I Write a Sonnet


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I don't know how Shakespeare did it. Sonnets are hard! I mean, I could barely squeeze this one out, so I hardly can imagine how Willy wrote hundreds of them. I would probably die. Free-verse is more my thing. But then again, it seems everyone these days is doing free-verse. I'll be a non-conformist!

The reason I wrote a sonnet? Our literary magazine got nailed last year because almost every single poem we published was free-verse slam poetry (I can think of maybe one that wasn't free verse, but even then, it was no sonnet. :| ). My creative writing class has to submit two on-theme entries per person, so I took it on myself to write a sonnet.

Dunno what my other entry's going to be... I know for sure I'm submitting my short story, but honestly I don't know what else to send in. Suggestions? I can send in any number of entries, but only 3 of them can be published (maybe four if I beg and plead my teacher and we get desperate for good entries, but that's unlikely).
A Statue of Two Soldiers in New York City
Forgottens stand still in a sea of sick motion;
Remembereds move past in a fast-blinding flash
Like schoolfish stuck swimming in dark urban oceans.
They pay their respects with their cigarette ash.
The pigeons hop dumbly from statue to other,
Their orange eyes staring, uncaring, and cold.
Neglected, forgotten, these sentinel brothers—
Sad stories of service to their home they told.
The still ones sit, sentinel statues of past-time.
They’re staring with unwearing eyes from before
The pavement came cov’ring in fast-forward fast-time
The field where these soldiers took not a breath more.
Still standing, still staring, their eyes watch the passes
Of people past, paying respects in smoke ashes.
Fun fact: A quick trip to Wikipedia revealed that this poem is written in anapestic tetrameter. What does that mean? I'm glad you asked.

Anapestic: two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.
Tetrameter: each line has four feet (that is, four sets of anapestic syllable patterns).

Allow me to demonstrate: (hyphens are unstressed, apostrophes are stressed, slashes denote each foot)
For-got'/tens- stand- still'/ in- a- sea'/ of- sick- mo'/tion-;
Re-mem'/bereds- move- past'/ in- a- fast'-blind-ing- flash'
A poem you all well know written in anapestic meter is "T'was the Night Before Christmas." Take a closer look at it: you'll see it. ;)

I think I like anapestic meter because it has a lilting, lyrical feel to it. Plus, I feel really... scholarly... when I say that I wrote a sonnet in anapestic tetrameter.

There's your little poetry lesson for the day. :)

Like a Bird This Story Flutters Around in My Chest (Worldbuilding Prose)


