Friday, April 30, 2010

Proudly Rejected by Poetry Magazine

WHISPY WHITE CLOUDS AND MEANDERING MISTS (A SONNET)

The wispy white clouds on the wild white mountains

Hide faces of wandering, pondering poets.

Meandering mists in the marvelous valleys

Are revealing those lingering singers in boats.

Long, long ago before the division

Songsters and writers lived harmoniously.

The poets would write words of lyrical lightness,

And singers would song them melodiously.

Now there is muteness in the marvelous valleys,

The poets still ponder but have no one to sing.

And the singers stare up at those wild white mountains,

With tunes in their hearts but no words to make ring.

When pride has asunder torn can any join together?

Or will the singers stay in boats and poets in the heather?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why you should always keep a fire extinguisher in your car- Part 2




So there I was, stranded in the middle of the canyon with no cell-phone reception, and a car whose engine was ablaze.

I ran to the trunk, where I got the trusty fire extinguisher, and managed to put out the blaze (thank you, husband.) White fire extinguisher powder covered the engine and foul-smelling smoke filled the air.

I called the operator at the emergency call box and called Triple A. They said they would be there, but that it would take an hour or more to get to me.

By now it was 11:30 PM, and the turn-out was very, very dark. I locked myself in the car and sat there, stunned and alone. Did I mention that it was very dark? I began feeling frightened, and I started to pray.

"Jesus, please let the tow-truck come soon. Please don't let any mass-murderers come out of the bushes to kill me. Please don't let the car explode. Please keep me safe. Please keep me safe."

After an indeteriminable amount of time, a car pulled over and stopped next to mine. The driver, a sagging-pants wearing white guy with a back-wards baseball cap and a cigarette in his mouth got out of the car and walked up to my door, smiling.

Resisting the urge to scream, I cautiously unrolled my window an inch.

"Hey, are you in some kind of sh*t?" He asked. "Are you in trouble?"

"My-car-had-a-fire-but-the-two-truck-is-on-its-way." I said quickly, shrinking into a small ball of fear in the seat of my car, but trying to look brave so that maybe he would go away.

At this point, teenagers began unloading from the car. There were two girls and two guys, all of them had cigarettes, and all but the driver were drinking beer. Most of them looked around the ages of 18 or 19.

"Well," the backwards-baseball cap potential mass murderer said, "We saw your car, and we thought, 'Hey, what would Jesus do?' So we decided to stop and see if you needed any help."

I rolled my window down a few more inches. "Thank you for stopping," I said. "But the tow-truck should be here soon."

"Okay. We'll wait with you." The guy said.

The other teenagers were crowding around my car, and they offered me a beer and a cigarette. I cautiously opened my door and introduced myself.

I don't drink or smoke, but I was very touched that they offered. I was also touched that they had stopped in the name of Jesus. I decided that since they came in the name of Jesus, this must be my answer to prayer.

To make a long story short, they stayed with me until the tow-truck driver got there, and then they even offered me a ride. By that time, I was more terrified by the grizzly looking driver than of them. I was fairly certain that the driver of the teenage car wasn't drinking, so they gave me a ride home.

As soon as I got reception I called my husband. That was a fun phone call.

"Where are you?" He asked, alarmed.

"I am on my way home. I am okay. I set the car on fire but I will be home soon."

"You What!?" He exclaimed, and that's when we lost reception again.

The moral of this story: Don't set your car on fire. Oh, and you really never know how God will answer a prayer.

Photo Credit

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why you should keep a fire extinguisher in your car- Part One.


This is my third blog about the life and demise of my old college car, the 1993 Dodge Shadow. The first was titled, "My Humiliating Car," and the other was, "Tire Rims and Poor Decisions."

One evening around 11PM, I was driving home from Bakersfield (an hour-long drive through a windy canyon), and I noticed that my oil light began blinking intermittently on my way home. The oil light went off pretty frequently in the Dodge Shadow, as it had had an oil leak for at least three years straight at this time. Every few months, we'd pour a few more jugs of oil into the car, and a few months later, the oil light would begin blinking again.

So when it started blinking, I didn't really get concerned. As I entered the mouth of The Canyon, however, the blink changed. It was no longer a blink, but rather a steady, red light. Then, the temperature of the car started climbing. The little temperature gauge kept slipping from the calming blue area to the frightening red area.

