One Last Gasp | A Dying Breath

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It’s been a good run at the old .wordpress site. When I started writing here, my goal was simple–encourage Amber to stick with it. I figured if I wrote more, she’d write more; and if she wrote more, she might write her dream book; and if she wrote her dream book… well… she’d have accomplished a dream.

A dream accomplished seems to be a thing in short supply these days.

The good news is, Amber’s hard at it, writing a book that I think will make folks sing. She’s come alive with it, really, and I sometimes I wonder whether it’s not the book that’s actually writing her. She speaks of the ancient Spirit these days as if it’s new truth, like in the days we were dating. It’s a miracle to see. I’m proud of her.

Encouragement aside, and in the meantime, I’ve had fun in this space. You’ve helped me work out some thoughts. We’ve collaborated together. You’ve watched me drop some poetry from time to time. You suffered my obsession with the Listener. I appreciate those of you who’ve stuck around.

All good things must come to an end, though, and this site is one of those things. (Ready the dirge; bring the wreaths; grab a handful of tissue.)

But wait! I’m not going away altogether. I’m moving to a new space, one that allows me a bit more flexibility in content delivery. (Thanks to Brian Hirschy for design and migration!) It is still in the tweaking phase but it’s coming together quite nicely. I’d love it if you’d stop in and drop me a line. And for those of you who follow the RSS feed to this site, I’d appreciate it mightily if you’d follow the feed for my shiny new site. For those of you who are email subscribers? I’d love it if you’d follow me over, too. I’ll make it easy for you.

Subscribe to my mailing list.

It’s been a pleasure having you around here. I hope you’ll keep following me over at SethHaines.com. It’s bound to be at least as much fun.
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Goat Herder’s Widow (a pantoum)

Goat Herder’s Widow

Under the lightning struck thatch,
a goat lies with smoking eyes
streaking blood. Death on the cobbled porch
running through a rain-stream live-wire.

A goat lies with smoking eyes,
shaking, trembling to thunder thud.
Running through a rain-stream live-wire,
rivers run red through spent sclera.

Shaking, trembling to thunder thud,
plateau people mourn like Baobab bent.
Rivers run red through spent sclera.
Shrieks rise under medicine man spells.

Plateau people mourn like Baobab bent,
bow to discover another live-wire touching–Shepherd
streaking blood. Death on the cobbled porch
touches naked new widow, now lamenting

under the lightning struck thatch.*

*The above poem is a pantoum, and was the outflow of today’s writing prompt at Tweetspeak Poetry. For more on the pantoum form, follow me to Tweetspeak.

 

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Indigo Flounder Dreams

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Mr. Mahaffey, my high school psychology teacher, made us keep a dream journal. I always suspected it was his way of determining the craziest among us, of determining exactly which of us needed counseling, and how much of it. Motives aside, Mahaffey’s dream segment was the most enjoyable academic experience of my high school career. (If you’re reading, thanks for that, Mahaffey. And shalom.)

The rules of the dream journal were simple. We were to keep a wide-ruled notebook by our beds, and were to write down those dreams we remembered upon first waking. I did this for some time, even after the semester ran its course. I found the journal prompted me to explore thoughts and fears that I’d otherwise swept aside, and inspired a good bit of creativity.

I’m not sure when I gave up the practice, but recently I had a dream that I thought worth journaling. When I shared it with Amber, she said I should write it out here, mostly for entertainment value. So, here we are. Welcome to my dream world.

*****

Last night I dreamed I was with you, fishing on the White River. We were on a rocky ledge, in the sunshine, and were surrounded by blinking and buzzing yellow buttercups. The setting sun was warm on our backs, and we were stiff with anticipation, believing that a run of whale-sized striped bass were coming our way.

I found a nightcrawler, an over-sized  slimy one with a black cyclopian orb at the tip of his head. He was pale. I stung his eye with my hook, curled his body around the shank and up to the hook-eye. I cast him headlong into the water and immediately felt the line tighten, saw the flash of fish scales against the sun.

Jumping from the side of the ledge, I ran past buttercups to the waters edge where my fish was gape-mouthed on the bank. He was flounder flat, indigo, with Victorian-ruffled fins hanging from the center of his body like frilly lace. His flesh was poison, tingling to the touch.

