Dixit Writing Challenge Day 5: All the Time in the Universe

Okay, that’s probably not really going to be the final title for this, but my today’s card had a pocket watch with stars in the cover. (If anyone has played Dixit, they will discover that space is a popular theme for this artist). I don’t really have any thoughts on what I wrote today. See what you think of it:

The first time we kissed
I felt the universe down your throat
We were masters of everything
For six years, we danced
around each other, but that night
we danced among fireworks, that kiss
lifted us into the sky
where we could swing on a star
I fell asleep in your arms
like a hammock
strung between two planets
And the next morning
I cut the hands off the clock
for stealing our time
I thought I could stop it
stop everything at the moment you
became the center of my galaxy
But in the absence of the clock
my heartbeat kept time
and so man galaxies
have black holes at their centers
For six years, you consumed me
but I pursued you because my greatest fear
was freezing in the openness of space
without the warmth of your arms
But before you swallowed me
I turned around
and saw the light at my back
The last time we kissed
I slipped down your throat
to another part of the universe.
I promised myself I would still visit
my old galaxy, but with each unspoken word,
each unsent letter, each unanswered prayer,
that promise breaks a little more.
I feel us drifting further apart
a vast emptiness stretching between us
but getting any closer to you
could mean being crushed
My greatest fear now
is that there is nothing in between

Dixit Writing Challenge Day Four: Dune Haiku

Today’s card has an anchor sitting in a desert. I think of this as the Dune card because… well, I guess because deserts always make me think of Arrakis. Since I’ve been writing a lot about more serious topics, like dealing with anxiety and depression, the idea of writing a piece about Dune appealed to me. Ironically, it was a lot harder to get anything down than it was the last three days. I felt something kind of rhymey coming on, though it didn’t scan properly, and I ended with a couple of images I really liked.

As much as I love doing slam style poetry, I also like working on shorter pieces. It gives me the chance to switch from a more conversational, storytelling style and practice working with more dense imagery. And the last poetry slam I competed in almost ended with me in a haiku death match! So I figured I would keep this one around in case of a similar event in the future:

cinnamon sunlight
sparks off earthworm sailboats and
eyes blue as the sky

Dixit Writing Challenge Day Three: Four Lies

Today’s card is a die with a devil or sorts stretching out of the pips. I tend to think of this as the “Guys and Dolls” card because the the combination of dice and devils reminds me of the song “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.” Anyway, this piece doesn’t directly connect to the card, though you could say I explored some of my own demons with it. It’s a reflection on the religio-political undertones of my relationship with one of my oldest friends, Max.

Four Lies I Told You as a Child
1. The first time I went into your house, my mom had not given me permission. I don’t know when the lie became a truth, but I guess even at age six, I knew it never would it I waited for that to happen the traditional way. Gaining independence would always be a sequence of well placed silences.

2.When you asked me if I was a Christian I told you I had accepted Christ as my savior, and that wasn’t a lie, really. I had. I had followed you to church out of the promise of a father who always listened, but by middle school, I knew that gift would always sit two inches away from my outstretched fingers. I never told you that I spent years begging God to accept me into Heaven over and over because I was never sure he heard me.

3. This is not to say that I think church is a bunch of brainwashing horsedung. Every day, I watched God cradle you in his arms because your faith in Him and yourself and the goodness of the world seemed effortless. You could leap from a cliff knowing God would catch you, but most days, I couldn’t trust a chair to hold me. I learned I would never have the faith to believe in a God enough to see him, but I could never develop a lack-of-faith strong enough to see him nowhere. This is why my atheist friends and I so often argue. I have seen God, just not in myself.

4. When you found out the actor who plays Gandalf was gay, I said nothing. You thought it was gross, and like Peter Pan when he is bit by Captain Hook, you wore a look of first time betrayal. You had learned that ever the sweetest candies have rotten centers. And so had I. I didn’t want you looking at me like that.

Dixit Writing Challenge Day 2: I am Atlas

My card today was a woman who is also a cello and playing herself. My writing led me to an exploration of my own mental disorders. Point of fact, while part of the reason I come and go from blogging is that I get busy with schoolwork (Yay! I’m done with my M.A! No more homework!), another is getting overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, a topic which I’m sure to be talking about more in the future.

