Tag Archives: prompts

always more possible like this

list photo 051314At last night’s Write Whole meeting, I invited the gathered writers to create two lists, one titled, “This is what my body knew,” and the other titled “This is what my body didn’t know.”

Over there to the left is what my list looked like.

And down here below is what I wrote (all the way at the bottom is what it sounded like):

You do not teach a body this thing, the ability to uncouple itself from its own awareness, the capacity to wrench apart from knowing like a rusty bolt tears away from a wall, following the pull of gravity. This ability can only be discovered. He puts her beside him on an afternoon bed and he has already insisted that she shape her teenage mouth around words that look like Yes.

This is the spoken sentence you would diagram the next day in class: Yes, we can go upstairs.

This is the underlying meaning you would tease out in your essay: Yes, you can remove my clothes and make my body respond to your actions.

This is the meaning so deeply encoded in the sentence, so clogged and clotted in the throat, so wholly without meaning, that any analysis of the spoken sentence would miss it altogether: No, don’t touch me. No, I hate you. No, please leave me alone. I let you do this yesterday why won’t you leave me alone? If I let you do it today you’ll stop bothering me. No I don’t want to No I don’t want to No I want you to die –

These words bubble in the throat and under the skin          these words become the wings of small tree birds caught in a windstorm          these unspoken sentences clog around the throat          tear up through the brain          lift off the top of the head          rise up to the ceiling          these words escape from their locked dungeon          these words make themselves palpable          they latch their claws into consciousness and pull hard as they fly          they rend the singularity he expects her to pretend she is made of          but as soon as he ignores her shaking her head or her tensed muscles or held-together thighs or flailing arms or whispered no or shouted no or wept no or invisible no          she splinters          she erupts into at least two selves          the belly of her sinks deep into midbrain          dives into the holy darkness          goes supernova          explodes          she is lit with new terrain          she was always more possible like this          she lies fingers down beneath fragments of his body          she peels him apart to discover what pieces of his strata still hold the words she was forced to say          where in his nebulae does her unwilling yes still appear?          where in the dust of his destruction exists the shapes of her pretense?          she is not the only animal with the capacity for unsolvability          when he reached into the pockets of his being and pulled out the self that was willing to bend her backward into unselfness, how could he be anything but an empty star, a dead planet, a rock floating          dense and heavy           at the center of her universe? What light left his eyes when he put his fingers in her mouth? What consciousness willingly takes itself apart, hangs its soul on a hook, so its catatonic body can go wilding? What warmth does his body gain my wringing no out of her tongue and painting that good muscle false yellow with yes?

She erupts nuclear beneath his malevolence          she becomes the unreckonable force          no and yes are forever intertwined in the explosion          there is no distance her innumerable consciousness cannot contain now           he will never be able to hold her again

the responsibility of the writer to say yes

Monday was our first meeting of this spring’s Write Whole: Survivors Write group. For the second of our writes that night, I offered a series of three sentences/fragments — the idea is to choose one (or let one choose you), and let your writing flow in response. Here were the prompts:

When was the last time I told my story?
It is the responsibility of the writer to…
I don’t want to write about…

I used the second of those for my own writing; that fragment was inspired by Grace Paley’s poem “Responsibility.” Here’s what I wrote:

It is the responsibility of the writer to tell it like it is, to tell truths that make no sense, to make poetry out of contradiction, to find the laughter in what cut us to the bone. It is the responsibility of the writer to name the bone and the knife, to put a name to every finger and give the voice of the blood released, it is the responsibility of the writer to talk in metaphor and juxtaposition, to define the bumblebee curl for the masses, to tell about what lies beneath the pretty stones and responsible stories of our history. It is the responsibility of the writer to turn up the stones, to peel back the painted-over walls, to unlock the closets, to look beneath the bed, to translate the unwritten rules, to describe how silence feels when it gets wrapped around you at night, to ask “what happened then?” It’s the responsibility of the writer to follow her own words, to write what wants to be written — even if it’s not what someone else wants her to write: family or community or lovers or friends or comrades in the struggle: what happens if she lets no one dictate the direction of her pen?

It is the responsibility of the writer to wander and imagine, to daydream and fictionalize, to hold open uninterrupted hours with his dictionary, to make up words and re-visualize details. It is the responsibility of the writer to go deeper, to play dress-up, to go everywhere someone tells them they’re not supposed to go. It is the responsibility of the writer to contradict their own truths, to find a third way, to evangelize and desecrate. It is the responsibility of the writer to tell their own story, and then tell the story underneath that story, and then create poems for the story beneath that — to take all day trying to find just the right way to describe that particular blue, the quiet and specific blue of his eyes or his shirt or the sky on the day, on the first day or the third day or the last.

