Thursday, August 12, 2010

Novel characters

     He stared at the picture of the young woman that lay on his night stand on top of the folder that contained her life history. Since he took on her case a few weeks ago, Daniel couldn’t stop thinking about Celestina. He wondered if she had hopes and dreams before her life came crashing down. He picked up the worn photo. She was pretty in an earthy sort of way. Skin a light mocha. Hair to her shoulders and flipped at the ends. Her attempt to straighten it was not completely successful.
     Daniel sighed. He wished he had known his mother. He thought maybe his mother might have looked like Celestina, still a glimmer of life there before the realities of a child to feed and clothe kicked in. Daniel knew he had to help her, had to make sure her child could grow up with his mother and get the care and education he needed. There was a women’s shelter in Whittier that might be able to help. He had heard good things about it and so had asked Shiori to go talk to the director today to make sure it was ok. Since Shiroi worked over here she could make a visit. The shelter was full at the moment, but he was hopeful with its good reputation that women were being helped quickly. The shelter nearest to Celestina’s home was full and wasn’t the best. He really hoped he could help her get in over here. Daniel thought about his past. Though he was adopted out of a horrible situation by a successful white couple from Connecticut, he still wondered what it would have been like to grow up with his mother.
     He put down the picture and as it touched the side table an image of a girl child jumped into his mind. He had a strange dream last night. It wasn’t until this moment that he remembered dreaming at all. He closed his eyes. What was the dream? He remembered traveling down a dark corridor. There was a light up ahead so he kept going toward it. Suddenly a little girl jumped in front of the light. She looked like a paper doll silhouetted with the light behind her. She was all shadow and he wondered if maybe he was only seeing her shadow on a wall. He kept moving toward her. When he got close, she fell backward. He looked where she fell and saw only an opening in her sillohuette. He remembered thinking how curious that was and started to walk over to the hole. He realized suddenly that he would fall in, so he went around it toward the light. Then he woke up.
     Daniel thought about it for awhile. He felt like there was something he was supposed to do in that dream, and he had somehow missed his chance to do it. He was lucky to have been saved from the life Celestina and her son were living by being adopted by a lawyer and his wife, but in some ways he felt like he missed a lesson of life by not falling into that abyss.
     Shiori rolled over and moaned. She snuggled up behind him wrapping her arm around his waist. “Turn off the light and come back to bed. It’s too early.”
     He turned and rolled himself in next to her. She felt warm and safe. But now that he remembered the dream he found his mind wandering over its meaning. He often had dreams. As a child, he’d had more and scary ones. This one wasn’t scary exactly, but something disturbed him about it. Maybe it’ll make more sense in the morning. He closed his eyes and finally fell back to sleep.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Novel character

     The light shone through the back window onto the ancient linoleum, bringing out the specks of gold forever encased in its pattern. Maddie sat mesmerized by the glitter.
     The dream was so strange and so rich with images that Maddie wished she could paint so she could capture the dream she had last night. The thought of painting made her think of Janine who liked to paint. Maddie still missed her more than she thought she would. Being here without her partner was even harder than she imagined, but she knew this was where she was supposed to be. She just wished she had more time to help with the problems in Santa Isabel in Baha California, Mexico where the women were being murdered. It seemed the same thing was happening there as had happened years ago in Juarez. Her dreams never let her forget them, and last night’s dream was the strangest one yet.
     She was walking in a moonlit field of tall grasses. A wind blew the grass back and forth so that it looked like an ocean in the soft light. She heard the voices of women calling to her. In the distance, a figure stood still as her dress waved around her. The closer she got to the figure the more she realized it was just a little girl. Maddie thought she would be able to make out what she looked like, but the child seemed to remain a shadow. When she got close, the girl swayed back and fell. She just went down and disappeared into a dark hole in the ground. Maddie looked down and saw nothing. She wondered if she should follow. Was there something she needed to see? There was something that seemed to always remain in shadow in her memory. It seemed to have disappeared from her view like the girl in the dream. She had a strange feeling she was connected to that child.
     She had gotten so used to these dreams that she began to realize in the middle of them that she was in a dream. Unfortunately, when she knew it was a dream, she would wake up.
     The full moon, the field that looked like an ocean, the girl that was shadow, the abyss; all such fascinating images. She would have to look at her symbols dictionary later. Right now she had to get going. Another busy day at the center with the Sufi women coming to talk to the women’s group, and the reporter… “Darn it!” She had forgotten about the reporter. She wouldn’t have as much time to do an interview today. Well maybe the visiting Sufis would help make a story for the young reporter. In fact it was perfect. The Sufi women would get exposure and so would the center.


