Me: I bought some lipgloss today.
Author / Educator / Activist
Me: I bought some lipgloss today.
“You look nice. Your hair is curlier,” says GBF when he sits down at the table.
We meet someplace every Tuesday night for dinner. Tonight was the Ryzome Cafe.
“How can it be curlier, it’s getting longer.” I say.
“I don’t know, it just is. I like it.”
Huh. Sure enough, when I go into the women’s restroom and take a look at my hair, it does look curlier.
“You’re right,” I tell GBF upon my return.
“You must be happy. Happiness makes your hair look good.”
This was a poem dropped from Her Red Book. I still might include it in another book.
dust is beautiful
it floats in the stratosphere
above the cumulonimbus
and diffuses the waves
making the sky blue
azuring the eyes
of the nomadic poet
who learns the names
like pop songs
singing them in her head
with only light
that bounce around the nape of her heart
because in the middle world
there is a such thing
Jump on The Monday Night Poetry Train
The words “middle world” did not appear in the original poem. I borrowed them after hearing this wonderful post on TED. If you have 20 minutes to spare, this will curl your brain:
I’ve been very absent around here. Life got away from me for a while. Just finished my gig on the Nickelodeon film and our house renovations are down to the details. No more drywall! Woop-woop!
The following poem isn’t really a dropped page as I don’t think I’d even considered it for any of my books. In any case, here it is, written 10 years ago while living in Seattle. It still doesn’t quite work, but I like the sentiment.
girl leaves suburbs, moves to woods, builds log cabin
words connect her to earth plant
her among cousins
just running around she prefers
life lived out
terraced jungles that grow physical
something strong that breaks from classic
nuclear TV dinner says joyful
is someplace arrived
twleve years toiled with the ground
soft resilience behind eyes loves
to learn but heart
vulnerable to anything except stellar grades and
curved words as relatives
family radius reaches
thinly towards self
a holiday, a liberation, a domicile
where she can build
strong ceramic pots
in which to keep them
This is an odd little poem that was dropped from Her Red Book.
(I’m not sure how the title relates… I think I literally signed up for French Lessons that evening.)
~ ~ ~
On the Night She Signed up for French Lessons
The heat getting to her
she was hallucinating
one postcard from Gualala and she’s got
the Pulitzer Prize
Never mind the extra weight since she’s turned to
chocolate cigarettes from Holland
putting back everything she’s ever stolen
a minute or two in the executive chair
with her eyes closed
Funny thing was
every time she stepped out of the kitchen she was startled
by a man sitting at the diningroom table
it was only her raincoat and a potted cactus
She sees familiar names in NY magazines
and thinks I’ve got to get out of here.
It’s going to be a slow accent the kind you build
over time moving steadily north
she’ll practice first by ordering food or asking directions
nobody really notices you anymore
except when you’re pinching fruit
~ ~ ~
Dropped Pages is a series of poems that were originally dropped from my books and chapbooks. I have reclaimed them here.
Dropped from Her Red Book
On the Night of the Angelic Ellipse
She confuses her back porch for
circles the peeling paint and rusty cans
like wrinkles in a plan
The white of her new uniform
makes her smile while looking
into classmates eyes
opening their chests
their beautiful round faces
The Korean instructor
places his hand over her heart
and when he moves
away she still feels
in a halo
She swears there are angels in
the room when the lights are
down eyes closed
she senses a pressure from across
the room and a voice counts to ten…
At home in post-yoga trance
a friend explains to her
the mathematic symbolism
of the ellipse
the center of which is equidistant
from two communal circles
a macrocosm the voice delights
I’ve always liked the word orbit
she admits the voice nods
It’s good to travel around the sun
~ ~ ~
Hop on the Poetry Train
Late for the train. Let’s blame it on the time change, shall we?
This was a poem dropped from Every Day Angels and Other Near Death Experiences.
clouds in two separate directions
skink on rock, copper head
world a smooth glass
of your palm on my ribs
I was going to sleep
before in the jungle your smile
I couldn’t help
but love that
every step gentle
the way it should be
each stop equal to the last or next
balancing at the base or edge of something
I understand you
hanakapai beach milky way fired from pink
you take pictures of a young couple
celebrating by the shore
like out of travel magazines
where the girl is perfect and the
boy so careful in her presence
I lost the shell I picked from the beach the one
you blew as a miniature instrument in the
rental car where I think I dropped it
nothing was coming home with me
not even you
and I knew this before we left for the journey
I was unstuck in time
and saw our parting as one
as I dreamt it always but kept
under a spell
your footprints in the sand I walk inside of
forward and backward
I watch you read or pick lemons
the way your feet turn in as you walk
the breath at which you
confidently blow sweet low music
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Dropped Pages is a series of poems that were originally dropped from my books or chapbooks. I have reclaimed them here.
~ ~ ~
This poem was dropped from Her Red Book. I’ve been tweaking it for years and have never been completely happy with it. Who was it that said perfection is the enemy of done?
