Writing: The Toolbox II

All writing requires a reading audience. Words are a heap of lines and curves without witness. Until they are perceived, recognized, and understood by someone, words are like sigils without the magic. While musical and visual arts provide an immediate sensorial experience, writing requires a layered mental processing, the dismantling of symbol structures, ciphers, abstractions, and concepts, and the decoding of language by the reader. As writers, we have a special responsibility to communicate. Writing engages the mind of the participant, demands a response, and enacts a virtual and intentional interaction with the reader. There is no trick without the tricked. There is no rabbit and no magic hat, without the reader.

I continue my series on writing craft, based on my years of experience. The tools that I have collected over time are tools I reach for every time I begin a new page that is still blank, or edit a page already filled to the margins. These tools have also helped me to make a living with writing, by adhering to a few simple principles.

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4. Never Ignore A Note


Not anyone else’s. And not your own. Because the goal is to be understood, and because it’s never perfect the first time around. Feedback is invaluable. Notes are gold. They are your lamplight in the darkness. They are clues when you can’t solve the puzzle. They are answers to problems you didn’t know you have. Good or not, every note has merit, because a note means someone didn’t understand something. And your job is to be understood.

I wrote several scripts for Jerry Bruckheimer and often his way of giving a note was to say, “I didn’t get that.” If one got defensive and tried to say, “Well, what I was trying to do—” he would stop you mid sentence and reiterate: “I didn’t get that.” You have to be able to not only take notes, but also to understand what they mean. When Jerry Bruckheimer said he didn’t get something, I was expected to know why and how I had to address his concern, without any further explanation from him. And I always knew what he meant.

Taking notes requires a similar empathic muscle as writing. You have to feel your characters’ feelings as much as you have to feel and speak to your readers’ feelings. Your readers need to “get it” and you need to know how to make them get it. That takes practice, and taking a lot of notes. From an editor with publishing experience who has critical feedback to give, to a novice reader who just didn’t understand—the witness, the reader, holds the answers in their hands. Reach out and take them. Forget fear. Forget pride. The work comes first.

 

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5. Know Why You Want to Write

When I was just beginning to write screenplays in New York City, I was invited to a dinner with a friend who was an assistant editor at Random House, together with Fran Liebowitz. The conversation was going swimmingly until Fran, who is a sharp and caustically witty person, asked me why I wanted to write screenplays. My mind went blank. It was as if I had never had an intelligent thought in my head, ever. I stammered, “Because of the money.” I was mortified. It wasn’t true, but it was all I could think of on the spot. She looked a lot less than impressed. And it was baffling to me. Why didn’t I have an answer? I’m still cringing today.

As a writer, you will be expected to have an identity, a reason, a passion, a raison d’etre for your work. What drives you? How can you articulate that? What kind of writer are you? The reason readers pick up an author for more than one book, poem, or essay, is that the author gives them something consistent in the writing, and consistently something of themselves. A strong author shares their point of view with the reader, and helps the reader either find their own, form their own, or find a new one through the work. On the off chance you might find yourself sitting across from Fran Liebowitz, make sure you have an answer, any answer, to the question, why do you write. And if you don’t have one right now, make one up. And make sure it sounds good. Don’t get caught with your pants down, like me.

 

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6. Know Your Brand

This relates to the previous point. There is no way of getting around branding. Not once you’re out there being read. The sooner you think about it, the better. As a writer, branding can be your friend. Think of any well-known author, and you will be able to articulate what their brand is. Kurt Vonnegut. Ernest Hemingway. Charles Bukowski. Virginia Woolf. Not only do most writers embrace and deliver a certain style, world, genre, topic, tone, and philosophy, many of them even have a distinctive look. In marketing, management knows that 20 percent of buyers account for 80 percent of profits, because of their loyalty to a brand. If something tastes good, people will buy it again. Make sure you know your flavor.

Branding creates customer loyalty and repeat purchases. That means publishers can sell your work. It will also commit you to be consistent once you have a brand, so make sure you know what you want to be. When author David Sedaris, whose enormously popular personal essays manage to sell book after book, takes a break from his essay brand and writes a collection of short stories, the approval “stars” on Amazon go down. Define your brand, that thing you do, and readers will come back for more.

