Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Instant Writing

My professors of creative writing recently sent me a book of surrealist games. I decided to do some "automatic writing" exercises. Each of these short pieces were written without editing, without planning, without stopping. Every time my consciousness slowed or became too present, I ended my piece. The only real "edits" are the breaks that form sections. Here they are:


The journeyman’s pack is full of baked beans and barley wheat, stiff and worn, and full of midday sun. Dried sweat and leaves stick to his calves as he hooks a strap around his ankle and sets to rest in the shade of a willow at the edge of a trickling ford. This is the way we wash our hands, he thinks, recalling some rhyme from his past, some chanted childhood dirge smelling of lavender soap and a warm oven.

Now constant motion is his reality. He is a soldier with active joints and tendons, muscle that has little time to be sore, only to react, to react, to react, to build, to ache only for what is new.

The beard was an accident—a consequence, a guarantee, whatever. It’s there, ruddy and full, consuming his features and blurring his existence.


My father never asked me to pull his orange cart, though I idle through the market most weekdays with no import. After his heart attack my mother had to re-learn how to cook for him, and consequently grew exhausted. She died clutching a ginger root at the Fratelli’s stand, of old age as far as we can tell.

The thirteen year-old kid from the floor below hooks the cart to the back of his banana bike and pumps standing up down the street, smiling lasciviously at buxom mothers shopping for their family meals. Every day is a Fellini film, full of tit ogling and the coming-of-age celebration of cock.

Every day I regret stealing the bills from his wallet. Every day I punish myself by feeding my supper to the mutts that gather below our window. It’s always unseasoned beef and some sort of limp, wilted vegetable.


Our prize was a bowing pin, spraypainted gold. My husband hoisted it above his head and gloated in front of the lesser couples, still sweating, still red-faced and fat-fingered. We weren’t bowling—this was a Scrabble tournament. Someone thought it would be funny to have a trophy. Tom found it at a secondhand store, already painted, as if designed with our specific needs in mind.

That’s the thing about Jim. He sweats constantly with no regard for company, for upholstery, for shirtsleeves, for decency. Even with a tray full of vowels for the last three turns, we managed to win. We need to start spending time with people who are more than passably literate.

When you relocate, you make friends with the first genial people you meet. Genial people are mostly simple-minded. To meet anyone with any sort of complexity, you have to put on airs or pretension. You have to be aloof yet full of attractive kinetic energy. We’re so tired from the move though. Jim’s aunt died and left him all of her antique furniture. It smells of rose-petal sachets and her oxygen tank, except that the oxygen tank doesn’t smell like anything.