I unhooked him and tossed them into the water, into a particularly cool spot where the sun was not shining, and he morphed into a flat plate, a neon blue frisbee. Concerned that I’d de-oxygenated him to death, I dove headlong into icy water. I cradled his lifeless body, moved him to an underwater sunspot where the warmth of the water washed over us both. In the sun, he transformed for a moment back into the beautiful blue fish, but bolted in fear to another cold spot where he again turned into a frisbee. You called from the bank, said to come out so we wouldn’t be late for the wedding.

It was Matt’s wedding, and my grandmother was the wedding coordinator. The banquet hall was spread wide with a well-catered feast, and Silverchair was rocking the stage. I was asked to move a glass table that was perched on the balcony overlooking the dance floor, and I did. Accidentally dropping it from the ledge, I watched it shatter into thousand pieces amid the party-goers. My grandmother backed me into a corner, said that I had dropped the table to spite her, to ruin the perfectly planned wedding. I asked her why she’d say such a thing, and she said I was always spiteful, always refusing baptism into the church. I told her that I had been baptized–even though it was of the Southern Baptist variety–and tears welled in her eyes. She smiled. She hugged me. “Praise Jesus,” she said. “Baptist go to heaven, too.”

In the banquet hall, the dancers continued, crunching shards of glass into dust. I scanned the crowd for the bride and groom, but they were not there. Ron Young was, though, so I made my way through the crowd to hug him, asked him where he’d been all these years. His lips were sealed, but he smiled like a man who knew a good secret. Stepping aside, his son Jonathan appeared, he standing seven feet tall in a starched-stiff white suit. He was wearing a white shirt, too, the kind with the big open collar, the kind celebrities wear to event of the year.

I tackled him in my joy, felt his crisp suit and bones crunch under my weight. I picked him up, dusted him off, and told him I was sorry we hadn’t spoken in so long. He turned his head and laughed, exposing a goatee that had been shaved into the shape of a Nike swoosh. He pointed, said the facial hair was the byproduct of his newest endorsement deal.

“Where’s Matt?” I asked. Johnny smiled, said “couldn’t even make his way to his own wedding. He and his lady had a previous engagement in Little Rock. They’re attending his sister’s graduation.”

I chuckled and said, “of course.”

We exited the hall and he asked me whether I’d been fishing lately. “Yeah,” I told him before waking. “Caught a blue flounder a few minutes ago.”

“Blue flounder aren’t real,” he said.

“I know,” I responded. “But is any of this?”

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On Writing:Tell it Real

But as a Christ-following story-teller, I confess that writing authentically is sometimes difficult. After all, shouldn’t our stories reflect the character of Christ? And if this is so, how do we deal with doubt, pain, seedy characters, or precarious (if not embarrassing) predicaments? Are we allowed to write in a way that renders the world as it is, or should we soften it, make it more palatable for our parents, priests, and fellow parishioners?

This morning, I have the privilege of discussing writing with Jennifer Dukes Lee. A while back, Jennifer asked me whether I’d consider joining a pool of writers to share a piece of writing advice with her readers, and I reluctantly accepted, knowing that perhaps my advice might push folks to the edges of their comfort zones.

I’ll say it simply here: write it real. There is a wide world out there, and if we do not do it the justice of describing it accurately, will our writing be believable? If the writing avoids tension, conflict, or opposing view points, will it resonate with the reader? If we write a world that is completely within the bubble of do-right Christian living, are we minimizing the power of the gospel, the power of the seeker and saver of the lost?

I’ve tried to deliver on my own advice in pieces like Bremmer’s Loss, and Rattlesnake Beans. Both stories relate to power of the gospel to seek and save. Amber’s Love Songs series is another good representation of writing it real. Are the stories uncomfortable? Sometimes. But what good story doesn’t involve a bit of discomfort before the resolution?

Join me at Jennifer’s place for a more in depth discussion. And in the comments (here or there) feel free to tell us those writers who you think write it real.

I’ll go first: I love me some Flannery O’Connor (here’s to you Chris Thornton).

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