All three of the above points have to do with your relationship with the reader. As you write, rewrite, and polish your work, take every opportunity to make your work the best it can be with the help of notes and feedback. Be mindful about who you are as a writer. Think about what lies behind your motivation to write, and what readers can expect from you when they come back for more. Do it, and you have the opportunity to create a lifelong relationship with your reader.

 

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All images courtesy of Bettina Gilois

 

 

Translation, Truth, and Writing About the Kids

Things look different from here, on the step/parent side of life. Every day the light shifts and something else is illuminated. Sometimes I write about my kids to understand what shifted, where the shadows now fall on the world, and what the light has revealed of my heart. However, this is not an essay about those light and shadowy things. It is about when the people we love and care for end up in the stories we write. It is an essay about the translation of thoughts to words. It is about the intersection of truth and compassion.

Even in our native tongue, everything is an act of translation. Against all odds, we seek to bridge the gap of different life experiences, varied perspectives, divergent opinions, particular regional understandings, distinct cultural affiliations, restricted vocabulary, limited linguilism. Our individual differences are never-ending. It is a wonder we can communicate with each other at all, so we practice the art of translating our inner world into outer expression. We write our thoughts, striving to convey precise meaning. We hope that our intention is successful despite the probability that something will slip through the cracks. There are, after all, so many cracks between the conception of a thought and the delivery of a sentence.

We seek to bridge the gap that lies between us, so we sit in a quiet room alone with a laptop or a stack of papers, or on a porch with crows cawing from the neighborhood-laced telephone wires, or in a café with the hissing milk-frother, the droning espresso machine, and the latest Damien Rice playing from the speakers. We mumble to ourselves, group letters and words together, rearrange them, erase, rewrite, start over. We stare into space with glazed eyes, the outlines of everything fuzzy, our ears deaf to the song refrain and the voices that drift through the semi-permeable edges of our thoughts.

We are desperate to make sense of things. We must write, because the very act deepens our understanding of the chasms we seek to bridge. We explore and excavate with whatever tool we can find—garden shovel, fingers, cutlery, lover, children, parents—and keep digging through the superficial layers until we hit solid bedrock. Until we hit clarity. Until we find true self-understanding.

I’ve been writing for a few years, maybe three, about my kids. They are not twins, but my two girls came into my life at the exact same moment, six years ago, just after the Thanksgiving pie. It was abrupt, joyful, strange, and like most births, painful. They say there’s no way for a first-time parent to prepare; I found this to be true. It is also true that with every birth of something, there is a death of something else. Don’t misunderstand: I love my girls, and I love my life. Still, I need to understand being an adult in this world, and being a parent from a stepmother’s perspective. I need to know myself in the light of that role. Writing illuminates.

We parents and stepparents need to read other parents’ and stepparents’ narratives to help us through our own, but I’ve often wondered–do we have the right to write about our kids? Like so many other aspects of kids’ lives, they have little say in what we do, what we write. They are busy trying to make their own sense of the world, and have no voice to give consent to their place in our essays. As adult writers we have insight, but that insight is not necessarily a perspective the kids agree with. Even if they did, the kids do not necessarily want the details of their lives to be exposed to an audience of readers. But our capricious kids do not necessarily NOT want the stories shared either.

Earlier this week, writer Andrea Jarrell explored her own thoughts on this topic in her Washington Post essay on writing about kids. In it she asked, “Why do I think my parents are fair game for my work, but I draw the line with my children?” Although Jarrell has chosen not to write about her kids for reasons she states in her essay, her question has led me to the opposite conclusion.

Parents and guardians. Every day, with our best judgment, we make a million decisions weighing the kids’ needs and our own. We sign field trip permission slips. Medical authorization forms. Roller rink liability contracts. Oatmeal or Frosted Flakes? Bedtime early or late? Bath on Tuesday or Wednesday? Cell phone or no phone? Playdate or homework? We weigh the kids’ priorities against our own, and approve a Redbox rental of Frozen so we can finish an essay, an hour of games on the iPad so we can figure out ACA health insurance, a bartered cup of frozen yogurt for a quiet afternoon of income tax expense sheets.

I write about the kids, but really I write about myself trying to make sense of where I stand now: in the kitchen with my ten-year-old making brownies as a Valentine’s gift for her teacher, or behind the camera taking photos of my fourteen-year-old whose boyfriend just pinned a corsage on her wrist for the Winter Formal, or at the barn next to the girls’ mother because on Sundays the riding lesson is the location for the hand-off that happens every-other-day between households.

