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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Entries in poetry (15)

Saturday
Nov302013

My Own Private Cannery Row

© Tracy Prescott MacGregor

Rarely do I write poetry. Even more rarely do I allow it exposure. Not entirely sure why. I revere great poetry, but I find it to be a rare species: elusive and golden, hiding in shadows or, occasionally, in plain sight.

So here's a poem, no more fanfare than that.

 

My Own Private Cannery Row

 

"Accept loss forever." — Jack Kerouac

 

Here I endure my own private cannery row.

It crackles and breeds in

the dark parts of

an unruly heart—corrugated sheets layered over 

smoky post-afternoons, 

heavy enough with loss

and the memory of loss

and the fear of its return

and traffic

and iron

dragging gull

flocks in slick patterns against a volcano sun.

 

Twenty-first century. Under a bridge,

five slow crawdaddies move

in murky shallows 

sluggishly annihilating an 

immense fish head, 

while Steinbeck sleeps

and, worse, will never again wake.

 

Makeshift guido, cursed on a contrary shore, 

adrift off a refugee coast, face

boasting reflected orange 

yet

this smudged collar's powder-blue and new-sewn

with my fugitive name (upset) in gold below it:

 

Beloved. 

Strong. 

Among.

The Woods.

 

Say it. Woods await those

who fear themselves

lost, and lost 

indeed

is my new locale.

I might even call it

sorrowhood.

 

Plus this:

Names are potent, yet

the cogent grain of twilight welcomes smut,

refracting it for such long

drawn-out breathless

prayer flag horizons.

 

Music, too.

Blue jazz in a wineglass, Hendrix, bluegrass,

pure smartass, rhythmic

tantric belligerence.

 

Hopper beckons, eyes downcast. Lonely as hell—

old, weird America, less 

permanent than it believes and now

utterly unnerved.

 

Primary. Planar. Endless

sunflower acres.

We've come so far.

 

A thick-framed window, sunlight

ambergold, pouring like

fresh-squeezed motor oil, dripping from a citrus sky, 

easing us toward some

inarticulate lie: Desolation row, go, desperation

ground, loud, discovery known, flown,

deception pass, past, passed

below, ago, just so...

 

We cutouts tacked as

silhouettes. Transfixed somehow

with the mundane interplay of 

pristine fonts on 

the Grocery Outlet sign, where

we value our view; our warm, fawn 

thriftstore pact.

 

But come, listen, lookit.

 

Gather the lambkins, reel in the nets,

trawl the depths and count up the lost, 

bake the bricks, haul away the lumber,

give your day the ending it awaits,

its fitting close. Stumble past those who

would erode you, layer by

sheet, skin by cover, yet

keep on walking,

stumbling aloud, 

humbled,

cowed.

 

Agog. Gaga.

 

And keep your finger on

the fuck you trigger.

 

Especially that. Especially that.

 

Let the soft burr of a charcoal evening

smear the essence of your face like an artist

learning shading, blurring, obscuring.

Rendering.

Recurring.

 

Sudden evening quiet. The warm preemptive air. Sacred. 

Birds play then mute and the colours pulse dark, anticipatory,

so loaded, and indeed so

goddamned holy.

Abandoned flea markets,

green shoots and street scene clarity,

murmurs, a caress of freaks,

waterfowl feeding.

 

Someone in a waterfront townhouse,

on some higher balcony, 

is picking a banjo; pure

vibrations in the wires

aching with backyard echoes, 

the sound a trojan horse for a

renewed assault of grief, 

while your final drama speaks 

of absent fathers, trembling hands, 

half-gleaned urges, mother throes, 

white-hot and contradictory and 

wholly lonely: these

secret 

desert

fires.

 

Saturday
Sep012012

Excise

Felt like sharing an old poem I submitted once to a Canadian website named Poets Against War. I am wary of poetry as I hold it in such high regard that I feel completely inadequate in my admittedly rare attempts at the form. There's a purity to it that is almost intimidating. Anyway, this one is decent, nothing more. But since I am committing more time to my blog (two or three faint and hesitant cries of "yay" drift from the peanut gallery), I need to come up with more content, so consider this an adequate placeholder, no more, no less.

