Verseday 2-20-2019

A belated Valentine’s verse.

She is small, but fiercely sensual. Enjoy.

 

Amorous

 

Mirror me the methods of seduction

from centuries long past

The age of human desire, shifts and sways

yet it’s lustful stripes remain unchanged.

What words stole breath,

What visceral aches prevaded?

How did Romulus lay the captive Sabine lover?

How Andromeda on rocky outcrop chained?

How beckon come hither, Aphrodite? With such plentiful bounty?

To set the trap,

What sweet bait

Ensnared the lover to tumultuous beast

What hook begat line,

Sinking knees, penitent, to ground.

Tender tongues and trembling thighs

Shiver of universal pulse,

How does the mere mortal set tap to your celestial vein?

By what rounded needle do we spread the skin?

And draw out the life of love incarnate?

Book Review: “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used by Bullies”

 

If I could tell you one thing that I know to be true it’s this: Words are power.

Words have weight.

Words matter.

What we say to others will shape not only their perceptions of themselves, but also their perception of us and the world at large.

 

The old adage of sticks and stones breaking bones but words as ineffectual, is dangerously incorrect. Physical wounds heal over. But harsh words, implanted on the heart and brain of a young, impressionable human last and can shape the way a person’s brain is formed.

 

As a parent and mentor I can tell my kids in countless ways and repeatedly why others sling these arrows and try to reason with them that the hatred and hurt is a result of the bully’s own feelings of inadequacy. But it does little to sooth the pain.

 

In the higher stakes of a social-media driven society, words are slung at a faster pace, with a farther reach then we ever had to deal with as kids. Farther than the playground, and in more permanent ways that have lasting and sometimes deadly consequences.

 

So how do we change these verbal arrows from something potentially life-altering, into something that can offer hope and let the victims of bullying take back their power in the situation?

In Dean K. Miller’s latest poetry anthology, “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used By Bullies” he utilizes acrostic language to change the most common words used by bullies into more positive, life affirmations.

The time he spent analyzing these words and what they could be changed to is evident and Miller offers us a bright light in an otherwise dark topic.

As he says:

“Through the use of acrostic poetry, my goal is to reshape the words used by bullies into positive pictures, thereby creating new lists of a thousand words that spark upbeat feelings, inspire positive self images, and defuse the stress associated with bullying words.”

 

In “Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself”, Miller takes the worst and most cutting words and breaks them down into ideas that can, hopefully, offer an alternative way for victims to think about the word. Like taking a tarnished penny and turning it over to reveal the untouched copper shine, this poetry anthology gives victims of bullying a tool to reshape the negative words into positive ideas.

 

If you’re familiar with Mr. Miller’s work, I don’t need to gush about his poetic prowess (though I could if you had a few hours). If this is your first time hearing of him, I urge you to check out his work. Miller is a master at crafting poetry that resonates and paints images in your mind.

 

If you are a teacher or in another profession that holds responsibility over the health and wellness of our kiddos I highly recommend you check this book out.

 

You can even contact me and I’ll offer it through The Beautiful Stuff at a discounted rate.

 

Here’s the link on Amazon:

 

“Before Understanding Life, Love Yourself: 101 Acrostic Poems Reshaping Words Used by Bullies

 

Also, I highly recommend that you read some of his other work:

 

Dean K. Miller Poetry on Amazon

He does excellent work and programs for Veterans with the use of poetry and the outdoors as therapeutic methods.

 

 

 

 

How Dark; How Frightening

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” 
― Elie Wiesel

 

 

I’m back after a short hiatus.

I could bore you all day with the details of how much mucous I’ve been producing, and how little sleep this incessant cough has left me. The sinus pain, like a vice grip against my cheeks and teeth. How little the pills, and vapors, and natural cures have cured.

But there’s something darker that reared its head last week as result of this bug.

I’ve suffered a lot of mental hiccups. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and all the twisted coping mechanisms that come with them, have been the monsters in my closet for a while now. But something else slunk out, ironically, in the midst of my attempts to get well.

Apathy.

I’m not talking about your general and passing lack of fucks to give.

I can’t explain to you how frightening it was to feel nothing. To have no care. Ordinarily, this might be a good thing for me, a way to let go, if you will, of the petulant details and relax for once. But this kind of apathy left me in a strange state. I wasn’t hungry, and didn’t eat. I stopped caring that I wasn’t sleeping. I fell into a lull wherein the idea of quitting my job, retreating from friends and relationships, and even throwing myself in front of a truck didn’t seem like such a big deal.