I decided to pull over and add more oil. I stopped at one of the biggest turnouts where I knew there would be an emergency call phone- just in case, of course.

Fortunately, my husband had considerately given me a car safety kit. It had knives, ropes, a first aid kit, tools, flares, a flashlight, and of all things, a fire extinguisher. When he gave it to me, I laughed at the fire extinguisher. As if I would ever need that.

Unfortunately, I had taken the flashlight out earlier in the week to do something with it, and had failed to return it to the car safety kit. I left my lights on and got a quart of oil to pour into the engine.

It was pitch black that night. There was no moon anywhere, and the stars gave no light.

I've done this a million times, I thought. I can do it without a flashlight. Or a funnel.

I began pouring the oil into the engine, which as I mentioned before, was extremely hot.

I accidentally spilled a large amount of oil onto the blazingly hot engine, and as most people know, but I had stupidly forgotten, OIL + EXTREME HEAT=FIRE!

Twelve inch flames were shooting off the top of my car's engine.

"Fire! Fire! Help!" I screamed, forgetting that I was on a lonely dark canyon road at midnight, where no one would be coming along to help me.



To find out what happened next, tune in on Monday.


Photo Credit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Alfonso and the Heiress- or, Forbidden Love


I wrote this a while ago...when I was tired of writing, and decided to write the stupidest thing I could imagine. I think it turned out kind of funny.

Alfonso placed one hand on the girl’s creamy face, feeling the softness of her skin. He kept the other on the curve of her back. He knew she might not let him touch her ever again after he gave her his news.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Anna,” he faltered, unable to meet her clear blue gaze, “but I’m the father of that child.”

“Alfonso! No!” exclaimed Anna, pulling herself from his grasp in horror, but unable to move too far away from his tempting warmth.

“There’s more,” Alfonso continued. “I also slept with your sister.”

“But…” Anna vainly tried to understand what he was telling her. As disbelief flooded her heart, it was becoming easier and easier to move away from his suddenly not-so desirable body.

“And…I ran over your cat with my car.”

“Mrs. Snuggles?! But that cat helped raise me before I found my biological mother!”

“I know…and if you can never forgive me, I will understand, but let me just say one more thing.” Alfonso pled his case, knowing that if she didn’t forgive him for his many sins, he would never know true love again.

“Don’t you think you’ve said enough?” gasped Anna weakly.

“I told you all this, all my secrets, knowing that you would never forgive me, for one reason, one all-consuming, all-important reason! Will you listen, Anna? If you don’t, I fear I will dash my lean Cuban body off the cliffs of Madrid where we first met.”

“Okay, okay,” responded Anna. “What’s the reason?”

“I have told you all this because… because…”

“Yes, Alfonso?”

“Because…”

“I’m listening, Alfonso!”

“Because…”

“Get to the point!”

“Of course darling, it’s because I Love You!”

Anna gasped in shock. Alfonso loved her? But she was only an inexperienced, slender, clear-skinned 18-year old heiress. She had never expected a cosmopolitan man like the dashing Alfonso to love her.

“You love me?” Exclaimed Anna before she even thought about her response. “That forgives everything!” She opened her arms to Alfonso. He ran to her.

“Oh, Anna!”

“Oh, Alfonso!”

“Oh Anna!”

“Oh, Alfonso!”

“We are going to be so happy together,” said Alfonso.

“Yes, Darling,” replied Anna, “We will live happily, happily ever after.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

My mother has good taste!





My copy of Midnight Screaming arrived in my happy little hands this weekend. As you can see from the pictures, my poem was the first in the book.

I can set the magazine on the bookcase next to my other poetry book with my work in it, "Concise Delight."

Kara Ferguson, the editor, even sent me a nice little personalized note- very classy. Thank you, Kara.

I need to stop blogging and get to work writing some new poetry now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal- like some sort of malevolent geyser that wants me to fail.



http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/images/pglossary/geyser.php

Last year, for National Poetry Month, my local library held a poetry competition. I submitted a poem that I thought was pretty original. You can read the poem and some of my thoughts about the competition here.

Well, there were a lot of submissions that year, and my poem didn't warrant even an honorable mention...I would have settled for a little scrawl from one of the judges saying they liked it.

