Keeper of Memories–Writer’s Wednesday at the Bardo Group



In musty basement dark
of that old house upon the hill
an old man finds a tattered leather case
(dimpled faux-finish, I now see)
caresses it as though it were his lover,
while I stand by and watch.

Gnarled hands fumble
at a rusted clasp that keeps
the contents from intrusion.
In spite of trembling that I know so well,
unwanted company of his later years,
he eases the lid on its loosened hinges.

Pungent aromas escape to fan
familiar once-upon-a-time remembrances
of when I was a child.

Images flash forward,
rape my ears, my eyes
and cold smooth surfaces, my touch,
so that a melding of sensations
hurl me back in time
to when I sat in expectation,
and listened to the quiet.

He brings the contents now to view.
No longer does she gleam,
yet there beneath patina tinged with tarnish
I smell music.

Clutching her now against his concave chest
he shuffles rhythmically across the room,
remembering, no doubt those evenings
spent upon the porch in twilight murmurings.

Once settled in between the cushions
of a tattered, dusty chair
he raises up the precious object to his lips and blows.
Diminished breath invades her inner being.

But I am overcome by remnants,
not of sound, but scent
that lingers still within the archives of my soul
in saxophonic exclamation.

 This is an older poem, which I hope will lend its title to my next collection of poetry.

I’m linking this to The Bardo Group‘s Writer’s Wednesday which I’m hosting tonight with the prompt for sensory description. The prompt will be available tonight at 7:00 PM PST. 

Photo: 123rf

Photo: 123rf

Running–dVerse Meeting the Bar

Photo: via Google Images

Photo: via Google Images

Thursday, 3PM EST,  I’m hosting Meeting the Bar at dVerse Poets Pub where I invite you to join us with a descriptive poem that packs a wallop. Hope to see you there.


You told me to take it easy.
“Deep breath,”
you said.

Early morning—
17 degrees outside.
Frost covers the deck
and grass crunches
beneath my feet.

Trees stand still,
stretching naked branches
toward the sinking moon.

But still, I chase

My computer is moribund–it’s croaked on me a few times in the last 24 hours I have one on order. In the event I don’t show up right away…:0(

Remembering Now

Cassin's Finch (Male), Carpodacus cassinii, Ca...

Cassin's Finch (Male), Carpodacus cassinii, Cabin Lake Viewing Blinds, Deschutes National Forest, Near Fort Rock, Oregon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remembering Now

The way that birdsong bids its welcome to the rising sun,
breaks bonds of night
and shatters silence—

The way the early morning breeze fragments the satin surface of the water,
ruffles the palm fronds,
infuses breaths of dawn with pungent fragrance—

The way the flow of water feels upon my skin,
cleanses the chimera of dreams,
the tastes of kisses—

These are the ways
I shall remember now.

Submitted to dVerse Poets’ Pub, Meeting the Bar   I have the honor of hosting today. The theme is living in the moment. I hope you’ll stop by and share a poem.  I am dealing with a family issue for the next few days, but will do my best to comment when I can. Because of this, I am not able to post Write2Day this week, so I hope the prompt at dVerse will serve that purpose. Thank you, my poet friends.

Photo: Wikipedia. “Copyrighted, but free for any use.”

Monday Morning Writing Prompt–Do the Details

Wine tasting in Sérignan, Vaucluse

Image via Wikipedia

For today’s prompt let’s focus on details. We know it’s those minute sensory excursions that bring our writing to life, whether poetry or prose. Engaging the five senses allows the reader to share the experience.

Perhaps you’ll want to focus on the sensory overload of a Thanksgiving meal, the particular scents and colors of the season of the year (wherever you are), the crowds milling about in the mall. It’s always fun just to go someplace and observe, then write your experience.

Beginning next week, I will be combining Monday Morning Writing Prompt and Wordsmith Wednesday into a new weekly writing event that will post at 4PM PST. I hope to see you there!

