I didn’t think this loose hybrid micro series would find a home. The pieces felt too small, some too strange and some too colloquial, and all disconnected even though I knew the pieces were connected in a way I couldn’t articulate. I’m gratified and relieved it found a home in Entropy Magazine’s “Fog or a Cloud” series inspired by this quote from Etel Adnan: “… [images] they are pure feeling. They’re like something that calls you through a fog or a cloud.” The editor, Morgaine Baumann writes of the series: “What do you, or we, rely on our memories for? When, or are, memories accurate representations of the past? Does it matter? A little more specifically, I’m thinking, can memories be passed down genetically? Emotional/ physical traces carried from one generation to another, ultimately showing up in our writing? How can this be shown through syntax? In image? If through image, then are the images by extension also what’s being passed down?”
It’s a strange feeling to publish out of step with yourself. “All Surfaces Lose Their Tension” over at Marias At Sampaguitas is my second published flash-ish piece. I drafted it years ago, before I knew what flash was. The piece was my response to a writing group prompt to “describe a kiss.” When I thought of a kiss, all I could see in my mind was an image of a meniscus — the curve of water on the surface of a cup.
Like my first published prose poem “We Know the World with Our Bodies,” it is about a raceless, faceless couple passing each other by. In the past two years of learning to write flash, I’ve edited the piece on-and-off with the generous help of readers and other writers. I learned a lot about language and my obsessions in the process, but really, the piece was as done as it was ever going to be years ago.
Three years ago, I wrote a thing that wasn’t a story and wasn’t a poem. It is about a person sitting at a party watching a couple dance and thinking of someone else, which isn’t really anything. I reworked it every six months but could never get it to cohere. It’s also transparently autobiographical but I never said so when I submitted it to my writing workshop group for feedback — I think about myself and past a lot, which is always embarrassing to me, especially with a memory as slight as this. When readers asked what the piece is about, I said it’s a madeleine moment; language as mood; time as a circle. “It’s done,” a regular reader said after another redraft. It wasn’t done but I was sick of it too. I submitted it to 15 journals and was rejected 15 times.
This is a stream-of-consciousness sketch I wrote about an “off-stage” character in my short story Kirkenes, Norway (p. 95, Ginosko Literary Journal). In that great way it happens sometimes, this character, Marit, swam to the forefront of the original story and became the most interesting figure in it for me. I imagine she is in her 30s, living in post-war Norway in the 1950s. I don’t think we could be friends, but I like her.
Grease spots were profoundly irritating to her, and her clothes were full of them. She remembered scrubbing and scrubbing; lemon juice, baking soda, hot water, cold water–still the spots. There was no way to fry without sustaining these little oily insults, and she loved to fry. Vegetables, meat, anything. Her mother thought she was helpful–cold and quiet but helpful. It’s true she did other chores, but she fried because she wanted to. There was that side to her. The part that liked to see a piece of soft meat covered in egg and flour, all white and malleable, plunged in sparking oil. It always shocked her how quickly a thing could brown. Continue reading