So I wasn't thrilled with that, and I felt like, "If I can't even win a community poetry competition...what makes me think I have any business submitting my stuff to actual literary professional magazines?"

This year, when national poetry month rolled around, I was ambivalent about entering the contest again. In fact, I told my husband, "No way am I doing that again!" However, as time went by, hope began to creep back into my heart, and I realized, it's a new year. I'm already a better writer than I was a year ago, or six years ago, when I wrote that poem. If I can't take a little rejection and try again, then I will never be successful at this.

Ergo, yesterday I dropped off a new poem for this year's competition. It's more traditional than last year's, in fact, it's so traditional it's a sonnet!

Whatever happens, I am proud of myself for trying again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Emotional Vomit and My First Year of Teaching.



I found the picture for this blog at the Edvard Munch website. He was this amazing expressionist painter, and this is one of my all-time favorite paintings. I think it expresses so many things.

Teachers almost always shudder when they tell you about their first year. It's usually overwhelming, depressing, frustrating, and downright frightening. It does get better by year two or sometimes even three, but in the middle of year one...it's all we can do not to run away screaming.

I wrote a lot of poetry that first year teaching, but I can't claim that it's any good. It's angry, and it's what I like to think of as "emotional vomit." You know, where you write whatever feeling or thought flows through your head without any pre-planning or editing. You just vomit up your feelings onto the page.

I actually really like teaching now that I'm finishing my fourth year...but that first year...

If it hadn't been for the gigantic amount of student loans I had to pay off, I might never have continued teaching. So- Hooray for prohibitively gigantic amounts of debt!

Buzz

I don’t like who I am.
I am someone who yells; I am someone who lectures.
I try to help them, but they fight me and fight me.
At the end of the day, my throat is sore from yelling.
I demand obedience and respect.
And kindness does not seem to help.

They see me as insignificant.
To them I am a bug, I am to be ignored.
“Who is that person buzzing around up there, at the front of the class?
Let’s ignore everything she says;
What is her problem, anyway?”
You are my problem, you cretins!

I always secretly thought that if
You cut me open and took a good look at my heart,
What you might find would be genuinely good, genuinely pure, and genuinely kind.
But instead, once I am put in the crucible of the classroom,
I become horrid and unkind.
My heart is breaking…but today, it’s not for my students,
It’s for me, and for the slow death
That any kindness or patience I once possessed is slowly undergoing.
I am, under it all…a wretched person.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trudging through Duotrope


I need to submit some more poetry.

I like to try to keep four or five poems out in the world being considered. I only have a few submissions being considered right now. Of those, some have been pending responses for more than six months, which means I will probably never hear from the editors.

It is difficult to keep faith in my own writing ability. I am looking through Duotrope's listings, trying to find a magazine that seems to accept the type of work that I write. But...it seems like that poetry that I see being accepted by the magazines is edgy, or politically or sexually charged...and mine is just not.

I like to write about happy things, or simple things. It seems like some poets write because they have a chip on their shoulders, or some old anger that they are trying to get across. I just want to express my emotions, and I am afraid that they are boring or even trite.

I don't have issues with my father or mother or authority figures. I'm not full of rage at the world of men, and I'm not really crazy about liberalism or communism.
Maybe that's why so many amazing writers were such tortured souls...maybe happiness and contentment don't make a good writer.

Or maybe I just need to stop whining and keep writing.

So here is a nice, non-edgy, happy poem about my life.



Afternoon Chores


Rippling clothes cling to the lines,

Blue sky sits serenely behind the hills.

Purple spring flowers coat the green hillsides.


I stoop to grasp a handful of laundry,

And I breathe in the crisp, clear wind.

My back aches when I bend,

And I relish the feeling.


The lanky dog and the long cat rub against me,

And I realize that there is nothing else

That I would rather be doing at that moment

Than hanging the clothes on the line.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tire Rims and Poor Decisions


If you read my previous post about Channeling Dave Barry, you know a little bit about the demise of my high school car. This post is about the very beginning, when I first got the car. I would like to submit it somewhere, but I'm honestly not sure where.

By the way, the April Edition of Midnight Screaming is going to press soon! My poem, "The Green Man" will be featured in the magazine, and a short biography about me will be posted on the Midnight Screaming Website.


