Tag Archives: time limit

Thoughtless Gestures of Love

A story for you, written in 20 minutes
3:06 a.m.

We drove from my Mom’s house to my Dad’s house. This was my Friday night. Headlights going down the highway in the rust polka-dotted, old geo-prism. My sister wasn’t with us. It was just me and Dad and NPR. I passed the time by road ogling for an hour fifteen.
I think he was trying to bring up a woman’s issue. I was in 8th grade. About to be a real teenager. About to be in High School. He brought up the importance of self-confidence for young women. He didn’t mean me specifically. He meant, young women as he knew them, as the idea ideal. I said, “I have like zero self-confidence.” I’m not sure if I was joking or not. Self-confidence isn’t something someone tells you how to acquire, they just seem to measure. My Dad turned his head from the highway to look at me. He usually spoke to you like he was a recording, and when you were talking he was only on pause. But this time, he seemed to look at me. I knew I’d done something wrong.
From where he drove, I was his little girl. He didn’t get to spend enough time with me. I was just growing up so fast. I seemed happy enough. I talked about my friends. I was good. He had nothing to worry about. I made my grades. Not the grades he wanted, but the grades I worked for. He wasn’t sure about my school. The history teacher seemed to have his facts and opinions too close together. But I’d be fine. Grades don’t matter till high school. I seemed to care.
He must have read a book about this somewhere. Mom told me once he was so nervous about being a Dad he read those books. A good student till the end. A student of black and white in print. And this self-confidence thing, now that was something bad. He had to fix that. That couldn’t go on. Self-confidence was very important for young women. I was a young women. He had read this is important. He must have decided he knew he could improve my confidence.
On the way home, we stopped at the library. I picked out a couple movies. At the checkout counter he said, “these are for you.” He handed me a stack of books. I walked out to the car with them piled in my arms. I read the titles once we were half-way home. They were themed. Improve you self-confidence, how to be a better you, how to love yourself the teenager, find the good inside everyone.
Right then, I think, no I know, I saw my Dad for his faults. First time. How did he not know this wasn’t how to fix me? How did he not know his own daughter well enough to know when he did something to upset her. Worse, when he upset me, why didn’t he care? He never should have told me there was something wrong with me or my confidence. He never should have given me a book. He never should have tried to fix me. I learn through talking. Why didn’t he talk to me instead of past, over, and to my sister? I put those books down. In one of my first acts of teenage rebellion, I never touched those books again. He condemned me with a library card. If he would have said anything to me, I would have been better off.
He scared me. In retrospect, he might have asked those questions, and I probably wouldn’t have answered. I was just nerves. I worried whatever answer I gave might not be the right one, and I’d get a lecture, or he’d raise his voice. So I started not telling him. He couldn’t hurt me that way, if I didn’t tell him something might be wrong. I can’t be fixed if I won’t tell you anything important. So I stuck to safe topics. I learned to have non-issue opinions that would keep him talking. No one could tell me something was wrong with me. I’d be perfect in the middle of the road, normal. You can’t suggest to the perfect.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes (Day Thirty)

I’ve written ten poems in twenty minutes for thirty days in a row. That means I’ve written three hundred poems. It seems impossible. Points to anyone who’s read them all.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes
Day 30

Poem 1:
To find a place to sit
Answer to no one
Rock in a chair
Feel less constant guilt

Poem 2:
When he or she is goodmooded
I sneer
Waiting for the anger to return
Because the happy makes the mad worse
I know it’s there waiting

Poem 3:
She said how are you
For just a second I thought
Maybe she cared
Duty to ask
Dutiful answer

Poem 4:
She was the envy of the other housewives
Not because she had no husband
But because his sorry-death money
Meant she didn’t have to work

Poem 5:
I use to yell at myself
When I change my mind
When I sit and stare
When I don’t know
Not good enough

Poem 6:
It’s all going to go like this
Forever I’ll be waiting for next
And these same fears will stick with me
Problems now, issues later
I’m never going to resolve
Just end
I’d like to exchange my fears and hopes for someone else’s cards
Just to try them out
See if their hand gives me more peace of mind

Poem 7:
If I had my confidence now
When I sat down at the new lunch table
I would have sauntered
Made friends
Not sat with my plastic bag
And ants

Poem 8:
Threadbare doesn’t make sense to you
Until you’ve felt it on your skin
Then the wind

Poem 9:
That damn stupid dog
She can’t stand to eat now
Her paw curls under
Broken neurons or whatever
Bone and brain cancer maybe
She’s doped up
She cried on the floor of the kitchen in front of her food
Stop watching me wait for her to die

