BULLETHOLES

Happy Thanksgiving America! This is my first attempt at a 50-word story. Let me know what you think. 🙂

 

I had brought a knife to a gunfight. He had all these bullets, written out in points on his pad of paper, which pierced my heart till the blood flowed like water down a stream. Yet my “I love you” had hit him hilt-first, and bounced harmlessly to the floor.

——

 

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THE ADVENTURES OF A ROCK

I was sitting under a tree, in a line of rocks that had been formed up to hold the barrier between the two yards. A couple of us had shaken loose, too excited to get going—though to the onlookers it simply appeared that the dog had dug some out, or that the birds had knocked us over, but we all knew the go-getters when we saw them. Those excited few that would dart out in front of the pack to get ahead in life.

Unfortunately, as we became domesticated, we realized we didn’t have a few months to get across the lawn anymore. Someone would undoubtedly trip over us on their way up the walk, and we would be set back at our starting line. But thousands of years experience helps break into the deeper wells of knowledge waiting for those who listen. Come the next rainfall, I talked to a few droplets on their way back to the sea, and asked them to send a cloud to bring me with them. That’s something you can’t do with sprinkler drops—they’re much too young to remember your message on the long journey home. But a rainfall, they’ve been around a while. For some of them, it might even be their last trip back.

It took a year, but the clouds came by in force. They pelted the ground until it was beyond damp, and the slick shells on our backsides started to roll. One rock, afraid of the sudden change, held his ground, but the rest cracked off of him and continued on their way. We rolled into the street, and the thick streams of water pulled us, ever so slowly, into the sewers. The fattest of us couldn’t fit to join us, and of those who made it, some of the stupid ones sunk to the bottom, thinking this life would be much better that whatever was to come, but I washed out with the rest of them.

It was a short few months to the beach. I was soaked to the core when the sunshine hit me, but the salt air was refreshing nonetheless—even to a lung-less being like myself. I was the first one out. I rolled down into a trench that flowed into the base of the waves. The waters rushed over me, splashing up into the air as they came into contact. These waves were calm, friendly, and had a song in their voice. They pulled me the last few feet to land in the clear waters. I sank down onto the sand and looked around. There were a few fish, listing about as fish do in the current. A school even came over to say hello, but before long they grew bored and moved away.

The current took me deeper, and deeper, until the light faded away. I saw bigger fish, whales, and even some unspeakable thing. Had I not been a rock, I had no doubt I would have been quite scared. They took me deeper, until the cool became cold, and the cold became freezing; and then, strangely enough, the freezing became a boiling vent of air, and I found what I was looking for: an underground volcano, with waves of lava—my brethren unborn and reborn again. I sauntered up to them to say hello, and their one collective voice echoed back their response. It was like listening to a choir, if a choir could sound so much like home. I nestled myself into the side of the volcano, listening to them, and dozed off into a much needed slumber.

——

 

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DREAMS OF VISIONS IN FIRE

Recently, I had a dream about fire. It was well past midnight, but I had grown cold beneath my cloak in the woods, so I decided to build up the fire again. The cinders in the fire pit were nearly out, but because I was quick about getting the kindling I managed to relight it before it went out entirely. I sat there, waiting for the flames to grow as they gnawed hungrily at the wood. When they were finally big enough, I pulled back my gloves and bared my fingers against the heat. It was soothing, like closing the door inside a toasty home on the night with heavy rains.

The longer I sat by the fire, the longer I stared into it. It was beautiful. It snapped back and forth to an unheard tune, like a lost dancer looking for its partner. Eventually, the body of heat morphed into a vision of a reality far, far away. It was a ballroom, with its own massive hearth, filled with elegant dancers, all dressed in matching red outfits. The fire snapped again, and suddenly I was looking at the cosmos, full of dancing red stars—each moving in a disjointed pattern. There was no rhythm to it, yet it somehow look completely expectable.

The fire snapped again and I was back home. Not the house I lived in, back in the village ten miles east, but home. The long expanse, across a thousand miles, through rivers and over mountains. A home I had never seen, yet had always known was mine. And looking back out at me, from inside my home, was a beautiful woman. I somehow knew she was my wife, though I had never been married, and in her arms was a small baby crying with a voice that I couldn’t hear. She looked at me, and smiled. I put my arm out to reach for her, but as I did the fire snapped at my wrist, and the images burned away.

 

That’s where the dream stopped. I can’t really explain it. The red outfits I think pretty clearly mean passion in some form or another. The cosmos make little sense to me, but the rhythm between them seems to me to mean possibly something like “the universe is exactly where it means to be right now.” The woman could mean my own desires, though I don’t know who she is. In my dream, my being seemed to have an idea of who she was—like we had met previously, or would know each other when we met.

