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. http://tinyurl.com/27jo5bg


Her life wafts before her
in an aroma of Pall Mall
unfiltered.
No clean coal BS for this
dyed-blonde-leather-skinned-permanently-pursed-lipped
smokestack.

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.
Hacks/laughs
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