I just didn’t care. I felt so utterly numb that I didn’t recognize being in my own body or  the life that surrounded.

And it scared the shit out of my rational self, who sat locked in a store room in the back of my brain during this apathy’s hostile takeover.

It was like having my mind overtaken by The Nothing. You remember, don’t you? The Nothing?The Nothing2

Maybe, if you’re into more modern day SCIFI/FANTASY you could say it was like the Alliance Conspiracy on the planet Miranda. Nothingness. A utter and complete lack of care.

Miranda

 

What made this feeling worse than other things I’ve felt, was its lack of any dramatic or shocking arrival. It was only a calm letting go of everything–so easily laid over me that it seemed nothing ever really mattered to begin with.

Worse than black. All was gray.

Then I stopped taking the little clear pill that was supposed to suppress my cough. And the gray receded, like a wave pulling back from the shore. Just enough, that I remembered to take out the trash. That I felt hungry enough to eat something. That I cared enough to engage in my children’s lives again, and get the mail.

It took me a while to understand what had happened. That a combination of lack of sleep and fighting a virus, and the pressures of life, my hairbreadth distance from depression, and that little suppressive pill were like a team of anti-heros that kidnapped me for a few days.

I started to wonder if maybe the things that drive us to fight so hard (or even cough), even when its a stupid and pointless battle (and sometimes pops your hernia out or makes you pee yourself), shouldn’t be suppressed.

Because maybe the instinct that makes us react to even small things is a switch that could turn off our fight for and against the big things.

I don’t know where you are in your life, in your creative process, in your flu season. But I wanted to offer you a few key things I learned in hopes they can help you fight off any oncoming Nothingness in your own world.

1.) Stay grounded. With something, anything, that is important and true in your life. Maybe your family, or your job, or your art. Maybe it’s something as simple as your breath. Just keep yourself tethered to that one true thing. So you don’t lose sight of all true things.

2.) Know your body. I get a little head heavy on this blog, and that’s ok, but remember that our brains are organs too and when the body is out of balance and we’re throwing weights on either side of the scale, willy-nilly, things can get out of whack really fast. Listen to your body. It’s okay to be tired, its okay to rest. But it’s not okay to be consciously asleep with indifference.

3.) If you suffer from a mental illness, you should probably make sure your doctor knows before they prescribe you anything, even a simple expectorant. I’m not sure if my reaction was common, or just a fluke, but I’d hate to think what could have happened in a more severe scenario.

4.) Be better than me. When you feel this, if you feel this…please reach out to someone, hug on your babies, go to coffee with that friend, reconnect even when you don’t see the point. That little rational slice of brain locked in the cleaning closet will recognize it, cling to it, and hopefully use it to pick the lock.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Heavy stuff. Leave your comments, questions, experiences below. I look forward to talking to you again…soon. And I mean that.

VerseDay 1-24-19

Before you immerse yourself in this succulent little slice of verbiage, take a moment to remember that I’m still calling for submissions to the poetry anthology and look forward to featuring your work here on my website. IT’S FREE PEOPLE…and you get all the feel-good bragging rights of being ‘published’. So consider and send me your stuff.

 

Okay, proceed to the Verse…

 

 

Puzzle

If I could stand in those empty fields once more.

The sun and wind bearing down,

Driving back the faint of heart.

If I could catch the notes of sage on the back of my tongue,

And the distant blue horizon

Far and stretching for eons

The time of endless days, turned eye-blinks.

If I could walk those creaky halls, and the comfort of shadow

The patterns of wood and love

If I could smell the dust of my bedroom, hear the closet door creak,

Lean against kitchen countertops, where the coffee pot left

Traces of brown on the laminate.

If I could just go back.

To that time

To that girl.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

The places before broken lines were drawn.

And piece the puzzle back together.

Maybe in this place, the dirt that grew beneath my fingernails,

The dust that scattered through my hair

The sweet sunshine that painted my cheeks in freckles

And the smell of an innocent child who belonged to the wild.

If I could just run those tracks, single and winding through empty fields,

On the squeaky tires, of the most faithful steed,

Who’s cracked seat pinched tender thighs, if ever the thought to sit occurred.

If I could spend the day on an adventure,

I could find the greatest one yet.

The one that tells the story,

Of a girl who was fearless

A girl who loved the wind and the sun

And the freedom beneath her was a fair gale to wings

Of a girl who wouldn’t give up.

