Painting with Water

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At the beginning of summer, I traveled to China: Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai. At the Summer Palace in Beijing, I watched this man calligraph with water, painting logograms onto the sidewalk. In the warm afternoon air, his words evaporated before our eyes.

Regardless of our comprehension of what the images represent, we were a rapt audience.

The creative writing students are blogging again this semester. And, we need you to help us expand our understanding of audience. Please follow these bloggers, like them, and tell your friends about Cosumnes River College’s diligent and creative writers.

  • CRCMindImages.wordpress.com
  • ThePlayList2018.wordpress.com
  • LettersFromSacramento.wordpress.com
  • GoSeeDoWrite.wordpress.com

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  • You Go to School to Learn
    By Thomas Lux
    You go to school to learn to
    read and add, to someday
    make some money. It—money—makes
    sense: you need
    a better tractor, an addition
    to the gameroom, you prefer
    to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
    There’s no other way to get the goods
    you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
    working—for it.
    It’s sensible and, therefore, you go
    to school to learn (and the teacher,
    having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
    to get it. Fine. But:
    you’re taught away from poetry
    or, say, dancing (That’s nice, dear,
    but there’s no dough in it
    ). No poem
    ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It’s true,
    and so, every morning—it’s still dark!—
    you see them, the children, like angels
    being marched off to execution,
    or banks. Their bodies luminous
    in headlights. Going to school.

Where do you go to learn? What are you really being taught?

Little Prayers

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The streets are nearly empty, but the sound of the game hovers over the city, blaring over the playground with children squealing, flinching, cheering in unison; roaring from shop windows, whispering from cell phones for circles of people as if assembled for a campfire. Even the strays seem to listen for the score will ArrrArrrArrrrooooo as the Mexicans protract Goooool as an opera singer stretches a note. I am rooting for Mexico, for the joy of the whole city, for the pride of a nation.

There is an electric jubilation in the streets that makes the hair on my arms stand at attention. We all have goosebumps for the potential.

Another Oaxaca politician has been murdered. The newspaper reports the 150 bullets fired into the truck, the other casualties. The body is unabashedly published in black and white.

The people at the cafe watch the game on the iPad cash register. The Irish bar above the cafe waves the Mexican flag today. The patrons chant and cringe and watch together, eschewing real problems.

I wonder how many people are praying for a win. I wonder whether this is the right thing to pray for. Even more, I wonder if it will work.

When something makes me nervous or upset, like having an unexpected argument, I switch my mind to other things. The music on the radio, the breeze blowing through the windows, how delicious cinnamon is in savory dishes. This is how I cope with the tension in the air.

Even the gum sellers wear patriotic green. The baristas take the news of a point scored by the opposing team as they practice pouting expressions and milk to form designs on top, filming the process.

How long is this game?

I can’t take the groans from the Irish pub. I can’t bear the dismay of the baristas, I escape the cafe, but even Constantino, the man who sells rugs, is certain it’s already over.

Part of me knows that a sport should not mean so much. Part of me knows the value of metaphors and charms.

What happens when my lucky jersey doesn’t bring a win—when prayers aren’t answered?

Beard

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Spanish pronunciation is, unlike English, predictable. A “bird” in English often is pronounced “beard” by a person who speaks Spanish. The “I” makes the sound of a long “E.” Thus, “pitch” comes across as “peach.” I could go on…

While pronunciation is predictable, most of the rest of being in Oaxaca is not.

At the intercambio at the Oaxaca Lending Library one recent Saturday, I was reminded of how important understanding cultural norms is.  I was sitting with Rubi, Paulina, Eduardo, and Iris.

Iris is from China; she speaks Mandarin fluently and is a new Spanish speaker. She knows no English and was not interested in the English portion of the language exchange, so she was only with us for an hour. The Spanish speakers (who want to learn English because, to them, it seems everyone in the world speaks English (or Spanish) could not fathom that Iris (a nickname) does not know English.

Iris could not believe that I, a Caucasian American, speak another language. (We were already breaking down stereotypes!) Iris is a calligrapher by trade and showed us some of her beautiful images. She tried to translate them by breaking down the words into pictures and telling us what the pictures meant and how they came together. (It reminded me of the Hawaiian language.)

As we chatted, our Spanish focused on the basics: food, family, and fun. These are always good (and usually safe) places to start.

Iris explained that she is an only child, and, as a female, feels fortunate to be alive. The Oaxacans were neither familiar with China’s one-child policy nor the preference for males, and they wanted to know what the Chinese would do if the family has a farm and needs helpers.