 

Excise

It's in the rubble

dubious patterns

for those eyes becoming fluent in

the patois of woe.

It's in the drinking men

in dark bars

who never offer their backs

to the bright doors.

It's in the quick flinch

of children

the sudden narrowing stutter

at a backfiring car.

Emergence. Chaos into patterns.

Seismic events

at first merely shudder.

Recognition

begins with one blink

of a clear eye

soon to be jaundiced

as the queasy map of infection

around an untreatable wound.

It's in the blood and the bond

the heart the hearth

the fond slow burn of the kill

it's deep although

(listen, still)

we may yet have something new to learn.

Tuesday
Jul172012

Erasure Poetry Contest

So Geist magazine right here in Vancouver is hosting a poetry contest. I've never entered a poetry contest. I rarely write poems—not because I don't like poetry, but because they are so damn hard to write well. So why did I enter this one? Well, first, for an entry fee of $20, they throw in a year's subscription to the print version of Geist, and it's a fine magazine. But also—and here's the clincher—the premise looked like a lot of fun. Basically, they provide a chunk of prose (in this case, an exerpt from the novel How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti) and you set about it with a metaphorical eraser, not so much rearranging the text as whittling it down to something essential. You can drop letters and join the remnants of words to make new words, but you can't move things out of sequence. In a way, this is the closest writers get to that near-cliché of discovering the form within the block of marble... although this particular block has itself been wonderfully sculpted.

So I started it (follow the link above if you want to see the original prose), got frustrated early, almost gave up, but then something started to emerge. I'm not sure whether it's good, but I did find that it became very emotional for me, at first elliptical, then sad, but later not so sad. I was surprised by the power of it—the technique not my attempt. And I wonder if something along these lines could be incorporated into a therapeutic approach.

Anyway, here is my attempt. It gets stronger as I grow into the procedure. I think the secret was to not read the original prose for sense, so as to avoid images forming early. It's titled "Can't Ouch".

I can't interest a mouse.

You doctor fire, win singing. I do too.

Come over to our nation before I stop.

Paint. Record. Feel.

Should I wonder? Help a celebrity?

No, actual hope is simple, one example of everything.

Simple, undying.

I don’t part, I don’t want.

Every heart—I am them.

Alive.

My head an image, unstartling, magnetic.

It is the quality of fame one is after here, without any of its qualities.

I shoulder my friends. An illusion, like me.

I appear to be, I appear to be, to be who I am.

A speck of dirt, alone in my contempt, my fucking… contempt.

Low-job artist, nine cents, tops.

I cannot gag, can't ouch our throat.

I breathe roughly, sucking to kiss.

Side jobs, though, rough with being girl, just rough with it. Sore with mass. Lustre time to a genius.

One good woman. Weave to man, am a golden idea mode for my mind.

Hold me.

It’s pretty.

Laugh when they won’t say what they mean.

Study them forever. Thinking: Christ, you're living in heaven.

*     *     *     *     *

also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

 

Friday
Apr202012

I Love You

Here, in reverse order, are ten things I like that are related to writing. Sort of. This is a completely random list and may possibly be an early sign of my eventual and catastrophic disintegration. Actually, I’ve reread it and it makes a very abstract kind of sense, after all. If you’re a surrealist. Or a nutbar. Or a strange gelatinous creature from the Aldebaran system.

10. I like hats. Not to wear. Very rarely, in fact, do I wear hats. I am far too proud of my flowing golden locks to hide them. I run my fingers through those locks while mimicking the sound of gentle lovemaking in haylofts. Anyway, hats. I will write about hats until the cows come home. And if, upon arriving home, those same cows eat all the hats, I will create more hats from whole cloth. Only, not. I’ll create them from nothing but thoughts, like Lewis Carroll embracing Khalil Gibran while on acid. The flowing golden locks part was a lie, incidentally. It’s normal guy hair, short and greying, but I still like it.

