Tagged: new writing

Missing you…

valley

Song for You

If I shouted your praises
this morning
climbed King’s Hill and
through cupped hands
serenaded the painted valley
with my corrido of longing
would you hear it
where you are
a whisper, a susurrus
pitched beyond sound yet
strangely pleasing to your ears?

(C. Burns)

“Harbingers” (poem)

Harbingers

In our rush toward willful extinction
with the precipice clearly in sight
there you are, picking daisies
the fields & forests ablaze

You, who like to plead ignorance
or beg off, pressed for time—
explaining to your grandchildren
why they must shrivel & starve

Desert

National Poetry Month III: New poems & an ambient tune

A few more poems, to close out National Poetry Month.  Dunno what led to this surge of verse of late—it’s not what I’m supposed to be writing, I’ll tell you that.

Ah, well, as previously reported, my muse can be pretty fickle and strange.

And just to prove that’s the case, I’ve added another recent ambient effort, one I’m very taken with, titled “String Theory”.  Bizarro space music and incomprehensible poetry…good grief.  Well, maybe now that Spring has returned to these parts I’ll feel compelled to get back to my real work, a project I shall elaborate on soon, very soon.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy today’s little treats:

Morris Ankrum


you could see the wires

stars hung off-kilter

Earth just a rubber ball

a funny shadow where

someone lurked, just out of frame

* * * * *

Those Of Us


who dream in slow motion

and have leaky prostates

and try so fucking hard

and who succeed, often in spite of themselves

and have no mother or father

and who must combat fear and depression

and who find ourselves inexplicably loved

and who are thankful for each blessed moment

and who know someday it must end

* * * * *

Foley Operator


You could hear birdsong

incongruous, but it was there

ambient chatter

shrill commentary

from the safety of the trees

* * * * *

Typecasting


I am tired of my role as resident cynic

the last angry man

critic of all he surveys

offering contempt in lieu of solutions

shouldering my burden of shame

well-versed on the subject of sin

while passionately opposing any notion of free will

* * * * *

And, finally, a few more minutes of music, a soundscape courtesy yours truly.  Here’s a thought:  play this while you’re reading the poetry—and let me know how the experiment goes.

Just click here:  String Theory

Brand new fiction! Hot off the presses…

Some gals we met through a local “Open Mike” event invited my family and I to pop out to their high school and participate in a public reading.

We love to show our support for stuff like that and were delighted to accept.  The only problem is, I needed something new to read.  And over the course of a couple of days, a notion for a short tale presented itself to me, pretty much full-blown.  A few touch-ups here and there but nothing serious.  It’s wondrous when that happens.  All the proof I need that the universe is conscious, sentient and permanently beyond human ken.

The story’s short, vivid, to the point.  Read on…

Faggot


“Bagshaw,” my father says suddenly.  He’s been silent nearly an hour and his voice gives me a start.

“What was that, Dad?”

“Who I was talking about.”  Shooting me a stern look.  “The little queer.”  I don’t remember any reference to Bagshaw but, never mind; clearly he’s been off on some kind of mental ramble.  “Worked at head office with me.  A swish, and not ashamed to flaunt it either.”  He pauses to get his breath.  His lips are dry and grey.  Everything in the process of shutting down.  Propped up to help him breathe, Demerol to handle the pain.  He’s making a sound, wheezing, could it be…laughter?  “Lord, how I tormented that man.”

“What did you do?”

His face is still drawn but animated by something that looks suspiciously like a smirk.  “I’d put thumbtacks and pins on his chair.  Not every day, spacing it out so he’d always be caught off guard.  I was down the hall but I could hear him squeal.  Served him right.”  I’m leaning forward, fists clenched.  Make myself ease back in the chair, force open my furious hands.  He angles his head toward me.  His eyes sunken, lusterless.  Dark holes in his face.  “Other things too.  I’d send him flowers, have them delivered right to his office.  With a card, Love, Charlie or whatever.”

“You’re kidding.”  I can’t help it, blurting it out.

“Sure.”  His thin smile confirming it.

I haven’t seen this side of him before; I’ve often found him thoughtless but never believed him capable of out-and-out malice.  “You hated him that much?”

“He made me sick.  And I wasn’t the only one.  But I was the sneakiest.”  A sly wink.  “I’d call him, late at night.”

“Call him…”

“Never from home.  Sometimes from other cities.  He’d change his number, get an unlisted one…”  His face crinkling with mirth.  “Didn’t matter.  I worked with the guy.  In Human Resources, no less.  Jesus.  I knew where the bodies were buried and how to find them.  That’s why I lasted so long.”  He gestures for the water glass and I automatically move to comply.  Holding it for him while he sips through a straw.  One final indignity he must endure.

