For better or worse, it’s February 14th and that means love (or, depending on your point of view a horrible reminder that you are single or an exploitative capitalist holiday) is in the air! True love, sorry – I have to get this out of my system: Anyway, true love is a concept that permeates our system and the holiday, …
It’s no secret that I have stepped into the position of managing editor for the arts journal, Pomona Valley Review for the upcoming 12th edition. For those that don’t know, PVR is an arts, poetry, and short story journal that comes out once a year and is run out of Cal Poly Pomona by alumni, graduate students, and faculty from …
While The Poetics Project was on hiatus for a while, the blog has now been renewed. To celebrate this renewal, we’ve revived our popular blog series called Story Shots. Story Shots a place where our writers all write a short creative non-fiction piece around the same concept and we share the stories with our readers. We have three short creative non-fiction pieces here for our readers today around the theme of renewal.
When your best friend dies at 26, you find what little strength you actually have. You thought you understood death by this point, that you knew how to best cope. You knew your grieving process and you knew how long each stage took. Too logical. Death is not logical.
I remember vaguely my phone ringing at 5:00 in the morning and hitting the dismiss button. I was in a dream with my best friend Jessie. We were at Disneyland and Paris and all her favorite and want-to-visit destinations at once. I ran to keep up with her, but she always seemed out of reach. The sky was a mixture of pink and reds. Strangely beautiful, and unsettling.
My alarm went off for work and I jumped on Facebook; my typical morning read. I thought to myself “what if Jessie is gone” when I spotted a belated birthday wish on her wall. My heart threatened to stop beating and I shrugged it off as another weird and morbid thought. I then realized her mother had called me, that she was the dismissed call. My heart threatened me again. I called her, convincing myself that everything was fine.
“Nicci?! Where you with Jessie yesterday?”
“No? I know she went to Disneyland with Richard, but I don’t…” At this point, I sensed the panic in her voice and was pushing the sheets off me to locate my dirty sweats in the hamper. I got caught in the sheets.
“Well did you know that she was in a car accident and died!?”
I had freed my legs in time to sit up straight, “What?”
“What….” my throat started producing croaks.
“Nicci? Nicci, call your mom. I don’t want you to be alone.”
“O…okay.” I live in the back house of my parents’, so I got up and stumbled like a zombie to their door. They leave it unlocked. My mother was up before I collapsed against her dresser.
“What happened? What happened?!” I mixture of fear, anger, and distress.
“Jessie…Jessie’s…she’s gone. She’s dead.” My father was rounding the bed when he turned to stabilize himself and let out one sob. He covered his eyes. My mother shouted and held me as the floor threatened to consume me. My lungs kept pushing air out and wouldn’t let me breathe. And then, I stopped. “Mom, I don’t know where Richard is.” (more…)
Thanks to the Supreme Court, we now have one form of equality on the books: marriage equality. But the battle for equality doesn’t stop there. While marriage is a great start, there are many battles left to fight such as racial equality, income equality, and, of course, gender equality. With that in mind, we present our creative nonfiction stories around …
It happens to us all – we’re in the middle of a piece of work and it is just inspired. Everything flows. The words fit perfectly. The idea is seamless and flows like the Nile forming an oasis in a desert of blank pages.
And then the phone rights. Or you get an email alert that snaps you out of the zone. Maybe someone knocks on the door. Whatever happens and then the zone is gone.
Writing all of a sudden becomes like pulling teeth – painful and extraordinarily uninspired. Things on the page that were once beautiful now turn to pure dung and nothing you do seems to redeem the words on the page or match the perfection of what came before.
I do advocate having a set time to write and minimizing interruptions during these writing periods, but that doesn’t mean that an inspired state of mind doesn’t help with the workflow, and when that streak is gone, it can seem impossible to begin to write again.
These three tips help me get back into the flow of writing once I’ve lost it, and hopefully they’ll help you too.
