Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: August 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book of Poems, Book of Dreams

Many thanks to Studio 30+ for recently featuring my essay.  You can read it here.

Monday, August 27, 2012


After school, me ‘n Jack head down Main to Millie’s place.  The bell over the door jangles to announce us.  Millie looks up with a big grin on her face.  She shoos some old dinosaur from one of the tables.  “You scoot now, Frank.”

“Why, Millie, I ain’t…”

“You bin setting there drinking my coffee all day.  There’s a limit to free refills, you know.”  She wipes down the table, slings the bar towel back over her shoulder, and hands me a menu.  “You boys best be hungry.  I got me some bills to pay.”
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Friday, August 24, 2012


“Looky here, Miss.”  Becky pointed to a gap in her smile.  “Twenty bucks!”
Eileen frowned.  “Tooth Fairy only gives me a quarter.” 
Whistle blew.  Recess ended.  I shepherded students back inside to learn.

This was written for this weekend's Trifecta Writing Challenge.  I may have cheated a bit: 

"On to this weekend's challenge, which will be judged by the community.  The trickiness of this past week's prompt has us thinking about the various ways we use words.  This weekend we want you to write a 33-word response using the name of an animal as a verb.  Some examples are: to dog, to snake, to bear, to duck. . .you get the idea.  Write about anything you want and use whichever verb tense you need, but give us an animal as a verb in there somewhere.  Let's see if we can discover new things by looking from a different perspective."


Thursday, August 23, 2012


All my life, I’ve lived in the shadow of the Phillies.  When I was a baby, my father would sit in my nursery, the baseball game playing softly on his portable radio.  While I slept, he would dream of his son playing pro ball.  He’d watch the way the lights from Veterans Stadium played across my fluttering eyelids; he’d watch the gentle rise and fall of my chest, to reassure him that I was, indeed, breathing.  And then, when the game ended, he would pull up the thin sheet to cover me up before heading to the front porch for a cigarette. 

When I was six, my mother packed her bags, changed her name, and moved eight blocks away with her new husband.  And the Phils moved, too.  Although they stayed a bit closer than my mother: At night, I could still see the lights glowing over Citizens Bank Park.  But I no longer saw my mother.
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Friday, August 17, 2012


As she waited for the nine-seventeen train, watching lingering farewells and ecstatic reunions, Isodora smiled to herself and picked away her apricot nail polish.  It’d been his favorite color.  She preferred blood red. 

This was written in response to a Trifecta Writing Challenge. We were to write the last 33 words of a story.


Thursday, August 16, 2012


Every morning when I check on the progress of my late-summer garden, I discover the empty cicada shells, dark brown and crunchy, clinging to trees and fence posts.  The shells are neatly split down the back where the insect, transformed by nature and time, emerged new, all silver-bodied and long-winged, to fly to the tops of the trees and join its brethren in a scratchy wooly song:  irritating and pleasant at the same time.

* * *

My neighbor sent me an email the other day; asked me if I was interested in adopting the rabbit she’s been babysitting for another neighbor.  Actually, she used the word bunny.  Bunnies are cute.  Bunnies are soft.  Bunnies are fuzzy.  Rabbits, you eat.

She told me that with two dogs and two fish and two cats living in our house, the hamster might be feeling a bit unbalanced.  She thought that our family ark was listing to one side.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012


They say that home is where the heart is. I don’t buy that shit.  I’ve been moved around so many times during the past thirteen years, I don’t know where to set my heart down.

I’ve seen shit that you wouldn’t believe. 

I’ve seen shit you would rather pretend didn’t exist.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

So They Say

It’s a well-known fact that unhappy people tend to look outside more: outside the windows, outside themselves, whatever.  Perhaps they’re looking for something to bring within; something to calm or satisfy or just relieve.  But I wouldn’t know.  Ask the boy’s father, if you really need an answer.  He’s the doctor, not me.  But know this: the doctor is a difficult man to reach.  He’s too busy looking to be found.
* * *
“Joseph come away from that window.”

“Maestro, look at that man.”  Joseph pointed out the window, three stories down.

I shrugged.  “Just another bum.  Seen one, seen them all.  Come.”  I clapped my hands.  “We must prepare.  Some day, you’ll be as good as your mother was, may God rest her soul.”  The boy winced.  He still felt responsible.  How do you blame an infant, struggling to be born, for the death of its mother?  I don’t know.  Ask the doctor.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012


My curtains keep the sun from stealing the color from my new furniture.  My curtains hide me from the repo man.  My curtains make a blanket on the sidewalk outside my former home.

This was written for The Trifecta Writing Challenge.  We were to write a 33-word story illustrating three uses of one object.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Easy as Floating

Minutes before his four o’clock appointment, the tattoo artist disappeared.  His kid sister, home for spring break, sat at the reception desk, obsessively straightening neat piles of papers while the four o’clock appointment watched the clock and tapped his foot against grimy yellow tiles.  She cleared her throat and stood.  She smoothed her skirt, noticed the half-finished scene climbing up the man’s arm: a family tree, she supposed, a name scripted into each leaf. 
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Promise Me This

“I will not be sorry to leave this world.”    

“You’re not going anywhere, Grandpa.”  Carrie put a hand on his arm.

He rested his own hand upon hers; gave it a squeeze.  “I can’t remember the last time someone touched me.”  Carrie dropped her eyes and a silence fell upon the room.  He felt uncomfortable: He didn’t mean to embarrass Carrie.  She was the only one who’d bothered to come.  He pointed to a crack in the ceiling.  “I wish I’d painted that one last time.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Paint I understand.  Something looks bad, slap a coat of paint on it and cover it up, good as new.”

His old dog padded into the room, his toenails clicking on the hardwood floor.  “You can’t fix things up so easily anymore.  The world is complicated too now.”  He sighed.  “People don’t want to deal with a confused old man.”

“You’re the smartest man I know.”

 “All the rules are changed.  It’s everyone for himself.”
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Sunday, August 5, 2012


Well, for some reason Squints thought the living room floor would be a suitable place to store his retainer.  And, of course, Filibuster found it with her foot and snapped it in two with a sickening crunch.

Squints called the orthodontist, inquired about the cost about a replacement.  “We don’t have that kind of money hanging around, Squints,” I said, thinking about the four new tires on my husband’s car.  “You’re going to have to help pay for it.”
He frowned.  “I don’t have a job.”

“You’re going to have to work it off.”  And suddenly, Squints’ pocket money; the money he makes from moving the lawn every week, has disappeared. 

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Saturday, August 4, 2012


Rat logged onto Facebook.
Ratty lost her head.
Rat forgot to eat, to drink,
Disregarded bed.
Cat stole onto desktop.
Kitty-cat was sly.
Hungrily she leapt and pounced.
That day Rat would die.

This was written for the Trifecta Writing Challenge.  We were to write a fable in 33 words.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blades of Grass

“Cut to Iowa.” 

The screen changes.  Dried corn stalks stand sentry in the fields, brittle skeletons and funeral pyres.


Men and women run through the streets, throwing rocks through plate glass windows of empty grocery stores.

“Farragut Square.”

All along K Street, cars are overturned.  A tent city has filled the square.  “Used to be there were only a handful of homeless people there,” Kayla muses.  “I used to talk to them when I was in school.”  She returns to the screen.  Babies clad in saggy diapers tiptoe down sidewalks, fists stuffed in mouths.  “This is less than a mile away.”
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