Vantage Point


Photo by Richard Baxter

Scene from mountain top

Horizon beyond valley

A seamless landscape

Tree tops merge with long grey clouds

The sun diffuses soft light

Seen from the valley

Mountain stretched to evening sky

One ends, one begins

Soft clouds caress leafy ridge

Dappled light on granite stone

Write a poem with the structure of a tanka (5 lines with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables). Prompt from The Daily Post. Subject inspiration from a walk this evening, using a sequence of two tanka. I had no idea about the structure of a haiku or a tanka and had never attempted to do either until writing this post. What a challenge! I scratched my head a bit trying to work out the number of syllables in some of the words I used, saying the words out loud while counting on my fingers. This site helped in the end, even allowing entry of a whole sentence for a syllable count. I had a lot of fun writing this post and look forward to playing with this form of poetry again…

The Void

city street

“Loneliness is an interesting feeling.” Her grandmother’s words often came to her and it struck her now, as she was navigating through the chaotic city traffic. She felt more alone than ever when amongst a crowd. It was seven years now since she’d moved to the city from her family’s village in the North, first for university and then a return not long after, once she’d secured a job with a global telecommunications company. Her friends back home envied her; her grandmother lamented her loss of culture; and her parents, though proud of her achievements, were always worried that she was spending too much time focused on her career and missing the boat on finding a nice husband and starting a family.

Ngoc lived in a high rise apartment, surrounded by others in their boxed existences, segregated by the all too permeable walls that allowed sounds and even fragrances to weave in an out of each others lives. It was on the advice of a colleague that she got the two dogs- dachshunds that she called Long and Linh. The idea was for them to fill the void of her loneliness, or at worst, disguise it as she wandered the neighbourhood in the absence of a human companion. The novelty wore off fairly quickly for her, however, and walking Long and Linh became somewhat of a chore, though one she diligently carried out daily.

On their walks, she preferred the distraction of the busy streets to the parks that were full of other dog owners who she felt projected their emotions onto their furry friends and had an unnatural attachment to them. It was a stretch for her to even talk to Long and Linh apart from to call them for a meal or to round them up if they had wandered away off lead. “Loneliness is an interesting feeling” again, she heard her grandmother’s frail whisper. What did she mean by that? Ngoc would have been about 10 years old when her grandmother was espousing her words of wisdom, and although the context was long forgotten, piecing together the dates places the conversation roughly around the time her grandfather had died. It certainly didn’t feel interesting when you were immersed in it, she thought. Her life seemed like disjointed lonely moments- work, home, walking the dogs, home, and the diurnal pattern continued.

While a part of the flow of traffic, she felt the loneliness sweep her along with the cars, bicycles, scooters and other pedestrians, close enough to touch and moving like some giant coordinated organism, yet each travelling as separate entities, protected by their coats of anonymity. It was while she was lost in this thought that the police car travelling in the opposite direction to her set off its siren and whirring lights and took a dramatic U-turn, chancing a collision with anyone in its path. The traffic dispersed around her and that was what first caught her attention, followed by Long and Linh both tugging at their leads, pulling in opposing directions. A motorcyclist attempted to swerve and avoid Linh, inadvertently blocking the path for Ngoc to step out of the way of the approaching police car.

Lying prone and concussed, when she came to, she was eye to eye with Long and Linh who were standing beside her, guarding her from the harm of the strangers who had milled around. A paramedic was taking her pulse while another one was tending to her grazes. Reaching across with her free arm, she stroked Long and then Linh and felt a connection with them that had eluded her till then, perhaps because they’d inevitably failed to cure her loneliness. It is a funny feeling; she thought again- a paradox that gives you a longing for connection but an urge for isolation at the same time.

 

Write a post with your selection of options for setting and opening line. From this challenge. I chose the image below (photo: Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post) and the opening line “Loneliness is an interesting feeling.”

Intermission: Kelvin

Kelvin didn’t believe his luck when three months earlier, at the Pine Creek Fair, Kathleen had danced with him. Frank was drunk, only getting drunker and probably for a dig at Kelvin, had asked Kathleen to dance with him. Kelvin didn’t mind – at least he got to be close to possibly the most beautiful woman in all of Pine Creek. Frank and Kelvin had gone through school together, and they had always been poles apart- studious to rebellious, quiet to raucous, law abiding to criminally inclined, responsible to spontaneous- the list goes on. It was at the dance that he’d first smelt Kathleen’s perfume, his nose close enough to the nape of her neck as they danced to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. He smelt hints of citrus and jasmine that gave him a heady, almost dizzy euphoria.

