Axons Sing

Coursework, Portfolio

This is the Final Portfolio I’ve assembled for WR375: Short Prose Forms.

Marktplatz

Lively as their pace increased
they sped through town as though released
of burdens handed down from high
enslaved to none but free to fly
and as they ran with energy
they said hello to anarchy
though stopping when their legs are tired
they still remain as if on fire.

Duty Bound

Each name is whispered, a ritual in itself: “Mary”, “Kaylee”, “Dylan”, “Eric”, “Trevor”. As each kid says their name aloud they toss a tightly folded paper packet they’ve been holding into the fire, where they unfold like tiny flowers. The flames take them. Now they are one in secrecy–now they are whole. The fire dances over each young face, against the backdrop of iconoclastic suburban housing. Mary’s backyard provides the catalyst for the sacrament, a small lush haven that slopes down to the riverbank and is as far removed from the rest of the manufactured community as possible.
Mary pulls back the edge of her cloak to reveal something glinting, a knife laid plainly at her feet.
“Who will do it?” she asks.
The children all look at one another. Trevor steps forward, shy and hesitant with his head dipped against his chest.
“I…” He starts, but then steps back to his place in the circle.
“I will,” Dylan says and steps forward to kneel at Mary’s feet, resting his palms on the cold blade.
“Do you swear to right the wrongs of the Mother and Father? To do what the adults have failed to?” Mary asks him.
He looks up at her and whispers, “I do”.
Mary places her hand on his head, “Then go in good faith.”
The children watch in silence as Dylan rises with the dagger in hand, the flames winking off its steel, and walks towards the backdoor of the sleeping house.

Indistinguished

“Particularly the one on the left,” she said, and the salesman removed it from the case.
“It’s rather exquisite,” he said, and she ignored him, trying it on.
“A perfect fit,” she remarked, eyes glinting like the stone that glinted back.
“Indeed,” he said, and was blinded by them both.

No Vacancy

Out past the city limits a few miles is the Palm Motel. With real palm trees. You go there to rent a room. I mean, it’s a motel. When you get there there’s a storm overhead and looks like when the clouds roll in in Poltergeist but less cheesy and you’re really afraid. It’s just a storm though, just a motel. Fran has worked the desk at the Palm for twenty-two years, thank you very much, and she doesn’t appreciate any late check-outs. Each room looks out over and across the parking lot, staring at each other so you stare at others just like you who want to hide in these rooms but you can still see them and they can all see you.

Night Terrors

Nightly as the family sleeps, and hallways hum with furnace heat, the little dead boy who lives in the floor comes up for a walk through the rooms.

When Mom and Dad are deep in dreams, then open doors that none can see, where visitors come bearing teeth and tongues that live in and live off of the gloom.

There are beasties and sycophants, who have come for a dalliance; they watch over the slumber of humans with hunger and eye which one’s plumpest to eat.

But the boy from the floor (the dead one, from before) stalks the halls like a gossamer sentinel.

With spirit unwavered he shoos them all wayward, cleaning house of these unwelcome but-inners.

And the boy from the floor, tries hard to ignore, the memory his mind’s made an essential.

Of the night when he slept, in his bed as they crept, when the monsters all had him for dinner.

And with the beasties banished out, the dead boy has fulfilled his route, and goes back to the floor where his bones wait e’ermore as his bed and his friends and toys.

And as the dead boy goes to sleep the live one wakes in tangled sheets, and there he keeps set unguarded and kept letting fade strange dreams of black noise.

And rushing out of bed towards the kitchen and its sweet rewards the plump boy went with his hunger roared for he had dreamed again of a feast.

5 Day Migraine

6,600 mg. ibuprofen
1500 mg. acetaminophen
1500 mg. aspirin
390 mg. caffeine
110 hours of pain
53 hours in bed
53 hours in darkness
50 mg. promethazine
31 grams Mitragyna speciosa
15 mL oxymetazoline HCl
10 fits of frustration
9 states of depression
8 ruminations
7 missed opportunities
6 skipped meals
5 sleepless nights
4 fits of anger
3 minor breakdowns
2 people who need me
1 migraine

Jetstream

When he was young, Richard dreamed with his eyes open. Mostly in the backyard, but always when he waved his toy plane through the air. It was green and made of light and durable wood, with a tiny wooden pilot goggled in the open cockpit. When he dreamed he dreamed he was that pilot, feeling the thin air of the high altitudes whip across his face while he dove through the sky, high above the clouds where no one thought to look anymore. Once he ran out of fuel mid-flight, and free fell towards the ground and inevitable catastrophe, but at the last moment his engines started back up (and his feet regained their balance) to take Richard further into dreams.