It is the responsibility of the community to give the writers the space and resources to accomplish this wild and peculiar labor; it is the responsibility of the community to offer bread and notebooks and money, to — well, if not always welcome these words, then at least to welcome their spirit. It is the responsibility of the writer to say yes to their improbable creative vision, to grab hold of its great black mane, and give over to this earthly ride. It’s the responsibility of the writer to feed herself — words and water and protein, all manner of nourishment. It is the responsibility of the writer to deviate from sanity, but to keep hold of a lifeline back into the mind that is her right. It is the responsibility of the writer to sing with brown sparrows and canaries, to climb fences with squirrels, to prowl the night with alley cats, to circle hot and high with hawks, to run roughshod over city streets, to bring asphalt-stained memory to the page and offer that terrible, necessary song out to her world.

Poem for a Friday – “if it’s not a secret”

My hands are covered with dirt, and my laptop is dusted with flour. These are good signs, I think.

A poem I love for this second Friday of WriOursWhoMo. Consider using that last line as a prompt…

Bodyweight
-Matthew Schwartz

My crutches felt heavier than I was.
They landed with a thick thud on the blacktop
each time I took a step. I had to watch how I walked

so I didn’t fall, like the other kids expected.
I liked to leave my crutches half-buried
behind the sandbox, where I couldn’t see them,

and creep up the uneven monkey bars
arced like the upper half of a globe.
I wanted to see the whole playground.

The rungs crowded too close together,
and none of them was shaped the same.
I lifted my feet slowly to keep my braces quiet

against the metal. At the top, I could still hear
the jump rope flying, my friend throwing
handfuls of sand. I slipped. I locked my arms

tighter around whatever bars I could reach, and my leg
tensed and shook and hit the rung too close to me
when I tried going down, and my foot shot

through the gap, and dangled there.
I thought I could maybe slide out.
I thought my body could fit like my foot did,

but I was stuck. Everyone could see me,
everyone could hear me asking myself
What do I do with my body if it’s

not a secret?

Let your body have some joy this weekend. Consider — just consider — letting that joy not be a secret. I’m going to consider it, too.

“May we reveal our abundance without shame.”

Good morning, good morning, writers.

Today I am hectic and rushing around. I want to give you something thoughtful and deep, but the puppy is calling for my attention, and the more I try to type, the more she bumps my elbow trying to get me to get up and take her out into the rain and play ball. So what I have for this second day of WriOursWhoMo is a poem and a prompt:

Prayer
Lisa Colt

May we reveal our abundance without shame.
may we peel back our sleeping wintry layers…
like snakeskins, like the silk chrysalis,
like clothing cast off during love.
May we unravel with abandon like lover’s knots
before knitting ourselves back to the heart.
May we settle into our own rhythms as tides do—
within the borders of the moon’s calling.
May the music of our souls
be accompanied by grand gestures
and the persistent clapping of hummingbirds wings.
May the milky fingers of the moon
reach down nightly to cherish and unveil us.
May we turn our bodies generously in its light
like tranquil fish glinting underwater,
like precious stones.
When we open our mouths to sing
may the seasons pause in their long journey
to listen and applaud.

(From Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women’s Poetry, edited by Marilyn Sewell.)

What abundance in your or in your character is ready to be revealed? What prayers do you or your characters whisper in the dark, or in the light, if any? What would it look like to settle into your own rhythms?

(Set the timers for 10 minutes, open your notebooks, let the words flow out without editing or censorship. Thank you for those good good words today.)

releasing the transition

Good morning on this Monday — are you settling into this new time? Now the dark is earlier in the evening and the light comes sooner in the morning; the pup and I were just getting acclimated to morning ball-catching time by the half-light. Full sun is cheating!

For you Nanowrimo-ers reading, have you already reached your word count goal for today? Listen for me cheering you on from your sidelines! I’ll be joining you later this morning, pushing out my own 1670 words.

Today I am in this new life all the way. Friday was my last day at my day job at UCSF. The goodbyes felt complete and honest, and today I’m here wondering how all the pieces are going to come together. That perseveration isn’t at my surface, though. A calm has lifted in me, one that I’m not sure yet I can trust. One that feels like — like what? Faith? Is this what faith feels like? Continue reading

the shift of our stories

graffiti detail: bright slashes of red blue black yellow silverGood Monday to you. Here is candlelight and cooling tea, here is the chill of late October morning, here is the click of keys into a quiet kitchen, here is the ache of morning. What is hovering inside and about you at this time of faeries and visitations?