To participate in today’s prompt: Write your response, post it on your blog, copy and paste the URL into Mr. Linky and take a few moments to visit others. Don’t forget, we welcome both poetry and prose.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Sensory Description: Sight

Eyes of the predator

Image by piyushthacker via Flickr

Perhaps the most obvious and available sense for most of us is the sense of sight. You will find that visual descriptions in good poetry or prose abound. They are crisp and detailed. In prose, many of us use sight as a break in dialogue so that the reader will not become bored with back-and-forth bantering between characters. Visual stimuli often lend themselves to metaphors or similes, as well.

We spoke before about the usefulness of maintaining a writing journal, of taking the time to jot down particulars of things we notice throughout the day. A number of my poems have emerged in this way–especially those taken from nature. That’s a bonus of those almost-daily walks along the river with the dogs. Take note of what you see.

Another useful practice is to clip images from magazines or save photos in a computer file that will rouse the muse. I have an index box of these and when I have trouble jump-starting my writing, I can turn to my box and randomly pull out an index card with the attached image to get the words flowing.

For today’s prompt, I’d like you to take a moment, glance around you and focus on something you will describe in detail. Go outside if you prefer, or go anywhere…just latch on to a piece of your environment, or a person, and describe it in poetry or prose.

If you like, take it a step further and use your observations to create a metaphor or analogy as I have in this poem:


He sits, unmoving,
front and center:
elderly, rough-hewn, used.

Dark striae traverse his visage
like ripples of a lake
kissed by wind.

Crumbs of food settle within
the crevices of his face.
Glassy eyes reflect candle-glow.

A crumpled sports page rests
on his lap beside the TV remote.
Scratches mar his skin.

He bears the weight of years,
unnoticed most of the time,
rarely caressed by loving hands.

He’s watched our lives unfold.
Strong, like us,
Our coffee table endures.

Ooops. Forgot Mr. Linky. You know the routine.

Long on the Finish–Wordsmith Wednesday

Scaled-down example of a Rubens full-figured w...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s my short story for Wordsmith Wednesday (see the previous post on my blog. It’s a bit adult-themed, so be advised.

Long on the Finish

2003 Jacque Shaque Bordeaux
Big, opulent. Spicy oak accenting cherry and chocolate. Long on the finish.

April turned to view her derriere. The mirror, framed in mahogany, showed smooth skin – a plump ripe pear ready for tasting. She ran her hands over sensuous curves, sending ripples of expectation up her inner thighs.

Clothing hung limply on padded hangers. She walked the length of her wardrobe and fingered textures of the garments before selecting a velour sheath: strapless, in dark burgundy. April lifted the fabric to her cheek, closed her eyes and inhaled lingering scents of Patou’s Joy blended with sweat. Perfect.

As she raised her arms to slide the dress over her ample frame, April imagined Alain’s gray eyes studying her bosom. She bent forward, grasped her breasts and hefted them into the DD cups of her bra, dabbed a drop of perfume in her cleavage and anticipated her date’s response.

Her date. Her best friend’s fiancé. A laugh erupted from deep inside.

April knew what she was doing. She’d set her goal and formulated a plan the very day she’d introduced Trish to Alain.

A memory snuck into her consciousness: Trish sitting beside her in the park, nibbling a tuna sandwich. “He’s huge, April. The best I’ve ever had.” Trish elaborated on the details as April looked into the waters of the pond at their feet, fingering pussy willows planted in the shallows. April’s pulse bounded. She flushed and returned to the present moment.

From her assortment of lipsticks, April selected Ripe Cherry and applied it to her full lips before slathering on gloss. She pouted then fastened long strands of dark hair atop her head. Wisps of curls framed her round face and trailed down her neck giving April a boudoir aura. Taking in the results, she nodded in approval. An objet d’art, Rubenesque, seductive. Altogether sexual.

She’d invited Alain the previous Friday, the night of the engagement soiree. “I know her better than anybody,” she’d claimed as Trish’s grandmother stood beside the future groom. “I’d be glad to give you a crash course: Patricia Anders, 101.”

He’d laughed. So had the grandmother.

“I’m serious. My house, Tuesday, six o’clock. I’ll cook.”

“Go for it,” Grandma told Alain. “April’s known Trish since they were five; she won’t hurt you.”

How little you know, Grandma.

April stood, smoothed her dress and took another twirl in the mirror. She exited her bedroom, leaving the door ajar to showcase the warm glow of dozens of candles.