From this grown-up ground is where I write about my kids. Here, truth and compassion stand side-by-side. Digging for my own truth, my own self-understanding, I want the words I write to be as loving as every decision I make about my girls. There is a Tibetan prayer that I’ve said for years as part of my yoga practice. If I have a guiding light as I translate my inner world into words for others to read, this is it:

May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May I know the beauty of my own true nature.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing in the world.

After the essays and stories and books are all written, I hope that my thoughts have been translated precisely. It is a long, long road from one heart to another. There are so many fault lines to cross. I always want my daughters to feel that the stories they’ve been a part of are honest, good, necessary, and loving.

©2014 Arielle Silver

©2014 Arielle Silver

For Eric Garner, Who Lost Staten Island

For Eric Garner, Who Lost Staten Island

Inside the brain of a bank,
where the world is,
I sold my breath
but then my breath was taken
and sold back to me.
+++
You cannot sell your breath,
I was told, as if it were gold,
or chopped up change,
or dollars that could be pulverized
and used as air.
+++
You cannot sell a grain of bread,
a crust of morning thirst,
a still life of a snowman holding
a bronchial child as she sleeps
a little closer, they told me
+++
while I choked on the ground
and choked on my eyes
and choked on a page of the Advance
and tried to trick the sunlight
that was no longer real.
+++
You cannot drink the water
more than once, not for free.
You cannot look at the moon
more than once, not for free.
You cannot comprehend the weight
of a cigarette more than once, not for free.
+++
You cannot pet the sugared coals
you stole from your first, second,
or seventh Christmas trauma,
not for free, they told me
when only the chambers
of a shattered dark dandelion were real.

 

random553-2_optRob Cook lives in New York City’s East Village. He is the author of six collections, including Empire in the Shade of a Grass Blade (Bitter Oleander Press, 2013), The Undermining of the Democratic Club (Spuyten Duyvil, 2014), and Asking My Liver for Forgiveness (Rain Mountain Press, 2014). Work has appeared in Versal, Rhino, Caliban, Fence, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Thrice Fiction, Great Weather For Media, Small Portions, Arsenic Lobster, Space & Time, Osiris, Phantom Drift, Weirdbook, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Posit, Zoland, Pear Noir!, Mudfish, Borderlands, Tampa Review, etc.

Allowing Room for Ideas to Grow

Redwoods_2Gardening has always been on my aspirational to-do list (along with sewing, cooking, and playing the piano), but it’s also one of those self-enrichment activities that requires actual time investment to get the most out of it. For instance, you can’t just put a seed in a pot and watch it grow into a tomato, or throw some eggs in a pan and get a soufflé. There are specific steps involved, and finding a process to remember those steps by memory, as always, takes time. I probably have the opposite of what Martha Stewart would refer to as a green thumb, and no matter how hard I try, I inevitably end up killing off the plants I receive as gifts (I’ve learned not to buy them anymore)—with the exception of succulents, which have the staying power of camels in a desert without water. I have a friend who grows herbs and vegetables like basil and tomatoes on her porch, an ingenious idea. Who wants to buy a mound of parsley in the grocery store when all most recipes call for is two tablespoons?

Creative activities like gardening can help to reinvigorate the writing process. Gardening does not happen to be one of those activities for me personally, but I have found one of the best ways to connect with my humanity as a writer is to spend time in natural environments. In cities like Los Angeles, it can be difficult to find quiet spaces to enjoy nature. They do exist, but it takes some searching to find them. After living in L.A. for over ten years, this past December, for the first time, I went to a redwood park in Northern California—the Humboldt Redwoods State Park. It was chilly, but there were also fewer tourists. Northern California has six major parks with old growth redwood trees. Old growth forests contain trees that haven’t been cut down and have been left undisturbed. According to the Save The Redwoods League, less than five percent of the old growth redwood forests in California still remain. The oldest redwoods and sequoias in those forests are up to 2,000 years old, and majestic with a presence that feels older than human nature itself.

Redwoods_1Walking around the redwood groves, I noticed some of the trees looked as if they had faces ingrained into their bark. I have been thinking about how, as a writer, connecting with my humanity also means being able to convey other perspectives. As writers, we should care about how our writing connects with readers, even as our writing is a mode of self-expression.

