They had their backs to a cemetery and their eyes on a sunset.

It was a surprise to the couple how human it felt, watching the van go. There were no eyelids to fold or last words to remember, but there was the pitiful way the van’s nose crinkled, and how small it appeared, hitched to the tow truck–this thing that, once their hearty vessel, now shuddered away as cargo.

They tracked the procession into the end of the day, fading out as participants and settling in as bystanders of their own debris, while off in the corner, a police car sat flashing, attending to its charge as the right-lane blockade, executing with all the vigorous passivity it required. It sat there, shrill and silent, as traffic nudged on single-file, transferring brake lights one by one until each fell still, and from end to end stretched a solid red vein. Then somewhere, a light turned green, and the lane dissolved into cars again.

At some point before the sun faded, and long after the van had spirited away, they sat there beside the road in a breeze of passing traffic, watching the lights change.

They’d waited this long, they thought. They supposed they could still wait.

Poker prose

Many times before, after, or while I write a post, I wonder why I’m writing it.

There is nothing to say that hasn’t been said. Even that statement itself has been written.

And that one…

and that one…

and so on.

So why did I post this? Why do I post anything?

If I have no chance of saying something original, I at least have a chance to say it originally.

That’s where I’ve placed my bets–words and their infinite permutations.

I’ve never been much of a gambler, but there. I’m all in.

In the event of disaster

Yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11′s moon landing. Not to rain on everyone’s moon crusade, but two days before that – July 18, 2014 – marked the anniversary of another sort.

On July 18, 1969, a speechwriter for President Nixon prepared a doomsday memo in the event that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin never returned from the moon. You can read the full memo here, but the title says it all:

IN THE EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:

I can’t fault the President or his speechwriter’s instinct to plan for the worst. Even as I imagine the President and the Clergyman, the protagonists in this Moon Disaster script, seated stiffly before teleprompters, rattling off lines with fixed, sorrowful expressions…even then, cringing at that production, I can’t fault them for acting in it.

At first, the most organic, human (and as such, humane) response to that scenario strikes me as silence, as a pain that cannot be propped up with words.

But when you’re running a country, or when you’ve been appointed to minister to the mourning, you can’t just sit there and emote.

You’ve got a job to do.

And sometimes, teleprompters are what help you do it.

Kill it with fire[y kindness].

You know you’ve found a good writing workshop when you wind up working not just your poems but also your way of working (and workshopping).

Without ever realizing it, when I first started attending workshops, I brought with me to every one an extremely rigid (though still generally pleasant) attitude.

I saw my poems less as items for discussion and more as palimpsests–things that were done once and, upon receiving verdict of the workshop jury, either killed with fire or deemed, for the most part, OK as they were.

This mindset could not be more detrimental to the actual goal of workshopping, which I think, for most people, is to improve.

I’m infinitely more productive (and satisfied) when I participate in a workshop prepared to see my work and everyone else’s as a jumping off point, a start to a discussion, rather than a thing that needs doctoring.

I find that the feedback I give to others, and the feedback that I receive, becomes much more meaningful when I treat a workshop less as a trial of words and more as a discovery of ideas.

And most importantly?

It’s way more fun this way.

Rosetta’s stone (And mine. And yours.)

Many times when two people describe the closeness of their relationship, they describe it as the experience of sharing a language: completing each other’s sentences, speaking at the same time…that sort of thing.

I’ve always felt it’s more rewarding not to feel conjoined, but instead, to hit that point when I realize that another person’s vocabulary (and also non-verbal ‘vocabulary’) suddenly feels familiar.

It might, in the end, be a pretty simple thing. But it’s always strange to me (in a nice way) when I can identify someone by the sound of their footsteps, by the way they pronounce a word, or by a particular set of phrases or movements–how they close a door, how they tap their feet to music…and so on.

It’s the exposure I enjoy more than the comprehension of a language itself–the experience of hearing a language that simultaneously bewilders and explains.