Tire Rims and Poor Decisions

In one of the world’s worst decisions since the (insert your least favorite election year here) election, my father gave me, a 17-year old child, a car after I graduated from high school. To be fair, he didn’t have much choice. He and my mother had promised all of their children that if any of us earned straight A’s consistently all through high school, they would buy us a car. Not a new car or a big car, of course, but a good, solid, drivable college car.

We three children are all very smart, capable people, but I don’t think my parents really thought any of their children would take them up on this. They didn’t count on me. I was a very goal-oriented high school student. My fear of failure and my desperate desire for success revealed themselves in academics. I was linguistically intelligent, endlessly creative, and I had the work ethic of a winged ant. In other words, I was insufferable.

Be that as it may, a month after I graduated high school, my father found a great car for me. It was a two-door hatchback eight-year-old Dodge Shadow with only 30,000 miles on it. It was a little white car with pristine matching rims and it had the sports package, so that meant it had three awesome features: a fin on the back, a red racing stripe, and the ability to become very fast very quickly. It’s a wonder my father ever slept at night again.

Now, earlier I told you that I was linguistically intelligent. That means that I am good at understanding words and their meaning. However, if you’ve ever had a crazy English teacher, which most of us have, you will have noted that linguistic intelligence is nowhere near the same thing as common sense or even normal intelligence. This is why you should never ask your English teacher for help with your math homework.

I know I’m stereotyping here, but as a high school English teacher, I’m telling you honestly, most of us barely know Algebra, and know even less about cars. It’s possible that there may be brilliant English teachers out there who are mathematical geniuses and master mechanics, but if there are, I really have yet to meet one.

So bear that all in mind when I tell you that one day that summer, driving home from work, I heard a strange noise coming from the back of my car. It was a funny, bumping, grinding noise. Bump-a-chung-a-grung-a-Bump-a-chung-a-grung-a....you get the idea. For some reason, I thought that the hatchback must be ajar and that perhaps that was why the car wasn’t sounding or feeling right.
I really only had another five miles to go before I got home, so I decided to continue driving. Remember what I said before about common sense, and my lack of it? Yeah.

The car was becoming more and more difficult to steer. I could barely manage to keep it in my lane. Other cars were honking at me. One man leaned out of his window and pointed alarmingly to the back of my car.

“I know, I know,” I mouthed back, “The hatchback is open.”

The concerned driver’s eyes got very large, and he ducked back into his car and drove away from my car as quickly as he could. That was when I noticed the smell. It smelled like….burning rubber.

Huh, I thought. I guess I’d better pull over.

By this time I was only a mile away from my house, so I pulled over at a shopping center and managed to steer the vehicle into a parking space. I got out and looked all around the car. The hatchback was securely closed. I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary that would elicit such a strong reaction from the other drivers. I shrugged my 17-year-old shoulders, and began the walk home.

Later, my father drove me back to the car, and when I told him I hadn’t noticed anything wrong with it, he took a look.

“Sandy,” he said, doing his best to control the frustration in his voice, “You didn’t notice the tire back here?”

“The tire?” I asked innocently.

I walked around to the back of the car. That’s when I noticed it. The tire looked like it had gone through a wood chipper. Black rubber tendrils were literally hanging off the rim. The rim of the wheel, my beautiful matching white wheel rim, now had black gashes all over it, and it looked like I had been driving directly on it.

“How long did you drive the car like this?” My father asked in such an eerily calm voice that the hair on the back of my neck stood up.

“Oh…a while.” I muttered under my breath.

“What was that?”

“Umm…four or five miles?” I stared at the ground.

“You drove on the tire rim for five miles!”

“Yes. Yes, I did.”

We drove home in silence except for the sound of my father grinding his teeth.

The next day we took it to a tire place and discovered that it hadn’t actually damaged the rims. We bought all new tires, and everything turned out just fine. I wish I could say that that was the last truly horrible thing I had done with that car, but that would just be a lie.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Jacket

As a child, I read fantasy voraciously. Whenever I thought about being a writer at that time, I always assumed I would write fantasy. But now that I am adult, facing a white page...that's just not what I seem to want to write. It all turns out silly, like a pathetic rehashing of The Hobbit. Anyway, I do like writing autobiographical things...and this is based on something that happened to me a few years ago.



