Thursday, November 09, 2006


In July of 2004 I formed a free-writing group at the art center; we meet every Thursday. In the beginning I supplied all the prompts: single words, lines of poetry, quotes. Since then, three members have brought in their own prompt collections. Each of the two prompts below came from a different person. The first comes from a set of situational challenges. The second comes from a set of brief terms....

In the group we take a prompt and write for five to ten minutes (these two were closer to five). We write completely off the cuff and then read aloud what we've written. Given the nature of free-writing, everything is a rough draft. We literally scribble these pieces down as we sit around a table. We've had people come in who claimed they can't write -- and then they surprise themselves.

There's already a critique group in the county, so I wanted to create something that took a "no pressure" approach. We're in it for the fun and the camaraderie, though sometimes we write pretty emotional material. (Each week we also have a take-home prompt. One, "Little Boy," yielded writings where all of us except one cried as we read what we had written. I was one of the criers.)

I've written more about the group here. I wrote these two completely extemporaneous pieces earlier today.

Free-write 1: A man brings lunch to his wife at her workplace, only to discover that her coworkers haven't seen her in weeks.

Darling, I cannot stop staring at your tuna salad sandwich. The way you like it, with spicy mustard and small crunches of celery -- and a thin film of olive oil instead of mayonnaise. Rye bread. A fruit smoothie. Everything in a brown paper bag.

I have your work number on my cell phone. I am standing in the lobby of Kern & Sons, Ltd., where you are an insurance adjuster, and the front office tells me that 3-1/2 weeks ago you disappeared with no notice and without a trace. For the past 3-1/2 weeks I have seen you at dinner. And the people you tell me about -- George in accounting, Terry in personnel, all the water cooler conversation that has unfolded for years like a soap opera -- they wonder where you've gone.

And I don't know who's lying. You've never deceived me. From what you've told me, they are equally trustworthy.

When I dial your number I get a busy signal. I've gotten a busy signal for the past two hours.

The drunk on the corner pulled me aside on my way here and pointed, and told me about the cross-dimensional field that's descended over the block like a vast diaphanous tarp. Only I can't see it. No one except the drunk can see it. He tells me its focus is right next to the Sabrett cart that wafts the smell of hotdogs over with the breeze.

He tells me you went through it. Tries to convince me you work at another Kern & Sons, in another universe, with another George and another Terry and another front office.

And I wonder who is bringing you your sandwich. And do you realize where you are, or do you think you're here? And are you having an affair with another me?

And if you are, is he any good?

I'm going home now. I will put your lunch in the fridge, and I will set it out, paper bag and all, on your dinner plate, and wait till you get home. And I will hope that your reaction tells me what I need to know.

But then I ask myself: Are you my wife? Or are you his?

Free-write 2: Mirror Image

What do you do when the world's gone backwards? When reality shifts because of a coating of silvered glass?

Alice, traveling through the looking glass, passes her image in reverse. One that grows larger as she grows smaller, and smaller as she grows larger. Somewhere out there is a frowning Cheshire Cat, whose sharp teeth vanish first, leaving only a faceless feline stuck in a tree.

And the absurd becomes deadly logical, when in the end the logic is also absurd because it is backwards. Circular reasoning becomes square. Details squared away become amorphous.

And one can no longer view the issues from different angles because angles don't exist any more in a non-Euclidean universe.

Mirrors are opposites but they also lose light with each reflected reflection. Like Earthshine, which is twice-reflected light on the moon -- light that comes from the sun and bounces off the Earth and then bounces again off the Sea of Tranquility. A light, reflected off enough mirrors, is chipped away until it has turned into darkness.

Reversals of fortune. It is part of facing reality, whose face in the silvered glass has turned the other cheek.


Blogger Brenda Clews said...

Wonderful free-writes - I particularly like 'Mirror Image,' which reads like a prose poem... and I want to say, encore, encore! (Would love to read them as you produce them for your free-writing group.)

8:35 AM  

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