits are ripped asunder
when we witness the shifting of planets
or feel the tactile yearning of a spirit
rivers away.

She wonders these sleepless nights
if he ever lies awake too,
listening to highway sounds
or
the lonely cries of cicadas.

(The nocturnal hour is one of isolation.
Teaches the clumsy to side-step porch lights
and waltz with shadows.)

Could we be alone
(together)?

In the midnight twilight,
I stumbled into an ocean,
its breath briny,
when warned to stay near the shore.

I carried a woman on my back
as I crossed through a sea of crimson blood
like some would carry a cross, a burden, a weight.

After all these years of relentless doggy-paddling,
never being able to catch my breath,
I have discovered what is on the opposite shore.

“I stumbled into an ocean, its breath briny…”

A tribe of aliens and moon-dwellers
with gold streaks of lightning (and lunar silver)
in their eyes
& scars (with no memories of how they got them).

Crush me under the weight of love.
If it gets too heavy, all the better.
I would permit you to puncture my skin
with sterile needles (and etch in a constellation
if that’s what we wanted)
.

You graze your fingertips
against my black-dipped star,
gazing at me in wonder.
“You own a piece of me forever,”
you murmur,
“I can no more forget you
than I can forget a black star
that decorates all my pages.”

It’s twenty past three in the morning,
and she lies in that space
between awake and asleep,
listening to highway sounds
and
the lonely cries of cicadas.

New Beginnings: Part IV

Part IV of New Beginnings, as requested by one of my readers. You can find Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here.


He offered me a sheepish smile. “Sorry about earlier. You know, the pissy attitude and all.” He ran his hand through his hair. “Guess this whole trip is eating away at me more than I expected. First-time traveler and all.”

“Oh yeah?” I grinned back. “Not a veteran of long bus trips up North?”

He chuckled, shaking his head. “Not a veteran of any trips. Haven’t left town since we moved here back when I was three.” A distant look crossed his face, then he stuck out his hand. “Anyway, I’m Eric.”

I glanced down at his hand and shook it. “Nixie,” I introduced myself.

“Nixie?” he echoed, raising an eyebrow. “As in, Nikki? Nicole?”

I corrected him. “Nixie. It’s a name most people get wrong. Nixie, as in, Phoenix.”

“Rad,” he replied, “you reinventing yourself?”

I wrinkled my nose at him. “Rad?”

“I’m bringing it back.”

I shrugged, then slouched back on the bench. Somehow, his being eager to talk exhausted me. It was like being around a wound-up puppy when you were used to old dogs. He sat down beside me. I rummaged through my beat-up bag and yanked out my tarot cards. I did a three-card spread for myself.

He sunk into himself, humming a melody under his breath. “You hungry?” he asked, gesturing toward a food cart. “Thinking about getting a sandwich.”

I gnawed on my lower lip. Out of nowhere, my stomach gurgled. Must be hungry. “Sure, I guess.”

Eric strolled over to the food cart with a sloping sort of confidence, the nonchalance of a kid who didn’t care much about anything. It was in his walk that I realized this guy could actually be a powerful weapon to have in my arsenal.

I didn’t have a lot of friends, and I definitely wouldn’t have any friends in Montreal.

He came back, small triangular cardboard boxes in each hand. He tossed one my way. “Didn’t know what you liked, so I got you a vegetarian one. Cucumbers, mayo, sprouts, I don’t know, maybe shredded carrots or something. That cool?”

I nodded. Anything sounded good in that exact moment. My phone rumbled in my bag, vibrating against some of its contents. I ignored it, some of my old nerves reawakening as I ripped open the cardboard.

Eric shoved a mouthful of egg salad into his mouth and began asking about the cards I had pulled.

I told him what each one meant, but I didn’t tell him that I saw trouble in my future.

Correction: I saw trouble in our future.

Person Holding White and Black Book

He said, “I play an instrument, and I was in a band. The band kicked me out when they realized they’d rather shoot up than play gigs. I heard you can make a killing busking out in Canada.”

