I’m so thankful to have brilliant writer-friends who share their brains with me.
I was recently reminded that sometimes the way to get past a block is to change things up. One possibility is to switch forms. When trying to write a novel, try distilling it into a short story–that way you’ll have the essential ingredients to build on. Or, even poetry.
I’m feeling the lack of an audience lately – maybe because my critique group is on hiatus – so here’s a poem I wrote awhile ago when I was trying to write a short story. I never did write the short story version – but I guess this is a short story in verse form.
The worst thing ever: a
thrust into his hand.
Mary Jo shoves it at him.
She can’t wait to let it go
into his hand. Bright pink
among the grays and navy blues of gym class
No pockets no desk no backpack anywhere
Just hands holding a pink envelope
Marco considers the steel gray trash can
But catches Heidi watching him.
He turns away, retreats—
His red face clashes with the
now stuffed inside his shorts.
Curiosity burns a hole into his head
Nothing else can enter
No algebra no scientific theory no dates of Waterloo
until he knows what’s inside
A burst of sparkled shower-
Glitter. Gold, red, pink
Confetti sticks to his skin
marks him as one who’s read
the inside of the envelope that’s pink
and shiny and says
You Are Invited
“There’s something in your hair,” Heidi says
She leans close, smells like vanilla and something warm
Reaches out, long fingers, short nails, moist lips.
Reaches toward Marco
who hopes she can’t hear
the rushing of his red
Blood through his body
She pulls the pink confetti out of his
“You have to go,” says his mother.
“It’s that sweet Mary Jo.”
“I’ll be there too,” says Justin
No escape, no battle plan
Stuck with a shiny pink invitation
to what his sister Paige
Calls, “Ooooo, look at you,
a BOY-GIRL party,” like the
are in all capital letters
when they never have before.
Mother insists, Justin expects and Marco wonders
If Heidi is a GIRL who will be there
It’s Mary Jo’s birthday
She’s thirteen now
Two months older, but light years ahead.
Already discovered someplace
Marco never even thought of
Until the pink envelope and confetti and
made him wonder
But a birthday means a gift
Paige, for once, can help as the
Older sister who incidentally is a girl too.
But definitely not a GIRL
“No jewelry,” says Paige
That bunny looks safe-the one that’s pink?
“Not,” says Paige. “Unless you want a gift to
cuddle and hug and sleep with.”
No stuffed animals.
No smelly stuff no shiny gloss for lips.
Ahh, Giant chocolate bar,
Likable, edible, givable. Candy- the
no particular, not so personal present.
Unless Mary Jo is a cannibal.
Awkward hellos at the door
Mary Jo’s mom remembers
Marco when he spilled his juice and cried
Mary Jo’s dad is not as
Tall as he used to be, but is still
Inside it’s not so bad
Can’t go wrong with
Plenty of itos
Doritos- both ranch and jalapeno
Park by the bowls and try to pop
Pink balloons hanging from the ceiling
The music booms
Girls squeal and grab each other’s hands
to the beat.
Marco feels it in his feet,
in the wall where he leans.
He munches Cheetos in time
To the music
Which is slower than the thump
Of his heart.
Heidi is wearing pink.
She is a GIRL, after all
whisper and giggle and point
The air feels heavy
The lights go dim and
The beat slows down
And the GIRLS are ready
Marco chokes on a Dorito,
Janelle, in red and black, grabs
Marco and shoves him
To the middle of the crowd
“Dance!” she orders.
Drill sergeant Janelle. Her commands
Clash with the slow tunes.
“Hold my waist.”
“Chew some gum.”
But Marco hasn’t finished boot camp
The itos churn with the
Of soda in his sinking gut
Mayday, mayday, SOS, SOS.
Can’t hide forever in his foxhole. The bathroom,
where Marco steals
a taste of toothpaste
Mint and ranch and jalapeno mix together
In his mouth
His tongue is dry, yet drooling
His body has turned traitor.
The sweat pours
off his brow and in his hands and everywhere
There’s no Axe to steal a spray of
in this girl’s pink bathroom
that smells like lilacs
faster than the song that drones on
Into the dim lights where
He sees enough
Sees in the dark just fine, sees
fuzzy sweater on
Brown eyes-Brown eyes
Brown hair-Brown hair
Long fingers, with short nails around his neck
Sweaty fingers on her waist
Moist red lips licked
A little nervously
Warm smell like vanilla
The GIRL in
Who sways with him under
that float around
as they spin around
together, linked at the
After goodbyes and thank yous and
Please come again.
Marco steps into the night
under the blue black sky
watches silver white lights sparkle
and shine, like his eyes.
He takes deep breaths of
He survived the battle
of the pink envelope.
But the war goes on. It just might be
Sarah Wones Tomp
WRITING ON THE SIDEWALK
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