Prose poem for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night #6

Long black hair veils grief as she rests her head next to a still warm hand. The rise and fall of her body matches the old woman’s who lies on the bed. Life moves in and out of this small dark room in the back of a 20’s bungalow. A home that has passed through the hands of many generations.

The younger woman looks up, takes the rough spotted hand, now mostly bone, into her soft manicured one. With her other hand she gently strokes the ancient one. Perhaps she can discover all the stories imprinted there. Years of hard work and endless caresses have left the old woman’s skin dry, translucent. Veins are visible, but stories are memory now and locked deep within both the silent one and the one silenced. Years are released with every breath and for a moment young and old become one. The woman lays her head down upon the still rising chest.

The silence is broken when the door is cracked open. A slant of light eases its way into the darkness and strikes strands of silver woven through black draped over the last moments. Those waiting wonder, hover, but don’t enter into the shared breath.

Darkness and darkness still. Breath then quiet, then breath again. Hands hold onto life a little longer, holding until the last breath is held forever. Breath then quiet. Then quiet, then quiet, then quiet…

©2007 Joanne Elliott

Monday, July 19, 2010

Novel excerpt

     In the distance, a small figure in a long black veil stood next to a tree in the desert. The wind was blowing the veil about, but it never lifted. Maheen started to walk over and felt the wind get stronger with every step she took. As she neared the figure, she realized it was too small to be an adult. Suddenly she stopped. She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. She started to call out to the girl, but before she could say a word the girl raised her finger to her lips then bowed. Maheen just stared. By now the wind was so strong she could feel it trying to throw her off balance. The little girl stood strong and steady.
     Maheen decided she had better get to the shelter of the tree and so started to move again. With her second step forward the little girl disappeared into the ground leaving the veil behind. It fell like a magician’s handkerchief when the dove under it disappears. The veil didn’t blow away, though. It seemed like a puddle on the dry desert ground. Maheen made her way over to it and found she was looking down into an abyss. The wind whistled around her, nudging her closer to the hole. She couldn’t move away from it. She began to sway. Then a huge gust of wind picked her up off her feet and dropped her into…
     Maheen jerked awake. She felt her heart racing and adrenalin shrieking through her system. What was that? It was one of the strangest dreams she had ever had and she didn’t remember having many. Something about it made her skin crawl and brought up thoughts of her childhood in Iran. She hadn’t thought about it in a long time. In fact, she was nine when her mother took her and left Iran, she hadn’t thought about it again, until now.
     When she felt her heart beat return to some state near to normal she threw the covers off and sat up. She was dizzy. “That was a real shaker upper,” she told the fish on the other side of the room. She looked at them still drifting in their sleep. She wondered if they dreamed and if so, about what.
     Today was going to be a busy day. She grabbed her watch off the side table. She was already getting a late start. She looked over at the alarm clock. It was blinking. Apparently the power went out last night which is why the alarm didn’t go off. One of these days she’d remember to get a battery for the backup.
     She got up and headed straight to the bathroom, no time for her usual cup of coffee. She needed to be out the door in five minutes to get over to the center and come back with the Sufis before their talk at the woman’s shelter. They were scheduled to speak at ten a.m. so it was going to be some kind of miracle if she could get over there in rush hour and back again by ten.
     She flicked on the radio as she pulled out the toothpaste.
     “…construction on the five is still on hold. Funds are still not available since the collapse of the bond market last spring. Continue to take alternate route. The 10 is backed up due to an overturned rig. It will likely be backed up for a couple of hours. There is no cleanup crew available. And…
     Maheen switched off the radio. “Damn it! I guess it’ll be surface streets part of the way. Better just rinse and go.”
     She threw her t-shirt on the floor and jumped in the shower, not waiting for the water to get hot. Ice cold water pelter her small frame. She swore through her chattering teeth and hopped around while pouring body wash over her goose-bumped skin. She wished she believed guardian angels. One would certainly come in handy today.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Excerpt from the Novel my current Work In Progress