Iris emphasized, “One child.” She asked how many siblings we have. I have a sister, so does Paulina. Rubi has two brothers and a sister.

Eduardo is in the middle of twelve children.

Iris was astounded, and another hour of Spanish elapsed too quickly.

  • What can you learn about another culture’s food, family, and fun that might inspire an entire story?

 

Brown

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http://www.cc.com/video-clips/qpq2hr/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-kevin-young—highlighting-the-joy-and-pain-of-the-black-experience-in–brown-

Trevor Noah, on The Daily Show, closed out National Poetry Month with an interview with Kevin Young. Young described the inspirations for his new book Brown.

From James Brown to John Brown to Linda Brown (and Brown v. Board of Education), Young explains how this collection draws on history and current events.

I can’t help but think of Michael Brown and all of the brutality that has historically accompanied the color brown. It also makes me think of the brutality of pink.

My friend has breast cancer and hates pink: the twisted satin tint, the toothache-sweet shade, even the rosé ribbons furling each sunrise. She loathes peonies, camellias, the blushing magnolia in her neighbor’s pristine yard.

My friend insists the cruel incongruity of cotton candy color saturation is mockery.

  • Don’t just describe the pink morning sunrise; show us the precise shade. Then, tell us about the charcoal chrome shadows of the trees and the lavish lavender clouds punctuating the sky.

Maybelline-Color-Tattoo-Concentrated-Crayon-swatch

My Poetry students have InstagramCRCPoets

Why do bees hum?

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from https://www.pinterest.com/source/facebook.com/

because they don’t know the words.

 

  • Turn today’s writing over to the universe. Visit: http://random-ize.com/ This site offers:
    • a list randomizer (which might be good for making a poem)
    • a list picker (in case you can’t name your baby or pick a number)
    • random English words (such as finespun, sveltest, sternly and untanned)
    • and as many random jokes as you can stand

 

Girl,

girls in swimming

Girls in Swimming Costume, by Sonia Delaunay – Orphic Cubism – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/21040323235207482/ (More on Orphism at: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-orphism.htm)

no one will complain about your massive ass, your wilting tits, the rolls of skin bulging under the pressure of your elastic costume.

Forget your meaty elbows.

Focus on the interaction of color and crowd. You’ll soon understand that geometric  designs, even contrasting ones, can be as moving as sunlight in mid-winter.  Like a tropical Lycra swimsuit, your shape is stunningly loud, gorgeously enormous.

Girl, who told you you ought to feel naked and awkward and ashamed for your display on the pool’s deck? And how dare they?

Inhale the perfume of heavy afternoon, the scents of chlorine and jasmine and cut grass promising a lazy summer.

Girl, you’re all that.

Strut the pool deck’s catwalk.

 

  • Write an ekphrastic prose piece to start a story.  According to the PoetryFoundation (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/ekphrasis): An ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. A notable example is “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” in which the poet John Keats speculates on the identity of the lovers who appear to dance and play music, simultaneously frozen in time and in perpetual motion:

    What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
    What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
    What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

    Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
    Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
    Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
    Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
    Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
    Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
    Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
    Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
    For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

    Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
    Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
    And, happy melodist, unwearied,
    For ever piping songs for ever new. . . .

 

 

 

 

I Have Jesus’s Rookie Card

IMG_7786.JPGThe question and answer session was conducted in Polish by an impossibly young priest.

The quiz was not for us; we were only tourists watching the show (and surreptitiously taking photos of the exchange). But we were still nervous.

  • The last time you attended church was?
  • The reason you are giving your donation to the church is?
  • The eldest child is not present this evening; is she part of a parish in her college’s town?

We nearly cheered when we realized we had the answers.

Even we understood the contribution will support improvements to the windows in the church, even we could describe how cold the sanctuary is, how the inside, in winter, is nearly as cold as the outside, how, despite all of the kneeling and rising, parishioners need parkas and gloves.

Even we had noticed, from the jam-packed back of the holiday crowd the Sunday before, the skinny altar boys wore puffy jackets beneath their ample robes.

The family presented the clergy “man” with cash, cake, and delight for his visit.

In turn, he offered us a blessing in the form of something that reminded us of a Topps trading card for Jesus.

***

This week in Creative Writing, the students are developing a dossier for a character.

Like a rookie card, the dossier showcases the protagonist’s strengths, statistics, and trivia.

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