Much to Kelvin’s surprise, days after the fair, Kathleen approached him at the diner where he was seated alone, and slipped him a note written on a napkin. It read “Loved our dance, meet me Saturday 21:00 at the boathouse, near the oak tree”. And so their clandestine, non-consummated affair began. He’d counted down the minutes till that first rendezvous. In the three months, they hadn’t even shared a kiss, but it was hugely satisfying for Kelvin to be in the orbit of such a beauty, considering his last relationship, if it could be called that, was fourteen years earlier and had only lasted a handful of months. Kathleen had told him he’d reminded her of her father, but didn’t go into any further detail. He’d wondered what that meant was he the intellectual, quite type? He’d mused, while up late at night running their conversations through his mind over and over just to feel what he’d felt in her presence. Continue reading

Intermission: Frank

It was almost too easy, he thought. I disappear, assumed dead; Kathleen stays behind to sort out the paper work, sheds a tear or two; and then skips the border to join me with the proceeds of my life insurance.

Frank was lying on the single bed in the cheap motel where he’d been camped out for 2 weeks. His Spanish was good enough to order beer and the little food he could afford, so he was content. He fixed his gaze on the watermark on the ceiling. The damp, mouldy atmosphere wasn’t helping him to recover from the cold he’d had since the icy swim across the lake. The only regret he now had was giving up his boat to stage the accident. It had been his pride and joy, that is, his pride and joy second only to Kathleen. He smiled when he thought of her. They had met in LA where she was an aspiring actress and he was a bartender and part-time crook. She’d told him that he reminded her of her father but didn’t elaborate on what that meant. Was he a criminal? Did I look like him? He was never sure, but it didn’t matter.

Ever since they’d met, there wasn’t a day they had spent apart, until now. She had been close to breaking it in Hollywood, with an offer of a small part in a film by one of the major studios, when he’d asked her to marry him and convinced her to move to Pine Creek, where he’d grown up. He knew that since she was giving up her acting career to make the move with him, he needed to make up for the kind of lifestyle she had walked away from. He figured that he’d have to either move to more lucrative crimes or go legit and get a great paying job. The former was not possible as she’d agreed to marry him on the condition that he go clean, while the latter was not even worth entertaining- his only skills were breaking and entering, mixing a mean cocktail and car detailing, most times cars he’d acquired in unconventional ways. He had convinced her that faking his death wasn’t really a crime but a chance for a new beginning, a clean slate. His exact words had been “Our only chance at the goodlife, baby.” Continue reading

Bliss

Being true to my 30 day challenge

I am seated, preparing for entry nineteen

The contours of my chair are moulded to me ergonomically

A feature not shared by the too high wooden table

Upon which my arms rest, sleeves rolled up, bare skin cool against its surface

I hear the suckling and quick but barely audible breathing of my baby while he’s nursing

The perfume of his sweet baby-ness lingers

As I pause my typing

A quite stillness falls

My keyboard hushed

Reaching less than arms length, feeling my skin brush against the table’s grains

My hand is warmed by a cup of rooibos tea

Raising it to drink, its earthy, nutty, faintly vanilla scent embraces me

Footsteps across the room, the makeshift studio where my partner paints

The floor creaks against his weight

I imagine the sound I hear is a rag wiping against the coarse canvas

Then the thud of a frame being moved in preparation for the next

I feel the temperature drop

Winter is lingering

A reminder to start the fire for the evening

I anticipate the sound of crackling wood

The scent of red gum that pervades our clothes even when the fire is out

And the last of its embers radiate their heat

My partner gulps his tea and catches my gaze

I tell him what I’m doing, diligently compiling a list of all I hear, smell and taste

He asks “can you smell my earl grey?”

No, the floral notes of bergamot don’t travel well across the room

Or lose to the caramelly sweetness of carob rice cakes

Bite sized portions that lull me into gluttony

I hear the rustle of the packet as I dig around for the last remaining morsels

Followed by the crunch as I bite

The velvety smoothness of the carob melts, aided by the warmth of my tea

My heart recites poetry as I watch my baby, his eyes now closed

I’m content in the moment

Afternoon rolls slowly into evening

 

Write a list that transcends its orderly or numbered format (prompt from this DPchallenge, with list based on things I could smell, hear and taste at the time of writing).