“What would you say,” I ask, once he’s done.  “When you called him.”

“Sometimes nothing.  Just letting him know I was still out there.  Other times I’d be all…uh…y’know…you queer, you dirty, little faggot…you’ll get what’s coming to you.  Just spooking him.”  I back away, fumbling behind me for the chair.  Then I realize I still have the glass and must rise once more, replacing it on the nightstand beside the bed.  Finding it difficult to approach him again, this stranger I’ve known all my life.

“What was his first name?”

“What?  I don’t recall.  He only lasted a year.”

“He quit?”

“Couldn’t take it, I guess.”  There’s no remorse, that’s the thing.  He’s talking about running over a dog in the street, thirty years after the fact.

“And then you left him alone?  Or—”

“Hell, no.”  Frowning at his foolish son. “That might look suspicious, give him ideas.  I kept at it six more months.  Just to be safe…”  He’s fading again, ebbing away.  “Old Bagshaw.”  Almost a whisper.  “You know, the bastard actually lisped?”

My father is sixty-four years old and staunchly conservative.  A self-made man.  In our house, he was the one who held the reins and cracked the whip.  Stern but fair, I guess you could say.  My sister sees it differently; she believes mom worked and worried herself to death, trying to please him.

I should tell him.  Right now.  Go over and spit it right into his face.  Just to see his reaction. God.  Wouldn’t that be something?  I’m dying to tell him, I’m about to tell him…but at that moment his mouth sort of sags open and my dying father begins to snore.

© Copyright, 2011 Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

Temporarily Unavailable

RadarHill_FMy wife and sons are on the West Coast–getting their first dose of rain after a week of great weather–and I’ve stopped answering the phone, shaving, checking  e-mails and visiting some of my favorite sites and forums.  It’s summertime and that means WORK.

It must be a hormonal thing.  While everyone else is seized by an impulse to drag their sorry asses off to the woods and get closer to nature (i.e. Lyme disease, poison oak and bears), I become almost feverish with a desire to be shut away in a 10 X 12 room, scribbling like a madman all day and long into the night.  And then, when I finish, I collapse in front of our big Sony and watch old movies or foreign flicks until I zonk out.

And, indeed, that’s what I’ve been up to since I’ve bid farewell and adieu to Sher and the lads last Sunday.  I got warmed up with lots of “automatic writing”, filling page after page of my notebook with cryptic, allusive remarks cribbed from my subconscious.  Lots of journaling and personal writing too; I use these opportunities when I’m alone to blow off emotional steam, purge my system of some of the accumulated ugliness and toxic sludge.  Restoring balance and focus, checking the state of my faith life.

In the past four or five days I’ve really gotten down to business, completing three short stories and tapping them in–over 10,000 words of new prose.  But that’s just a warm-up.  In the coming weeks I want to tackle a big revision of another novel, really sink my teeth into that one and shake the living shit out of it.

imagesUnfortunately, all that work means I might not be posting here as frequently or at any length.   But I promise you there will be new work added soon, more prose you won’t find anywhere else.  Because the point of this site isn’t to provide me with a platform for my various rants and obsessions (though sometimes it might appear that way).  It’s to give you access to my work, the stories and novels and prose poems and verse and radio plays and essays that I’ve composed over the past quarter century.  It’s all here–well, a good portion of it, anyway.  Available for absolutely nothing.  Posted (see the various “Pages” above) in the PDF format, which (I’m told) makes it compatible with most of those new-fangled e-readers (even the Kindles, I and II).  So download away!

And please pop back in again soon.  I’ll make sure you have some decent summer reading, never fear.  Something for your leisure hours.

Leisure…leisure…have to look that one up in the dictionary some time.  Exotic sounding word.

Meanwhile, it’s back to work for yours truly.

Sigh.  The sacrifices I make for my hordes of readers…

images-1

Automatic Writings

automaticLast week I joined Sherron out on the patio to keep her company while she made masks.  Her materials consisted of old juice jugs and papier-mache.  It was fun to watch her work and see faces and personalities emerge from simple plastic containers–the gal possesses an artfulness, visual acuity and imagination that I would swap a kidney for.

It was a lovely day, the first decent weather we’ve had in what has been a cool and unpredictable summer.  I brought along a book with me, the Atlas Press edition of The Automatic Message, a surrealist classic featuring the work of Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and Philippe Soupault (translated by David Gascoyne, Anthony Melville & Jon Graham).