Anyway, this piece is kind of odd because it starts in one place and goes to another. And I guess that’s bound to happen with a lot of stuff that’s written in an hour’s time. Anyway, this kind of talks about two different issues with mental disorders, both of which I think are pretty important. I feel like it kind of passes between the stigma of mental disorders–that if you can’t see the problem, there isn’t one–and the relationship between anxiety and identity. But enough talking about it, this is what I wrote:

I am Atlas
Every day for the last year, I have stood in front of the mirror after taking a shower and looked my body over for flaws. Instead of my friends asking “what’s wrong?” each time I fall silent or they don’t see all thirty-two of my teeth, instead of my mother telling me my tears are caused by lack of food or sleep rather than offensive words, instead of hearing my doctor say pills are the only solution to my problem, my reflection tells me, “you are not broken.”

I live in a society that tells me that I am wrong to be hurt when I am offended, that I am wrong to worry I will offend others this way, that I need to be fixed. But I am not an instrument with broken strings or a severed neck. I may play in a different key, but plugging my sound holes will not change the way I am tuned. Yes, I tend to think my brother’s house will disintegrate because I have my own apartment, that my unkind words to my neighbor will cause her to pick up her kitchen knife, that global warming will melt us all because I bought the wrong pens. And if you think this is self-righteousness, I will lend it to you, like Atlas handing the world to Hercules because most days, the weight makes it hard to get out of bed. But you better give it back to me.

Because though I have no wish to bow to my feelings, I wish to bow them, to climb out of bed using the stanzas of my own music as a ladder because the chords of pain are comprised of the same notes as the chords of healing. When others tell me, “you are good at making people feel welcome,” “you always see the best of them,” “you will make a good teacher,” they are all too ignorant that it is my flaws that let me see the ripples of the ripples of my actions. The abilities to play in and hear the world in another key are the same, and fixing me by removing my anxiety is about as useful as fixing a cello by smashing it. Because I am not broken.

Dixit Writing Challenge Day 1: Heavy as a Feather

I am now the proud owner of Dixit! For those of you who don’t know, Dixit is an award-winning game akin to Apples to Apples or Balderdash, only done entirely with pictures. It works like this: someone lays down one of the six cards from their hand and gives a clue. It can be anything: a word, a phrase, a dance, whatever. Then everyone else lays down a card from their hands that matches the clue. The cards get flipped over and everyone guesses which was the original. It’s a ton of fun, and best of all, the artwork is gorgeous. It’s also screaming to be used as a writing prompt. So, for the next 84 days, I intend to do just that.

So today’s card had a picture of a scale with a feather weighing less than a bag of coins. It ended up playing off of my love of Peter Pan. And my apologies at for some historical inaccuracies.

Warning for mentions of violence and alcohol

The ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife, a man’s heart would be weighed against a feather. If the scales did not balance, his heart would be fed to a crocodile. My heart is not as light as a feather, for I am a pirate. I cut any life I can sever.

The first man I killed was my very own father. He said he saw a gentleman in me, and just to prove him wrong, I ripped out his heart. I have carried it with me on my ship ever since. I carried the box into port one day and two men, thinking it contained riches begged me to share enough for a meal. But I cut out their tongues and paid the barkeep with them as my crew and I laughed into our drinks.

And when the beggar’s bodies were found, I let the privateers take my crew. They never caught me, for I was still abed. When I chose to wake, I gutted the one man who got away to ensure I’d have the more exciting tale and like a coat hung delicately on a rack, I handed him to the law enforcement to collect the reward, which I gave to a black-haired woman for the service of…
Well, in the end, I turned the blasted iron hook upon myself. My eyes flashed red in the mirror as I sunk it into my chest. I never learned foregiveness.

And now I captain a ship of ghosts through this afterlife, tormented by a boy the very image of myself. And he tore off my hand and fed it to a crocodile, which I now hear behind me at all hours, ticking off the people on whom I turned my back, the apologies I never spoke, the debts I still owe, the debts I will still own when the clock runs down and the croc comes for me at last. My only comfort now is that the boy does not guilt himself for his crimes. His heart is not as heavy as a feather. And when the crocodile has satisfied its taste for me, it will consume him next.