Old Country

I am driving the curving length of the SR-39, where the national forest line guillotines this established network—where I can shoot and kill Bill Hapley without triggering a response squad. The Elevax M36 automatic pistol is outfitted with a geopositional transmitter that alerts all available units on the Security:Recovery Network in range when fired within city limits. Response time is typically three minutes or less, with a 94% apprehension rate in the event of illicit activity. I can still hear Bill struggling in the trunk, but he’s wearing out. The hollow thunks against the lid are dimmer than a few miles ago, and his moans have gone low and resolved. We’re heading to the family campground, where I learned to hunt and fish as a child. It’ll be a good place for Bill, he’ll like it there, away from the constant electric hum of the 22nd Century. He’ll find peace there, just like the others. I’m sure of it.

Pillowbits

1. From darkness a Glennorick is catapulted over hill and grass into the wet waiting mouth of a Blunderbear, who makes approving growly sounds and chews him with delightful enthusiasm. When finished, the Glennorick is disseminated, reconstituted, and deposited to be catapulted out for another Blunderbear, waiting on the next hill.

2. The Willowaps cruise kindly over these hillock rolls, taking care to dodge Rumplings playing Check-or-Chase in the valley lulls. They clap (the Willowaps) and snort (the Rumplings) and say, “Oly oly frump and frey!” (both together laughing) as they dodge poor high-flying Glennoricks.

3. Out past the Fiddlesticks, two Lollers sing “If I Was a Potterskin” at the edge of Siltbottom Bay, clasping all seven hands in elaborate thumb wars. From the water bob a school of Tentabites, snapping and smiling and waving the Lollers over (though they much prefer the taste of Sipperdeans).

4. And all the land hums in the sunrise of a new day, when Jabbins will be born, and Cloverdings will stretch their green wings, and Remnins will be mischievous—where all the shapes of wonder and nonsense live, so long as children dream.

Ecology

A fine rug of needles stands up from the carpet, as green as the pines outside. The gnarled roots of the walls, having no other alternative, crawl over the floor in wavy stretches and bend towards the sliver of daily sunlight; the canopy is dense and unforgiving. The mossy Lay-Z-Boy chitters like Rice Crispies. Back on the kitchen floor the occupant still holds a small potted (ficus) plant, legs splayed, back against the spongy counters, covered in creeping vines. He’s part of an ecosystem now, tastes the living room. His motor skills hang low like strange fruit from his neocortex. Fingers in the earth clutch ceiling fan pods, they’re memories, synaptic gourds. And all throughout the living room axons sing and grow and bury.

Writing Exercise: Week 8: That Which I Know Not

Coursework

The jitters come and go, but if you’re lucid enough you can make them dissolve into the background and out of your head, out of your focus, which really shouldn’t even be a focus—more like a kind of small engine humming on the other side of the room. The lines aren’t lines anymore, they’re words and words are power. You don’t go out there armed with a script, you go out there with bullets. It doesn’t happen often, but my favorite way to come out is through center curtain, where you can open right into the heart of it all. It’s best in medias res, which you might think would be harder, but really it just helps to make that humming engine get that much further out of the firing line. You hit your mark, wait for your cue, and then you’re in it. Every muscle, every hair, every drop of nervous sweat become alert and tuned to the space between your words, those places of reaction and therefore unmitigated truth. You can hear the audience vibrating when it’s good, almost see them getting hit by so many rounds. When it’s bad, the shots get turned around. But that’s not often, if you’re working, because you’ll still find those moments of perfect weight that make you forget about you and force you to contemplate all, and they’ll lead you to a better performance. In the life that is a play there’s less life but more play.

Writing Exercise: Week 5: Pick a Past

Coursework

Recreate a diary entry from an earlier period.

Anger. Anger. Frustration. Unsatisfied longing. Anger. Compression. [hope]. Rage. Wishing. Falling. Drowning. Choking. Burning. Anger. Hope. WISHING. MAKING. LEARNING. Anger. Frustration. Compression. Longing. Regretting. Straining. Criticizing. Speculating. NEEDING. Seeing. Loving. Cursing. Waiting. WAITING. WAITING. Anger. Frustration. Harmonizing. Deifying. Strategizing. Waiting. Anger. Longing. HOPE. Loving. Appreciating. SYNTHESIZING. Concealing. Assimilating. HOPING. WAITING. HOPING. WAITING. WAITING.

