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22 May 2015

my happy poem

On our last day of Writing Class, actually called Freewrite I, we were asked to respond to one of two prompts:

"A recipe for happiness"


"When I rule the world..."

It just so happened that the table we sat around was strewn with rubber stamps and colored pencils and ink pads. They were preparations for a later activity, but I'm not one for waiting, when there are colors to be used.

Here's what I came up with.


Happiness is
perfect stamps
of soaring butterflies
and leafy bent old trees;

Happiness is a smiling sun
on a rubber block

that I
can stamp all over your mopey face -
there'll be none of that
when I rule the world.


Shared with the real toads. Check out their imaginary gardens for much awesomeness!

21 May 2015


by Rowena Morrill, via

Tall candle's flame
Stilled by the child's hand;
Stories life in smoke:
   each twist of tragedy,
   each curl of comedy,
   each faded resolution,
is time's caress
on the child's cheek,
but those young eyes
pierce blankly
in stout dissolution.

The image is of a painting by Rowena Morrill, and was the writing prompt; the poem is my response.

About the painting: on the art card that served as my writing prompt, it was named "Candlelight Visions," and it looked as it does in the image above. I did a google search for the painting (so that I could link it in this post, giving credit and all) and found that it is a book cover for "Ghosts I Have Been," by Richard Peck. 

17 May 2015

the General's pen

The sleek black enamel was long worn from the grip. Finger-burnished brass from underneath showed the hand's once-hidden habits. The high ungrasped end, where the enamel remained unscathed, reflected a heavy-jowled face in miniature. Squinting, the face could discern its own features. Grey squirreled eyebrows nearly hid the black eyes; That frown seemed deeper, more terminal than before.
A small bell rang in the hall. The office's double doors parted with a thin complaint.
Business, he thought, was ever at hand. He laid the pen down and stood to receive his guest.
The man who entered - the man who must be the renowned Colonel "Got'em" Archer, recently retired - was not what he had expected. This man was more slender than square, more bold than built. No matter. It'd all be sorted out soon enough.
"Colonel Abraham Archer, yes?" He felt the slightest tremble in his hand as he extended it, and prayed the Colonel wouldn't notice. The tension around the other man's eyes didn't lessen, but he grasped the proffered hand.
"I'm retired," the Colonel said, "as you are surely aware. Young Peter here must have heard that from someone. His invitation was from you, yes? It was most intriguing."
Peter sulked behind the Colonel, looking more the cur at being named.
Setting aside his irritation with his recalcitrant son, the man with the pen replied, "Of course, but you never lose your stripes." He waved Peter toward the liquor cabinet and hoped the boy wouldn't embarrass him further. He should have sent someone Raul to fetch their guest. "So, Colonel Archer, I am General - retired, if you will - Rodney DeWitt, Mayor of Asylum, and I would like to personally welcome you to our city."

The above passage is a rework of a piece I've never been happy with. It's from When Stones Sing, my currently-mostly-dormant novel. A lot has changed. I wrote this from a different perspective originally, not intending to ever give the Mayor his own voice in the story. Hell, I was barely aware of who the Mayor was when I first wrote this scene. (Which was, obviously, one of my issues with writing it that first time. I didn't know who I was dealing with.)

This began as a response to a prompt, in the writing class I'm taking. The instructor had laid a few dozen items out in the middle of our communal table and said: pick an item and write a story about it. I don't know what it was about the pen in front of me that made me think of this conversation between Archer and the Mayor. I didn't know that's where the pen was taking me until I heard the small bell ring, and I suddenly pictured the same ancient doors I'd seen Archer walk through when I first wrote this scene. This entire reworking of this scene was written without a single glance back at the original. I'm pretty amazed at the similarity, now that I've looked (literall, just now) back at the original.

Incidentally, that nickname - "Got'em" - is subject to change. In fact, just consider it a place holder for something much more awesome. 

13 May 2015

Against the Stark

Two Cranes Dancing
- all awkward grace and
squawking leaps
against the stark white face
- of winter, darkening.

This is what my father's origami crane makes me think: dark nights in a dark home, warmed by the woodfire stove in the basement, insulated and imprisoned. Then an orange cat tumbles across the modern floor of my apartment, and I'm brought back to now. The cat shreds its prize: a red paper crane whose wings no longer fly.


12 May 2015

[book review] Rooted in Design

Rooted in Design: Sprout Home's Guide to Creative Indoor Planting
by Tara Heibel & Tassy de Give

I don't know what I expected - maybe some sort of lightweight, coffee table book, probably in paperback. This book is none of those things.
This is a textbook. It even smells like a textbook. Weighs like a textbook. But when you open it up, it's like someone hid a high-polish magazine inside a hardback shell. Minus the ads, and plus a whole lot of content, of course. I felt like I was looking at one of those fluffy filler articles you might find in magazines with words like "simple" and "rustic" and "living" printed in bold font against a backdrop that indicates "sterile decor" and "trust fund living" and "kids? What kids? I have no spawn to muss my walls."
The imagery is mostly blank white space, broken elegantly by a piece of moss here, a potted succulent there, and the occasional paragraph.
I had a hard time actually getting my eyeballs to read those paragraphs. This is a book that begs to be browsed - like a magazine you pick up in the grocery checkout with no intentions to buy. It's hard to imagine reading this book. In fact, it sat on my table for weeks before I read more than a section subtitle. The interior of the book just looked so much like a coffee table magazine, that I found myself treating it as one. (Let's face it - I treat textbooks that way, too.)
Finally, I forced my eyes to focus on the paragraphs. I started in the middle - I couldn't help myself - then flipped back to the beginning.
It turns out that this book is... well, it's hard to pin down. It reads like the nicest, most conversational, most helpful and friendly textbook ever. That is to say, there really is a ton of information in there, complete with step-by-step guides (that read something like recipes) for the more complicated design ideas given in the text. This really would be a great textbook for a class on this stuff. But never fear - the authors, who do this special sort of plant-based interior design for a living, aren't going to lose their day jobs anytime soon. While they do seem to share a wealth of trade secrets in this book, it's the rare non-interior designer who is going to absorb all that info. Or rather, who is going to want to absorb all that info. 
This would be a great book to check out from the library when you've decided to be your own interior designer for your posh loft apartment in some swanky urban dream, and you want a lot of greenery in your house. Oh, and your home is not situated in an arid desert environment like mine is. Still, I'll probably use some of these ideas (or a poor person's equivalent), and I'll definitely look to the photography for inspiration on future projects. Would I have bought this book, had it not been provided for review? Probably not. I would have happily flipped through it while waiting to pay for my actual purchases, though.

But hey, don't let me spoil your fun. You can find Rooted in Design on amazon. I got my copy from, where I post reviews in exchange for free books. Free books! Yeah baby!