The short memoir WRITING PROMPT for the Winter issue was LOST and FOUND. Please see accepted submissions listed below, as well as those from the previous issue.
Starting mid-JUNE, we will begin posting short memoirs responding to the next prompt, which is MOTHER. As always, please feel free to respond to the topic however you wish. With MOTHER, we are encouraging you to send a snapshot or a drawing as illustration of the MOTHER in your piece.
Please keep short memoir responses to 250 words or fewer. We will notify you if your piece is selected for publication. Please use the submissions hotlink.
As the last posting on the topic of LOST and FOUND, here is a wonderful piece by artist and writer, Marylinn Kelly.
As we do occasionally, we are posting Marylinn’s writing even though it is a bit over the word count maximum, because…well, just because it’s just too good not to post. Please do visit her blog http://www.marylinnmlkelly.
Lost and Found, by Marylinn Kelly South Pasadena, CA http://www.marylinnmlkelly.
Falling back to sleep night before last, I remembered that the house we used to own had a red front door. I had not forgotten the house, the owning and inhabiting of it by our little family, but in my current preoccupation with matters of illustration and red, it drifted up like the answer in a Magic Eight Ball. Where had I been?
Science fiction series and stories give me images that substitute for gaps in language, those moments when I resort to hand gestures to try and fill in the blanks. Even though human life really is about the journey and not the destination — for what would the destination be? — I still feel, at times, as though I fell asleep in my age-suspending pod as we rocketed from Earth’s gravity and awoke three years later to begin a new mission on the other side of the sky. It is often unclear how I moved from one state of being to another and I am content to give miracles the credit. The mysteries of time and space, we meet again. I now count in decades the years since I lived in that house or was married to that husband, yet how did I become so clouded that I lost track of a red door when the color grabs me every day, yanks me by the lapels or the sleeve or pant cuff or puts me in a head-lock and insists on itself. I am helpless, willingly, in the face of its shameless self-promotion.
I think of it, this state of being, as wandering away from myself. It is a thing we do, drift off and become estranged. The intense mindfulness required to stay present, to stay connected to all our essential parts and not be lured off into the shrubs by shiny things or tedious, worrisome, wearying things takes muscle. Reversal of fortune has a way of inducing amnesia and lethargy. We forget, even as we remember and grieve, what and how our circumstances used to be.
The return of the red door brought with it Isak Dinesen’s words, “I had a farm in Africa.” I believe each of us has equivalent remnants of other days. When I was fully awake, I sensed the memory would not disappear again, until perhaps greatly advanced age came and hid it under the sheets which no longer fit any bed we own. My cells, not just the ones in my brain, knew that, as Isak Dinesen would never not have had a farm in Africa, even though it was gone, I would never not have had a house with a red door, next to which geraniums grew in a brick planter. The truth of the good that was cannot be taken. It can never un-be.
This makes me wonder whether loss may bring with it a token to exchange for what is gone. I have sacrificed time and certainly emotion to dwelling on the absences, the emptiness, the missing pieces. I have allowed what is gone to diminish and even define me. Perhaps for a time that was the best I could do, an authentic response but not one intended to persist. The forgotten door became a gift, like finding money in an old purse. It felt like a restoration. It was not here, it was no longer mine, yet it still was. It had been. The temporary nature of how any of this works, the fact that everything including ourselves is on loan, I don’t know that I ever saw it quite like this. I’m not sure what it means, other than another example of how a thing is and is not at the same time. I have a few prescription medications that caution “may cause dizziness.” So might any of it. It is a dizzying world.
In October, my husband John and I rushed down Route 50 towards Orlando for a radiation appointment; he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January. I was driving because he was nauseous from chemo the day before, the first day of a six week radiation-and-chemo program. Then traffic came to a halt. We crawled along, as John became more and more frustrated with the traffic and my unassertive driving. John would have woven in and out of the stalled traffic, edging in effortlessly, creating a path.