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I have a story inside of me waiting to be written. This is a realization that is all-together exciting and terrifying, but mostly exciting. When I think about this story I am filled with joy, but this story comes out of me not in a torrent but as a leaky faucet. Here is a droplet from that faucet:
The throne room doors swung open just as King Antebar took his fifth leg of turkey. It was not customary for appeals to take place during the king’s dinner, but the man who was being escorted to bow before his ruler had bothered him so much lately that he wanted nothing more than to get rid of him.
“My lord your majesty,” began the man, who was dressed in monk’s robes several sizes too large for him. His face, a rather handsome one, was just visible beneath the shadow of the hood. “I thank you for taking the time to hear my pleas.”
The king, who was a fat, stupid man, grunted and waved a greasy bone at the peasant. “Just get on with it so I may continue my supper in peace.”
The man gave a curt nod as he rose from his prostate position at the king’s feet. “Your majesty, the people of my village have all fallen ill, but with what disease we know not. Our doctors have examined all of their books and have come up with no answer for the symptoms of our illness--”
“Is it fatal?” The king interrupted.
            “Well, no, not so far, but--”
            The king snorted. “Then it is not of any immediate concern to me.” He belched. “You are dismissed.”
            “No, sire, please!” The man protested. “You must help us! Simply issue a royal healer, that is all we require.”
            “I cannot spare any royal healers,” Antebar blared. “I need them all to be here in case I fall ill. The king is, after all, far more important than your little village.”
            The man in the robes grew red. “Your majesty, one healer is all I ask! A quick investigation and issue of a cure could not take more than a few--”
            He was interrupted by the king’s loud slurping as he sucked the marrow out of his turkey bone. Antebar was through paying attention. The man snapped. With surprising agility he leaped onto the king’s table, yanked up his sleeves, and thrust his hands into the king’s face. “Look at my hands!” the man screamed. He jerked back the hood from his face. “Look at my neck! You think this is not of any ‘immediate concern’? Just look at them!”
            Between the man’s abnormally elongated fingers stretched thin membranes like those of a fish tail, and the skin of his hands was scaly and tinted green. Carved into the sides of his neck were three pairs of gashes, which undulated as he breathed. The king shrank away from this freakish apparition in terror, holding his drumstick in front of him in defense.
            “Get away!” He shrieked, his voice high and shrill like that of a young girl. “Guards! Guards! Get this man away from me!”
            Two armor-plated guards closed in on either side of the peasant and unhesitatingly wrenched his arms back behind his back. As they dragged him flailing and red-faced through the doors of the throne room he cried, “You can’t send me away! You must help! Help us—”
            The doors swung shut and his voice could be heard no more. The king’s top advisor, who had observed the entire scene from behind a hidden window, moved swiftly to the king’s side to confer with him. “Majesty,” he said. “The man was from Coeur, at the source of the river. His is not the only case of strange happenings. Villages all along the river have reported sightings of strange beasts and unnatural crop failures even during times of plentiful rain. Something is happening, sire, and we must act fast before whatever it is reaches Sacrelle.”
            The king dropped his arms from his defensive position and sank into thought. “It must be spreading through the river,” he mused. It was an ingenious thought, which was, unfortunately, a rare occurrence for Antebar.
            The advisor snapped his fingers. “A brilliant observation, your majesty! And whatever it is must be coming from somewhere, so—“
            “We must build a wall,” said the king. He had a bad habit of interrupting people. “We must divide the kingdom at the river and stop the stuff from spreading.”
            “But sire, if we—“
            “It is the only way!” Antebar cried. “It is a sacrifice, yes, but if I must give up half of my kingdom in order to protect the other half from this terrible plague, I will do it. So to it that the building is started at once,” he told his advisor. “On the north side of the river. It must be impenetrable. I want it fifty feet tall and ten feet tall, and the seams between the stones must be smooth so it cannot be scaled. Demolish anything that stands in its way.”
            “But sire,” said the advisor. “What about the tributaries to the river from the north? The streams from Coeur must get to the sea somehow.”
            “Then build a canal for them along the wall, like a moat,” said the king. “To also discourage those who might wish to cross.” He abruptly turned addressed a guard, struck with a horrifying realization. “Quickly! The bridges must be cut! We cannot allow anyone from the mainland to infect the city! Go now!”
            The king’s original genius had quickly degraded to foolish desperation, but no one dared oppose him. The advisor and all the guards quickly cleared the room to attend to his commands.
            Within a year, the wall was built. The capital city of Sacrelle was cut off from the rest of the world, and the country soon fell into chaos. In that time any of those found in the south to be changed by the plague—it soon became known as the Plague of Wild Magic—were driven to the north or were killed. Centuries later, this would incite the War, which is where the story will begin.
 Here's the other drop in the bucket of this immense story stored up inside me.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I stood outside in the dark for ten minutes at two in the morning. Here's what came of it:

There‘s a certain silence that follows the dark around like a little brother. It wraps itself around your legs and covers your ears as if to say “Guess who.” It stuffs your ears with cotton balls until all you can hear is the rush of two-a-m-travellers on distant roads, the roar of tired pilots landing their planes on the lighted airstrips.
It’s not true dark out there in the open, though. The night has been polluted by artificial lights. It’s said that nocturnal animals are being killed off by it, that the night is no longer dark enough to hunt so they starve, holing up in trees and caves and waiting for blackness that never comes. Darkness does not pollute. It merely fills the space that the light has left behind in its ravenous hunger, eating the scraps of air it can find.
We fear the dark. We fear the uncertainty of twilit shadows, of monsters in the closet, of shades and reapers. We fear what we do not understand. Do we understand why we fear?
I think the darkness is beautiful. It holds a magical insecurity. It is fleeting, frightened. It is just as afraid of us as we are of it. When the lights come on it flees to the corners and hides under furniture, waiting to come out and dance a rain dance, a dark dance, as shadows around the fire.
Even in blindness we cannot accept darkness for what it is. I spent the better part of one day blindfolded, and my brain still fabricated some semblance of light that floated around my eyelids like an oil spill. Do the blind find some light, then, or do they only know darkness? Can they who have not seen know light?
I hope to someday find true dark, in the bowels of the earth where moth nor spark doth corrupt the stillness. When I find it I will sit on the ground and breathe in the damp air and just be, because in the dark you have nothing else to do but be. The clothes on my back, the flaws of my skin, the blindness in my eye; nothing matters in the dark. Nothing matters but the stillness of my breath, the chill on my skin, the noisy thoughts in my dark head.
What about you? Are you afraid of the dark? Or do you embrace it?

Resignation of an Angel


Saturday, December 10, 2011

We're working on short stories in Creative Writing. My obsession of late (I go through periods of obsession. For a while it was dragons. Then birds.) is angels, so, naturally, I wrote about angels. 'Course, it didn't start out that way. Initially I thought I was going to write a story about Chinese dragons. Funny how that happens.

But I was lacking in ideas (usually I have a brainful of them), so I decided to go through some old art. Here's what I found:
Angel Pox (Eva). 8.5x11". Graphite on paper. (c) Alexa Ke 2011
Perfect, I thought. Just the right amount of angst to make a good story. So multiple drafts and edits later, here's the story of Eva, a very disgruntled angel.

(As always, this is a working copy, so if you have any edits to make or questions please make them known. :) )