Writing Exercise: Week 4: Memory, Dream, Essay, Letter

Coursework

I must’ve said something about wanting to ditch, about the feeling that must have burning in me that morning that sent me walking out the doors before lunch, just handing my binder and papers to Dan and going. I just left. I walked down Central Avenue, I cut around through alleyways and side streets, just meandering. I went through downtown, went into a couple of stores and pretended to browse, but really I think I just was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing—I’d never had a truancy in my life, and the feeling was freeing, yes, but also jarring, and I wasn’t sure how to behave (how do you fall in line with breaking the rules?). It was grey out, or at least I remember it grey, and I don’t think I even had a coat on. It was May, or close to end of the school year, and I was having something of a breakdown.

Writing Exercise: Week 3: Say a Word

Coursework

Machine (Describe first memory of machine with sensory language)

The room is small and narrow as we duck our heads around the large table in the center of the attic. My Opa has built an entire (albeit somewhat sparse) little village on the surface of the table, little more than two huge squares of wood on sawhorses. Around the village, in a curvy eight, drives a little black train engine, pulling plastic cars behind it and making crunching, whirring sounds against the metal tracks. The air’s musty up here, a wonderful kind of old that act like a portal in my head and transports me back even farther than childhood, to the ether of imagination. It’s the smell of libraries, of adventures in waiting. He wears a conductor hat, my Opa, and I’m so enamored with the tiny wonders that move and blink and leave a strong electrical smell in the air that I don’t stop to wonder why it is he comes up here when I’m not visiting my grandparents. I don’t wonder about what a man in his sixties is doing in the most secluded room in a house with three floors, empty now that the kids are all grown. I don’t wonder any of that, and instead just keep revving the train and flying by the small plastic people who watch us go.

Writing Exercise: Week 2: Fail/Aftermath

Coursework

1. A Story That Fails
He looked at her across the room. She was pretending she couldn’t see him.
He came over.
“Are you a vampire?” she asked, hopeful.
But all he did was brood.

 

2. “Aftermath” Story
They are sprawled out on the sheets like landmine victims, each one sweaty and panting and worn. All the pieces of clothing have gotten into a fight on the floor, and they’re paralyzed in their tangled mass. On the bed, each individual finger is curled round another’s, so as to remind them all they’re here, still breathing: E Pluribus Unum.

Writing Exercise: Week 1: A Childhood Place

Coursework

The space is open and vast, a whole castle to play in, sleep in, and read in the backseat of the family’s station wagon. I took trips across the country, always to the low hum of the highway underneath. In town it was a space ship that I piloted as my parents only symbolically steered through the streets. A little later it was a Batmobile, sometimes it was all I could do to hold onto the wheel as we spun around corners in high-speed chases with ambiguous villains. The power windows were like pod bay doors that opened at my whim (until I got yelled at), and the center armrest that pulled out of the seat wall was a secret compartment to hide precious trading cards. This was my favorite seat, but there were others that did just as well, and always best when I had the whole backseat to myself. My favorite times, were always when I had my nose in a book on a long drive somewhere. When I could read a hundred pages in one sitting and totally lose myself in a story, those were the best feelings as a kid, when the magic is still turned up high.

3 Short Prose Revisions

Coursework

3 revisions of previously posted prose.

JETSTREAM

When he was young, Richard dreamed with his eyes open. Mostly in the backyard, but always when he waved his toy plane through the air. It was green and made of light and durable wood, with a tiny wooden pilot goggled in the open cockpit. When he dreamed he dreamed he was that pilot, feeling the thin air of the high altitudes whip across his face while he dove through the sky, high above the clouds where no one thought to look anymore. Once he ran out of fuel midflight, and free fell towards the ground and inevitable catastrophe, but at the last moment his engines started back up (and his feet regained their balance) to take Richard further in dreams.

ECOLOGY

A fine rug of needles stands up from the carpet, as green as the pines outside. The gnarled roots of the walls, having no other alternative, crawl over the floor in wavy stretches and bend towards the sliver of daily sunlight; the canopy is dense and unforgiving. The mossy Lay-Z-Boy chitters like Rice Crispies. Back on the kitchen floor the occupant still holds a small potted (ficus) plant, legs splayed, back against the spongy counters, covered in creeping vines. He’s part of an ecosystem now, tastes the living room. His motor skills hang low like strange fruit from his neocortex. Fingers in the earth clutch ceiling fan pods, they’re memories, synaptic gourds. And all throughout the living room axons sing and grow and bury.

INDISTINGUISHED

“Particularly the one on the left,” she said, and the salesman removed it from the case.
“It’s rather exquisite,” he said, and she ignored him, trying it on.
“A perfect fit,” she remarked, eyes glinting like the gem that glinted back.
“Indeed,” he said, and was blinded by them both.