#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: With Those Bulging Eyes

It’s Throwback Thursday once again, and in the spirit of Halloween and all things fearful, I’m revisiting this terrifying poem, originally published in fēlan magazine’s fear issue in November 2015.

“With Those Bulging Eyes” is one of my favorite poems I’ve ever written, and probably the most talked about among family and friends who’ve read it, most likely due to its extremely graphic content. (My mom’s co-worker is probably still wondering what happened to that sweet little angel she once knew).

This poem—inspired by the frightful painting, Saturn Devouring His Son, by Spanish artist, Francisco Goya—tackles the uncomfortable and controversial subject of abortion, how it can affect a woman physically, emotionally, psychologically.

Read the full poem below, and if you want to know more about my inspiration behind the poem, and more about me as a writer in general, check out my artist interview on fēlan’s website here.

By the way, I’ve been on quite the extended hiatus (two years and counting!) when it comes to new writings not published on this blog. I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but I’m looking forward to 2018 being a much more productive year, as far as writing goes.

I’ve spent most of this year trying to clear off my plate and get myself better organized so that I can have more time and energy to dedicate to writing. While I don’t think I’m there yet, I feel I’ve made a lot of progress since January. Here’s to hoping 2018 will see lots more publication acknowledgements! My “Published Works” page is getting quite dusty…

Dance Until We Fall in Love

I’m in love with Joey.

But on that stage, when Rick cups his hands underneath my breasts and lifts me over his head, I resist every urge in my body not to fold myself around his torso and give in to the primal sexual nature that rosin powder and ballet slippers have tried to chisel away for the last four years.

We’ll be attending Julliard in the fall—we three—and share a studio apartment in Greenwich Village.

Joey tells me he’s OK with it. He kisses me and says he loves me, too—even though he knows, some nights, I’ll want the bed alone with Rick, while he curls up in a blanket on the cold, dank floor.

Scholarship Becky calls me a whore for loving two men at the same time, but she’s just angry she has to move back to Kentucky when the year’s over. No chance Julliard would accept four students from the same school.

At our final dance recital, Rick hands me a bouquet of roses from our instructor just before the curtain falls. I inhale their sweet scent, kiss a petal, marking it with the darker shade of my red lipstick. Joey walks up from behind and drapes his arm over my shoulder.

“Ready for the future?” Rick says.

Joey nuzzles my earlobe, whispers, “As long as we’re always together. Nothing can tear us apart.”

—Nortina


a98434535f638279b569681a88d6c99bWritten for VisDare, a weekly challenge to craft a story based on the provided photo in 150 words or less—or more, as is always my case…😉

Xylographed Xander

“Where was I when this supposedly happened?” I demanded. I’d had enough of Grandma’s surprises. She had as many husbands as I had years—her twelfth being my biological grandfather—and now she was telling me that after the man I grew up call Pawpaw passed away, she married three more? Who?

“You were out gallivanting with that fool boyfriend of yours.” The disgust in her voice was like spitting out cold, runny eggs. “Brook.”

“Brick,” I corrected.

“Stupid name. What did his mother call him?”

“I wouldn’t know. I never met her.”

“So you wasted three years of your life with a man whose real name you never knew and whose parents you never met.”

“You’re lecturing me about a relationship that ended years ago.” I had to watch how I raised my voice at her. I wasn’t too old for Grandma to still put me over her knee. For a petite woman, she had large hands, and they were thick; they hollowed out your skull and made your face echo with one smack.

“I’m just showing you how much time you wasted.” Grandma would’ve  convinced a stranger that I was still unmarried in my forties, living in a cluttered house that smelled of litterboxes. Just like her generation, seeing a woman’s value in how young she married. Since sixteen, Grandma spent every year with a man. I couldn’t ask for her life. Twenty-six life partners, but also twenty-six deaths. Moments of bliss combatted with equal measures of pain and heartbreak. That wasn’t a world I coveted, full as it was.

“I don’t see it that way, Grandma.” It was true that I hated Brick, but I would’ve only been deceiving myself if I’d said I regretted ever dating him. He was the reason I become a flight attendant. Between the fights—after he’d slammed the doors of motel rooms and left me alone with no money, no food, for days—I went off on my own and fell in love with the ride, the freedom of being away from home, away from him, nothing restricting me, losing myself in a new environment.