     Screams echoed from inside the slanted shack. She felt frozen in place. It was like the shrieks were bouncing off the inside of her skull. Rosa finally made herself take a deep breath and felt her body start to thaw. She took a tentative step toward the broken window. She was sure she didn’t want to see what was inside, but found that now that she was moving she couldn’t stop. It was dark inside and the piteous cries became faint as she drew closer. The window looked as if someone had punched a hole through it. She touched the broken glass and an image of her father, angry at she knew not what, flashed. A memory from when she was a very small child – of him punching a window.
     Suddenly someone inside ran past the window. It was a small figure. She heard the person running toward the back. Rosa ran around to the back door and saw that it was a little girl with dark hair. She was running away from the shack.
     “Wait!” Where are you going?”
     The little girl stopped and turned around. She was quite far away now and Rosa couldn’t make out what she was saying. She seemed to be motioning for Rosa to follow. Rosa moved toward the girl, but could not seem to get any closer. The girl laughed and then fell backwards and simply vanished. Rosa ran faster and nearly ran over the edge of a hole in the ground. Where the hell did that come from? She looked down into the blackness, and then looked up into the blue sky. A loud crash jolted her. The sky shook and then she woke up. She sat bolt upright trying to make out if the crash was in her dream or coming from upstairs.
     The woman upstairs was screaming for her boyfriend to get out. Then a door slammed.
     Rosa quickly got out of bed. She didn’t know what to do. A part of her wanted to help June, but another part of her felt like a helpless child. How could she help anyone when she was having a hard time helping herself heal from her own abusive past?
     The meeting with her father had not gone well. She told herself she would keep her cool, but she didn’t. She let him push all her buttons and she left slamming the door before much could be said. Her mother came running after her, but Rosa just ignored her. They would never believe her side of the story and they would never forgive her. After Rosa spoke up, her family was never truly welcome at that church again. The endless abyss in her dream felt like her past and how she skirted around its edges, never wanting to delve into the pain.
     Today she had planned to go to a women’s support group at the local shelter. Last night she talked herself out of it, but after hearing the craziness upstairs and then that strange dream, she thought maybe she would go after all. She would be sure to bring back some literature for June.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Meet the next character from the novel

     Brighid lay in bed watching a fly crawl in and out of shadow on the ceiling. What did that dream mean? She got up, pulled her robe off the bed and wrapped herself in it. It was a little cool this morning, again, though three months ago she wouldn’t have thought so. She must have become acclimated. She picked up her notebook and then sat to write down the dream.
     It started with that rainy day on the pier. She saw the old woman with the huge black-and-white checked bag again, only this time the old woman was shrinking as she sang, “merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” Soon the old woman was a little girl who kept getting smaller and then suddenly stopped shrinking. The child put the black-and-white checked shopping bag in front of her and climbed in. She simply disappeared inside the bag. Brighid went over to the bag and looked in. It was a big, bottomless pit. For a moment she felt like she would fall into it like Alice down the rabbit hole. Then she woke up.
     The rising sun glowed golden behind the curtains now. Brighid put down her journal, got up and stretched. She went over to the window and pulled the curtains aside. It was a beautiful day. She’d make sure she got outside for lunch today.
     She walked into the kitchen and flipped on the light. For a moment the black-and-white checkered floor made her feel nauseous. It started to reach up around her, as if it was becoming a huge checkered bag like the one in her dream. She jumped back into the hallway, shook her head, and closed her eyes. Then she opened them again and looked at the floor. It was just a floor. She tentatively stepped back in. Still just a floor. She felt silly, like she was a kid again. Her overactive imagination caused her great stress as a child. For weeks after seeing Alice in Wonderland she imagined all sorts of fearful things.
     The last couple of days had been like living in Wonderland. First that homeless woman on the pier singing that children’s rhyme about rowing your boat and life being like a dream, then the little girl who ran up to her and handed her a four leaf clover, and now this dream. Maybe she was working too hard. Why had she had added another project to the list? She knew why. Seeing the old woman at the beach had given her an idea to write about homeless women. She wanted to know how they ended up on the street and how they were different from homeless men. It would be the article that would finally get the editor’s attention. This kind of article was what Randy had always encouraged her to write. Her eyes started to water at the thought of him. She took a deep breath. Not now. There was no time to go down that road today.
     This was the day she was going to visit the local women’s shelter, Sophia House. She remembered her mother once talking about having been in a shelter of some kind in her early years in Ireland. The look in her mother’s eyes when speaking about it, which was almost never, disturbed Brighid. She wondered what these places were really like. What could they do to help women in dire circumstances? Brighid wished she knew why her mother ended up in one, but her mother refused to give any details about it.
     As she went to turn on the coffee maker, the clock was blinking. The power must have gone off again. When she first got here it would go off at peak times, but lately it was going off overnight. This place was turning into a third world country. That was another story she wanted to write. First, she needed to have her say about homeless women.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Portrait of an East Coast Smokestack

This poem was inspired by a piece of creative non-fiction by Nick Belardes called "Take What You Can" The term 'East Coast smokestack' is his. You can find it here.

