Submissions: Round One

Shale Submissions

I Call

Here I Hang in Whispers waiting
shifting in The Light is fading
Darkness cowers covers cares
Starlight flounders farrows fares
in the Maria I wait
beckon, beget, barren, bait
Songs of Silence I endure
bringing forth The Cost is sure

Oscillate in Spaces brightened
nebulae of thoughts reminded
dancing in the southern lair
Shadows hold and harden bare
Melodies of Theories sate
favor, fervor, fire, fate
Notions in the harmony
Silent as the Sleeping Sea

Here I Hang in hushed expectance
while the words drift to repentance
destined, they who hear the Song
Quietude in Thought prolong
creeping tendrils in the mind
prodded, pursued, promised, pined
Prices fetched with fingers numb
eyes milky and tongues undone

Whisper with Me
hear My Words
the Mouth is Dark
the Tongue Ensures

The Moon

Silently, it shifts
Out of focus, out of reach
There it rises, here it sets
Bearing neither heart nor heat

Sending lilting light beams down
To the barren, wilted ground
Never sleeping, only blinking
Judging all, and all for taking

Loneliness, it lacks
Warmth reflected, warmth unheld
But rising up, its song is light
Companion to the heart compelled

Love that’s rare is no less grand
Life lived loveless still expands
In the skies, a medal bright
Needing nothing, giving light

The Soul’s Pane

My breathing stops,
My heart still beats;
My heartbeat stops,
My eyes still see;
My eyesight fades,

This is how you know I am dead:
Pupils fail to shrink in the light
No pulse or breath can this amend
The window closed, the blinds pulled tight

How tenuous the link that arcs
‘Tween self-as-mind and mass of brain
Each memory a path of sparks
A map of wires clutch the sane

Blindness lives in every eye
Where optic nerves block sideways sight
But brains fill in a hushed reply
Illusions painted o’er the blight

When the mind falls silent, still
When the sparks fall dark and chill
When the blinds are drawn to sill
That is the moment I lie still
This is the moment I lie still.


Poem Combination

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Solidago Submission

Filaments (original version; revised under “Submissions: Round Two”)

I venture down the narrow passages of the mind. Some adventurers hold their memories in palaces, arching overheard in great sweeps of ivory and gold, gently curving into walls holding vivid, impressionist scenes, surrounding marble sculptures of treasured faces and bodies. My memories ride wires.

Sound waves become trapped among the neural pathways, bouncing and jumping with each electrical spark. The exact way a phrase was said, its intonation, its lilt: Yah booddeh; I’ve had conversations while drunk that weren’t half as entertaining; I ate his liver, with some fava beans, and a nice chianti. Colors are washed out by the sparks, tastes are half-remembered between crossed wires of savory and bland, and textures are given the barest hint of soft, rough, sharp. Smells ride beneath the wires, taking the subways while sounds ride the daylight rails: it smells like Dad’s shop—something about the metal, maybe oil?

The wires squeeze into dark places, tight together, a dozen memories holding desperately to each other for warmth as I search with clublike, prodding hand. Some of them fall into the darkness, lost—names and faces I’ll find again only in dreams. I yank some wires into the light and coat them over, and over, and over, repeating lines of text and poring over images: Stems don’t have a pericycle, so the cork cambium comes from the cortex. Stems don’t have a pericycle. Then I fill bubbles—blue or green, on stiff, white paper—with No. 2 lead; the wires relax, falling back downward, hanging precariously on the edge of the dark.

Little wires, precious things, are tied deep within, sparking when a nearby wire startles them awake. I remember sitting in front of a tree and hugging a plush horse; I remember another tree, long after my eyes weakened, shining in bright blotches of reds, blues, pinks, yellows, blotting out the stiff metal limbs and plastic needles; I remember another tree, background to a cat, fluff wafting upward like some chemical scent as she snoozes in the chair. The wires cross and lead me to nouns unbidden, dipping in and out of depth.