The traffic didn’t ease up. I began to drive recklessly, lurching into whatever spot opened in the next lane. When we arrived late at the radiology building, I bumped over the curb and shooed him out–”Just get out, go, go!” I parked the car and hunched over the steering wheel, bawling.
The other day, I was fixing a cabinet hinge on the sailboat where we live. A screw wouldn’t tighten. I shoved in a matchstick to give the screw something to bite into. When that didn’t work, I shoved in another.
“Damn hinge! Damn boat!” I yelled. John was napping. I began to sob.
This is what happens now. I break down for rusty hinges and snarled traffic. Yet, I stayed calm when John had surgery in June to remove half a lung. Someone said then, “You’re a rock,” and I wanted to scream: no, I’m in pieces, I’ve lost my compass, and I’m just barely holding on.
Found, by Jennifer Roush Superior CO jnrwriting.blogspot.com
Angels sing upon each spinning, spiraling disks, each tiny platform snowflake. Clear now, the angels, drifting by my ears. They usher me forth into the gray beyond.
Flakes do look gray against white clouds, but, when they land with faintest puff of sound, they are miraculously transformed to white. The sharp edges of the flakes crunch into my jacket, tinkle when they land in the snow by my ear.
Crystals that failed to melt on my jacket whisper snow’s scent into my nose. I used to feel the freezing trickle down my neck, my blanket’s underside disappearing by degrees while the top accumulates. But now, I feel nothing. Nothing but awe for the singing snowflakes.
I’m not worthy of such entrance to the pearly gates. I, who talked back to Mother and ignored Father. I do not deserve the voices of trumpets or trumpeting voices heralding my arrival. I do not even deserve to approach the gates, gates the color of snow. My soul is heavier than my legs, weighed down snow.
Words tumble from my brain, tumble into the snow to make word angels. I confess my sins, Lord. I do. I confess them all. I have been selfish and wretched, and I can feel your Grace like the inexplicable warmth and comfort that is creeping up my body.
Thank You, Lord, for forgiving me. Thank You for making me right, for accepting me into Your kingdom. I’m ready.
“Jennifer! There you are!”
Just Out of Jail, by Gil Fagiani Long Island City, NY firstname.lastname@example.org
Hungry for a high, I run into Héctor on 105th Street. ¿Estás en algo?—Are you into something? I ask. I gotta be cool, he drawls. I just got out of jail. I hand him a sawbuck and he disappears into a building across the street. Twenty minutes go by and I start worrying that he bought the dope and booked out a back door, beating the blanquito—the white boy. I cross the street to peep the scene when a polar bear in a flannel shirt pulls me into the pissy hallway and pats me down. If I find a spike I’ll break your back. Inside Héctor has his feet spread and his hands against a wall. A pitted face snarls: Take it all off! Knit shirt, pants, underwear, shoes pile up on the floor. A viejita— old lady—clomps down the stairs in her bathrobe and slippers. She sees Héctor’s shiny brown ass. Adiós mio! she cries clomping back up the stairs. See, Héctor says, I told you I don’t have anything. The narco is about to leave when he fingers Héctor’s Marlboro pack and fishes out a deck of heroin. Scram! he says to me. And stay away from spiks! On my way out, I watch as he stuffs Héctor in the back seat of a dented green Plymouth. In the rear window I see the blur of blackjacks as Héctor crouches in a corner and tries to dodge the blows.
Lost, by Esther K Smith New York, NY EKSmithMuseum@gmail.com
my travel pepper grinder
in its little red leather case
that I found at a flea market
(shopping with Susan)
the small blue scarf-like thing that Mary knit me for my birthday.
kept it in my coat pocket with my gloves–
and also the black and gold one unless it’s under something
and lost two pounds
and that turquoise and silver Navajo bracelet
(still hoping it’s just misplaced)
and lost my mother
ten years ago last month on a Wednesday morning
and my father
New Years Eve when I was 19.