When a redwood tree dies and falls to the ground in the forest, its trunk has nutrients which feed the soil beneath it, causing the growth of more trees. Sometimes new trees begin to grow out of the trunk of the fallen tree, up to four or five saplings at a time. The young trees compete with each other for the light that opens up in the grove, and the strongest among them survives. Nature has its own innate logic, both in connection to and apart from human nature.

If I could describe what a moment of clarity sounds like—when an idea I’ve been mulling over for some time finally comes together—it’s something similar to the wind whispering through the tops of the trees in a redwood grove, over three hundred feet above. Distracted by cell phone notifications, car honks, and a steady stream of white noise coming at us throughout the day, it’s often difficult to hear this sound. Some ideas are just not as strong as others to survive, to be heard, and to be understood. But that doesn’t mean weaker ideas should just be discarded. Writers are luckier than the redwood forests, in a way. We can store our weaker ideas for later in Evernote, phones, computers, or file cabinets, while allowing the stronger ones to immediately grow into essays, poems, or stories. In the meanwhile, we can keep ideas that need a little more time to nurture in the quieter, undisturbed groves of memory, with just enough light to grow. Making time for clarity—whether for you as a writer that means gardening, cooking, or taking a walk in the woods—allows room for, at the very least, one idea to reach its fullest height.

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When Broccoli Bolts Yellow Poems Sky: A Meditation on Patience, Grace, and Humility for Writers

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Broccoli flower being pollinated by a bee. © 2015 Kiandra Jimenez

Broccoli flowers are a riot of yellow. A yellow influenced by green that is bright like metal in the sun. When gardeners set out broccoli plants most never plan to see the flowers. When we eat broccoli florets we’re eating immature flower buds. So, when broccoli flowers come, waving their delicate yellow petal flags, they signal defeat. The broccoli has bolted or gone to seed, and the beautiful purple green buds that were plump and swelling just yesterday have burst into laughter. Though still editable, bolted broccoli’s flavor, texture, and use changes. Whatever promise of soup pots, quiche, or stir-fry that once hung on the gardener’s tongue evaporates.

The first time I grew broccoli I was heartbroken when the buds erupted into flowers. We have temperate winters here in Southern California’s Inland Valley, so I quickly cursed the foothills hugging us in for allowing warm air to sit and spoil my crop. I wanted broccoli for basmati rice and teriyaki sautés, not flowers.

That spring I decided I did not have the climate or the heart to garden through winter. But as a few seasons came and went, I began to rethink my relationship with nature and my garden. What if I viewed my garden as an act of witnessing nature as well as a place to grow food to feed my family? What if I approached gardening unselfishly—for the ants and aphids, grasshoppers and lizards, snails and hummingbirds, and also, for the broccoli flowers?

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Broccoli plant before it bolts. © 2015 Kiandra Jimenez

One morning I earnestly approached my poetry practice with the goal of witnessing nature. I decided against carrying my camera, the way I typically interacted artistically with my garden, and challenged myself to only rely on words to record what unfolded around me. I packed two notebooks, one for regular poems and another for Tanka poems, along with a couple of books of poetry, and a basket for harvesting.

Before I could settle into a seat I was heading back inside to gather my photography bag. The color of the broccoli did it. Greens, silvers, purples—and the sight of the bolted broccoli with yellow, ruffled hands out in prayer to the sky. This time, while seeking to stand witness of what unfolded in my garden, I found beauty in the yellow flowers, not defeat. Instead of viewing the broccoli flowers as a sign of the plant’s end of life, I saw it as the beginning of many more lives.

When a plant bolts, or goes to seed, it has come to the end of its life cycle and is diverting its energy towards producing seeds for progeny and no longer putting its energy into creating fruit. The fruit of the plant often becomes bitter, woody, less palatable—nature’s way of discouraging consumption and securing future crops.

Plants, like us, instinctively live to reproduce, to create future generations. Posterity. When viewed in this light, metallic yellow broccoli flowers boast their own promise of abundance.

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Broccoli plant, some buds beginning to flower. © 2015 Kiandra Jimenez

It took me fifteen years to learn how to witness, be still, and translate what unfolds around me into poems. For years I struggled most with translating what I felt onto the page, and therefore, could not fully hear my voice. While waiting for my voice to develop, I translated what I observed in the world by creating mixed media art. During the same time, gardening fine-tuned my ability to be aware and witness the world around me. As a stewardess of nature I learned to listen and be keenly in tune with the seasons, the flora and fauna, and the weather around me.