Or, it is equally possible that, after watching Howl’s Moving Castle and finishing the third Game of Thrones book, where visions in fire are a prevalent aspect, my subconscious simply had the mystical properties of fire in mind, and felt like playing out its own vision therein. I don’t know. What do you think? Do you have any cool/strange/incredible dreams like this that you can remember? Let me know!

Oh! And make sure you have a safe Halloween! 😉

 

 

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CAR TALK

“Do you ever look at the wolves and wonder how they got those shaggy gray coats?” I said to my friend as we looked out the car window. There was a pair of wolves pacing by not three hundred feet away.

“Do you ever wonder if you could shut the fuck up?” He took another huff from the piece and passed it back to me. We had been sitting in the smoky haze of the car for a good hour, blazing out of our minds. I took the piece and the lighter in hand, fumbling to get it going. When I finally did, I inhaled deeply. The smoke filled my lungs. I held it there for a minute, like a dragon holding fire in its chest, before exhaling. The world was already growing fuzzy around the edges—possibly from the fatigue. I had been up all day, out in the sun.

“But really,” I coughed out, “look at how those two walk together. They’ve probably known each other their whole life.”

“Yeah, I’ve known you my whole life, what’s your point?”

“Well just that, like, they seem to walk without worrying. We never get to do that. Even here, if some police came knocking on our windows, we’d be in a bit of a mess.”

“Shut the fuck up, you’re gonna ruin my high,” he said, then followed up with laughter, “do you think maybe they snuck away from their pack to do drugs, like us?”

“What, like they see some mushroom out with the pack earlier in the day, then double back to go eat them and howl at the moon at night?” I grinned back at him, “More likely they’re a couple teens sneaking off for a romp in the woods.”

He turned to look at me with mock seriousness on his face. “Wolves are always in the woods. How can they sneak off?”

“That’s fair. Alright, so maybe that was mistress wolf, and she’s stolen away at midnight to go cheat on her husband.”

“Was it a boy and a girl? I didn’t get a good look at them before they disappeared” He asked, looking back out at the trees in the vain hopes that he might be able to catch a glimpse.

“I dunno dude, I’m just making conversation.” I said, shrugging.

“How come you and conversation never leave me alone while I’m enjoying my drugs?” He quickly reclined his chair and closed his eyes. He meant it as a joke, but I took the point that we should take a pause. It was getting quite late, and he was just as tired as I was, if not more.

We sat in the silence for a few minutes, listening to the world outside and wobbling in our seats, until eventually he rocked himself back to an upright position, and started the car. He pulled away, and we drove home in silence.

——

 

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WAVES ON A PAGE

My return to literature was like a sailor

returning to the salt air after a decade ashore.

 

The thin clatter of books from bookshelves

were like oars clattering into a paddle boat.

The small creak of hardback covers sounded

like wooden planks curling beneath my feet.

 

It wasn’t long before I’d raised sails,

and made my way into the first waves

on a broad, shining sea of letters.

 

After a few bumpy chapters,

the waves came rocking,

building, like a crescendo,

until each page was its own torrent

of water and hellfire crashing;

battering and beating the boat

 

and I was there screaming along,

mad with the thrill of the ride.

 

Until finally the pages shut,

the seas grew quiet,

and I found myself drifting along

waiting patiently for another storm.

——

 

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WORDS AND IRONWORKS

I wasn’t born to be a poet.

With a name like “Smith,” one is only fit

to work over a hot fire with iron and steel,

and yet somehow the words chiseled their way

into the forge of my life.

 

The sound of my pen spattering paper

rung out like an imagined hammer,

shaping the letters of Apollo

into a work more spectacular

than those creations I’d made for Vulcan.

 

For though the glint of the ironworks

could be heard throughout the village,

it was the letters sung between drinks

that filled it with happiness

and when the time came for another pair of sons

to be whisked away on bloodied spikes

the solace of words meant more to the mothers

than the stained return of mail

to be buried with the bodies.

——

 

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LOOKING FOR WORDS

I started out searching in regular places:

under the coffee table, between seat cushions;

I could always find a couple handy ones

hiding between the pages of the dictionary,

 

but like a pair of lost keys, the first few places

often yield unsatisfactory results—particularly

when one is in a crazed rush to find them. Then,

under the pressures to get going, I will begin looking

 

in stranger places—like underneath the sink,

inside the empty spaces of an egg carton, and

even within the frozen depths an ice tray,

like fossils hidden in the arctic that are needed

to complete the evolutionary chain

 

that is the last poem I need for my book.

But then it will happen, in a sinking sigh of relief,

that I will spot them sticking out on the counter

beneath that morning’s newspaper,

which sports a headline that always seems to read

that the world is coming to an end.
And now that the words have suddenly

put me in motion, I can’t help feeling silly

that I didn’t spot them lying there sooner.