The Jacket

An older woman came by our pew before church service started today. She was someone I had seen around the church and had exchanged smiles and pleasantries with, but had never actually talked to, and I had no idea who she was.

She sat next to me, but as she sat down, she was really looking at Anthony while she said, “This will only take a moment. I wanted to talk to you.”

We smiled at her, and I moved my purse and jacket out of way. She was short and slender, with steely, waved hair, a black dress, and a beautiful set of pearls. I thought she looked elegant. She smiled brightly through the smooth, soft wrinkles on her face. She smelled like lilacs, and she took my hand. As she spoke, her dignified voice shook slightly.

“You know Mark was my husband,” she said mainly to Anthony, but also in my direction. “He and I were married for almost 58 years. I don’t know your name, but I was thinking about you last night. I remembered you were the one with the pretty wife. Mark and I sat behind you in church a few times.”

“I’m Anthony.”

“I am Mary. You have heard about my husband, haven’t you?”

“Yes, we’ve been praying for him and we heard he had passed away.”

“Thank you for your prayers. Last night, I was thinking about a beautiful suede jacket that Mark had really wanted. He bought it, but he never had an opportunity to wear it. The Lord put the image of your face into my head, Anthony. I knew you were small, just like my husband. I want you to have the jacket. It has never been worn, and I just know The Lord put you into my head for a reason.”

She was sitting very close to me and I felt a desire to reassure her that we would take the jacket, that we appreciated her thinking of us. I had no words for her, so I smiled at her as much as I could, and she took my hand.

“I would be honored to have his jacket,” Anthony replied.

“I think it’s amazing that The Lord can work through even a jacket,” Mary continued gently, “don’t you? I mean, we don’t understand the way He works, but I just couldn’t get you out of my head. I have been going through Mark’s things since the funeral, and this morning, I took the jacket out of his closet and I hugged it to myself, and I caressed it one last time and put it in the car. It’s in there right now.” Mary absentmindedly twisted the wedding band on her finger.

“Well thank you so much,” said Anthony.

“Are you two staying for Sunday School?”

“Yes,” I replied, “We are.”

“Good, I will meet you after the service.”

After our hour of worship and a sermon, we walked out of the service with Mary.

“We have been reading all the e-mails about Mark’s condition,” said Anthony.

“We were very sorry to hear that he had passed away,” I said quietly.

“Yes,” replied Mary, “He had dementia, and he had had it for a while, but he was still so strong that it was hard to find a nursing home who would take him. We had finally gotten him moved to a home right here in the Kern Valley just a few weeks ago. He got weak very suddenly, and his death happened very fast.”

What is there to say when you are talking to a woman whose husband died a week ago, and is giving you a gift? I could think of nothing, so I just smiled gently, and we both nodded sympathetically. We arrived at her car, and she handed Anthony a white bag with the jacket inside.

“It’s never been worn. You don’t have to look at it,” she said, “But take it, and if you can’t use it, pass it along to someone who can. I just know The Lord wanted you to have Mark’s jacket.”

“I am very honored,” said my husband.

“I’d like to get to know you two better, in the future,” Mary continued. “Mark and I were married for 58 years, and I hope that you two get to be married for at least that long.”

We nodded again, and I hoped that my smile didn’t push out the tears that were welling in my eyes. Mary seemed composed and cheerful. I marveled at her graciousness and her ability to think of others and to think of The Lord’s will so close to a time of bereavement.

We all said goodbye. She smiled, and I hugged her. We walked to our Sunday school class and I took my husband’s arm and pulled him close to my side.
Anthony pulled the jacket out of the bag. It was a beautiful jacket, and when he tried it on, we found that it did fit him perfectly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More Sappy Love Poetry


For my husband's birthday two years ago, I wrote him a small collection of poetry. We had been married for three years at that time. It's not exactly Sonnets of the Portugese, but it told him what I wanted him to know.

Here is one of the poems.




WHEREVER YOU GO

Wherever you go, there will I be.

The riches of the world, Capitol Cities,

wondrous architecture, universities,

All these esteemed things once called me.

But none of them sing to me,

not like your voice does.

But none of them pull on me,

not like your voice does.

But none of them summon me,

not like your voice does.

All the capitol cities can fall to ruin,

All the universities, they can all burn,

architectural wonders, they can collapse.

For, I would barely hear their dying cries, for

Wherever you go, there will I be.