Resignation of an Angel             

            “Today’s my last day!”
            Lucy, absorbed in her work, didn’t hear the announcement until a hand on her shoulder shook her out of her concentration. “Huh?” she said, bewildered, as though she had just been roused from sleep.
            “I said, it’s my last day,” Éva repeated, exasperated. Her robes swished and her wings rustled dryly as she sat across from Lucy. “I finally got the guts to leave. Put in my resignation two weeks ago.”
            “I thought you said you would give it another couple of years,” Lucy said, surprised.
            “I can’t wait that long. This work is driving me up the wall! There’s nothing to do but sort files and run the shredder!”
            Lucy hmmmed. “Well it’s not a prestigious job or anything, but Record work has its perks.”
            “Like what?” snorted Éva.
            Lucy didn’t have anything to say to that, so she hmmmed again. “Have you found a new job yet?”
            Éva’s voice frowned. “I looked around for a while, but with the labor surplus there just aren’t any good jobs anymore. In fact, the only place that’s hiring is Admissions, but they’re even worse than Records! Dealing with all the newly fledged… no. Not for me.”
            “Well, I suppose you could always go into Christmas or Easter Celebration if all else fails,” Lucy said ironically.
            “Yeah. Right. Because you can totally imagine me being a Christmas angel.” The idea was amusing. A chronically apathetic cherub escorting the King of Kings would provide an interesting contrast to the celebrations. “Besides. Joy Larker is head of Celebrations, and that woman is so sweet it gives me a toothache. I’d be out of there before I even got past the doors.”
            Lucy sighed and shuffled some papers. “Well you’ve got to do something, Éva. Maybe you should just stick around here until you’ve got something lined up, otherwise you’ll get Guardianship.” She shuddered. Éva agreed.
            They were silent for a long time; the only sound was the rustling of papers and feathers, clacking typewriters and filing cabinets slamming shut.
            “By the way, your halo’s crooked,” Éva said with a quiet cough to break the silence.
            Lucy blushed. “This darn thing! It won’t stay on straight no matter what I do! And it’s so hard to put on in the dark.” She reached up and adjusted the radiance that floated behind and about her head, but it still tilted off to one side.
            “How do you saints keep those things on, anyway?” Éva asked, trying to carry on the conversation. “My stupid angel’s ring is hard enough to keep straight as it is.”
            Lucy shrugged and the conversation died once again.
            “I just think… There’s got to be something else out there for me,” Éva finally said.
            “Everyone’s got their calling, Éva,” Lucy agreed. “You’ll find yours.”
            Éva’s voice was dark, confused. “No, that’s not what I mean. I mean… maybe I’m not meant to be an angel. I just… I’ve changed. There’s nothing left here for me but menial chores and—mediocrity.”
            Lucy’s voice was thin. “What—what are you saying?” She choked, swallowed. “What do you—”
            Éva touched a finger to the Lucy’s lips and leaned close to her ear. “I’ve decided to go away,” she whispered, her voice tremulous, wary.
            “Yes, you said that before—”
            “No. Away from Heaven.”
            Lucy jumped out of her chair and slapped Éva’s hand away from her, scattering paperwork everywhere. “You’re doing what?” she cried.
            The clattering of the typewriters petered out. One last filing cabinet quietly rolled closed. Papers fluttered to the floor. All were listening intently to the scene.
            Éva muttered something. When asked to repeat herself she was no louder, her voice low.
            “Éva.” Lucy’s voice shook like leaves. “What did you say?”
            Éva was silent except for her quiet breathing, which steadily grew louder until she broke out, “You know what? I’m sick of this! Keeping my feelings secret, living a lie. It’s my last day! I can say whatever I want!” She whipped around and faced the crowd of listening angels. “I hate it here! I hate it! I hate this job, I hate this life, and I hate all you! And especially you,” she spat at a shocked Lucy. “I just hate!”
            She brushed away into an office and slammed the door. Just as suddenly the click-clack of the typewriters struck up again, as though Éva’s tirade had been nothing more than a noisy rest between movements of a symphony.
            Lucy stood with her mouth numbly hanging open. Blindly she gathered the scattered files together and set the mess on her desk, then steeled herself and followed Éva.
            Éva kicked a desk, fuming. Through the dark of the room, Lucy reached out for Éva and put a hesitant hand between her friend’s wings, but flinched away. Éva’s skin was ice cold.
            “Éva, are you well? You’re freezing!”
            Éva laughed through her anger. “You really are blind, aren’t you?” Her voice was poison. “I’m just as well as I’ve always been, Lucy. Nothing’s changed. I’ve just finally got the guts to admit it.”
            Lucy grasped for the chair next to her, sat and clasped her hands in her lap. “You aren’t happy here,” she sighed.
            “I never have been,” Éva replied. “Not from my day of fledging. Not ever.”
            Lucy’s was confused. “But that can’t be. A Merciful God would not suffer you to be somewhere you can’t be happy. It’s one of the fundamental laws of Heaven. He should have found you a job you like—”
            “There isn’t a job I like, Lucy,” Éva muttered. “Employment has stuck me in every opening they could find. I even served a Guardianship for a few years. My boy died in a car accident while I wasn’t watching so Employment pawned me off to someplace I couldn’t screw up. Records was my last chance and now I’ve blown it.
            She paused. When she spoke again her voice was distant. “On my day of fledging, while I waited outside the Gates, I looked out to the side, down that little corridor between Heaven and Hell. It looks like it goes on forever, but it has to end somewhere. It has to, doesn’t it?”
            Suddenly Lucy understood: the depression, the chilled skin, the unhealthy rasping Éva’s feathers made as they rubbed against each other. “You—have the Pox, don’t you.”
            Éva hesitated before solemnly answering, “Sinner’s Pox? Yeah.”
            Lucy sucked in her breath, biting back a cry. “But—for how long?”
            “Since day one. My wings came like that, with little black specks all over them. They weren’t noticeable at first, but as time went on the spots got bigger and darker. I didn’t know what to do about it so I just hid it.”
            “I bleach my feathers.”
Lucy flinched, imagining the pain.
“It hurts, yeah. Every movement sets my skin on fire, and I can’t fly anymore, but I have to… I have to do it. In my weaker moments the stains show through, and when that happens I have to pluck myself. Or if I wait long enough the feathers just fall out by themselves. They die once they’re completely black.”
            “Éva—” Lucy choked. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you.”
            Éva’s voice was as black as the feathers that stained her back. “There is no helping me,” she said. “There is no hope for a sinner in Heaven.”
            “Why you? You never did anything that bad, did you? Why do you deserve this?” Lucy didn’t understand, couldn’t understand.
            Éva swallowed back the lump in her throat. “When the Admissions officer was weighing my good deeds against my bad, the scales wouldn’t settle between Heaven or Hell. I was nervous and I didn’t want to go to Hell, so I—I begged him to let me in. I promised him I’d be the perfect angel, I’d follow all the rules and make up for my sins. The lines were getting longer and I wasn’t taking no for an answer, so he admitted me, but—I met God on my way in. I couldn’t fool him; He could see every sin like sores on my skin. As punishment for cheating my way in, He gave me this curse to remind me of what got me here, and—I just can’t take it anymore. The pressure. The guilt.”
            “So… you’re leaving?”
            Lucy frowned. “But—where will you go?”
            Éva was indifferent. “I don’t know. All I really know is that this Heaven isn’t meant for me. I could go to Hell, or Home, maybe.” Her voice became distant again. “Or maybe… maybe I’ll just toe the line and see where I get. Walk along that corridor for a while, see where it leads. It has to end somewhere. Maybe—I’ll find my Heaven out there, somewhere beyond this, this—black-and-white, Heaven-and-Hell world.”
            She stood, sniffed, brushed off her robes, brushed past a silent Lucy. Hand on the doorknob, Éva turned back to her stunned friend. “I don’t hate you, Lucy. I just… I have to move on, and—saying I hate you makes it easier to leave.” The door creaked open. “I hope the best for you.” Then she was gone.
            “And for you the same,” Lucy whispered, then broke into tearless sobs. Lucy, patron saint of the blind, had no eyes with which to cry.