Swimming Underwater, by Raymond Cothern Baton Rouge, LA www.swimmingunderwater-raymond.blogspot.com
After my daughter’s almost deadly battle with encephalitis—standing in the kitchen while reading the newsletter from Harvard about her friends doing research and working in major hospitals—my daughter breaks down, saying, I am never going to be a doctor, and it is the lowest point of the entire ordeal after years of rehabilitation, even though some aspects of Jennifer’s old life are being reclaimed, an excruciatingly slow movement from the early days of believing she is dead to finally finishing school at LSU, recovering enough that her first foray into the wider world is a student archaeological dig in the Bahamas, and when she returns she hands me a copy of the local newspaper, and when I see that photograph of all those students excavating an area of early Indian culture, heads down, concentrating on pieces of dirt within roped-off squares of earth, seeing that photograph with Jen featured prominently in the foreground working with tools and trying to discover the remnants of lives long gone, including her own, I know for the first time that the future holds some semblance of normal life for my daughter: frustration and unexpected journeys and worry of the unknown and moments of deep sadness at things lost and forever out of reach and moments though of knowing what it is to be loved by friends and family and the security in that and knowing she can fall in love and marry and knowing also in her heart that she will learn to love again the rush of the unexpected yet to come.
Lost and Found, by Charlotte Hildebrand Los Angeles, CA http://ratsnestcomics.blogspot.com/
No one tells you before you have kids that you’re going to lose a thousand brain cells when you give birth, but you do. Then during the first few years, you shed quite a few more. But this isn’t about lost brain cells: it’s about my purse.
When my children were little, I was always losing my purse. I’d ask my 4-year old if he’d seen my purse and he’d point to it hanging off my shoulder. Or I’d walk away from a restaurant carrying the baby, my purse left dangling from a chair. Once, after we’d taken the kids down to the freight yard, along Alameda, next to the abandoned brick warehouse that was the Woman’s Building—a once vital feminist art center in the 70s—I came home and discovered that my purse was gone. I couldn’t figure out where I’d left it. A day or two later, a woman called from the railroad office at the port and asked if I was Charlotte Hildebrand. Yes I said. We found your purse on a flatbed car out of LA.Your purse is intact, no money in your wallet; would you like us to mail it?
I think about that day down by the tracks with the kids; they were so excited about the trains, running around in circles, while I was thinking about what had gone on inside that empty building: Would I have been part of that free-flowing creative energy of what had been the woman’s movement? I wasn’t in LA when it happened, I wasn’t a feminist, but I’d once been creative. I had come too late. But it’s never too late. Now that my kids are grown, I haven’t lost my purse in months and that spark of creativity has found its way back in again.
Found, in Lost, by Melanie Hedlund Lexington, MA email@example.com
In the universe of lost light, in the world of lost species, on the continent of lost civilizations, in the country of lost ideals, in the state of lost unions, in the city of lost souls, in the body of lost opportunity, a new morning, found.
What Kind of Woman Abandons a Diamond Ring? by Susan Weiman, Long Island City, NY scwnynotebook.blogspot.com
My grandmother threatened
“Don’t crack your knuckles
They’ll get big and I won’t leave you my diamond ring”
I cracked my knuckles.
40 years later, I received the 2 carat solitaire
I wore it to a wedding and to a bar mitzvah
No one said a word
Not “Are you engaged?”
Or “Where’d you get that rock?”
I couldn’t wear the ring
It was too large, my hands too small
Was not the time to sell or give it away
So I placed it in a safe deposit box
I just left it
Often wondered – was it still there?
A year later, I made the journey
The attendant escorted me to the vault
Turned the keys
Handed me the strongbox
Once in the chamber, I opened the steel container
Untangled the rubber band from the dingy box
Removed the layer of white cotton
There it was
The sparkling multi-faceted stone
I slid the ring over my knuckle
Studied it from every angle
Placed the shiny carbon confection
Back in the box
And returned it to the attendant.