Some wires spark too brightly, too painfully. The plush horse becomes a rabbit, in a cold room with blocks and toys. The rabbit is gripped tightly by the palms, placed deliberately so as not to harm the stuffed creature. Tears on the rabbit. A new wire, a sound—Tears, John—speeds away from the funeral home and its rabbit-gripping child, speeds toward a song of sadness that hits not so closely to the heart. A near miss, that.

The whistling wires wind, twisting and turning and taking, leading and lilting and leaving, nearing and needing and narrowing. A girl sits at a laptop, picking at her skin. Her fingers move to type and she wonders. She wonders if her mind is too narrow, if she has coiled her wires too tightly. She could be writing about true struggles—against society, against mortality, against the omnipresent Other that lurks in every establishment against whom the less fortunate must rail.

Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye. The chant echoes, the rainbow flags waving proudly, a crowd standing in solidarity against the loud hate with louder love. It becomes a social event: We many standing proud against the few, our voices carrying above theirs, socialize and joke and carry on. This isn’t just a show of force or faith, pushing back the hate-mongers with slick comebacks and witticisms; it’s a chance for us to experience acceptance in the midst of denial, to gather and talk freely among each other even as the man with his harmful sign and harsher words tries to tear us down. We grow from a place of narrowness to be larger than he is, to be the ones controlling the discussion, to be the power in the pride.

The wire glows softly, warmed by the memory. The fingers stop their movement across the keyboard, tempted to reach back into that narrow place. The wire of the funeral home pulses faintly, still churning with the embers of its last neural spark; a hundred other wires bulge with desire, wanting to spill forth and onto the page. A great many of them wish to spew forth fiction, crafting a great noir city with bleak landscape and tight alleyways, narrowing, narrowing, oppressing all light with its claustrophobic chiaroscuro. But the hands resist these wires.

The wires stem from many places, bridging gaps and—in too many places—falling into them. The narrow ones hurt, deep inside, crushed by melancholia and the bleakness of remembrance in heartache. But sometimes they grow, and forth from the seed sprout large, sturdy oaks, with memories bright and vivid and verdant, exuding life and energy. The wires cross, building upon each other, adding in tidbits of the scene, juxtaposing it with other uplifting sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches. The sounds tilt upward in major key; the clean, soft smells circulate beneath. The alleyways are too full to contain the whole; the narrowness cannot stop the spillage into the light.

I venture down the narrow passages of the mind. My memories ride the wires, linking them into ladders. I climb from the passages to the rooftops and look upon the scene:

Life is filled with narrowness. But to escape into the beyond, if only for a moment—that is where the truth of life lies.


Flo Gault Submissions

Resting Awash, Alight

Wind whistling, Needles rustling
Fearing the Fall, Exhilarating
in the height
The air is cool
It smells fresh
Pine and sap
Sticky, stains my legs
Sun shining, birds chirping
All is silence in the noise
Contemplation in the movement
Exulting, but quiet
Peaceful and serene
The World Waits
If the sun shines upon
my skin, the wind kisses it
coolly; my hands grip the branches
I am nearer the sky
My mind is light,
burdens lifted
Green is the place where I dream

The First Dance

The taps are a heartbeat
clicking lightly, robins’ wings
beating, thrumming the air
Warmth, full-bodied,
suffusing the air
Touch and sound
flowing into the flesh
softly, tenderly gripping
The heartbeat
Life
Movement
Surreal is the room,
lights aflame,
awash in color
Tapping, tapping
Beating in the blood
The pace is
quick
The heartbeat
full
Love in the sound
arrayed in
the taps

The Last Dance

Tap, tap, tap
Pain in the beating wings
A death in each sound
Pounding, slamming the temples
Eyes and eardrums throbbing
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Sudden and succinct,
the play of the macabre
smiling in its boney mask
Heat in the limbs
growing to fire
The pace exceeds
the heartbeat,
Bursting
Tap tap tap
Rushing is the red life
Hard in the soul,
the mind closed off
to erase the noise
Tap
The light is burning
The wood beneath is stone
Tap
The sound is escaping
tap
in the heat, it beats, it dies


Poem Combination

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Reflection

Both the poems “I Call” and “The Moon” were adapted from poems I had written previously, severely expanded and edited. “The Moon” has its origins in my high school creative writing class, when I was still getting the hang of creating a mood in poetry. I decided to give it a second half that flipped the formula that I’d been using, brightening the poem from a melancholic condemnation into a hopeful rumination, vaguely introducing an ebullient commentary on the asexual spectrum, of which I am a part.

