Prompt: Trees


During the sweet frog summer of 1984 things got complicated for me.  I was nine years old and truly, miserably in love.  His name was Geoffrey, my neighbor 3 houses down, and 10 years later he would grow up to a legend of jacking cars, tapping just about every other girl in his class, and being semi-literate and halfway bald.  But, at nine years old, the only thing that mattered was his sweet blue eyes.  I look back now and think about how we almost had it all, true love without any of the trappings of romance or marriage, something pure.  I didn’t deal back then in the trade of racial consciousness, class warfare.  Naw, back then, it was me, Geoff, and a timeless tale of unrequited longing.
My sister and I were swinging around in the backyard tree wearing tees and our oshkosh trousers, lost in the handiwork of our bare hands and wild legs.  She was a mature maple, sitting with a certain airy grace and lengthy limbs near the side of our front yard.  Autumn would shake her leaves down to the annoyance of raking, littering the world with orange and mahoghany.  From my perch, up in the tree, I’d use it to spy on passerbys, the crown of the tree framing me, a silhouette, unnoticeable unless you chose to look up.  Every single person in the block would pass by our tree.  And we’d sit there, munching on apples.  One time, I saw Geoffrey.  His mom was grabbing him by the elbow, dragging him through the street.  He was screaming wordlessly, and his eyes were bottomed out with pain.  He looked at me, and from my perch, I remember falling down.  Big blue eyes.  I wondered then why eyes like those haunted me.

I remembered the crunch of Maple leaves when I saw Geoffrey 10 years later, smoking a cigarette, dark circles under his eyes, hunched over and staring through me, a lump of coal in my throat as I wondered what he would say.

    “Hey, Kid, you want some shit?”  His voice was raspy.
I wanted to say something.  I nodded because I was shy, and us Asianz didn’t talk to whites on the block now.  People had moved out, so we didn’t have to be close together.  Like back then.
He looked at me, as if he was going to say something.
A maple tree shed some leaves.
I understood that frog summer something about families.  They screw you up, and you never get better.
Geoffrey listened to me say yes, and then he couldn’t do it anymore.  He saw me nod, but I think some part of him chose not to listen.
“I always knew you were better than that.”  That’s what I imagine him saying.
But instead, he scrunched up the hood of his sweatshirt, and he loped away, gracefully, like a foreign animal.
I watched him until he grew smaller and smaller in the distance.
Life seems so sweet, from the perch of a tree.


Posts from the Corner Booth

Each of the following is a 5 minute Free Write from The Corner Booth of the Undeniables, hosted by Edren Sumagaysay

PROMPT:  Unusual Vampires

The couch was dingy, and I shifted my weight.  Getting bitten by her was kind of shocking.  It wasn’t your usual ear-nibbling, love nip, yeah-i-want-to-make-out moment — nope, instead it was a disturbing i want to see if you taste like bacon or a ham hock moment.  It’s hard to explain what it felt like to feel her tongue, coarse like a cat, exploring my collarbone.  In that moment, I could feel it happening.  Kind of like a tb shot, and not the kind you get at the doctor’s office, but the kind you get with a triple espresso.  I shot up out of the couch, the ding-dong making a crinkling sound.  I knew it!  I knew it!  She was a fucking vampire, and she had just bitten me.  Of course, the oddest thing was that she suddenly wasn’t there anymore.  She had disappeared.  What was going on?  Vampire ghost?  I was definitely bleeding.  I looked around for a Q-Tip.  Fortunately, there was an extra one on the ground.  I scooped it up and prayed I wouldn’t get an infection.  I worried about the ding-dong packet next to my ear.  It seemed to be making a lot of noise each time.

PROMPT:  Open Wound

It was leaking slowly from the engine block, piling dark and bottomless onto the gravel, seeping down the grate into the ether of the sewer.  I was stranded.  The cars on the highway made distant moaning sounds as they raced by me, separated by a concrete wall.  How long had I been driving?  Had I really crossed a State line?  It seemed only yesterday that he had told me how he had really felt.  “You and I, we’re like buds, really good buds, and sometimes we make out, but we both knew it didn’t mean anything.”  I slammed the hood shut and pounded it with my fist to make sure that both the car and me standing here underneath the street light were real.  It was sick how he could always flip me upside down, and I was definitely turned out.  I sank to my knees and watched as the liquid continued to drip, drip, drip from its mysterious source onto the ground.  I wanted to fix it, to be the kind of independent woman that I always thought I would be when I took shop the first time.  But, you never really grow up to be the kind of person you think you’re gonna’ be when in junior high.  Naw, you just grow up to be a poor, desperate yesterday forgotten on the side of the road.  I walked away from my car, from the sounds of the leakage, pressing my hands to my chest, and to my forehead.  A salute to what we had.