BretonBreton was a big believer in automatic writing, composing prose with no forethought or planning, allowing the pen to skitter across the page, recording whatever was on the author’s mind at that moment.  Some of the “experiments” undertaken in this manner resulted in pure gibberish (as can be expected) but on other occasions something clicked and the author was able to channel words and images directly from the subconscious portion of the mind, where myths, dreams and inspiration reside in their purest form.

I started reading The Automatic Message and all at once was overcome with a desire to put something on paper.  I rushed inside for my pad, reseated myself and while Sherron applied layer after layer of sodden tissue paper to her creations, I put pen to paper…and let everything fall away.

I’m reproducing here some of the efforts I composed that day.  These are first drafts, no touch-ups or corrections (except for the odd comma added or deleted, for the purpose of clarity).

This technique, while it might seem daunting at first, seeks to put the editorial portion of your brain on hold and permits you to tap into deeper, non-critical areas of consciousness and sometimes (not always) the results can be surprising, instructive, even unnerving.

I think you’ll understand what I mean once you’ve read the samples I’ve provided:

First Light

The guiltless robin knows no travail only the ceaseless pursuit of wind and rain and morsels, wriggling grubs devoured in sharp, yellow beaks.  Teach us the ardor of kindly wings curved in flight and remind us of the eternal beckoning sky.  Somewhere in the shouting beyond mystery waits with claws and teeth and rending.  But that is tomorrow after a long sunset and an ageless night of stars that shine but do not burn.

amazonAmazonian

Jungle sounds, ancient bird cries overhead, the last dinosaurs roosting above me in bone-lined nests.  Gliding, relentless above a furled canopy that admits no light to skulking, near-sighted mammals whose lives are governed by weak, frail senses oblivious to higher calling.  God of the leaves, roots and berries:  furnish us with sustenance and kill us quickly with red claws, bearing us aloft to bursting light, colors unimaginable to dead, in-turned eyes.

The Tower

Some futile voice insisting words carry the weight and mass of Jupiter like failed suns they draw all light toward them letting no hope escape into harboring dictionaries lexicons of lost languages preserved against extinction by dusty academics housed in Babel towers ivory-colored rooms hardened against nuclear sized impacts the bones of the curators dissolving into polished floors mute mouths gaping wordless.

wagonContinental Divide

Out on the frontier in long trains of sweating creatures cursing men the loneliness of vast distances existential mesas where ancient bones are pried out and held to the first light in 65 million years upon dry lakebeds parched lips upturned prayers to a Creator grown still and thoughtful God of expanses crammed into leather bound books tattooed with births and deaths parchment thin pages like elderly skin drained of life-giving blood.

Flies

I want to reassure myself on your smooth shoulders the lithe sweep of your back reminding me of insupportable days youthful fantasies wrought in carefully weeded gardens.  My head like a pecked chick.  When the trains sang it was a reminder that hope is transported across long plains plumes of smoke with dreams attached.  In hot weather the house would leak fleeing moss and sometimes sparrows would roost in the eaves and flies buzz somnolently waiting for inevitable decay.

robinLeisure

How the doleful hours long to be filled with spritely birdsong unencumbered by syntax!  You think too much your bold thoughts commence to devour your barely formed nascent spirit before it has a chance to fill your fluttering breast.  Be still the fears that beat against your neuroses like living dead upon unresponsive doors.  Remember thou art mortal and if the color of roses offend thee, pluck out your eyes and render yourself dumb.

Homo Erectus

Rooted in heavy houses gazing fearfully out at the universe speeding away from us spreading parsecs of empty space blank canvas dark matter coloring airless density splattered black to pouring edges racing outward in a timeless rippling current expending the energy of that first cough sneeze scream shit the candle guttering we are the smoke rising to dissipate into nothingness.

***********************************************

And there you have it.  Those short bits were scrawled in less than an hour, before the spirit departed and I was left scratching my head at what I had produced.  I read some of them to Sherron and we tried to decipher what they might indicate in terms of my state of mind and current preoccupations, fears and obsessions.

I offer these pieces to you not as examples of great literature but in an effort to convince you to give this method a shot, particularly if you are suffering from some form of writer’s block or are feeling like you’re in a creative rut.

Automatic writing is a good way of addressing both those problems/mindsets and I urge you to take the plunge, start scribbling.  I’m always surprised by what my brain comes up with when it doesn’t sense that harsh, editorial eye watching, judging, condemning.

Try it…and see what happens.

surrealists