All Books Young Women Should Read: Tamora Pierce

I have a young female friend who is fast becoming an avid reader of fantasy fiction. As a writer, a linguist, an English teacher, an most importantly, an avid fantasy reader myself, I believe it is my duty to introduce her to my list of All Books Young (Fantasy Loving) Women Should Read. The parenthetical is provided because most of these are fantasy novels, and some people just aren’t that interested in fantasy, though there are a few out there that are not fantasy.

Anyway, I was talking to Any, and after all I had to say was that opening sentences and she responded “Tamora Pierce!” Granted, she was primed for this response, as I told her I’ve been reading the Protector of the Small Quartet, by this author. But Tamora Pierce is the mother of contemporary girl’s fantasy fiction. Pierce started publishing in the 1980s, and thus far, she has published almost 30 novels, divided into roughly 8 series, as well as several short stories. What Pierce is best known for are her strong female protagonists, which is why Any thought of her first and why she tops my list. But there is a problem here. Tamora Pierce’s first quartet was about a young woman who wanted to be a knight, and the four books cover both her entire training and her making a name for herself as a knight. Thus the first two books each take place over four years, and though the series starts with a ten year old, it probably ends with a twenty-something. And because of this, the series, especially the later ones, cover some, ahem *adult* topics, and I worry that my friend’s parents will not want her reading the books for this reason.

Now, there are not a lot of stores out there that focus on women to begin with. Seriously, look at the books you read the TV shows you watch, examine how many women are in them. Furthermore, a lot of the women in stories exist in relationship to men. They are mothers or wives or girlfriends, and while women are all of these things, they are also more than that, but a lot of stories neglect to point this out. Even the stories that do focus on women will display them in this way–we have romance stories and women who gossip about shopping and men. While Pierce’s women talk about shopping and men, they also talk about politics, about managing money and lands, about learning and teaching important topics in the world, and thus, these “adult” topics. I put “adult” in scare quotes here because though they are often considered unsuitable for children, they are things that happen in life. They are topics middle and high schoolers are going to have to become familiar with one day or another, so Pierce decides to approach them in her novels. In short, Pierce trusts her readers, that they are mature enough to understand that these problems exist in their world, and that they are mature enough to be concerned about how to deal with these issues.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think all young women should read Tamora Pierce novels for the very reason that she more or less discusses anything and everything that a young woman will have to deal with in our society, from dealing with her period (which, quite frankly, is a subject that most books don’t deal with), to bullying, to dealing with general misogyny, to the various ways in which said misogyny manifests within society, not only for girls, but for women, and discusses all of these topics in such a way that they are accessible to both young and adult readers, which to me seems like a sign of masterful writing. Thus, Pierce’s books prepare readers for the conflicts they face on a day-to-day basis at the time they are reading, as for those conflicts they will face, in the years to come. And while I cannot begrudge my friends the right to raise their children as they see fit, I hope they recognize the importance of these books for young readers and choose not to wait until their daughter is older to let her read them.

Once Upon a Time: A Review

I mentioned in my last post (or what should have been my last post, it got posted at the same time as the other, so they ended up backwards, but whatever), that I love Peter Pan so much that I recently started watching Once Upon a Time just because Captain Hook shows up in season 2. I am now on season 2, episode 11, Captain Hook has shown up, and I am thrilled to see him. But the appearance of Hook doesn’t change the general feeling that Once Upon a Time is, at best, mediocre.

Granted, this is nothing new. The vast majority of shows on the air right now are mediocre. There are even shows I like more than Once Upon a Time, like White Collar, which I feel could be improved by some pretty basic changes. In fact, about the only show currently running that I feel really impressed by is Sherlock, and this is primarily due to my being a Holmes fangirl and the show being made by Holmes fanboys. Half my love for it is based merely in the fact that it is deeply steeped in Holmes canon and history.