“I Call” stemmed from a poem I typed into Skype one day on a whim this past summer; a few days prior, I’d read “The Call of Cthulhu,” and I thought it might be interesting to hear the perspective of an unknowable cosmic horror. As someone who typically lacks a significant force of personality, I wanted to test a viewpoint that embraces an all-consuming force—experimenting with my own ability to exude confidence, if you will, by portraying a figure so far above the mortal plane that the concept of confidence itself becomes meaningless when applied to it.

“The Soul’s Pane,” by contrast, was written specifically as a submission for the contest. I wished to examine identity by examining life itself, juxtaposing the phrase, “The eyes are the windows to the soul” with a tidbit of information I recalled from my Neuroscience class: If a person’s pupils do not react to light, they are dead, and no evidence to the contrary is sufficient to prove otherwise. I will also admit that the title is a pun on “pain” and “pane,” again due to the idiom about eyes and windows; at the point where I came up with it, I’d been revising poems for so long that my natural urge to pun could not be appeased, regardless of the aptness of the resulting title.

The three poems as combined for the revision drew somewhat from the physical poetic structures of Gerald Manley Hopkins and Anaïs Duplan, regarding the indentations of lines. However, I heavily embellished my spacing, as I wished to keep some distinction between the poems, which I enforced by aligning lines from the same poem in approximately the same vertical space. The revision led to a heavier focus on the Lovecraftian nature of “I Call,” which was expanded upon with the lines that I added to the end of the final combination. However, since “The Moon” ended on an uplifting note, I decided to tie something similar into the conclusin of the combination poem as well. Thus, the poem as a whole ends up seeming vaguely like a message from a supportive eldritch horror, which is so paradoxical and antithetical to such a being’s nature that it lends the poem an almost even eerier quality (or makes it mildly amusing). I believe that the nature of the ending to “The Moon” precludes it from meshing well with the other two poems; however, “The Soul’s Pane” is largely focused on the metaphysical and contemplative natures of the brain, which are exactly what an eldritch abomination would rend apart, thus resulting in an interesting interaction between those two poems.

The Solidago submission was a non-fiction (albeit heavily metaphorical) work that drew inspiration from “It’s Dark at the End: The Precision of Memory,” dealing with memory and personifying the brain as a collection of wires. I chose to write a new piece not only because of Solidago’s retriction on publication, but also to fit their theme of the word “narrow.” My work was fairly short, coming in at just under 900 words, and deliberately jumped between subjects—from wire to wire—before tying an overarching message into its conclusion. The memories were much looser and more abstract than the ones I wrote about in “It’s Dark at the End,” as I was attempting to capture the feel of a spark traveling swiftly between moments.

The Flo Gault submissions were all taken from assignments written in this class. “The First Dance” and “The Last Dance” were written when the class was instructed to write about something we loved, and then to write about the same thing as if we hated it. I chose tap dancing, which I did recreationally for ten years, emphasizing not only the external effects (i.e., the sounds of the taps), but the internal effects (increased heartrate and endorphin levels, exhaustion, etc.) as well. “The Last Dance” also calls back to a poem I wrote for WRD 308 last year, “Death as Player,” with its mention of the Danse Macabre. “Resting Awash, Alight” was written when the class was instructed to write about a place that makes us happy; mine happens to be the top of the fifth tree from the left in the backyard pine row. In addition to calming me and giving me a thrilling view, it becomes quite the worrisome place to be when the wind kicks up.

The combination revision of these poems was much easier, as two of the three were already designed to be matched with each other, although not directly line-for-line. The addition of “Resting Awash, Alight” to “The First Dance” and “The Last Dance” enabled me to play with the spacing a bit more to enable both dancing poems to align with each other. I was pleased that this worked out, as I didn’t want to put chunks of these poems out of order, as I did with the previous combination revision. Once combined, these poems ended up taking up the full page and a half, so I did not add additional lines.