PROMPT:  Trinity

Yeah, I’ll tell you a story:  a ghost, a vampire, and a saint walk into a bar.  The saint says to the vampire, tell me about when you are first bitten.  The ghost says to the vampire, tell me if you’ve ever wanted to have kids.  The vampire says to the saint and the ghost, shut up — i can’t hear myself thinking because of all the ruckus you are making!  Once upon a time, there was a wee little lad that wanted to be a vampire, so he took about 20 vicodin, washed it down with Jim Bean, and then jumped from a building.  When he woke up, he was already a ghost, and he was very sad that he was dead.  He got up to the pearly gates of heaven after about a half century of penance, and being a ghost sucked because grass would always get stuck on his shiny parts whenever he went down into the dirt.  Well, at the pearly gates, he was greeted by a saint, and the saint said — hey i never saw no ghost here before.  The ghost went white as a sheet and said, hey – i want to be a boy.  Well, they argued for a bit, and there was no compromising, so the ghost decided to go down back into the earth as a vampire.  You may wonder if any of this is really possible?  But anything is possible.  So the ghost, now a vampire, realized that when he was a boy he always wanted to be a vampire.  That made him a saint, and being a saint is something that happens when you try really hard to be who you really want to be.  And it happens.

PROMPT:  Nails

Nails, the Butcher said, is a sad, pathetic name for a cat.  The Butcher was immensely fat, like his stogeys, and he had the kind of fat fingers of a man who could wear a ring on each finger and still look like he was royalty.  The Butcher was lecturing his son at the precise moment.  His son was slender, like a fig, or an asparagus wrapped in bacon.  The Butcher thought his son was too slender, and he often brought home giant racks of lamb, giblets of Turkey, and the liver of a moose to feed his slender son.  But now, he realized that his entire family structure was doomed.  Meat was life.  Meat sustained them, payed for the electricity bill, payed for the college fund, paid for happiness.  But now, the meat was going to go to nails.  How unjust could life possibly get?  The Butcher drew his formidable thick eyebrows together, and he roared down at his son, “You and your damn nails don’t belong in my home anymore.  Get out!”  The son looked at him and said, but when I become a carpenter I’m gonna’ need nails.  And then the Butcher knew that his son was not actually his — and the cat meowed plaintively.  The Butcher realized that to save his family he was gonna’ have to kill nails.  He wondered, even though he knew it was wrong, if he should feed Nails to his son.

the first day

first day of the month

first day of the week

first day of ramadan

blessings.  this year is special — i feel it deeply.  my many misgivings about engaging in a spiritual practice which embraces me, and with which i am braced.  despite all the confusions, and all the doubt, i know faith.

it is a step forward to fast this year, as i grow farther away from the specifics that brought me to ramadan — romantic love, which has now matured into its summer hue — not the adult of fall, but no longer the child of spring.

ramadan feeds

it inspires

it perseveres

so much solidarity and anticipation and hunger — i know not how i choose, only that this is my choice and i take responsibility for it.  i am lucky to have friends who fast, and who are my guides into this spiritual awakening.  stay awake, Friends, do not fall asleep — oh rumi, i long to be close to you and drunk with you.

to ramadan

with love


the silent halls of my mind

she’d been wandering so long,

down the silent hallway

her footsteps clicked in minutes

she went right up to the oaken door,

pulling at the handle…

“Are you absolutely, positively 100% sure there are a bunch of words inside?”

“Yes, I know you suffer from writer’s block.  I can’t diagnose exactly what kind of block you’re suffering from.  But, I can certainly try to understand.  It might be a basic fear.  You may simply be incapable of moving past your inhibitions.  Consider your family.  Do they stress you out?  No, don’t answer that.  It was a rhetorical question.  On the other hand,  you are probably not working hard enough.  Just write enough to fill up a page.  Have you tried self-help books?  Or blogging?  You should just work harder.  You may be unwilling to face certain emotions.  This is obviously a deep spiritual quest that I think you need to undertake.  Perhaps it is a lack of faith on your part.  Believing isn’t just a 9 letter word.  Or, and I say this in all seriousness — perhaps your desires have nothing to do with writing, and are about the deep psychological recesses that lead to general dissatisfaction and an inability to create healthy relationships….