9. Roy Batty. The coolest of replicants, steeped in pride and melancholy like a lost boy in a gymnasium full of parakeets. I wish I could have written something even a tenth as poignant and plain badass-cool as the “tears in rain” soliloquy. Actually, this isn’t good. This actually makes me want to give up writing. As it should. You should too. And when I do, I will sigh, with the staggering weight of humanity’s eternal sorrow behind my exhalation, and whisper “time to die.”

8. Poetry. Poetry is very cool, it’s just that most of it isn’t. But the good stuff, the good stuff… Here:

“Maybe, as he stood
two inches from the wall,
in darkness, fogging the old plaster
with his breath, he visualized the future
as a mansion standing on the shore
that he was rowing to
with his tongue’s exhausted oar.”

from Self Improvement by Tony Hoagland

Or:

“On longer evenings,
Light, chill and yellow,
Bathes the serene
Foreheads of houses.
A thrush sings,
Laurel-surrounded
In the deep bare garden,
Its fresh-peeled voice
Astonishing the brickwork.
It will be spring soon,
It will be spring soon –
And I, whose childhood
Is a forgotten boredom,
Feel like a child
Who comes on a scene
Of adult reconciling,
And can understand nothing
But the unusual laughter,
And starts to be happy.”

Coming by Philip Larkin

Poetry is not being all emo about how no one understands you, especially that girl with the cute dimples and the endearing way she flicks her hair back. When it comes to poetry, most of us get stuck in that phase and forget to move into the adult world, thinking such ephemera poetry. It’s understandable in a way. We are not always taught it with joy. But poetry is neither Hallmark doggerel nor a sterile academic sideshow. At its best, it’s more akin to music, with its odd internal logic, tone and rhythmic/melodic qualities. Each type of poem has its own rules. A sonnet is not even close to a poem written in free verse, but both are equally valid as forms, the skill of the poet and the (mind’s) ear of the audience the only things that matter. The good stuff isn’t easy to find; you have to dig. I could post maybe a hundred examples right now of why good poetry is worth your time. It’s inspiring. It’s the use of delicacy and subtlety within exacting strictures. It’s beauty. I don’t know why, but for many centuries poets were valued, yet if you say you’re a poet today (I don’t, because I’m not), you will likely be met with awkward silence or possibly even the mocking laughter of a growing crowd that quickly senses blood. In the shame scales, it’s perhaps only a rung above sex offender, or even politician. I’m really not sure why. But I like it. Good poetry, that is. Is there a person alive who wouldn’t react in some way to such a startling phrase as “astonishing the brickwork”?

7. Why don’t North Americans “get” what they insist on calling soccer? It’s inspirational. The very criticisms they level at it are the aspects that make it more than a sport, something elevated into a hybrid of art form and planetary-wide cult. Take the low scoring. It really should be obvious to anyone who has thought about gold or diamonds or raucous laughter on a killing field why that is a positive. When you make the goals so rare, their value is increased. They are precious. I watch soccer, or football as I used to call it back when I was European, and something of its grace and power and drama has to inform my writing. At least, I hope it does. It has to. Even the simulation must translate. I dive to win a penalty. Metaphorically. Even when you dive, you still have to tuck it away. The crowd is outraged. It’s wrong, yet you now have a chance to win. I can’t explain this. It has something to do with the inherent unfairness of the universe. Randomness and a terrible unquenched need.

6. I love you. And I will make you love me back.

5. I am not judgmental. Generally. But if I encounter someone who doesn’t like animals I am creeped out. I have created characters still only at the sketch stage who are extremely unpleasant and capable of great brutality, and I instinctively make them animal-haters. This I might never change.

4. Do you recall an early morning in which the air is cool yet already embracing the promise of the sun? In which the simple act of breathing is a delight albeit one containing the chill woe of its eventual absence? In which the shadows are still soft yet beginning to test their edges like a hoodlum with a switchblade grinning in an alley? I don’t know what I’m trying to say, but this dark, dichotomous urgency is filling me with the strangest panic.

3. It’s all about writing. Which is essentially communication. Which, in its turn, is how we connect with our fellow humans. So, it’s about love. Because we can’t love any one or any thing if we surrender to the awful void of the world’s loneliness. Isolation is narcissism. When we magically talk to another, and we get even a portion of our meaning across, with all its beauty or frustration or uncertainty or hunger, we are performing the work we once attributed to gods. It’s alchemical. It’s akin to magic. Love can’t fully happen without it. I take back what I said earlier: we should never give up writing. It would be like a bird giving up the air.