In the kitchen, April stirred the sauce before opening the bottle of red she’d purchased for the occasion. She poured it into the long-stem decanter, allowing liquid to slip into the narrow opening, before puddling into the ovoid glass receptacle. She held it to the light and swirled it, noting rich tones of red-almost-black.

A large pot of water with a splash of olive oil sat on the burner. April turned the gas on and flames licked the cookware. A bag of fusilli, twisted and hard, waited beside the stove.

At precisely six April hit the dimmer switch.

The doorbell announced her guest.

She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror by the entryway. Dilated pupils stared back.
Relax, April. Breathe. You’re not supposed to be under the influence of Adrenalin. She sucked in another breath and opened the door.

There he stood, wearing a blue polo with gray slacks that matched his startling eyes. A smile spread across his face. A lock of chestnut hair had escaped and curled upon his forehead. Alain bowed then handed April a brown bag encasing a small bottle. “Far Niente Dolce.”

“For dessert,” April said, remembering the succulent strawberries she’d prepared for dipping in dark chocolate.

“You look beautiful. I’m afraid I’m underdressed,” Alain said.

“I like you underdressed.” It’ll be undressed before this evening is done.

“Come on in, Alain. Do you like French wines?”

“I do.”

He reached for the glass April held out to him but she drew it away, took his hand and forced her body against his.

“April, wait. What’re you doing?”

She answered with her lips, slightly parted, pressed against his.

Alain pulled his mouth away from her, but not before she felt his response pushing against her body.

“For the love of God, stop it.” His complexion paled, his breath came in spurts.

“Oh, Alain, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what overtook me.” April blushed. “You’re so . . . so irresistible.” She peeled away from him and approached the stove. Removing the cover from the saucepan, she stirred, feigned embarrassment. “It won’t happen again.”
He reached for the glass of wine she’d set on the counter and pulled up a barstool.

“What’re you cooking?”

“Pasta. Puttanesca sauce.”

“Putta-what sauce?”

“From Napoli. It’s named after their working women. Puttana means whore.”

She watched the color drain again from his face again.

“Whore?” he asked.

“Whore. It’s about living passionately, enjoying all the pleasures of life. My mama was Italian.”

Alain cleared his throat. “I’m sure I’ll like it.”

“I’m sure you will, too. How’s the wine?” April reached for her own glass, swirled, sniffed and tasted. She chewed the liquid, allowing her taste buds the full savor of the burst of flavors: fruits and oak. “Hmmmm…”

He studied her then imitated her motions. “Yes, good. Full-bodied.” Alain glanced at April then dropped his eyes to the crystal glass. “Oh God, I better go.”

“No, wait.” She dropped the pasta into boiling water that splashed and sizzled when it hit the burner. “You need to taste it with food.”

Alain made no move to leave. “Okay. Talk to me about Trish,” he said. “That’s what you invited me for.”

“Of course. What do you want to know?”

“I don’t know. It was your agenda.” Alain’s voice had a brittle edge to it.

“That was an excuse. I’ll never have a chance at you again.”

“I can’t do this. I just can’t. I love Trish and intend to be faithful to her.” He stood.

“Trish is insecure, Alain. You need to know that. This is a good test of her faith in you. Did you tell her you were coming here tonight?”

“No. She thinks I’m working late.”

“She’d be jealous. Have you seen her get jealous?”

“No. I’ve never given her cause. April, I’m outta here. I’m really uncomfortable.” Alain headed to the door. When he turned toward April and opened his mouth to speak, the phone rang.

April answered, “Hi Trish. What’s up?”

She watched Alain freeze in his tracks. Strolling over to the man, she held the phone so he could hear his fiancée.

“Alain told me he’s working late, but I called his desk and got voice mail. I’m scared, April. I don’t trust him. I think he’s with another woman.”

“Why do you say that?” April eyed Alain, raising her left eyebrow.

“Something changed the night of the engagement party. He’s preoccupied. I’ve got to tell you, I’m having second thoughts about marrying him. He’s got a roving spirit.”

“You think?” April rolled her eyes and watched Alain’s jaw go slack.