I’ve come to realize what links the three practices—gardening, writing, art making—is the art of noticing, being a witness to life.

Poets, painters, and gardeners use the same eye, the same muscle, and call upon the same memories to remember, record, and celebrate what evolves around us. Our acts of creating poems, paintings, and garden beds push us beyond courage and passion and require us to look, notice, and then process what we have experienced. We then seek to translate and define for others what we have experienced, and how we have been moved and changed by witnessing.

We live and want others to live alongside us. We want others to share our awe, our wonder, our shock, joy, anger, and passion, so all of us feel acutely alive and connected.

At times we participate, join in, and ground ourselves with the world, but always, when we are succeeding at being our best artist selves, we are observing, watching, and noticing.

This way of living in tune and aware of what is around us requires muscle built from stillness, openness, and patience—virtues that help us develop into better artists by honing are ability to witness, translate, define, and pen our experiences into art. Living a deep and rich life requires actively choosing to be open to these virtues, and art is born in how we translate, define, and record them on the page.

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Bee feeding on broccoli flowers. © 2015 Kiandra Jimenez

This winter, I tell you, I am no longer a selfish gardener. The plants belong to the lizard and snails and birds as they belong to my family, my poems, and me. There is kindness in thinking of the bee hungry for nectar or the bird needing seeds during winter. Even the aphids have needs—why else would they cluster in large groups, crowding themselves in like a hug? Perhaps they are seeking comfort, warmth, and love, like all of us.

Developing sensitivity to the needs and voices of the tiniest creatures has taught me to be sensitive to the needs of my own voice. Letting my vegetables bolt and phase through a full life cycle is an act of grace and faith—an offer of goodwill to the tiny voices that also depend on my garden, and faith in the spent life of the plant. There will be more broccoli buds, more plants from the seeds spent plants sow.

I have learned to extend this same grace and faith to myself when I struggle on the page. Those moments when my voice winters deep inside my throat, and I wonder if ever more poems, more stories will come. When I am silent like winter I remember the favor of spring, the red riot of summer, and golden harvest of autumn. There will be more poems, more stories to tell from the seeds of goodwill I’ve sown—living I will eventually translate onto the page.

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Spice Roasted Broccoli Casserole © 2015 Kiandra Jimenez

Spice Roasted Broccoli and Basmati Rice Casserole with Almond Cheese Sauce (Vegan)

-Inspired by Forks Over Knives

At the end of a long day of writing, reading, homeschooling the kids, I often need to dig into a warm bowl of comfort. A simple casserole, with easy ingredients to allow me to think about poems, novel plots, and homeschooling lessons while I cook is necessary. Roasting broccoli preserves its vitamins and minerals better than boiling, so I start there, with a long roast. Roasting vegetables also concentrates their sugars and heightens their flavors. I’ve got quite a love affair underway with broccoli this February, so heightened flavor suits me just fine. Here is a simple, but delicious recipe from one of my busy, winter weeknights. It is versatile, so feel free to use it as inspiration. There are notes below with suggestions.

Ingredients:

2 bunches of broccoli

Cumin, coriander, smoked salt

1 red bell pepper

3 stalks of celery

2-3 c. of cooked basmati rice

4 tbl. almonds, roasted and ground into flour

1 c. nutritional yeast

2 tbl. prepared mustard

¼ – ½  c. broth (vegetable for vegan, chicken for others) + more broth for cooking rice

Liquid smoke, a couple of drops or more depending on taste

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, Tamari, or soy sauce, to taste

Salt, pepper, paprika, nutmeg, to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash broccoli. Cut broccoli into florets, and shave the stems down to the tender core and cut into thick chunks. Arrange in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then season with cumin, coriander, salt, and a few dashes of smoke. Roast until browned, being careful not to char.

2. While the broccoli roasts, prepare the basmati rice with broth instead of water. In a separate pan, sauté the bell pepper and celery with spices until soft and brown. Set aside.

3. To make the sauce: Toast the almonds in a dry skillet till fragrant. Add the almonds to a high-powered blender and pulse until a fine flour or meal forms, be careful not to make almond butter. Add most of the sautéed vegetables (bell pepper, celery), setting a quarter aside for the casserole. Add nutritional yeast and mustard. Pulse to combine, creating a thick paste. Slowly add broth, thinning according to your preferences. Season with smoke, Liquid Aminos/soy sauce, spices to taste.