…Hmmm….Is this helpful to you at all?”

“No, not really.”

“I see.  I don’t usually like to tell people this, especially those who come to me for help, but there’s really nothing I can do for you.  Why don’t you put on a warm sweater and go ahead and open the door?  Let me know what’s inside when you get back.”




The story goes that there were roughly one hundred and one words waiting for her on the other side.

She was very happy.

When she returns, I will let you know how it ends.

hard-headed old man

i imagine him, spine bent, spindly fingers, eyes poring wildly over a dusty manuscript.  Wild hair.  Spectacles for sure.

He is as bent as the house he is drawing.  Not with crayons, for he grew up earlier than most of the other children.  He has a No. 2 pencil which he sharpens fastidiously, but only on days the tip is so blunt it’s actually swallowed by a would-be shaving.

The old can be powerful when they have not yet extinguished that creative force spilling itself like ink onto all the pages of our history.

The house he builds will definitely be haunted.  I think it’s a bit sad that the house will contain one old man and one old woman.  I want to talk to them and ask about the confines of their relationship.  Why are they still here?  Did their insides look like the house?  Were they in love?

I am afraid I have grown impatient for answers to questions which are not fully formulated.  I cannot spare a thought for the ghosts living in my house.

It grows quiet here.

My fear.  In the corner.  I hear it breathing.

toe shuffler

after revelry and music, a show with a mighty bare-chested singer who proclaimed life to be somewhat celebratory — it turned out to be a dark night after all at california plaza.  a black beret, and a goatee, his eyes sunk deep in his skull.  he materialized out of nowhere and was talking to two nondescript people — they had their backs to me, and i didn’t recognize him.  he looked sensitive, like he had just returned from somewhere important — war, famine, funeral.  are they all the same — can he shake the cloud upon his eyoreness?  yeah, he’s always been an eeyore, this guy, quiet, melancholy, suicidal if you don’t watch him.  but not angry.  just sad.  i slumped down a little in my seat while everybody else rushed forward to say hi to him.  they were offering their congratulations upon a death, but i’m sure they meant to be offering condolences.  i looked at him, he looked at his shoes.  i looked at the water, geysers of light behind him.  i think the corner of his eye caught up to me, but a thousand reasons of common yearning and uncommon pain had piled up between us, and we didn’t acknowledge each other.  he must not have wanted me to smile at him.  i could feel truth in my gut, and nobody wants truth when they’re hurting.  so i stuffed it all back into my box of be.  as a goodbye — instead of waving — i stood up and paced as if to say hey — look at me!  look at me!  — but it wasn’t the time, it wasn’t the moment.

somebody else reached out a hand.  i had already turned around and walked away before checking to see if he took it.

i yam an egg

driving home tonight, the air crisp, my windows cloudy, i felt content yet very alone.  i wanted to want to share my life with somebody.  i had happily yakked with my mom and sister and even my little 2.7 year old nephew on the phone, listening to them yelling about various, familiar, comforting things.  i had a beautiful night with a free ticket to the Ford, where i’ve always wanted to show a play, and under the stars, watching a documentary on addiction and sexuality, listening to 90’s grunge and covers of hole was refreshing, and dare i say it — fun?  it took a while to clear out of the parking lot, and i couldn’t help but think of how today my boss had called me charmed, and i realized that i had helped to clear or close another legal-political victory.  it feels a bit like a run, and i know how much of it depends on my ability to capitalize on the incredible abilities of others.   i am a player putting something together, stringing together hits without thinking about the record-breaking streak, superstitious, paranoid, and suspicous.

i got down past santa monica on highland.  the trees lining the streets were mature and gracious, unobtrusive and soothing, familiar friends.  i am not looking back.  i am running free.

it was one of those unescapable moments.  i knew i was lonely, but i couldn’t think of a friend, a lover, a soul that i really wanted next to me in that moment.  i was scared that i was okay alone.  i was scared that so many moments i find myself not matching up my personal happiness with being alone with my desire to have a family and children of my own.  does that make sense?  i couldn’t help but think that i was like an egg.   you just can’t know by looking at it whether the inside is raw or boiled.

there is something about an egg that is so fragile and yet so strong.

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