“I know. What should I do?” A sob accompanied the question.
“You can’t marry someone you don’t trust.” April stroked Alain’s cheek, his neck. She traced her finger down his body and cupped his groin. She retreated to the kitchen with the phone cradled in her neck. Out of earshot. “How about lunch tomorrow?”

“Can I come tonight?”

“Sure, I’ll see you then. Bye.” She replaced the phone on the charger, grabbed the two glasses of wine and returned to Alain who stood fixed with his hand on the doorknob, erection in plain view.

“Come on; as long as you’re here let’s eat. It’s ready.” She led him to the table.

As he took his place, April topped off his wine then dumped the pasta in a colander. Steam wafted into the air. She reached for a large bowl, added pasta and sauce, deftly blending them with the skill of someone who did this often.

As they ate, April’s eyes never left Alain.

He looked down until his plate was almost empty.

Suddenly, he arose, pushed back his chair with a scrapping noise and fled the apartment.

Not even a thank you, April mused, as she cleared the dishes and put them in the sink to soak. She escaped to her bedroom to change into something comfortable.

April was blowing out the candles when Trish arrived.

“He’s gone?” Trish asked.

Smiling, April grabbed her friend. “He’s long gone. Didn’t even finish the main course. Trish, this one passed the test!”

“Thank God,” Trish said, heading to the kitchen and pouring herself a glass of wine. “This stuff’s expensive. I get to have some this time. So, what do ya think? Should I marry him?”

“I’d say so.”

The two women toasted and settled back to enjoy the wine, which paired well with chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Taste

Monastic cellarer tasting wine, from Li Livres...

Image via Wikipedia

Returning to the theme of sensory description, let’s consider the importance of the sense of taste. I think about the depth and richness that food adds to our lives…I think of it twice a day when I feed my dogs their “nutritious” dry food, wondering how it would be to eat the same thing day in and day out. I think of it when I remember my dad, as he neared the end of his life and suffered from neurological changes that affected his ability to enjoy his food. And I think of it as I savor the wonderful meals my husband prepares for me.

It’s obvious that food reporters have the knack to describe tastes: rich, pungent, sweet, tangy, bitter, and so on. I love reading wine magazines that use luscious descriptions to describe the fruitiness, the oak, the earthiness of their tastings. Consider as well, how taste can be a metaphor for personality: feisty as a hot pepper, smooth as honey, bland as Pablum.

Take some time to read some of your own writing, whatever the genre, and see if you’ve incorporated taste and how it brings life to your work. On the other hand, you might want to grab a scene or a stanza that just isn’t working and spice it up by incorporating the marvelous gift of taste.

I’m adding Mr. Linky so that you can share the results with us. Just post your poem, short story or essay to your blog, access Mr. Linky and fill in your name, paste the link to your post then take a few moments to read other submissions.

This week, I will add a short story that I wrote a few years ago. My previous post, a poem titled “a taste of earth,” might fit the bill as well.

Happy writing. Enjoy the process.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Sensory Description, Hearing


Image by me'nthedogs via Flickr

Those of you who’ve followed this series for a while know that I have a fixation on sensory description. I’m not sure how many Wordsmith Wednesday posts have addressed this subject, but it’s right up there on top.

Whatever genre you write, sensory description will enrich your narrative. This simple technique allows the reader to engage, to become a part of the scene.

Today, I’d like to focus on just one sense…that of hearing. At a recent church service, a newly ordained lay deacon preached one of his first sermons. He spoke of a couple of men walking down the street when one of them said, “Isn’t that sound of the crickets beautiful.” The other replied, “What sound?” The deacon went on to tell of the first man dropping a quarter on the sidewalk and everyone in the vicinity stopped and looked for the money. He concluded by saying, “You only hear what you listen for.”

I’d like to suggest that, as writers, it will serve us well to form the intention to listen to the sounds that surround us in any given setting. Take time to jot down what you hear in your writing journal, then glean some of the richness of your experience to add depth and character to your writing.

For today’s discussion, look for an opportunity to listen carefully to the sounds around you, then write a short description, whether prose or poetry, to share with us through a post on your blog.