Writer’s Manifesto

Why do I write? That is a question I have asked myself at times when I am busy with any number of obstacles to writing, such as rearranging my desk for the seventeenth time in a week; ‘researching’ ideas before falling into a cyber rabbit hole; going for a walk to get ideas, only to replay conversations long over; or, just plain staring at a blank page, favourite writing pen in hand (no product placement here).

To loosely borrow from Descartes, I write therefore I am. When I write, I am confronted with the question “who am I?” In practicing the craft, I can’t escape: questioning the authenticity in my voice; the struggle between writing what I want and writing what I think I should write; wondering whether I sound smart, funny, interesting. In other words, when I write, I peel away the many layers to reveal myself. My writing practice parallels my life journey. When I give in to it and stop caring what others think, I am at my happiest. It is then that I am receptive to serendipitous offerings; “mistakes” unveil gifts; and, on reading an un-censored piece, I find a depth I hadn’t consciously intended.

Writing makes me feel alive- the act of creation that conquers the destructive force of my inner critic. I write to discover who I am, and I find myself in the characters, scenes, weaknesses, challenges and self-revelations that my writing unveils. And so I repeat, I write, therefore I am. To overcome my obstacles, I will remind myself of that over and over and over again with every stroke of my pen and tap of my keyboard.

 

Write a manifesto, making a forceful case for something (prompt from this DPchallenge, with inspiration from this post on writing a manifesto)

The Accident

They told her she had been admitted 2 months ago, at the start of summer. She wouldn’t have otherwise known, and the climate controlled 21 degrees they maintained in the room, which she found to be too cold, didn’t give away the season that beckoned through the window across from her bed. The nurses recommended that she flip through the pages of the album, intended to trigger her memory. Prodding the cold scrambled egg that lay curdled on the plastic plate that she balanced on her lap, Mel looked at the photos. They did trigger her memory. In fact, they had done so days earlier, but she hadn’t let on. She looked on at the little girl she once was, sitting amongst a class of twenty or so other students, their toothy smiles and eagerness to say “cheese” as the photographer captured their first year at school. There was one with her favourite green corduroy trousers and the purple my little pony t-shirt she wore till the image had long faded, the photo simply showing the lettering. She didn’t smile in that photo nor a lot of the photos in the years that were to follow. Flipping to the back of the album, she pulled out the newspaper clippings, all telling of the day of the accident, which she still didn’t remember. She couldn’t connect what was reported with being her experience. Apparently she’d been crossing the road just outside of Central Station. It was a zebra crossing, so it was her right of way. It was early on a Sunday morning and the car had come careening around the corner, knocked her over and sped on, the driver leaving her for dead. A call had been made for anyone with information to come forward, but no one had, despite the money on offer as reward. Her memory – of everything but the accident, had brought with it the anxieties of her past. For the four days of no memory since coming out of the coma, she’d felt at peace. There was no past, there was no concept of desires she held for the future. She was just absorbed with piecing together who she was. Visitors came and went and had to announce their role in her life – mother, father, sister, neighbour, and colleagues. They left flowers and fruit and lingered longer than she’d have liked, with smiles plastered on their faces, as though the wider they smiled, the more recognisable they’d become. She enjoyed when visiting hours were over. It was then, on the fourth day, once she was alone again, that she peeled the skin of a mandarin left for her on the bedside table. Its sweet scent, and the gentle spritz of its juice landing on her face as she peeled it conjoured an image of a house, with its white washed walls and children playing in the garden, a summer time long ago. She remembered the day, it was hot, her and her friends ran under the sprinkler while marveling at the rainbow they could see through the spray. A voice could be heard calling them in for lunch. It was the woman who’d visited earlier – her mother. She remembered! It was exciting, she wanted to tell someone, anyone, but it was nurse change over time and they had been slow to respond to the call of her buzzer. In the time between the beginnings of her memory returning and the arrival of a nurse, she felt a daunting sense of not wanting to return to the life she’d forgotten. It would be easier, she reasoned, to forget. To forget the remains of what had happened that summer and the years since. It was the chance for a clean slate. When the nurse arrived, asking what the matter was, she’d replied “Oh, nothing, I pressed the buzzer by accident.”

 

Perhaps subconsciously, this has turned into a combination of the last two Daily Post writing challenges.  Initially, I had intended to use 5 nouns as my prompt (money, egg, station, summer, zebra), as per the Ray Bradbury Noun List Twist, but having seen this week’s challenge, somehow the theme of ‘memory’ wove its way into today’s story, although not in memoir form, and not my own memory but that of my main character’s. Nouns were from this random noun generator.