© mental images, 19982. I don’t know what this post is about. It isn’t funny, or even profound. We sometimes have strange days in which the quirky detritus of the world comes drifting in on rays of alien light via windows we didn’t know existed. Once we know they exist, it’s important not to board them up, yet equally important we don’t force their eldritch light to shine. Let them shine when they shine, and otherwise remain shrouded.

1. A woman stood on a promontory. She clasped a dead kitten to her breasts, and the look of sorrow on her face made the gods weep so much they lost their nerve and abandoned humanity. She looked down at the wrathful surf below, at its inexplicable tantrum against the snaggletoothed rocks and she knew both the ocean’s rage and it’s deceptive placidity. She swayed. A sudden gust would plunge her toward those rocks. She held her breath and waited to see if nature would further aid and abet a terrible crime against love, a crime of neglect. She leaned forward at an almost impossible angle. But no gust, not even a breeze. Nature was violent below, yet gentle as lark song up here on the cliff edge. The sun’s rays were splayed above the horizon, gilt-edging the few clouds amid the deepening blue of the sky. She let her tears fall and recalled a time when she had been a little girl and thought she had seen a stunted demon steal across the school playing fields, hunched and hooded and malignant as any inoperable cancer, as hostile a thing as any she had encountered before or since. She cried for the kitten that had been denied its chance to accept or reject the glory and the disenchantment, the splendour and the defilement. She held its tiny grey body out, marveling at its lightness, and she let it fall to the tumultuous indifference of the eternal clash of water and rock below. The way of yielding and the way of resistance. Thinking about the many ways we must choose to either love or murder, she turned toward home and the man who might soon pay the price—deserved or otherwise—of her eventual decision.

*     *     *     *     *

A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on April 13, 2012. also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Tuesday
Dec132011

Lifting All Boats

So, true to my word, time to talk about someone else... more specifically, fellow writers who deserve exposure.

What have I been reading lately?

Well, in between all the work that accompanies the promotion of my own tiny piece of this much larger puzzle, not to mention the writing itself, I do try to read stuff written by others.

First up, I just finished a very strange collection written by the prolific and multi-talented K. S. Brooks and a dude with the pleasing name of Newton Love. I use the word "strange" here in an approving sense, since the book is titled Odd & Odder: A Collection of Sensuality, Satire and Suspense, so it would have been, um, odd if it weren't strange, if you get my drift. And besides, strange is my own stock in trade, really.

Anyway, it's a collection of short stories, poems and vignettes that draw from crime, noir, police procedural and spy fiction and something less definable yet mystifyingly intimate. The stories in particular are impressive, moving with a kind of relentless energy and fun and skirting genre pastiche without becoming cartoonish. The vignettes and poems allow for changes of pace between the intensity of the Fleminglike/Chandleresque stories. The strangeness, I suppose, is in the juxtaposition of styles, and however perplexing these choices are, the whole works better as a sum than the parts would alone. There's a kind of bipolar spirit running like electricity beneath the rollercoaster ups and downs of this distinctive and original carnival ride.

Here's some biographical stuff:

K. S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer and poet.

Ms. Brooks’ first novel, Lust for Danger, won her Honorable Mention in the Jada Press Book of the Year Awards as well as a spot in the “Next Big Thing” tent at the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. Since then, The Kiss of Night (2010) and Night Undone (2011) have been published by Cambridge Books. Ms. Brooks has also written 3 children's books, also published by Cambridge Books: The Mighty Oak and Me (2009), Postcards from Mr. Pish (2010) and Mr. Pish's Woodland Adventure (2011).

Her feature articles, poetry, and photography have appeared in magazines, newspapers, books and other publications both in the U.S. and abroad.

In the serenity of her new surroundings in Washington State, Ms. Brooks now devotes her time to writing action-adventure thrillers, romantic suspense novels, and children’s books which promote outdoor learning and literacy.

*     *     *     *     *

also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

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