Wednesday, April 24, 2013

out-of-body travel at thirteen

Thanks to a very wonderful teacher, John Darby, I was invited to read a few poems at Sky Lake in Rosendale, NY, a Shambhala Center for meditation at the end of a meditation weekend recently. This is one of the poems. The other, "a far and pure wilderness" is also in this blog if you search for that title.

["out-of-body travel at thirteen" was published in the towards euphoria chapbook from Seven Kitchens Press as the winner of the Editor's Prize a year or two ago. This is actually the end of a long series of poems. The story was also a prose story that was published a long time ago. It can be found through this link: “Out-of-body travel at thirteen,”]

[Eighth-grader Jeff’s side of the story:]
I snapped like a branch
and was released—
as if a tree had a soul
that flew away
when its boughs
were broken,
sky absorbed me
like a breath exhaled
despite cars, blacktop
and careless passersby,
a peace held me
like a cloud
sustaining ice
in its mist—
I felt like
a sapling
that remembers
its ancestor forest,
its millions
of green lives
in each tree,
each rooting
into other lives,
each racing
rival life-forms,
parasites grinding
pulp leaves
to worms’ food,
warm and cold-blooded
voices, mammals
moved by hunger,
rage, lust, fear—   
I understood
but was free
from the struggle
to be fed by sunlight,
water, air—   
the spirit
each body holds
was one with me,
yet I was
as free from self
as from body
and in the ether
I saw my self too
with all its flaws
before it could sl-
am shut its
small gates of
mind again—
I saw
what I was
while you
could see only
the shell of me,
and I had to choose
to be thrown in
the tangles of
life again—
I wasn’t prodded back
this time—
my body dragged me
in its heavy waves,
but the ether
still filled me
like a sail
until I ached
all over me,
suddenly a body— 
bewildered, diminished...
But then,
back in me
as if for the first time,
I grasped
that the soul
is not beyond,
across or through us—
it is us—
it is us
and I was
so moved to see
in your eyes
the farthest
purest wilderness


Sunday, April 21, 2013

This March  I was at the annual writers conference sponsored by the Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP Boston, 2013) and a magazine had a flash fiction contest at the bookfair. You had to write a story which met several criteria. It had to fit on one piece of paper with the guidelines printed on it. It had to be set on one of several possibilities, one of which was a space station. It had to have a plot situation, and one of them was that a device goes horribly wrong. It also had to have one of a series of types of characters, one of which was an impostor. I can't remember all the other rules, but this flash fiction, below, owes its eccentricities in part to the "rules." This did not win, but it did get some pretty good laughs. So here is:

Rescuers of Monkey Minds Search among the Water Bubbles (316 words mmxiii)

    If you say “Monkey Mind says” after everything you say in your head, it kind of deflates your ego. For example, you see a gorgeous woman float by on a space station, and you say, “Wow, what a hot woman! Monkey Mind says.”

    See, no one thinks you’re serious.

    So I was floating around a space station, the S. S. AWP, trying to wash my hands in the fully-automated “Zero-G” kitchen sink. It was made for guys who can’t even work a toaster. It was a giant clear balloon with one-way valves to let hands in and no water out. My hands went in and water flowed in—lots of water and a little soap, but it wouldn’t drain or let my hands back out. I started to panic and pulled away harder, which in Zero-G meant I was thrust face-first into the bulging balloon, and it POPPED!

    Water droplets exploded in all directions, but mostly they just floated into my face and around my head—I couldn’t breathe! And water was still flowing into the water sphere around my head.

    I pictured my ashes in an urn ejecting into space like Spock’s remains after the moving eulogy by Admiral Kirk in that Star Trek movie. I pictured that gorgeous woman coming to rescue me, wearing a Zero-G snorkel with an extra-long air tube. She wrapped her arms around me, planted her legs on the wall and shoved us out of the water bubble—I could breathe again!

    Then she took off her mask, and she had a three-day beard, and then she removed her torso body suit, and she was a skinny man in a plaid flannel shirt. “It’s not what you think,” she said. “I’m not transgender. I’m not an impostor. I’m just questioning.”

   “Wow, you really burst my bubble,” I said, and then I just felt deflated.