Not ever.

Of a girl who persisted and

Stayed wild.

Maybe I could find the pattern of me,

Before the broken lines were drawn,

And piece the puzzle of myself together again.

Soul Food

 

Sometimes opportunity knocks on the door…sometimes it knocks the door down.

 

Gentle readers, this week I’ve been filling my life up with a few new opportunities though time is sparse and energy is waning.

 

Times like these often make me question my ever-lovin’ sanity.

 

I know that we’re all busy. I know that we’re all overworked, and underpaid, and hanging on to the ledge by our fingernails. But sometimes…

 

Sometimes a light breaks out of the storm clouds above you and shines on a seemingly small and inconsequential moment. Everything else around it falls away… And you just know that this is something worth exploring.

 

This, a diamond in the rough.

 

When that kind of light shines in your life, the reason you tend to drop everything else is that what you’re looking at isn’t just an opportunity; it’s something more.

It’s food for your soul. In a world where we’ve been starving our spirit for lack of genuine sustenance, these moments and opportunities strike a stark contrast.

And we have to re-learn what we so often forget; that the soul will not be dissuaded.

Despite that fact, sometimes we fight the idea. We shy away. It’s too brilliant, it’s too bright; it could burn us or illuminate all of our own shortcomings. It will be too much work and presents a slippery a slope.

It could be our downfall.

It’s the sun and we, Icarus.

T’was ambition that killed Caesar… and all that jazz.

 

 

But what if this light is something so much bigger than you and your human fears of failure? And what if it’s not just an opportunity for you but for a better world, a small piece at a time? What if it’s a hand to someone who’s been too long forgotten. What if this dangerous journey, hard-pressed and gritty, means more than just your own happiness?

What if it’s a chance to use your voice to change the world?

 

Well then, you chase that light. You open that goddamn door.

 

You don’t hesitate, you don’t reconsider. You fling it open and feed your soul.

 

Times in this country are pretty fucking dark. I’m not even kidding, ya’ll.

We’re spiraling down the bowl of a very large toilet. Hate, hurt, injustice, anger, suicide, depression, gloom…it’s all a shadowy mass, constantly pressing in.

I’m asking…nay, tell you—chase the light. Find a way to be of some use…not for the perpetuation of hate and hurt but for the healing of our country, our world, and our place in history.

How do you want your grandchildren…your great grandchildren to remember your actions in this time? Will they remember your hatred? Will they look back to see disgusting and disrespectful behavior towards your fellow human beings?

 

If that’s your idea of legacy, you can go kick rocks, kid…I don’t want your kind in my playground.

 

It is no longer enough to sit idly by and just do no harm. It is time to actively participate in doing good. In lifting the downtrodden, and striking out against those who keep us all underfoot.

 

So go out there, find your brilliant light, your opportunity to make a difference, and throw yourself into the fire of it. Feed your soul.

VerseDay 1-17-19

 

Klutz

Today I stumbled

Head long.

Tumbled over the errant thought, that came from nowhere,

Like a toe caught on the lip of concrete,

Stopping my heart while the Earth’s momentum continued.

I crashed,

Scraped both knees,

Bloody and torn

 

In love with you.

 

I raised tattered palms

The shock of surviving

Such pain

Embarrassment,

Stupidity.

I looked up to see who’d noticed.

But the world carried on,

Oblivious to my fall.

And me, staggering to rise,

Unable to take any of it back.

Left with these scars.

Can I Get a Prompt?

Pssst….

Hey there kid, want to do something different?

Well, if you read this blog I’m willing to bet that part of your time is spent on creative endeavors of some kind. And I thought it might be a good time to remind you about improvisation exercises as a healthy and fun part of your writing routine.

Whether you are a novelist, a poet, a technical writer, historical non-fiction guru or children’s phenom, everyone’s creativity waxes and wanes with the progression of our career and lives. It is, therefore, important that we spend some time practicing in different ways to jog the old idea factory into an efficient, work-producing machine.

This particular exercise is about improvising (on the fly you might say) with one sentence prompts. You may have had to do this at conferences or class and present your material after the allotted time. As an introvert it might have be akin to a claustrophobic getting stuck in the kiddie tube slide at the park (Breath, Sarah…breath…just keep squirming.)

So, in defense of all of those out there not wanting to share their words yet but in need of something that boosts their creativity, I’m going to give you some pointers on prompts and let you go to proverbial town on them.