Today I am thinking about story: the stories we share with others in order to explain ourselves, the way those stories, our storying, shift over time — and what those shifts can tell us about how we are healing. Continue reading

bodylove (again)

graffiti of a bird (a penguin) with the words "love me" on its round bellyThis morning the candles led me into the notebook, and I’ve got to be up and out early, so this is a short prompt today:

If you are in a place where you can, I want to invite you to put your hands on a part of your body that you have hated, that has been a place of shame or loss or embarrassment, that has held trauma for you. If you don’t want to actually rest your hands there, imagine doing so. Just rest your hands and/or energy there for a moment. Notice what rises up in you as you give some energy to this part of your body — or maybe to your body as a whole. What does it mean to deeply love and cherish your body, all of its parts, exactly as it is — as you are?

At this point, I like to invite a love letter to that part of the body that you’re cradling in your good hands (and it might be a love letter to your hands, too!) — notice what tone such a letter might take: adoring, apologetic, rueful, sweet, seductive, tender. What do you want to say to this part of your body? What does this part of your body want to say to you?

Sometimes, on nights when I offer this prompt, I share one of these poems as well:

This Part of Your Body
Lin Max

you won’t touch or call it by name yet
but this part of your body –
this part of your body
you’re going to get to know
better than your elbow
this part of your body
you’re going to love
and hate
this part of your body
will swell and drip dew
attracting hunters and slaves
this part of your body
may be your secret joy
but this part of your body
will keep you off the streets after dark
it will be poked and spread by stainless steel
scrutinized by strangers with scalpels
behind white drapes
as if were not a part of you
this part of your body will stretch
over the heads of human beings
or tighten to a finger in its gentle rhythm
this part of your body
is more expressive
than your mouth
this part of your body
laughs louder
has its own exhausted grimace
this part of your body moans
its lonely emptiness
you will spend your life trying to fill
this part of your body

(from Claiming the spirit within)

Bodyweight
by Matthew Schwartz

My crutches felt heavier than I was.
They landed with a thick thud on the blacktop
each time I took a step. I had to watch how I walked

so I didn’t fall, like the other kids expected.
I liked to leave my crutches half-buried
behind the sandbox, where I couldn’t see them,

and creep up the uneven monkey bars
arced like the upper half of a globe.
I wanted to see the whole playground.

The rungs crowded too close together,
and none of them was shaped the same.
I lifted my feet slowly to keep my braces quiet

against the metal. At the top, I could still hear
the jump rope flying, my friend throwing
handfuls of sand. I slipped. I locked my arms

tighter around whatever bars I could reach, and my leg
tensed and shook and hit the rung too close to me
when I tried going down, and my foot shot

through the gap, and dangled there.
I thought I could maybe slide out.
I thought my body could fit like my foot did,

but I was stuck. Everyone could see me,
everyone could hear me asking myself
What do I do with my body if it’s

not a secret?

(from Scars Tell Stories: A Queer and Trans(Dis)ability Zine)

Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

Thank you for your tenderness with your own good and complicated body, and for your tenderness with others’ bodies, too.

sailing into this big

graffiti/wall mural of a bird and vining flowers taking over the side of a brick buildingGood morning — it’s still  morning, right? Outside the day is fully open, and I’m just getting into the blog at nearly 10. The notebook called to me during the dark time this morning, so I lit my tall candles and fell forward onto the page, recollecting what I could of my dreams, and my intentions for this day, this week, these unfurling next few months.

Just went into my thesaurus to look up synonyms for the word unfurl, which has become one of my standard-bearers (alongside thick and generous and grateful and slick and lit — the words that I find myself reaching for over and over, almost without thought, words that carry an extra load, words I am a bit obsessed with, words I ask to do more than their share), and I found that the thesaurus that comes standard on the Mac had no synonyms for ‘unfurl’ available. So I tried the dictionary, and my little Mac came back with this:

make or become spread out from a rolled or folded state, esp. in order to be open to the wind

Mmmhmm. Right, yes. That’s exactly how I feel right now: unfolded, exposed, stretched out and vulnerable, buffeted; a thing to be of use, to catch the wind, to ride what’s already available and freely given. Oh. Continue reading

photo prompt: what’s growing today?

graffiti of a flower (with a bright face!) growing up the cracks between two buildings

Good morning! An image/photo prompt for today: What stories are pushing at the edges of you today, what words are growing up out of the cracks inside? Spend a moment with this thought, with the image, then let yourself drop down into the page — Take ten minutes this morning, and follow the tendrils of your words wherever they seem to want you to go!

Thank you for all the quiet and riotous growth within you. Thank you for your words!

together we will dismantle the systems that broke our hearts

Companer@, I know that you are hurting but you are still alive you will survive and together we will dismantle the systems that broke our heartsThis stunning bit of graffiti was right near the lake where I live — what systems are you dismantling this morning, inside or out? Where is your heart broken today? Whose hands are you reaching for?

Here’s some gratitude today for your broken heart, your reaching hands, your good and reaching and resilient words.