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?

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. . . .

 

 

 

 

Sunday’s Child

IMG_8464It is winter, and the language exchange in the Home Depot parking lot continues. We talk about Trump’s politics, the Spring-like weather that has arrived for our class time (though there will be rain the rest of the week), what we had for dinner, what we did on Sunday.

Ariel wants to practice the seasons in English. We learn them and drill on them for a half an hour, mixing these new words with days of the week, months, colors, and questions to make sure he remembers the words. He does.

It is the Monday of midterms and the guys ask, “When will your English-speaking students join us?” I reply, “No puedo adviniar.” (I am not able to guess, predict, divine the answer to this.) And, this is one of the things I love about acquiring a new language.

Before knowing this verb in Spanish, I would utter only: “I don’t know.”

I go on quizzing: “Verano?” “Yes, summer.” “Azul? Okay, blue.” “Invierno?” “Right, winter.” “Viernes?” “Yes, Friday.”

I think about how I was born on Sunday, in the US, in California, in the desert;  I know these are forces that have shaped the happiness and fortune in my life. I say the “Monday’s Child” rhyme out, in English in nearly the same singing way I offered “Roses are red” in a Valentine’s Day lesson.

Monday’s child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go,

Friday’s child is loving and giving,

Saturday’s child works hard for a living,

But the child who is born on the Sabbath day

Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

“Monday’s Child” is a fortune-telling song to predict a child’s character based on the day of the week of her birth. In addition to the day of the week, humans look for astrology, numerology, graphology, palmistry, tarot, crystal balls, runes, tea leaves, ouija boards, pendulums, scrying mirrors, even a magic 8 ball to lend us wisdom into the universe, to help us know more than we do, to divine.

  • What prophets, soothsayers, clairvoyants, seers, or oracles might inform your story?

The world is composed of stories…

OLS Writers' Conference 2018 Flyer

The writers’ conference is coming soon!

Even sooner, we are seeking submissions through the end of February for the literary journal. Submissions can be posted online at: https://cosumnesriverjournal.submittable.com/submit

And, my online Creative Writing students are blogging at:

No Day

911 quote

On the way to Poland for winter break, M and I spent a couple of days touring New York City. One of the places we visited was the hallowed ground of the 9/11 memorial. It is a startling amphitheater of  deep sorrow,  a mausoleum for the 2,977 lost, a monument of remembrance for  the survivors–and the rest of us. It is horror amplified to sensory overload with the sounds of sirens and phone calls and news and the photographs of people frozen in disbelief, dumbstruck, confused, terrified.

There is an urgent seriousness buzzing through the halls, as if the tragedy hovers over us–and it does. I did not know how heavy the news of this particular morning (this vast crime) wears within me. Wandering through the exhibits, the heaviness inflates again with sorrow, and I am almost bursting with the deeply personal stories of the people.

Today is the birthday of a handful of victims whose names are marked with a white rose and whose stories play in a dark room, as a vigil of sorts, with friends telling the stories of their loved ones, how brilliantly they lived, how tremendous the loss.

How tremendous the loss. “No day shall erase you,” I am reminded at my discomfort. “No day shall erase you,” I promise to the void.

“No day shall erase you,” reminds the adamant woman who survived the terrorist attacks in 1993 and again in 2001 by climbing down the stairs, these same stairs where she reports to work each morning as a docent bound to share her story and the stories of those who cannot.

*

I am headed to Poland, and people keep asking me which Polish writers I like. And, I stall, wondering if I have categorized writers by country. I have not. I report that I know I love anything by Wislawa Szymborska. I think of her poem “Hatred” and how relevant it is now–and probably forever. I research other Polish writers and pull out pieces that might accompany blog posts.

*

I am searching now for other poets’ takes on 9/11. And, the first piece I find comes up Symborska. An audio poem with no companion text, it does not prepare me. It does not prepare me:  Photograph from September 11.

*

No day.

  • White roses, stories, monuments, museums, poems, and more combat erasure. What must we remember?

 

[More on Virgil’s quote.]

Even

 

“Even when folks are hitting you over the head, you can’t stop marching. Even when they’re turning the hoses on you, you can’t stop.” – -Barack Obama

Even though your voice is tired from preaching to the choir and anyone with ears and a heart, even though the plodding makes you ache, even when (perhaps especially when) it makes you afraid, even if you must crawl, you must. Even though some days you believe humans are incapable of goodness, of anything more than greed; though you doubt the point of this life or that any hope or light can guide us through darkness, you must march onward, bear witness, rage with all of your might.

Yesterday in poetry class we discussed how last week I speculated that all poems are love poems, but today I insist all poems are political poems. We realize this is not a “but” but an “and,” that these two approaches are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they are complementary. We discuss Leroy V. Quintana’s “Poem for U-Haul,” from the anthology Poetry Like Bread. (https://www.amazon.com/Poetry-Like-Bread-Martin-Espada/dp/1880684748/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517383267&sr=8-1&keywords=poetry+like+bread). The poem is a four-line masterpiece that shows how a simple and awful domestic scene can inspire reaction and even action. One of the students says sometimes the act of finally loving oneself is a political one.

Hours later, I am still excited about the conversation from class, about the imperative for writing to be “like bread” instead of  as “like cake”–or “caviar,” of the power of words to express love and show us the way to justice.

According to The Guardian, “Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer, whose novels and stories record and define apartheid, argues that a writer’s highest calling is to bear witness to the evils of conflict and injustice.”

  • Write a love poem on the evils of conflict and injustice.

 

One Sock Almost Always Demands Its Pair

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I tell the friendly woman at the laundry that a pair of some other woman’s underwear (or interior clothing) made it into my bag. She says sometimes they are small and hide in the dryer. I agree that they are indeed small.
She laughsand offers the trivia that it is rare for people to return in search of panties, but one sock almost always demands its pair. Neither do people seem to notice the lost washcloth.I
I am grateful for insider information such as this. Of course, I don’t know its immediate application to my life and travels, but I am grateful that I can engage in this sort of small talk with someone who’s smiling and interested in my interest in her domain.
I’m off to the tailor in the market to try out new words.
I can’t help but recall the warning of WS Merwin in his short prose poem “Language,” from: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/language
Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again, and we will never forget them. We need them. Like the back of the picture. Like our marrow, and the color in our veins. We shine the lantern of our sleep on them, to make sure, and there they are, trembling already for the day of witness. They will be buried with us, and rise with the rest.
  • Which words will you be buried with? Why?