Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joan McNerney's Flash Fiction and Valeri Beers' "October Road"


Today we are just a week away from Christmas, but at The Song Is..., it is still fall.  The fall contests continue until Dec. 30, so you still have time to submit poems, artwork, and now flash fiction.  The themes for the contest are work inspired by Thelonious Monk (born Oct. 10, 1917) as well as work inspired by Gene Clark (born Nov. 17, 1944).  However, every poem (and now flash fiction) published during the fall contests is eligible for Thelma's Prize.

Tonight I'd like to post Joan McNerney's flash fiction and Valeri Beers' poem.  Joan's stories take us in a new direction although, as my students and I realized on our last night of class, the line between poetry (especially prose poetry) and flash fiction can be thin indeed.  Valeri's poem introduces a new-to-us poet, the author of Details, and the co-editor of Poetry Pasta .  

Night Garden
Winds rocked the sycamore tree.  Had the same God who formed this sycamore created cancer?  It had been one year...a year to this date when her mother died, her mother’s swollen eyes closed forever.  Just a memory now memories touching her face, her hair.  So good, kind...what was the use of being wise and tender when all die?
Gloria was trapped within the sharp jaws of grief.  She lived alone in the desolate apartment.  "Pearl Court" incised in capital letters over the building's front door.  She had been there for so long listening to cries and laughter, intimate murmurs, sighs of dejection sounding through hallways.  Her neighbors bound together by bricks but living separate lives.  Their days chains of orderly minutes as night follows noon so seasons grow from each other. 
They lived without distinction having no hand to record their strong feelings.  Only Pearl Court on Benson Avenue, Brooklyn made record of them.  Its stained walls held their marks.  Some would say they needed little attention for playing such a miniature role in the great theater of life.  In a trance they rushed back and forth with laundry, newspapers, food.  And the children kept singing...songs taught from one child to another.  Handballs pounding against court yard walls skipping and jumping up down stairs, hop scotch, hide and go seek.
Everybody agreed Gloria had done everything for her.  Perhaps too much especially towards the end....always working to help her mother.  She hurried home with medicine, carrying heavy bags of groceries, rushing to cook some nourishing food.  Endless cleaning, tidying, piles of laundry to wash.  She arranged medical appointments, wrote checks, handled mail, balanced accounts.  Then there were all the little things.  Turn up the radio. Turn it down.  Run out for candy.  See what would be on television.  Pick up newspapers.  Find something cool to drink.  Make something hot.
Every day seemed worse.  Visiting her mother in the hospital she consulted doctors.  Trying to digest complicated medical terms coiled in convoluted sentences.  Straining to interpret arched eyebrows half smiles mumbles.  Everything led to dead ends and emptiness.  Sorrow stabbed at her with its blazing knife.  Finally there was nothing left to do but light remembrance candles in church.
Adjusting her pillow and blanket Gloria relaxed in bed...gathered calmness around her, holding a few kind memories to press within her. Entering ebony night, she came upon a dreamscape of hills of heather, fragrant pink heather.  Her mother stood waiting on the top peak.  Waving her arms tossing star seeds into heaven...her mother planting empty fields of night with rows of light, forming a splendid night garden.

Joan McNerney

Another Small Death
Assured his references would be fine, two week's notice was given, severance check guaranteed.  That would give him one month total to ‘get a life‘.  
Freaky…four years gone just like that.   Exiting in long strides through swinging doors, Gary walked to the elevator.   This whole building, all twenty six floors, would be there when he was gone.  His work was unimportant, in a few weeks nobody would remember him.
His hands hung in a gesture of hopelessness.  His tongue covered with thick crust leaving a bad taste in his mouth.  He sat down more numb than anything else.  Shuffling his options like broken glass through his mind...if only one thought could come out straight, one sliver of truth.  But truth could be hard to handle, like shards of glass, slashing your face.  The bleary sky was streaked by blood red rays from a setting sun.  Night approached deep and dark.
After a few drinks, he fell to a troubled sleep.  Down down down in an enormous black elevator.  Pushed down in a dream.  Too short way too short to push the elevator button to make it stop going down down down.  How had he become so short?  Down down down hating it, not wanting to be in this enormous moving grave.  Angry and wanting to cry out.  Too short and no matter how much straining to reach up, he could not press the stop button on the enormous black elevator which plunged at breakneck speed down down down.
                                Joan McNerney

Do you feel nostalgia for the fall? I do!

October Road
the trees are rusting & dying
the air is losing its heat & freezing to my windshield.
scrapescrapescrapescrapescrapescrape scrapescrapescrapescrapescrapescrape
Flying down the road with Gordon, I wonder if he is going further than she allows

Valeri was inspired by Sting's "She's Too Good For Me," so I will post that song below for you:

I have also been meaning to post T.S. Monk's interpretations of his father's music, starting with "Crepuscle with Nellie":

Here he plays "Boo Boo's Birthday" with the San Juan College Band:

Finally, he is playing "Evidence" with Ron Carter and others:

I encourage you to submit poems of your own -- or perhaps flash fiction to the fall contest while it is still open.

For the contest guidelines, see the links below:

After Dec. 30, it will be too late!

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