A Writer’s Prayer

Hi everyone,

Here’s one I did many years ago in a book called CONNECTING DOTS. It was a collection of autobiographical poems. “A Writer’s Prayer” is dedicated to everyone who may have at some point, past or present, felt this way.

I’m 28. Part of becoming a writer is being rejected by editors who don’t want your work. I’m learning that lesson all too well.

A WRITER’S PRAYER

Something happens in the US mail
that makes a story go stale
the same way drinks lose their fizz
after the party.

This effervesced when it was fresh
the day I sent it on its way.
Now it’s back like all the others —
stale, flat, boring.

Boring, that’s me.
Never going to get it right,
never will be good enough,
never going to be a writer.
Who am I kidding?

I mail my newest story off
like a prayer of hope –
This time, please, this time.

(c) 2004 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

The price of chivalry

Hi everyone,

Big day for me tomorrow. The cyst comes out of my leg. It has been part of me since I was 12 or so. If you’ve been around me when I was wearing shorts, you’ve probably seen it. It’s hard to miss, and lately it seems to be growing a bit and taking on a slight discoloration.

I remember the day on the Pauly farm, just southeast of Springfield. Billy and I were setting out on some adventure or another, maybe headed toward the orchard, when his kid sister Nancy ran to catch up and beg to go along. Billy would have none of it and refused to help her over a barbwire fence in our path. As he scowled his disapproval, I reached down and helped her over the fence, and in the process cut my leg. It bled and eventually healed but some foreign object that remained in the wound, a flake of rust perhaps, remained behind and caused a little bump to remind me of the occasion.

When we were older, Billy and I attended Jarrett Junior High School in Springfield and there we drifted away from the close friendship of our younger days. I wrote a poem about it in CONNECTING DOTS.

Hey

At lunch today I see Billy.
“Hey,” we say.
“How’s it going?”
We don’t stop to say more.
Can’t think of anything.

From third grade on
we were best friends,
sleeping over
at each other’s house.

Rode horses,
teased his sister . . .
I think of the night
we laughed so hard
he fell out of bed.

Now he’s in homeroom 106,
I’m in 107.
And all we can say,
when we meet at lunch is,
“Hey, how’s it going?”

(c) 2004 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

After high school I never saw Billy again. Not many years after that, in a town in Mississippi, he died alone one night in a car wreck. But I still have a treasure of rich memories and, until tomorrow, the cyst on my leg.

Associating for the fun of it

Hi everyone,

I’ve written about the use of association to discover ideas for stories and poems. You start with a single word and make a list of 6-10 other words and phrases it reminds you of; choose one word from the first list to start a second list and jot down 6-10 words and phrases that one makes you think of; choose one word from that second list to start a third one and list 6-10 words and phrases that word makes you think of. Normally it doesn’t take long to finish three lists and have a total of 18-30 subjects to consider. It’s a quick way to charge your imagination and find something you want to explore further with a poem or story or perhaps a nonfiction piece in mind.

But this exercise also makes an entertaining mental game when you need something to do for a few minutes. Like this: Last night Sandy and I ate lakeside at a table between our two hackberry trees. While we ate and talked, I noticed what first appeared to be a small toad perched among the leaves of the tree closest to us. “I see a toad in that tree,” I told Sandy. “It’s a leaf,” she said.

I immediately thought of Valine Hobbs’s wonderful poem, “One day when we went walking.”
One day when we went walking,
I found a dragon’s tooth,
A dreadful dragon’s tooth.
“A locust thorn,” said Ruth.

I was in the first house we ever owned. It had three levels, was brand new, and an elf peeked out at me from its hiding place in the grain of the the door leading down to the lowest level. It didn’t reveal its presence to everyone. To some it was merely a swirl in the wood. I was in the back yard, putting up the fancy swing/play set we bought the kids. I’m not blessed with natural talent for assembling such things and Robin and Jeff’s help didn’t help. Years later I would record that event in CONNECTING DOTS.

SONG OF THE SWINGSET

The three-headed creature
huddles together in the yard.