“An instrument, huh?” I replied between bites. “What do you play? The mandolin? A didgeridoo?”

Eric sighed, exasperated. “I used to play drums, but I’m not bringing those on the road, so I stuck with guitar.”

Through the glass dome ceiling, a streak of lightning split the sky and thunder shook the building. The hairs on my arm rose.

It was starting.

Here.

Now.

Already.

Person in White Long Sleeve Shirt
It was starting. Here. Now. Already.

I don’t know why I thought it would wait.

To be Continued…?

Genre

I have been struggling with coming up with an apt genre for my novel for a long time now. This has been a novel that has been on my brain for seventeen years now, and I’m finally seeing progress on. I am in the last stage of revisions before sending it off to agents, but for so long, I have debated what the genre was: slipstream, urban fantasy, magical realism, contemporary fantasy, speculative fiction. Eventually, I just gave up and decided it was its own genre: dream fiction. Imagine my delight when tonight, unexpectedly, I discovered a pair of new genres that I had not heard of that seem to fit the tone and themes of my book: dreampunk and transrealism.

According to the website “What is Dreampunk“, “dreampunk fiction often makes use of surreal imagery, esoteric symbolism, dream logic (which may not be entirely logical), dream-related technology, false/subjective realities, shamanism, and Jungian psychology.” While my debut novel doesn’t feature all of these characteristics, it displays some of them, enough so, that I feel confident enough to call it a dreampunk novel.

Transrealism, as described by this article by The Guardian, “creates a detailed and realistic depiction of American high-school life will then shatter it open..” The article further posits “through this realist tapestry, the author threads a singular, impossibly fantastic idea, often one drawn from the playbook of science fiction, fantasy and horror.”

So, I would say, based on those definitions, my debut novel (and perhaps other works-in-progress) could be described as either dreampunk or transrealism.

This is an exciting moment for me as an author to finally have narrowed down the genre of my works so that when I pitch it to agents and publishers, I can finally explain where my books will fit in on shelves at my favorite bookstores!

What is my debut novel about?

Glad you asked.


One September morning in the city of New Amhurst, Aisling McHale wakes up and discovers something strange. A necklace her dead mother had given in a nightmare has shattered through the barrier of her dreams and into the waking world. The curtain between the two realms is lifted, dragging them into war and threatening to destroy everything she knows.

Choices that will forever change her destiny confront her. Demands are made. She must salvage the last few meaningful relationships she has left or surrender to this new world of strange dreams and grotesque nightmares.

As Aisling continues to disconnect from reality and succumbs to the lure of this alternate universe, will she prevail? Will she be able to save everything she cares for or will it all perish in the hellish apocalypse her nightmares leave behind?*

*This is a working blurb, and it may be changed or revised at any time.

Spoken Word Poetry/The Corpses of Unsaid Things


“The Corpses of Unsaid Things” is live on my Instagram page. I have been toying with the idea of releasing my reading of poems; instead of merely doing a couple of video montages with an overlay of my reading, I wanted to develop the bravery of facing the camera while reading my poems.

This is my first time doing such a thing, and while I know I was extremely uncomfortable, and it is not an amazing performance, I am proud of taking this as an opportunity to attempt to face the camera (flaws, blemishes, and all) and share my words.

Usually, I cower when someone is reading my writing. It could be fiction, and I would still hide or pace when someone’s reading. I only ever had one reader I sat still for, and that was because I trusted him completely with my heart.

But now, I am so frightened about sharing my poetry as stated in “Fears and Submitting a Poem”, yet I am doing what I can to conquer that fear.

So, if I have any friends who are authors, spoken word poets, poets, public speakers, can you give me some tips? I would love to learn from y’all on how not to be afraid when reading your stuff out loud!

Thanks in advance, but also, thanks for listening!

(Also, please, let me know what you think of the poem “The Corpses of Unsaid Things”.)