On the Night She Left Her Form
her form is an extension of content
so these spaces the places she blows
(heart beat) taps her foot
these things are little character assassinations
she is content to watch the
parade go by
marching band step
a graceful dive speak hours of
play bagpipes in soft November Vancouver
streets past the hash den past the
heroin alley past the Chinese pot
stickers to Commercial Drive hip hop
studio where restless father poet
dreams of NYC everybody
dreams of NYC even poets
in NYC dream of NYC
in the city
formal kisses on the cheek
measure the place born
replace the content
of her mouth’s soul
form a lightning rod
shape a gun barrel
(There are actually more spaces in the poem then appear here. Tabs are a pain in the butt in html.)
catch the poetry train, yo.
One of the things I was agonizing about early on was that my current story lacked a solid dilemma. In his book Writing a Great Movie, Jeff Kitchen defines dilemma as “two equally painful choices.”
Two EQUALLY PAINFUL choices.
Say you have to make the choice of losing your girlfriend or being fired from a job that you detest. Not much of a dilemma. They don’t hold equal emotional weight. But what if you had to choose between taking care of your wife as her Alzhiemers grows worse by the day or sending her to a care facility that allows no visiters for the first 30 days… and you’ve never been away from her in your 40 years of marriage?
This happens to be one of the dilemmas in Away From Her. How can the husband not see his wife for 30 days in the twighlight of their years together… but how can he continue to care for her when she can’t even find her way home any more?
A dilemma should make you feel completely stuck until life finally gets to the point where you are forced to make a decision. You can’t sit on the fence forever.
AND, even if you personally think the choice would be easy for you, you have to create your character in such a way that the audience understands how difficult this decision is for him or her.
In my story The Van Goes, mom and son have been living out of a camper van. Originally, she had been forced to live in a camper van out of circumstances and because she was trying to make it as an artist. When it becomes impossible for her 15 year old son to live with her this way, she has to choose: get a real job and apartment or no longer live with her son. It wasn’t compelling enough. Her choice wasn’t enough of a dilemma AND there was no way for us to sympathize with her if she chose to stay in the van.
After I wrote my LOGLINE, I realized that it’s all in the way I present her as a character. I have to create her so that it IS a true dilemma for her. I did this by making living out of the van her CHOICE after her son was born. She’s a hippie, a bit of a renegade, techno-weary, and this is her lifestyle. She knows nothing else, and she wouldn’t fit in…
and neither does her son when he tries to become a normal teenager. But more on that later.
The point is that now, even though I may not agree with her lifestyle choice, I can completely understand how after 15 years of traveling around working odd physical jobs and never owning a cell phone might make it difficult to settle down in one place and fit in to society.
The first time I redid my kitchen floors I read the instructions on how to lay linoleum tiles and all the measuring of the room and penciling the lines to fit the tiles into just sounded like too much work to me. I thought, hell, I’ll just lay them out. They’re square; it will be fine. As I glued them down, they started to wander a bit. Eventually I had to cut away pieces to make them fit. It probably added a great deal of time and tedium (not to mention a great deal of frustration).
~ ~ ~
I always recommend that my students do plenty of pre-work before they sit down to write their screenplay. This thinking on the page (and out loud) helps to flesh out the story, the structure, the characters, and a lot more. There are quite a few books on screenwriting, and in every one they’ll tell you the same thing. Knowing what you’re writing about, what the key turning points are, and what the players are all about is tantamount to measuring out that kitchen floor before you lay the tiles.
After I chose which story I was going to write, all I could think of was that I didn’t even have a fully-formed idea. It was just an opening scene that had gotten stuck in my head. I didn’t know about the story. I didn’t know exactly what the conflict was, what the dilemma was, if there was a ticking clock, and what my protagonist’s goal was…. so I started my writing exercises using the start lines I’ve posted in previous posts.
After two weeks, I still wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t gelling. I couldn’t SEE the story, which is vital to me.
So I decided to get back to basics.
In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, he says not to do anything else until you’ve written the “one-line,” otherwise known as your logline. Screenwriters are notoriously nervous about writing loglines. They’d rather have dental surgery. I mean, how can you reduce your entire story to one measly sentence?
The thing is that the root idea of your story should be simple and basic… and strong so that you can build your story from it. It sharpens your story into a clear point… And you’ll know when you get it right, because a big light will go on in your head. BINGO!
So I sat down to do just that. And in a moment of inspiration, a logline emerged, and I knew exactly what my story was about:
The Van Goes
A free–spirited woman must choose between her gypsy lifestyle and the son who has grown too old to live with her in their camper van.
As soon as I wrote this down… the heavens opened and the muses poured golden sunshine upon me… I could SEE my characters. The protagonist (the mother) popped almost fully-formed into my head. I knew this woman, and I knew the relationship she had with her son, and I knew that relationship was about to change.
Take a moment during your pre-exercises this week and write down your logline. You may have to do it several times. For me, the key is in the MUST part… what MUST your character do, what choice MUST she make, and what will be the consequences for doing this thing or making this choice.