Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bits of String

Sometimes there are simply things I don't want to forget. I try to remember to write them down, but I've never been consistent with keeping a journal. For one of my courses this quarter I'm required to keep a writing journal. We'll see how it goes; it seems fitting to me that of all my writing classes in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, a multi-genre course on writing spiritual autobiography would be the first to place heavy requirement on consistent writing. Much like this blog, my journal will not be emotionally driven. Instead, it will be a log of concrete details, unique metaphors, and clever dialogue to later draw from for whatever cohesive pieces I work on. Simply put, my journal should eventually be full of ideas I don't want to forget.

I made a quick list on Monday that featured as many things I could remember from my recent visit to Vancouver, B.C. Having failed to keep much of a record during the week, I did what I could to keep from forgetting. Fortunately, there are hundreds of pictures to help me remember at least for a time. I managed to keep a more detailed list of events from my trip to Jackson, Mississippi last year. Upon my return from the South, I was talking with my boss at the Writing Center, and she asked me about the trip. After I related a fair overview of my crash-course on race relations, white priviledge, white flight, predatory lending, and so on, she asked me if I had written about any of it.

"No I haven't really gotten a chance to," I replied. "I've just got a list of events written in my journal."

She gave me a quizzical look and responded, "Isn't that writing about it?"

The journal can be a powerful tool not only for writers but for all people who actively engage their experiences. Writing about something doesn't mean it needs to be a proofed and published authority on anything. I know I remember things better if I write them down. That seems to go without question, but what I mean is that even if I don't look back at what I've written, I still remember better. Admittedly, the more detailed journal entries are, the more effective they will be later on, but I think there is something to be said for short-hand and bulleted lists when reflecting on an experience. Like bits of string tied around your finger. Or a mnemonic device.

I wrote a poem that explores the power of forgetfulness a while ago called "I have nothing memorized." Although it takes a fictionally romantic turn, it remains a testament to my unstable short-term memory. This poem, along with four others have made it to the final round of consideration for publication in this year's Jeopardy Magazine, Western's campus-wide literary annual. As I understand it, the final round of consideration determines whether pieces will appear in the actual physical publication or on the new web-zine at Final decisions and respective publication should occur before the end of May.

For now, here is a prose piece that was not picked up by Jeopardy. I closely modeled it after a piece by Gretel Ehrlich as an assignment last quarter.

A Strike at the Heels
after Gretel Ehrlich's "A Match to the Heart"

Twisted in two. I am doubled down the middle. My guts splinter and spiral, suspended in the vacuum of my abdominal cavity. Something switches and the ground begins to pitch. I am walking on open water. My palms slip against each other’s sea-salt sweat. There are no voices. Only echoes. I cannot tell where soliloquy ends, so how do I decide where conversation begins? I feel anxious of future events I have invented in my head. The world is unstable. The room is spinning, sinking, turning over on its end. I lash my mind to anything right side up, but the twine is almost gone.


A single breath stirs words that churn my brain. What light. What space. What cluttered silence.


Another breath and words reawaken me from dumb vacuity. A tincture to calm the waves inside my tempest chest. I can’t tell if I’m speaking. My lips open to release flocks of butterflies chased by felines that arrest only the muscle bed of my mouth. Another breath and I have run out of my reserves.


Music slants the gaps between exhaling. They are the words I’d always meant to say, I just never knew the notes to write. I lean against the music staff to catch a breath of what is left. It steadies me, gives me rest.


My heart is punctured, and I am smitten.

1 comment:

kristi said...

dave. i like reading your stuff a lot.