The important things to remember with these kinds of exercises are:

  1. DO NOT (repeated it after me) DO NOT, censor yourself or edit. Let yourself run with the idea, no matter how stupid or silly.
  2. Stay true to the character you’re given to work with or the situation, this is not about what you’d do, it’s about what they do. And they’re crazy bastards. So let their freak flag fly.
  3. The funnier the better. The sadder the better. The more horrific, the better. Improvisation should be a lot of things but none of those is BORING. Make it snappy, or if it must be reserved, do it to build tension for a whiz bang ending.
  4. Emotion is important. The only time to pause in writing for a prompt is to ask yourself, what’s the most intense thing this person feels in this moment and how does that look on the outside. How do I make my reader jump into the character’s skin and feel that intensity?
  5. Challenge yourself with prompts that may not seem interesting or your ‘type’ of writing. You will surprise yourself at what comes out from behind those locked doors.

 

I’m going to give you three prompts. I could give you a length requirement, but we’re not middle schoolers here (though my humor sometimes digresses to such a level). Get dark, get dirty, get freaky, get sweet. Make it something that shocks you. Share it in the comments if you want to or in a private message to me.

At the end of this article I’ll link some really amazing references for doing more of these kinds of exercises on your own. If you are gripping your computer screen, shouting at me with spittle flying, that you “DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME!!” calm your tits…this will take five minutes tops. You can do it while you wait at the doctor’s office for your appointment for excessive salivation. You can do it in the car while you wait for your kids to get out of school. You can do it over your first cup of coffee…

Think of it as the second-most-fun form of “quickie” you get in life.

(Come on…I warned you about the seventh-grade humor, don’t look shocked.)

Ok…. Here’s your prompts. Pick one, or two, or make it a trifecta. In a perfect world, quickies are not limited. (And, yes, I mean that in all the ways)

  1. A rancher comes across a mutilated cow in her field, and all of the organs have been replaced by…
  2. A man is dared by his friends to ask the next woman who walks through the bar’s door to marry him. The next woman who walks through the door is…
  3. A child finds an ordinary rock on the playground that begins to make his wishes, big and small, come true. He brings it home and his mom finds it in the wash and puts it in her pocket without thinking…

 

Go play.

Here’s some books you should read or apps (for you tech savvy geniuses) you can download to help bring a little fun and playfulness to your art.

 

“A Writer’s Book of Days” by Judy Reeves

“Pocket Muse” (1 and 2) by Monica Wood

“The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice” Kelli Russell Agodon

Apps:

Prompts for Writing

The Brainstormer

WordPallette

 

 

Writer vs. Idioms

 

Biting the Dust and Chewing the Fat: A Word About Idioms

 

My daughter is learning about idioms in school. With new eyes on them, these expressions and figures of speech can range from all-out ridiculous to so over used that we barely notice them. Keep your eyes open, I’m about to idiom all over this place.

 

The conversation with my daughter got the ball rolling in my head, thinking about the idioms that pepper my own work. Writing coaches and how-to books tell you constantly to watch out for these little story killers, and with good reason. They dull your dialogues. They’re cliche, they’re drab, and boring and are the written word equivalent to a speaker saying ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Idioms are skipped over by the reader’s eye because they are so common as fixtures of language and culture. In other words, they’re time and space wasters.

bath-splashing-ducks-joy-162587.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, I don’t want to steal someone’s thunder or throw the baby out with the bathwater because sometimes idioms can be useful. Occasionally a specific phrase used in dialogue can denote or solidify where your character comes from or give us insight into their personality.

 

Saying ‘that dog won’t hunt’ or that someone ‘doesn’t know shit from Shinola’ (oh, and ‘please excuse my French’) are phrases one expects from a certain region or even generation. But unless it is something your character is at home saying, or that paints them in more vibrant colors to the reader, avoid them like the plague. After all, do we really need to swing a cat in a room to see if it’s big enough to do so?

 

It’s hard to cull the herd of idioms in our language; to make our work more precise and original, but it is part of fighting the good fight. When editing, ask yourself if the line has a double meaning. Ask if it’s the best possible way to say what you mean. If it’s an obvious idiom, what could you use instead? Does it contribute to the scene and charm of the moment, or distract from it?

 

So don’t beat around the bush or cry over spilt milk. When the ball is in your court and you’re back to the drawing board, remember; although idioms can be a cloud with a rare silver lining, it is always better to hit the nail on the head and kick overused phrases to the curb.