May means different things to different people. In May, memorial day happens to honor people who have served this country through military service. May is a great time for weddings. May is when the flowers start blooming and the bees start pollinating. But May 1st is a different kind of day. May Day in America has a history surrounding worker’s rights. This month’s creative nonfiction post is an ode to May Day.
The FM radio broke about a year ago. I don’t know why. My car’s a 2001 Kia Spectra and it’s 2015. That’s probably why.
KNX1070, a Southern Californian news radio program that ran on AM, was playing as I drove home. I had work until 5 p.m. I tell myself that work was the reason I didn’t go. I don’t tell myself even if I went, my busted hip and knee would have kept me from marching.
“Let’s go to your eye in the sky and get the latest on Traffic in L.A.” the male radio host said, over pronouncing every word through what sounded like a tight, forced smile.
“Well, there are a lot of freeway closures in L.A. today due to the march,” came the reply from the CBS News Helicopter.
“Thank you Denise. Are there a lot of people marching in L.A. today for the fight-for-fifteen movement?” The inflection of his voice was supposed to make him sound interested, but the over enthusiasm in his voice just made every question and statement that fell from his lips feel false.
“Oh gosh,” she started, “like 200 people are so. You can’t miss the flag they have. It’s a big flag. They’re leading the march with it.”
I texted my friend at the march asking how many people were there.
“About 1,000, maybe more” he replied. (more…)
Today, in 1616, William Shakespeare, beloved playwright and poet, passed away. For the past 399 years, Shakespeare has continued to live through his work. An author, you see, can die twice. Once is his or her actual, physical death, and the second death is when no one reads nor remembers your work any longer. While Shakespeare has died once, he has yet to experience this second death. This blog isn’t about Shakespeare’s death, but rather is about his continued life through his works.
But be contented when that fell arrest
Without all bail shall carry me away,
My life hath in this line some interest,
Which for memorial still with thee shall stay.
When thou reviewest this, thou dost review
The very part was consecrate to thee:
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
My spirit is thine, the better part of me:
So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life,
The prey of worms, my body being dead;
The coward conquest of a wretch’s knife,
Too base of thee to be remembered.
The worth of that is that which it contains,
And that is this, and this with thee remains.
– William Shakespeare
I am a rumor – a story. I just happen to be true.
I started one day in a Shakespeare course at Cal Poly Pomona.
They were paired up – the brightest and most talkative girl in the class – big in size and personality. And he was the handsome, fit, and quiet boy – quiet because he slept through most of the class.
He had all of the lines, literally. He was Henry V and she was Catherine – his French speaking princess. Only, she didn’t speak French. But Catherine did in eight lines of the scene they were assigned.
Henry V had issues remembering his long-winded speeches. It might have been because they were so long. It was most likely because he had put off practicing them until the day of the scene.
Catherine had issues remembering how to say things in French. She tried to write the lines down on her hand, but she realized she also had issues reading French. French, overall, was the issue for the princess of France.
Henry V and Catherine, while never having practiced the scene completely through together, did have one agreement though – they would end their production of Henry V right before Henry’s line “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”
Catherine was happy with that plan. Henry V had a surprise.
This is where the rumor was born. This was how I was made.
Henry V pulled the teacher aside before class and begged to use his copy of Shakespeare’s play to remember his words.
Catherine declined and tried to read her horribly scribbled French lines off of her hand.
Henry V and Catherine both forgot about Catherine’s maid, Alice. An Alice was pulled out of the audience and stuck into the scene.
Alice didn’t know her words either nor any of the staging. She assumed there would be staging. Henry V and Catherine never really got that far.
Alice was standing between Catherine and Henry when the dreaded line was said “Catherine, you have witchcraft in your lips.”
Catherine’s eyes opened wide and a slight look of horror swept across her face as Henry pushed aside Alice and took Catherine in his arms.
Henry V pulled Catherine close. His hand touched her cheek.
His thumb found itself over her lips, so when his lips approached, they were both kissing his thumb.