Poem 10:
I dip my hand in my head. Pull up a memory.
It’s a good one, I remember.
Grandpa convinced me that watermelon seeds would grow in my belly.
I got so nervous, but no one would tell me truth, they just laughed.
And I was still so careful to avoid the black pellets, in case.
The tablecloth was blue and stained, my bowl with the heart and dot print.
I remember all the times I’ve pulleyed this one to the surface.
Each time with a grim sort of smile.
First realizing he was teasing.
Next figuring out many people tease children.
Then seeing I was pretty little.
Hearing the myth about seeds growing many times.
Knowing in class that seeds don’t grow in bellies, acid.
Understanding that teasing, for him, showed caring.
Missing relatives.
As if the memory is less important than all the times I’ve remembered it.
I follow my thoughts, grow with my stomach size.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes (Day Twenty-Eight)

Here I am twenty-eight days later no closer to solving my problems, but still writing sillies.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes
Day 28

Poem 1:
It’s coming back I think
That’s what really scares
Because I went through it before
I don’t want it back
What keeps you from getting awake

Poem 2:
Last night it rained
Shook the house
The whole house
I put my hand on the wall to feel the shudders
I smiled and curled in the corner

Poem 3:
I want to say oh god I need a drink
But the thought stays where it is
All my bottles stand half empty in a cupboard
Drunk from some boy from some party
Because I’m scared if I listen this once
I won’t have a choice next time

Poem 4:
Sex ed taught in a Christian school
Our Bible teacher asked who’d started
Miss fishface with golden hair
Everybody raised their hands
Not me and Caitlin
They drew attention to us
These outcasts, for our bodies not working right yet
Next year, when her hand went up my hand did too
I screamed at my body what’s wrong with you

Poem 5:
I’m just putting off the conversation
To have with myself
It says
Here’s what you need to do
I just keep drifting without leaving the house

Poem 6:
He sent me a letter with the money
Look at all the strings
He told me in form all the wrongs and rights ahead
He got the right name and not my sisters
He wrote with pastor voice
Saying you must and why aren’t you
I twindled it up and set it on fire in my kitchen sink
No confrontation just ignorance

Poem 7:
I ate honeyed cheerios with a black plastic spork
The dying dog howeled early and woke me
Sleep evaded
So I balmed myself with grains and oats
Soothed with food
Because that’ll do

Poem 8:
He told our mother he’d buy us new dresses
2nd hand, off hand
I wore it, stained with brown spots on the curled up white thick lace collar
They all told us how pretty we looked
I learned, good people lie

Poem 9:
She dismissed me out of hand from her presence
Because he was from West Virginia
Saying go make your own friends
How do I do that
No one told me
Why can’t I stay with you safe
She laughed down at me
Turned my shoulders
And sent me down

Poem 10:
Car drives one hour and fifteen minutes
One house to the other
NPR rattled
I stared out the windows
She read in the back
Or talked to dad about
Oh you wouldn’t understand yet

10 Poems in 20 Minutes (Day Twenty-Five)

Twenty-five days in a row of writing poetry in twenty minutes. My god. I should do something to celebrate or some such nonsense. I’ll do some sort of tribal victory dance.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes
Day 25

Poem 1:
I could be doing my favorite thing
But not care
I could be missing three fingers
But I would meh shrug
For the listlessness has overcome me
I could be caring

Poem 2:
I show you my heart,
Because you asked.
I pick up this squirrely strands, mismatched, slippery, falling
Shove them in your general direction and say,
This is who I am.
Because you asked

Poem 3:
I scare myself
What I would do if I really cared

Poem 4:
I want to wrap my arms around something warm
Hear another heartbeat
And not be scared
Not have to move.

Poem 5:
He won’t like me because you’re weird
That strange word for everything other
Encompasses all the others
Gives you an excuse to say no

Poem 6:
The wonderings forms me stronger
If I had done this it would be better
Makes us strength in memories in the past
Improves us now, so we can say we did
Kicks us to keep getting better
Not to accept the same
The hopeless say not what if, but when

Poem 7:
An old kindergarten paper with my pink paint smudged glitter hand print
In that kid like font on special printing
I put my now hands over the then hands
Not much growth

Poem 8:
When I get old
I’ll creak and crack
My mind will too
And I’ll forget to move my boundary in lines

Poem 9:
He wanted us to go in front and talk about our papers
I didn’t have a real argument
I didn’t want to stand
I cut class
So no one asked me to defend myself
What’s there worth defending