            A myriad of black-spotted feathers fluttered through the air behind the retreating Éva, who held her head high past the legions of staring eyes. Out the doors, down the steps of the Records Hall, through the gold-paved street; not an eye turned away from the Fallen angel who smiled with freedom.
            Shouldering her way past the bewildered Gatekeepers, Éva hesitated at the Golden Gates. Her once-white wings had been reduced to ashy feathered stubs protruding from her shoulder blades, marking her as a Sinner. But she did not care.
            Slowly she turned to face the awe-struck crowd of angels, a twisted smile gracing her features. Thoughtfully she reached up, grabbed her halo, and shattered it against the pavement.
            With arms held wide open she faced the Gates to embrace Fate, Oblivion, whatever awaited her. They swung open, unleashing a blinding light. Joyfully, Éva stepped through.
            The Gates slammed shut, the light blinked out. Dark fell back to the streets once again like curtains drawn. A single black feather floated to the ground where Éva had stood, spotted with steadily growing white streaks.
EDIT (12/13/11): Updated to a more final draft.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm back! Marching band is over, so I finally have a little spare time to blog again. :)

I'm still warming back up to this, so today's poem is something you've seen before, but with a few added stanzas. I can't find anything on this confounded computer, otherwise I'd give you something new. :P But I trust you can bear with me.

What have you all been up to in these autumnal months of my absence?

(a poem inspired by make-up and mascara: two very evil, addicting drugs of the modern world)

 Her eyes were like flies’ eyes,
How they shone back the light in five thousand colors
Like multi-faceted black-and-blue diamonds
Shuttered beneath butterfly eyebrows.

Her lips were silkworms as she
Pulled thread from her mouth
Full of teeth-eating maggots
To weave a skirt like a spider’s web.

 Her dress drew me in:
Spun like candy floss it looked so sweet,
A lovely eye candy treat
Swirling about katy-did-ankles.
Her hair—it writhed,
Like insubstantial ringworm ringlets,
The Gorgons’ modern siren-child,
Tipped not by split ends but teeth
And hungry, blank black eyes.
The lies she lied were locusts,
Jumping out at me and scratching my skin with their
Grasshopper claws and lying eyes.
Her hands were like spiders,
Spindly, five-legged carnivores
Attached to praying mantis arms,
Twitching across the sticky thread
Reeling between her silkworm lips.
But as I think about it,
It was not her hands but her eyes that preyed
Arachnid-like on my face,
Hungry for my flies’-eyes eyes.