Death Imagined: dVerse MTB

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto

I’m hosting this week’s dVerse Meeting the Bar, asking our community of poets to consider what they can do to liven up a poem in their archives, a poem they are not happy with, with a focus on imagery. I wrote this poem, “And Before I Die” in 2009 and posted it on my blog in September of that year. I guess I was okay with it back then, but today, it falls flat–though I like the concept.

 And Then, Before I Die

I see the vacuum,
upright in the
corner of the room and
understand my work
remains undone.

I catch my lover’s
glance, stretch
out my hand but
words I try to speak
remain unsaid.

Outside, our world is
chilled and tumbling snow
covers earth.
I close my eyes and hope that
whatever lies ahead, my hope
remains unshaken.

Here is the revised poem, titled anew and amended with a bit more sensory detail. I feel it needs some tightening but is a bit richer for sensory detail. I’ve tried to include all 5 senses. I appreciate feedback. Is it too wordy?

Death, Imagined
a Revision of a 2009 Poem: And Then, Before I Die

There’s my upright vacuum, waiting across the room.
Spindly webs hang from valences while dust motes dance
in silver light bursting through gauzy curtains,
settle on the window sill and dresser.
My world smells musty, tastes dry.  My work here remains undone.

In the corner, my husband sprawls in his worn chair,
folds in on himself, head buried in gnarly, arthritic hands.
Words, trapped in my mind and throat, cry for me to speak them.
I open my mouth, emit emptiness.

Outside, our winter-washed world shivers
under its velour blanket of tumbling snow.
Inside, doubt hammers at every truth I hold dear.
I close my eyes, wrap my hand around my beads,
touch the wear, born of daily use, reach out to hope.
In a distance, I hear (or imagine) birdsong.

The pub doors open tomorrow, Thursday, at 3:00 PM EDT.

Wake Up and Be Inspired: Monday Meanderings


Photo Credit: Victoria Slotto

What a gift it is–those moments when I remember to notice life in detail. To stop and watch the diamonds scattered across the grass in early morning hours, to catch the sun, back-lighting the soft white fuzz of my dogs or breath in the scents of earth and jasmine in our garden. I wish that I could learn to be aware in each and every moment–that I could learn to silence the mindless conversations I have with myself, to let go of fears about the future or regrets about the past, to ignore gnawing worries about what others think.

An exercise I’ve used before that has been the source of a good number of poems is this: at the end of every day (or even as the day progresses) jot down some things that you notice…in detail. I like to create a list of ten. That takes a bit of concentration throughout the day. You may want to use the top of the hour as a reminder, stop what you’re doing and tune in to what’s around you. Be sure to include as many sensory details as you can.

Here’s an example:

1. In the West, large white clouds hang heavy on the mountains. Someone has painted their underbellies with a wash of Payne’s gray.
2. Sparky lies curled at my feet, head erect like a Sphinx, but his eyes are at half-mast.

Photo Credit: David Slotto

Photo Credit: David Slotto

3. A hummingbird perches on the feeder outside my window. I think he’s in love with his reflection.

You get the idea…Want to share some of the things you’re experiencing today? Or another way you’ve found to heighten your powers of observation.  Add a poem or short paragraph if you wish.

A hummingbird descends,


perfumed blood and honey.

Blankets of feathers

stagger across its

silken breast.

Photo Credit: David Slotto

Photo Credit: David Slotto

4622 Castle Crest Drive

Photo Credit: jeunited.comI found an actual photo of the house my grandfather built on Google! I lived there till age 7.

Photo Credit:
I found an actual photo of the house my grandfather built on Google! I lived there till age 7.

4622 Castle Crest Drive–dVerse Open Link Night and Meeting the Bar

She rules—pristine white, glorious
as a crown on the skull of the hill.
Alone, inviolate. The stuff of which
childhood myths are made.

And I wove those stories, weave them still,
envisioning dry days of California summer,
days steeped, like my first glass of iced tea,
in sunshine, scrub brush, and scents of citrus.

Geranium blooms, red and slightly pungent
grow wild among yuccas that, most years, burst
into white blossoms on March 19th, St. Joseph’s day.
Predictable as the swallows coming home.

Eucalyptus trees surround my fortress,
stanchions holding the house and our lives
erect, until the day the fires trundle up
the ridge, and they erupt in rapture.

The room where I wake—beneath the crest—
Is the home of an almost-stranger—a man
who wears a sheet each year on Halloween as
Grandpa takes me door-to-door in his neighborhood

that cradles the base of my princess-world.
It’s different now, sixty-some years later. They’re
dead, the ghost and my dreams of royalty.
And someone painted my castle black.

I’m linking this to both dVerse Open Link Night and the Meeting the Bar I will be hosting this Thursday, February 7th. While dealing with computer issues and upgrades, I’ve made the difficult decision to cut back on the number of posts I do each week, as my priority right now is to get my second novel and a book of poetry out to agents. I will continue to be hanging around the Pub, but will post any prompt I respond to on OLN.

Here’s a hint for Thursday…dig back into those childhood memories and savor the details.

Wordsmith Wednesday–Some More Thoughts about Description

Allegory of the Five Senses

Image via Wikipedia

The more I read, the more I realize the critical role of description–involving all the senses–in the telling of a story. It is through sensory input that we engage in our world. So many of us today rush through life. Always in a hurry, we don’t take the time to notice the beauty of cloud formations, the scent of honey-suckle, the colors of the sunset or the caress of a summer breeze. Sucked into the vortex of Ipods, texting–even blogs–it’s easy to succumb to the inevitability of a life lived vicariously. So, offer your reader the joys he or she may be missing. Invite them to become more aware. This goes whether you write fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction or…you name it.

Here are a few more considerations to bear in mind when writing description:

  • Good description does not have to be flowery, purple prose kind of stuff. Avoid extensive use of hyperbole, adjectives, adverbs. Go for active verbs when you can.
  • Description isn’t only about what you see. Train yourself to become aware of all your senses. Keep notes about your experiences in your writing journal so that you can refer to them for inspiration.
  • Use description to express emotion. It’s that old “show, don’t tell” advice. Become aware of how your body responds when you’re happy, afraid–whatever. Go ahead and jot that down in your journal, too.
  • Don’t be afraid to describe the ugly, the scary, the difficult, the gruesome, even. This is all part of life, isn’t it?
  • Description doesn’t have to be lengthy, rambling. Tighten up your narrative, but make every word count. I’m sure that when reading you, like me, have been guilty of skimming lengthy paragraphs of description that have taken you out of the story line.
  • When writing short fiction, limit description to those things that will contribute to the story line.

Suggestion: to develop your own awareness, get in the habit of journaling each day. Jot down some memories of things you’ve observed. Go beyond the visual. Cultivate awareness.

If you haven’t written anything for this weeks Monday Morning Writing Prompt, I hope you’ll join us. Maybe some of these suggestions will help you.

Reminder–I will be off-line for a few days beginning tomorrow and will do my best to catch up when I get home. With luck, I’ll be able to do my part for MMWP!

(The image is entitled The Allegory of the Five Senses.)