Her life wafts before her
in an aroma of Pall Mall
No clean coal BS for this

Eyes squinting
she heaves in the smoke
full force
puff after puff
a locomotive she keeps chugging
flicks ashes like opinions
never asks for a smoke
her silver case
always lined with white
keeps the chain going.

East coast accent
rasps over the rattle and hum
beyond closed windows
reels off tales about the days
or what that old fart Joe
used to say.
while her hand hovers
over his face
painted on ceramic
the tray a gift her kid made
in art class ages ago.

She knocks ashes to ashes
as the room fills
smoke rising like Spirit
to the ceiling.

Yellowed fingers shaking
she brings the shortened stick
back up to her lips
draws one last puff
closes her blue-lidded eyes
blows smoke
then crushes the butt
into his face.

©2010 Joanne Elliott

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Excerpt from the Novel my current Work In Progress

     Illumined by the eerie glow of a full moon, Michael’s breath rose up towards the forest canopy. The cool, damp air left his skin feeling wet. Something brushed the back of his neck sending a chill through him that radiated to every nerve. He quickly turned to the left and saw a crow fly up to a tall pine, to a sentry position. Michael took a deep breath and started to walk on the path lit by the moon. He couldn’t quite see the bright lunar disk behind the trees, but its light broke through and guided him.
     The bushes to his right rustled. He stopped. A small figure ran ahead behind the trees.
     “Wait! Who are you? Where am I?” Michael started to run after the figure.
     The only response was a giggle. He glimpsed the silhouette of a little girl.
     He ran to her. When he was nearly upon her, he saw only her shadow. “Where are you?”
     “Everywhere,” the small voice echoed from all around him.
     Michael was about to step on the elusive shadow when it vanished. It didn’t move away. It was just gone.
     Suddenly he didn’t feel very well. The forest seemed to be reaching towards him. The crow started to caw raucously and swooped down. Michael ducked and then started to run. He ran and ran, stumbling on the uneven ground and gnarled roots as he went. There seemed to be no end to the woods. His lungs soon burned with every breath he took. Where was he?
     Just as he was about to give up, he found an opening in the trees. He ran out of the forest with the crow still just behind him. He kept running until he came to the edge of a cliff. Its sharp edge abruptly fell away into darkness. He nearly lost his balance as he gazed down into the blackness. He turned his head. The crow was still coming. It seemed huge now, as if it had grown large enough to grab him. Michael looked back down into the abyss. It felt like he should jump and at that moment he realized he was in a dream.
     He jumped.
     As he fell and fell he wondered if he would ever land. If he did, would he die in the waking world if he died here? Then his arms started to tingle. They felt so light and as he lifted them he heard the swoosh of feathers so he started to flap his arms. His fall slowed. His arms were now wings. He pumped them and started to move upward. He was no longer falling but flying.
     With a few flaps of his wings he rose out of the abyss and turned back towards the stand of ancient pines. From above they looked peaceful, like silent Druids robed in silvery moonlight. He flew to the highest tree and landed. The crow that was chasing him now circled above. He flew up to it and then realized, just as he woke up, that he was a crow, too.
     On his back in bed, Michael stared at the ceiling. Though sweat ran down his temples, he smiled to himself. Switching on a lamp, he eagerly sat up and grabbed his dream journal from the bedside table. He finally had his first lucid dream – and what a dream it was.
     For the first time in months he felt he was coming back to life. Spending nearly six months nursing his dying father back in Nova Scotia had taken a greater toll on him than he realized. When he moved to California he had hoped he would feel like composing again. It had been months since he moved and so far nothing. But now he felt something shift. Becoming the crow in the dream and flying out of the darkness was a good sign. Maybe his muse had returned.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Writing at Penn Park

The wind blows towards us
rustling brown leaves on green grass.

Voices of Spanish bridesmaids
coo like mourning doves

mingle on winter breezes
with the caw of crows.

Balls bounce in the distance
while tiny flies rest by my words.

Thread like legs trace circles on yellow.
Wings turned prism in sunshine

expand between blue inked musings
sparkle like frost glazed windows.

Sun pierced wings suddenly flutter
fly off like thoughts

that barely touch the page.

©2007 Joanne Elliott