4. Mix roasted broccoli, rice, reserved sautéed vegetables, and sauce; place in a casserole dish, cover, and bake at 350 degrees until warm.

Recipe Notes:

If you like, add onions and garlic in with the bell pepper and celery in step 2. A half of an onion, and 1-2 cloves of garlic would be a great place to start. If using garlic, add it after all the other vegetables have cooked a while, being careful not to burn it.

This dish can serve as a side or a meal in itself. To make it heartier, add your choice of prepared/cooked protein during step 4, or add it to the finished dish. Some ideas are vegan meat alternatives, chopped chicken, canned tuna, seared tofu, seitan, sausage, and chopped bacon.

You may also add other roasted vegetables to give greater depth to the casserole—Brussels sprouts, chard, kale, turnips, rutabagas—almost any hearty winter vegetable would pair well.

Write, Create, Eat, Live well!

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Spice Roasted Broccoli Casserole © 2015 Kiandra Jimenez

 

Some Thoughts About Why You Left, & Sweet Tooth

Some Thoughts About Why You Left

We both tried to kill ourselves, you with
pills, me, with a razor and a bottle of wine,
You lied for me, to every doctor, every
nurse and social worker, you even bragged
to me how good you were,
at the lying, that is

And when it was your turn, I didn’t lie for
You, I told them what you meant to do, they
Kept you for two weeks, I called you every
Day and once you were out I came to see
you in your sad little trailer, my sons pacing
the small space between us,

The point is, even once my horizontal cuts
Had healed, white lines on my wrists, you
Were still the voice in the other room,
drowning out the reasons we tried,

In Vegas, on our wedding night I texted my
Ex from the bathroom, I sat on the toilet and
And cried into a hotel towel, not that I didn’t
Love you, but because my love for you
overlapped with my love for him, and how
could I belong to you, completely, when
threads of my heart lead me elsewhere and
our rings, like little prisons, bound me to
you, you who didn’t trust me to stay
without them?

The following morning I realized the truth
About the bars on the casino windows, how
they protect the losers from losing
everything that’s left, if anything.

When I chose to stop loving him, for good,
When I gave in to the idea of belonging to
you, I cut the threads, and the fabric of you
and me, unraveled, Who could have known
that your love depended on the distracted
quality of my affection, your loyalty, on the
fear of losing me to him?

The thing is, we tried, like people do, to
Leave this world on our terms, and you
loved me until you weren’t afraid, and I
loved you most when you didn’t care,

And now that you’re gone, we are leaving
Each other still, every day, the view
growing brighter yet.

 

Sweet Tooth

Even with our hair tucked inside baseball caps
Dressed in my father’s work shirts, a truck full of men
Twice our age followed us as we walked to a candy store,
Yelling profanities, like, did we want to suck their dicks
Or sit on their laps, how tight were we,
I was twelve and my cousin only ten,
We barely looked like girls, let alone women, we thought
we’d outsmart them this time for sure, but they’d caught
our scent, even when we took refuge in a Red Apple they
Were out in the parking lot waiting for us again, revving up
Their engine when all we wanted was to go home and play
Barbies, eat our Starburst and Skittles,
but the men
In the red Ford truck had other plans for us, that August
In the valley’s dry, sick heat, the layers
of men’s clothing
Didn’t breathe, and neither did we
for the moment when they
Slowed down as if to scoop us up,
they laughed when
I gathered rocks, threw handfuls
at their truck,
When I yelled, Leave us alone!
We are children! I told them
though they knew that already,
which is why the woman driving the station
wagon pulled up to the shoulder,
muttered an inaudible threat,
The truck lurched forward, angry and young
The men sped off, a cloud of dust sticking to our salty skin,
Marching back to the house on Viall Street
we chewed on Tootsie Rolls and caramels,
the sweetness weighing a million pounds
on our tongues, our baby teeth.

PE_6fac12d9-fb46-457a-90a7-b5028ea7d84c (1)Kristy Webster is the author of Coco, a magical realism novella, and Dream Dogs, a collection of short stories. Her work has been published in print and online journals such as Connotations Press, The Feminist Wire, Sirens, Molotov Cocktail, Pacifica Literary Review, and Ginger Piglet. Kristy’s work is also featured in two anthologies by GirlChildPress, Woman’s Work, and Just Like a Girl. She is a bookseller and writing tutor in Port Townsend, Washington.