What is my problem with Once Upon a Time? Well, for one thing, I don’t find their characters particularly interesting. They seem kind of flat and mundane. Additionally, I feel the female characters are particularly lacking. I mean, Rumplestiltskin and Hook are both great. Between them, they cover about 95% of why I watch the show. (The possibility of seeing Neverland and maybe Peter covers another 3). There are several other characters who I like, though not as much, like Grumpy and August and Jefferson. See what I mean? The only two females I really like are Ruby and Belle, who get very little screen time (though thankfully Belle is getting more, due to her association with Mr. Gold.) The female protagonist I am indifferent toward and Mary Margaret, the face of the show (this is the actress they always advertise) I actively dislike for being a cliched virgin angel who seems to exist more or less to fall in love with a prince and make a queen angry. (Granted, Snow White has more substance than this and I don’t mind her so much.)

But there is a greater problem, which is the show’s reliance upon Disney motifs. Granted, some of the details I cannot be sure of. For instance, not having read the original “Beauty and the Beast,” I don’t know if there’s a chipped teacup of importance, and while most versions of “Sleeping Beauty,” name her some variation of Briar Rose, Disney may not have been the first to switch this to Aurora. These are two features which Once Upon a Time Uses. But they also name the dwarves as they were named in the Disney film, which less face it, are kind of stupid names. In fact, every time I hear the dwarves named, I cringe. Poor Grumpy deserves an original and better name. They also briefly introduced Gus Gus the mouse. Now, I’m told the French version of “Cinderella” actually has mice that run around and sing and help her, but Gus Gus specifically seems a little too Disney. My brother says they had to do this to appeal to a broader audience (i.e. the general public who know only the Disney versions of fairytales.) While this may be a legitimate excuse for making Belle a lover of books (which I don’t take issue with anyway), but Disney-fiying their story down to the color and design of Belle’s dresses is more than a little overboard.

The creators’ lack of attention to the original stories hit a gross magnitude with the introduction of Hook. First of all, they named him Killigan Jones. Killigan Jones? Seriously? I thought everybody knew that Hook’s name was James. And they certainly didn’t rename Dr. Frankenstein Bob or rename Belle Lucy. So why rename Hook? Maybe because he’s not referred to by his first name in the Disney films, which are their only source of fairytales (if they had seen any production which refers to his first name, they would know to call him James. I don’t believe I have seen a version that calls him anything else before this.) But grossest of all is that Hook’s hooks is on his left hand. Again, the only version I have seen to make this mistake is Disney. All others depict Hook with his hook on his right, probably because that’s how Barrie wrote it. I know this a nit picky detail, but to me it displays a carelessness so astute that I’m surprised they didn’t give Hook long black curls and big red coat (though I’m glad they didn’t–this would have given him a different demeanor, and I like him as he is.) Furthermore, it’s the nit oicky details that usually bother me more because it’s not deviating from the story that bothers me, it’s deviating without reason. In Once Upon a Time, Hook has his hand cut off by Rumplestiltskin, not Peter Pan. This doesn’t bother me because it’s necessary to the story they want to tell and it’s reasonable within the canon of the show. But changing his hook hand from the right to the left or changing his hame from James to Killigan has no bearing on the character. Therefore, it’s offensive that they can’t keep these details straight out of respect to the original character. I mean, if you’re going to change everything, just because you feel like it, you might as well create a new character of your own.

Don’t get me wrong though. Hook is not the problem here. This Killigan Jones may be an imposter, but he’s one of my favorite Hooks of the screen. (And remember, Colon O’Donoghue is competing with the likes of Cyril Richards, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Isaacs, and Rhys Ifans.) But the lack of attention to detail regarding his character reveals to me, not an attempt to appeal to a broader audience, but sheer laziness on the part of the creators. In complete opposite fashion of Sherlock, they choose to ignore the original stories and use only the watered down Disney films as their reference. This, in turn, results in the watered down characterization and themes that the Disney films have. In fact, the reason Rumplestiltskin is so good could be that Disney has never done a version of the story, so they had to look elsewhere for references. But the creators’ reliance on a single, shallow source of the literature is what makes the show, at best, mediocre.