In the space between the big head
and the instructions on the grass,
the helper heads bob in and out.

The three-headed creature sings to itself
two simple songs at once.

When are we going to get to swing?
Stop playing with the screwdriver.
When are we going to get to swing?
Where did you drop the washers?
When are we going to get to swing?
Let’s look for Section C.
When are we going to get to swing?
Why don’t you play with Mommy?

In that same back yard on a different day, Robin splashed some gasoline in her eye and screamed with pain and panic. I grabbed her in my arms and raced around the side of the house, through the garage, and to the back door. It was locked. I broke through it and got water into my daughter’s eye in time to soothe the pain and prevent damage. I watched Sandy’s concern and was in a hospital room in Atlanta.

WAITING FOR ROBIN

Eyes wide
She stares at the ceiling.

“You all right?”
Dumb thing to say,
Of course she’s not,
But what can I do?

She grabs my hand
With startling strength,
Hair plastered, face wet.

Should I kiss her?
Bad time.
She looks at me
From somewhere else.

Waiting for Robin
Is all there
In my wife’s eyes

Sandy. I was in high school. I had an awful crush on this girl who stopped me in the hall. Sandy was fifteen and selling raffle tickets for a puppy to raise money for her sorority.

THE WINNER

“Buy a ticket?”
She’s smiling at me.

I smile back,
hoping to say the right thing.
“What do I win?”

“Maybe a puppy.
It’s for a good cause.”

(Stalling for time),
“Promise I’ll win?”

Her eyes tease,
“How could you lose?”

I think to myself,
It’s not the puppy
I’m interested in.
I already feel like a winner.

I’m sitting at a table beside the lake in Springfield. How long was I gone? Seconds, no more. Sandy, mother of our wonderful adult Robin and Jeff, takes a sip of wine, tells me my toad is a leaf. She believes what she believes. I chew my food, wink at the leaf. The leaf winks back.

A poem for the picture

Hi everyone,

The picture of me with my first fish, which I posted yesterday on Facebook, reminded me of the poem I wrote for CONNECTING DOTS, POEMS OF MY JOURNEY, Boyds Mills Press, 2004, inspired by that picture and memory. Here they are together.

THINGS WE PRIZE

Hidden in the mountains, fed by snow,
The lake was small. We stayed there every year
And got to know our neighbors camping near
In tents like toadstools growing in a row.

I found a secret pool, a little nook
Where I could lie and watch the fish below
But no amount of coaxing made them go
For worms, or bits of bacon on my hook.

At last a fish too hungry to be wise
Took my bait so hard its body shook.
“A fish!” I cried. “Big enough to cook!”
I held it high to show its mighty size.

Even though the lake is far away
I remember posing with my prize
And grinning at our neighbors’ happy cries
Just as though it happened yesterday.

I’ve caught some bigger fish but this is clear,
They’ll never match the thrill I felt that day.
No matter what those larger trophies weigh
The first fish will always be most dear.

(c) 2004 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

Because I think it’s pretty

Hi everyone,

Several years ago I wrote a poem about a dead wasp I found on a windowsill in our kitchen. My editor, Wendy Murray, liked it and asked me to write a book with poems with that much feeling. The collection became CONNECTING DOTS. I know I’ve told you about this before and posted the poem, which I’m doing again here.

DEATH OF A WASP
Bumping at the windowpane
He fought against the solid air
That held him as a prisoner there,
But all his struggles were in vain.

Never comprehending glass
Clear as air that stopped him hard
And blocked his freedom to the yard,
Repeatedly he tried to pass.

Eventually he lost his fight
And perished on a sunny sill
Facing toward his freedom still,
Wings awry in broken flight.

He had a name, Trypoxylon,
A small but vibrant living thing
Who came in by the door in spring
And in a day or two was gone.

(c) by David L. Harrison
from CONNECTING DOTS
Boyds Mills Press, 2004

What prompted today’s post was this picture.

This dead wasp was floating in my pool, a careless victim of its need to snatch a drink of water. However you might feel about wasps in general or this one in particular, I like the pattern in the water. Meanwhile the sky matched the scene.