The class gasped.
Henry V thought himself clever.
Overall, the performance was awful. The Bard was probably rolling over in his grave.
The teacher gave Henry V and Catherine a solid B.
And now everyone remembers me as that time that one girl got kissed in Dr. Aaron’s Shakespeare class.
– Amanda Riggle
I have a very negative view of resolutions. I see them as promises we make ourselves that never work out. We make these promises because of cultural pressures to be better, or different, or new, but really, we are what we are, aren’t we? And if we want to change, a resolution isn’t going to be the motivating factor that does it. This is just my personal perspective, though. Our writer’s have other opinions.
It was the end of a particular nasty year, crammed with failure, transition, and plain bad luck. If I ever needed a year of salvation, this shiny 2011 was it. Farewell procrastination and debt—welcome gym and flossing! Tonight was my conversion to the real new Missy. I celebrated by buying another goldfish.
I have an affection for goldfish despite their lidless eyes, floating strings, and general refusal to stay alive. My room was never complete without that shimmering drop of gold. Each unlucky fish, however, became the next white belly tossed about by the bubbles from my air filter within two weeks. The day I flounced home with Ivan floating grumpily in his bag, I was resolute: This one was staying alive, damnit.
When two weeks came and went, my future with Ivan seemed promising. Although he wobbled his fat body away from my every friendly gesture and seemed bored as hell, Ivan was healthy. I fed him, cleaned his tank, and infused his water with oxygen and the best of intentions. Then one day before the three-week mark, my fish was suddenly a chunk of orange floating upside down, his magnificent fantail wilted.
I accepted defeat. I sanitized my one-fish-tank for good, zip-locked the purple rocks, bid all my wasted fish names goodbye, and locked the mess in the attic, weary. I had wanted to check each goal from my list; I had wanted to enjoy a happy life with Ivan; I had wanted to be a proud, accomplished, content version of myself. Trust a goldfish to put you in your place.
I don’t know why I saved that fish gear. Maybe I’m just secretly afraid I will never try again and this time succeed.
– Missy Lacock
She was just a girl in my class in summer school. I guess we were friends. I didn’t really like her all that much, but she was dating one of my friends from school so I had always been nice to her.
She was at my house. We didn’t have any plans. It was a slumber party with just two people. It was December 31st, 1999. Y2K was the great fear of the day, and we spent the night listening to rock music on KROQ and DJ’s crack jokes about the end of the digital world.
We were 16 years old and in my parent’s house, so there was no alcohol to speak of. We were eating chips and drinking Coke. My house had always been a Coke house, despite my personal like of Sprite and Pepsi. I wasn’t in command or control, so Coke it was.
“Sean isn’t very big,” she started to comment. Sean was my friend. I really didn’t want to hear about his dick size.
“Did you want to watch a movie or something?” I awkwardly tried to change the subject.
“And he’s about this thick,” she continued, holding up two of her small fingers.
Sometimes the most terrifying thing isn’t what you hear, but what you don’t hear. Silence can be tranquil and peaceful, but often what breaks that silence isn’t something we wish to be greeted with. For October’s Story Shots, we asked our writers to tackle silence and this is what they came up with.
“I don’t think it’s natural.”
“Let me see,” the doctor said in a heavy accent as she pulled her chair close to me. I had small ear tubes or something, which made me prone to ear infections all of my life. If I got any sort of cold or sinus infection, an ear infection wasn’t far behind.
“I think there’s a blockage,” she said as the warmth of the light made my ear slightly uncomfortable. I sat there in jeans and a t-shirt on the doctor’s table while my little sister sat in the room with me. I didn’t want her to be afraid of doctors, so I took her into simple examinations like this with me. I thought it was good to teach her not to be afraid by showing her not to be afraid.
“I think it’s just my inner ear being swollen,” I offered. This wasn’t my usual doctor. I had an HMO—Kaiser Permanente, so really, I never had a usual doctor. I had whoever was on at the time at whatever hospital I happened to stop at.