——

 

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CRITIQUING BILLY COLLINS

So, I just got back from USC this past weekend after my month at the USC/LARB publishing workshop, which was an absolutely amazing experience. The people at the Los Angeles Review of Books are all extremely outgoing and kind. They clearly care about the value that every publisher brings to the table—we heard from smaller presses like Angel City Press and Tia Chucha, as well as massive corporations like Netflix and Amazon, and all the magazines, authors, and so on in between.

It was this constant dedication to diversity that made me wish to discuss the work of Billy Collins today briefly. Specifically, I wanted to talk about the poems in The Rain in Portugal, since I just finished it and it is fresh in my mind still. I should preface this with A) that I have not read all his work—in fact this is the only collection of his work that I have read, so take what I say with a grain of salt and B) that I really enjoyed his work. Like it was some of the most inspiring, thought provoking poetry I have ever read.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about the issue I have with the collection. The issue I have found is that, in many cases, Collins provides only a male-centeric narrative to his poems. Under the Stars, Cosmology, and A Day in May (also titled “May Day”) I think illustrate this issue the best. Under the Stars portrays a person, who is most likely a man, pissing under the stars. While the overall message is to find tranquility in the most unusual of areas, the emphasis on fraternity creates a sort of in-group versus out-group mentality, where the reader may feel alienated if they lack a penis.

Similarly, Cosmology paints the image of the world resting on a variety of unusual pictures (the infinite backs of turtles, for example). Collins decides that placing the world on the back of Keith Richards, holding a bottle of Jack Daniels and smoking a Marlboro cigarettes is the ideal place to rest the world. Of course, this is meant to create humor, but the decision continues to uplift the male narratives. Which isn’t necessarily bad, until Collins begins to represent women to the contrary.

In Collins work, women often become objects. A poem is personified as a woman, for example. And truthfully, it is extremely romantic and lovely to read. But it also can be one-dimensional. One example of this is in A Day in May, in which Collins highlights a girl telling him “have a nice day.” In his brief commentary afterwards, he mentions this statement as being “an irritant” because the girl could not possibly know how good the day was already. Yet to describe her as an irritant seems unfair. She was simple a cashier doing her job, and being polite about it at that. This representation presents women as “lesser” people. Which I think is on the border of cruel.

Anyways, that’s just my opinion. I still adore his poetry—I just ordered a couple more of his collections. But I still think that we can do better—or at least should be aware of the problems that exist even at the highest branches of poetic form. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

 

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TALKIN’ ‘BOUT POETRY

So I made a friend recently (whoa! so hard to imagine, right?) in my time at USC, which isn’t to say that I know them super well, but I really wanted to talk about an interesting conversation we had the other day. They shared with me some of their poetry (like ten poems), and I got to read through it. it was super cool (sorry I can’t show you all, but it’s not mine to reveal).

But I did want to recount the awesome parts. Which aren’t really…well, aren’t really the actual words that matter. I mean, obviously the words of a poem matter, they’re what make a poem poetry…but that isn’t what was important to what we were talking about—it was the discussion. Which is not only where a poem sits in the history of poetry, but also how it affects and influences the reader. For example, I’ll use an aspect of my poem yesterday (because what kind of self-centered author would I be if I didn’t refer to my own work?):

 

“as I hang there suspended, swinging

in the breeze on a nice, thick rope

 

like back in Florida, above the water,

while my father roared with laughter”

 

So those lines, are the last two and first two lines of two different stanzas, and I like to think that they create a nice contrast in perspective. The first two lines, from the end of the first stanza, create the image of a body swinging from a rope…which, lets be honest, sounds like a suicide or a hanging. The break makes the reader pause, and allows (ideally) the brain to process it. Then, the latter two lines contrast the darkness of those lines with the nostalgic image of falling into the water, with a father laughing in the background. This creates a dialogue in the readers head, which I think everyone reacts to differently. Is the narrator actually suicidal, and reflecting how their life went? Are they happy, and just being cynical? Are we just misreading them? Hard to say.

Anywho, I just wanted to pause some questions, because I think poetry reading is one of the most interesting things there is. Let me know your thoughts!

——

 

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TEN THOUSAND WORDS

In ten pictures, I’ve seen ten thousand words,

Yet in ten words, I’ve found ten thousand more.

 

‘Course they wouldn’t tell you of that magic,

Not anymore, not nowadays. Not when

We hunger, feed, thirst, and drink for vision.

Not when we are pacified by color.

Not when we are made ravenous by lust.

By the need to see, rather than to know.

By the need to have, rather than to hold.

By that carnal, burning desire to win,

‘Ther than admit defeat for the greater good.

 

But I can show you a world divine,

Where true lovers rest, and heroes reside.

Where the wars are fought for nobility,

And the wind’s pass us by much more slowly.

A world with some truth, and pain, and lies,

And a world where good men go to die.

But a world more real than on TV

Hides within those pages for you and me.

 

Those ten thousand words can last a lifetime

While pictures fade as memories decline.

——

 

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