Poem 10:
Lemme explain to you why I won’t ask a guy out
I told him
I’m stuck in generations
The grandmas tell me never to cross your legs
The mother’s tell me not to depend
But they both stayed with their husbands out of understood duty
My dad opens car doors for me, so I pause at any frame
But no one’s asked me
No one told me
How to bat eyes, and spritz, or smile, or grind
And I can’t do anything without knowing it’s ok first
They just forgot to mention
Hell if I’ll ask

10 Poems in 20 Minutes (Day Twenty-Four)

Twenty-four days of live action poetry written under a time limit. Twenty-four is a good number.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes
Day 24

Poem 1:
She told, she’s had people abandon friends who are dying in hospice
They don’t know what to say so they don’t sit
Sit with me a while
For my cubicle death soul and his
Squared off vigil

Poem 2:
Find me a river
Let’s go dancing
Turning waves
Shot of breath
Breathe shorter and shorter

Poem 3:
I stalked up to the front of the class
Hi prof
You don’t know me but
How to tell a stranger you know, who has power over you
That a greater obligation calls your attention
No matter money spent
Regardless of infinite prior knowledge
My dad, he’s in surgery, if I get a call
I’m leaving
They have to say ok
Then as you walk back
Remember they’re a person
And ask if you’re all right

Poem 4:
I tell me at times
That I’ve got a good soul
And that I’m not quick to anger or threaten
Abhorrent violence
But how far has that been tested
If I could push a big red button
Could I know what I’d do
If I wasn’t there

Poem 5:
I only did as a child
Swung onto a held hand till the shoulder socket ached
Waved to strangers
Wanted to be big
Couldn’t hold on till I could ride a ride
Knew it would be better, not hoped

Poem 6:
Favorite hymn, I want that one played at my funeral
Because this guy, she said, wasn’t a believer
Had no hymn picked out
But the priest knew he was saved
Sung the brother’s favorite hymn instead
Respect the lived idea’s of the passed
He wouldn’t have wanted not to be in a church

Poem 7:
Waiting for this head space to clear
Then I see everything all filtered
By what I’m going to need now
In this certain position
From this different angle place in my head

Poem 8:
The pride comes from hope the second time around is all better
He sideline sits. Watches the big bulk son hit and scrape
This is glory

Poem 9:
I like to take an action many before have
Kinship over time with similar thoughts in mind
Like watching fire
Combing hair
Carving apples
Spilling cups
Clasping hands
Picking teeth
And slaughtering chickens
All to survive, we do it all to survive

Poem 10:
I’ll get up early tomorrow
Watch the sun come up over dingy dinghy neighborhood
Uneven concrete blocks
Tilting blue spruce pines
Remind myself that beauty hits everything
But it won’t be pretty tomorrow they’ll be clouds
This place will still be the same
Birds behind shutters

10 Poems in 20 Minutes (Day Twenty)

I have written ten poems in twenty minutes for twenty consecutive days. To celebrate this momentous occasion I decided to make all my poetry rhyme. Apologies for the oncoming onslaught of suck.

10 Poems in 20 Minutes
Day 20

Poem 1:
When and if I cannot get out of bed
I call it my home in comfort and peace
I tell myself that’s ok, stay in your head
Then tomorrow we can start a new lease
A new chance for never to cease

Poem 2:
I suppose I should write about love
As that is the customary form of this beautiful dove
Each word I select
Seems to laugh as I detect
Any sort of rhyme
Before I run out of time

Poem 3:
Talk to me, you said
Tell me a story
But there’s nothing in my brain that isn’t dead
And all my tales with just the gory
Details of what rests in this sad little mind
You’ll have to wait and be kind

Poem 4:
I shall not be worse
No the next day it will all be so much better
I will not add a curse
If anything it will all be setter

Poem 5:
She said
I have a mind that cannot be fed
For it ravages and forages and finds no peace
And nothing you can add with endure any cease
To this tumult and chaos and grease

Poem 6:
Come and sit for a minute so that I can tell you how I came to be
It was through my family
For the first we see, is the first we compare, forever, see
And I was not good enough for them three
I will never be enough good for any other sea

Poem 7:
I took a shower
And went into this sun of mine
I did not cower
But stood fool in line
And greeted my ball of fire in my dower with sublime fine aligned

Poem 8:
I seek out these people I would and could speak to
I ask them questions askance
I test their answers, looking through
I put them around this difficult dance
Seeing if their mind can have fun with two

Poem 9:
Make me a river
So I can flower where I like
I scream at the deliverer
I have nothing I don’t strike
Push me away upriver

Poem 10:
As I sit and write this verse
I wonder if perhaps
I have let too much time elapse
As it takes much longer to write this little curse
I cannot be trusted with this non free verse