“No no no, it’s a waxy buildup,” she insisted.
I hesitated, “I’ve never had that before, but I’ve had ear infections all of my life. I have small tubes and I get them frequently when sick.”
“Trust me” she said as she fetched a long blue plastic stick with a loop at the end. “I’m just going to pull this wax right out and your hearing will be fine again.”
She had me sit still while she fished around my ear with the long blue noose until she hooked what she wanted.
“I don’t think that’s wax; I can feel that,” I said as she yanked.
Blood started to pour out of my ear.
“Oh!” she exclaimed as she got up to fetch something to catch all of the blood.
My sister recoiled and started to cry, “Manda!”
“Fucking shit,” was all I could say as I felt the warmth of the blood from my ripped eardrum sliding down my neck.
The doctor pressed some cotton to my neck and then left the room. Another doctor came in to look at my ear.
“It’ll just need to heal. Here’s a prescription for amoxicillin for your ear.” He handed me a piece of paper. The thing I wanted in the first place instead of the bloody and ripped ear drum.
The silence in my left ear lasted for months as it healed. It never fully recovered due to some scarring from the ripping itself. And, to boot, my sister was now terrified of doctors. And, to be honest, so was I little, now that they had ruined my dreams of being a recording engineer.
How could I mix music if I couldn’t hear it?
– Amanda Riggle
The headboard presses at the back of my skull as I close my eyes and sink into it. For a while, it’s just me, alone in my basement bedroom. I imagine my brother sleeping across the hall, his arms stretched out. The hair on his forehead slick with sweat—the musty scent that is teenage boy in the air, sticking to his sheets. And my mother, in the room above me, face-down on her king-sized bed, her thin hair a halo, her deep snores a lullaby. My sister and her newborn son in my old room. His body rigid. “Relax,” his brain screams, but his muscles don’t listen.
My body screams “sleep,” but my mind won’t listen. In the darkness, I begin to hear voices—muffled, but familiar. I open my eyes and walk to the door. I open it, peer around the corner. Left to right. Right to left. The house is dark and silent, but in the distance, a man laughs. His voice is raspy and high. I quietly close the door.
“Matt,” I call, but there’s no answer. Padding back across my bedroom, back to the bed, I dig my knees into the mattress, lean over, and draw back the curtains. Outside my window is a sea of black, but a woman stares back at me. Her short, brown hair curls away from her face, round and grey as the moon. I lean closer, pressing my skin against the cool pane until she disappears. I squint, trying to make out the landscape of our backyard, the weeds overtaking the flowerbed, the glow of the street lamps lining the freeway behind our fence. The window pane vibrates as a semi passes. The thin walls shake. My world is blue, and there’s no one it.
Back in bed, I reach for the phone on the nightstand. I dial his number with shaky fingers.
“Are you here?” I ask.
“I’m at home,” Matt answers.
We’ve all had some sort of interaction with the police. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting pulled over and getting a ticket or, especially with the news as of late, seeing police misconduct on television. When our writers were asked to use the word police as their inspiration for this month’s Story Shots post, a vast array of interaction came forth ranging from childhood memories to America’s interaction with ISIS.
Our relationship started out with a lie. He taught me some truths, too. He knew the most effective way to tell a lie was to paint it with little flecks of truth.
“Marijuana is a dangerous drug, children. It’ll get you addicted. It’s a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs. If you think pot is okay now, later you’ll be doing cocaine. It’s a fact.” He’d tell us in D.A.R.E. class in sixth grade.
I learned to lie back. He caught me on the streets after curfew when I was 13.
“Where are you going?” he asked as he flashed a light over my face.
“Home.” Here came that lie. It rolled off of my tongue so easily. I wasn’t intimidated by him, nor by his flashlight.
“Where do you live?”