Use Mr. Linky to share your name and URL then take a few moments to read other submissions. You may get inspiration for your own writing.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Cultivating Imagination

Children play

Image via Wikipedia

Growing up when I did–a long, long time ago–I had abundant opportunities to cultivate my imagination. The games we played as children could not depend on media or even toys…with rare exceptions. Kitchen utensils and tin cans, my mom’s broom and a few cardboard boxes were all I needed to play house. I baked mud pies and used small swatches of material to make clothes for my doll. Sticks became arrows and we kicked a can. It was a wonderful childhood that provided plenty of exercise and ample opportunity for developing an active imagination.

Then along came adulthood. No more room for flights of fancy or escapes into other cultures…except perhaps in between the covers of a good book when there was time. Television took over relaxation and it was so easy to slip into modes of passive entertainment.

But for us, as writers, an active imagination is as important as pen and paper or a computer and keyboard. How often are you able to time travel to the Tudor era or the American West or hop a quick flight to Bangalore where your character may be following a lead on the tail of a criminal? Or, what if, you’re writing a scene in the middle of a blizzard while it’s 90 degrees Farenheit outside? We have to be able to mentally, emotionally, and physically transport ourselves to these times and places. We want to be able to think “outside the box.” Those of you who write Sci Fi even have to transcend dimensions.

So for this week’s post, I’m going to offer a few exercises to help flex your imagination muscles and then I want to ask you to either offer up an exercise of your own or share your response to one of the exercises that one of us posts. Or both. Go ahead and get in touch with that inner child and play!

Exercise I.
You are a small dog. How do you experience the world around you? Choose your own setting and characters.
Exercise II.
You are a reporter called upon to interview a great religious or political figure? Choose your own interviewee and describe one or two questions you would like to ask and their response to your question. Include setting and body language if you want.
Exercise III.
You live in (choose a country you have never visited). Describe the scents and tastes of the foods. This may take a bit of research.
Exercise IV.
You are dying and cannot speak. Who is with you and what is said?
Exercise V.
It is the opposite season of wherever you are now. Describe the scene you would see outside.

I’m anxious to see your response and I hope to use one of YOUR exercises to strengthen my own power of imagination. Now, go play.

Wordsmith Wednesday–10 Suggestions to Improve your Fiction Writing

Underwood Typewriter

Image via Wikipedia

I’m in a bullet point mood. That is to say, I feel like posting a list of short, unrelated tidbits that aim to help you improve your writing. Some, I’ve already mentioned. Others are new but don’t need a thesis.

  • To create a bit of drama in the relationships of your fictional characters, triangulate. Add a third party to a friendship or love relationship…someone who threatens to disturb the balance.
  • Within the first few pages of your novel (or first few paragraphs of your short story) create a destabilizing event–something that creates an obstacle to the goals of your protagonist.
  • Take two steps forward and one step backward. The path to resolution should be full of obstacles. As the story advances, allow your hero to solve a problem, but introduce another one in its wake. Keep the reader on edge and turning pages.
  • Embrace realism. We ask our readers to suspend disbelief, but there must be a thread of truth in what you write, even if you write sci-fi or fantasy. Your audience should be able to say, “If we were invaded by Martians, it is not improbable that humans would react like….”
  • Create multidimensional scenes. Don’t relay solely on one sense to describe a setting. What does it look like? Smell like? Sound like. The more you are able to engage the readers senses, the better able will you be to hurl them into the story.
  • Read aloud. Whether you edit/revise as you go along or as one unit (or both, like I do) be sure to read your manuscript aloud. You will catch typos, stilted dialogue, echos, or odd syntax when you go through that exercise. If you can find someone to read with you, especially portions of dialogue, all the better.
  • Be objective. If you use a familiar setting, for example, make sure your descriptions are clear to the reader. You may be able to envision the details of a scene but have you written it so that anyone can picture the progression of the action?
  • Connect with your reader. Identify the demographics of your target audience and write to them. Use appropriate language for age, gender, education level etc.
  • Allow a theme to emerge from your story–don’t force the story to fit the theme.
  • And, finally, whenever possible, substitute an active verb for an adverb or adjective.

I hope that you will find one or more of these suggestions helpful to you in your writing and revision process. I would love any feedback you have to offer. Above all, enjoy what you do!