 

Now, if I can get the use of the Oxford comma right and stop double spacing after periods, I may just level the playing field.

 

If it’s not one thing…it’s another.

 

What are some of your common (or favorite) over-used expressions?

 

VerseDay 1-3-19

Happy VerseDay, the first of the 2019.

While you’re making all of those resolutions, resolve to send me some of your poetry, essay or flash fiction to be featured on The Beautiful Stuff. Just use the contact button on my WordPress site, or e-mail me your brilliant stuff at sereichert@comcast.net

Enjoy!

 

Don’t lose your direction, nomadic heart.

Look to the needle swaying

In the depths of blood and bone

Old soul encased.

 

Waylaid by the plans of men and monsters

Fears and agitations,

False desires and hollows.

 

Don’t lose your direction, traveler.

Your feet alone touch dust and rock

Trails of world and earth,

Don’t let them plot the miles you go,

Before you rest.

 

Do not waver into their squall.

 

Do not falter, drifter.

Remember what your feet are for

The strength of legs, unbuckling

Remember, you…heart.

The pulse of your rhythm.

 

Find it.

Cling to it.

Let it draw your map,

Let it lead you.

 

You know you.

You know the truth of your existence.

Though they’ve taught you to fear it.

Though they’ve convinced you to deny it.

To question it.

To distrust the very core of your happiness.

 

Do not let them take your journey.

Do not let them own your path.

 

Be the master of your fate,

The commander of your soul.

 

Do not falter.

Do not falter.

Seek the astrolabe inscribed on your heart

The Heavenly body.

The incline of space.

That can’t be measured by the methods of any other man.

You made no promise to tread on their pristine track.

Their paved and acceptable roads are not your obligation.

You owe nothing but to your soul.

Only you can pay the debt of your happiness.

Here’s To The Old

Good afternoon ladies and gents.

I hope that you all find yourselves well and recuperating from a holiday season that seemed more like a mac truck hitting us than a season of joy and light. But now we’re past all of the wrapping paper, and crowds, and tortuous replaying of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, and on to bigger and brighter things. Right?

That’s what the New Year is all about? Starting over, becoming a better, new and improved version of you? Everyone say it in your heads… “New Year, New Me!”

Let the marketing campaign wash over you in brain-addling waves.

Well…I’m not here to crush your dreams, or dissuade you from improving yourself. I don’t want to take the proverbial wind from your sails in the early stages of the month, but I do want to remind you about last year…and the year before that, and the one before that as well…

You know what I’m talking about.

The years where you went in, guns blazing to become the ideal human, clean of diet, kind, financially responsible, organized, and positive to a fault.

Don’t look away, you know you promised those things.

I’m not here to judge or berate your failure…quite the opposite actually.

I’m here to let you know that the old you is a fucking amazing individual.

S/he isn’t perfect, sure. Who is? But think, for a moment, what you’ve survived this far. The battle wounds, the trials, the breaks and heart aches, the falls and doubts. The beautiful human failing that’s left you with regrets and scars.

Why in the hell would you want to change that warrior? That warrior has seen some horrible shit and lived to tell the story. That warrior’s roots run Earth-deep. Don’t discount the strength of who you already are, in this moment.

You want to lose a few pounds or not blow your paycheck at Target? Fine by me…great goals…but don’t look to change the beautiful beast you are. Look to change your perspective on your own imperfection.

Wanting to be healthier is good, but I’m asking you instead of drinking lemon-juice laced vinegar three meals a day, to try taking care of the warrior. Good food, (things that build us up and make us stronger, not limit us or feed on weird ideas of food guilt), exercise (to keep us strong, flexible, and energized), more sleep (put your goddamn phone down at bedtime, lovey). All of these things are important to keep that warrior ready for the next battles they’re sure to face in the coming year.

So stop telling lies to yourself, stop trying to fit your old, battle-scarred body into the cute little New Me box. Don’t be a New Me. Be the impeccable Old You…just aim for a slightly better version…one that eats a salad once in a while instead of a bag of Cheetos. One that goes to bed before ten instead of playing an extra hour of video games. One that forgoes the hard runs once or twice a week to pay homage to the beautiful abilities and flexibilities of the human body in other ways.

Hell, walk to the post box instead of driving.

You don’t have to pin a board of ideas on how to change yourself to be ‘better’. You don’t have to change you. Just tweak some of the things that aren’t good for you.

Good luck out there, you old battle axe. Go find a salad…and a bag of Cheetos (for later).