I looked up at the street sign. “Right here. On Homer Street. I got into a fight with my friend at a sleepover.” I looked sad. Sad was easy to fake.
“Alright, do you need a ride to your door?” He followed up.
“No, I’m less than a block that way.” I smiled.
He let me go.
I ran into him a year later when I was ditching class. I was never a good kid in grade school or in junior high, and I continued my bad habits into high school. I was a freshman ditching class. He caught my friends and I on some railroad tracks that ran under a freeway by the Westminster mall, back behind what used to be a Super Best Buy. He chased us. We ran.
I fell into some bushes. I cut up my leg pretty badly but I sat there, silently, hoping to not be caught. He passed right by me.
The next time I saw him, he fucked me. I ran into him at a bar when I was 22. He had a clean-shaven head and piercing blue eyes. He was tall and muscular. I’m sure he was the spitting image of a thousand romance novel fantasies, and he was mine that night.
We went back to his place. There was no pretense of coffee. There was no awkward moment at the door. We went straight into his bedroom and he pinned me against his door the moment it clicked shut. His lips pressed against mine. They were hungry.
We stripped each other and got into bed. He pulled a condom from his nightstand.
His whole body was hard. His chest was rippling. His abs were well defined and glistening with the sweat from the labors of our passion. He ass was perfectly sculpted with little dimples above where his cheeks met his thighs.
The sex was violent and angry. He wielded a weapon at work with an air of authority and he did the same in bed. I was thrown around. I was held down. I was going to be sore for days. It was fantastic.
He has a violent streak. We all have it, but he has the chance to wield it, and wield it often. He makes the news for it. He terrorizes low-income communities with it. He protects the wealthy and affluent with it. He keeps the status quo in order and doles out a corrupt justice that sometimes goes mad.
He pulled a gun on me once. I was driving and he thought I was someone else. I’d never had a gun drawn on me before. I’d been stabbed on accident, by a classmate with a pen. I’d been cut with glass. I’d been punched. I’d been kicked in the chest in a mosh pit. But a gun was a new thing to me. It was scary. He wanted me to pay attention and I did. I was. He let me go. He never apologized.
He’s never been there for me, except for that one night he fucked me. When I called him to find the drunk driver who hit me at the age of 28, he did nothing. He filed some paperwork. He never followed up. When my car was sideswiped by a semi-truck at the age of 29, it took him 45 minutes to help me get off the side of the road. He never bothered to look for that semi.
Our relationship is strained. What else can a relationship be when it’s started on lies? The man and I, we’ve known each other for a long time. And I don’t trust him.
– Amanda Riggle
Great, it’s that time again. Look, I’m not ignorant to police brutality. How can I with the footage I have been presented with? Beatings by baton, pepper spraying peaceful protests, murdering the mentality disabled… I am not ignorant. But I wish the same could be said for the opposing side. My dad is a retired deputy sheriff. In order to spend more time with his only step-daughter, me, he decided to take night shifts and work in the jails. Every night he went to work, I knew that could he could be injured… or worse. And every day he came home, the bags under his eyes were heavier and he was exhausted. I have always been proud of my dad, and always appreciative of the work he does. But not every is. I have been told that my dad was a pig, that I should go fuck myself, that they intended to harm him. I often lost friends and became a target of ridicule, but I never stopped being proud of my dad. My dad did not beat inmates, he did his best to treat them like the people they are. My dad never pepper-sprayed anyone, he always tried to talk things out calmly. And my dad has never killed anyone because he has never had to draw his firearm. I wish more policemen were like him, that more people would realize the good policemen try to enforce, that people would stop being derogative towards all cops. And I in no way feel that we should stop having discussions about police brutality because it does exist. But maybe the news could strike a balance between the injustices committed and the righteousness upheld? Maybe the media could accept responsibility for the general hatred they have cultivated in the masses? Maybe we can stop saying “Fuck the police. Fuck them ALL!” Maybe. But probably not.
– Nicole Neitzke