You don’t know true liberation until you drive through the flat desert at ninety miles an hour from dusk, deep into the night, the cool breeze blowing through your hair, nothing but the stars and moon to keep you company. And with only you and road and the middle of nowhere, you marvel at how much light still emits from the sky after the sun sets. So much so that you turn off your headlights, stare into the miles of sand and cacti ahead of you, press your foot down hard on the gas, and anticipate the moment you speed right off the edge of the earth in peaceful ecstasy.

I would forever cherish the desert where I broke away the chains. I came back home with a purpose. I wouldn’t settle. I wouldn’t be bound. I would travel the world. Flight attendant seemed like the perfect job to do that, and dating a pilot just felt natural.

“If it hadn’t been for Brick, I probably wouldn’t have ever met Kyle.”

“That’s stretching it a bit,” Grandma said. I didn’t think she’d ever truly forgiven me for leaving the way I did to be with Brick. I’d left without a word—packed what I needed, told my roommate she could have the rest. When the letters finally came about my flunking out of school and my loans for the second semester being rescinded, Brick and I had been living in West Memphis, Arkansas for almost three months.

I knew Grandma was disappointed in me. Although she’d never said it, I could hear it in her voice every phone call. She hated to talk to me, but her love and anxiety to make sure I was still alive outweighed that hatred. Knowing now how much I’d missed while I was gone—three more “grandfathers”—all I wanted to do was apologize for abandoning her. Pawpaw had just died. I should’ve been there for her in that grief.

X“Xander made a mural of him,” Grandma said, interrupting my thoughts. “I don’t know why Walter’s death was such a surprise to me. I knew he had cancer. And even if I didn’t, I had lived this kind of loss all my life. After twenty-five years, I must’ve forgotten he wasn’t invincible.

“Xander helped me move on with his wood engravings. He made portraits of me, you, Linda, Rick, Walter. He even did engravings of the postcards you sent every month. It just seemed right to marry him next. Even though he was much older than me, and his xylograph shop wasn’t making any money. It wasn’t located in the best area— between a shopping mall and a Wal-Mart superstore. His shop was there first, but they came in and stole all his customers. He probably should’ve changed the name. No one knows what xylograph even means.” She chuckled softly.

“So what does it mean?” Jerry asked.

“Have you been listening to anything I’ve said? Wood engravings!”

I was thankful Jerry had asked before I did. Without hesitation, Grandma would’ve chastised me for having a poor vocabulary after going to college, dropping out, and then going again. She would’ve said that after all that time, I still learned nothing, despite everything I had picked up just by serving people on a plane. Flying into international airports, I gained a new understanding about various cultures—like how certain gestures could be offensive to some while they meant nothing to others. With the number of Latinos on our flights west, I became fluent in Spanish. Dammit, I even found a man! I couldn’t get credit for that?

Jerry smacked his lips, sputtering spuds of mashed potatoes back at us. “I’m an old man. Why would I use one of those fancy college words when I can say wood engraving just as easy.”

“Because then it loses its mystery and allure.” Grandma kissed her fingertips and spread them out like a blooming flower.

“Sounds like he already lost that if you were his only customer,” Jerry said.

“Time to start thinking about getting that insurance money,” Thomas added.

“You know, sometimes you just make me sick!” Grandma turned away, shaking her head.

“Why?” Jerry asked, “Did the place actually burn down?”

“With him still inside!”

“Yeeeeeaaaah!”

“Not the time, Marcos!” Grandma said.

Marcos bit his bottom lip. His oval eyes shifted back and forth between me and Grandma, and I could almost hear him whimpering like a puppy who’d just gotten slapped on the nose for a reason he couldn’t understand.

Grandma slumped her shoulders. “I’m sorry. It was rough on me. I was back in my routine of short-lived marriages and quick deaths.”

“When you look at it one way, it was kind of on him.” Jerry started to say more, but hesitated.

“Come on. Spit it out already,” Grandma said, then stiffened, realizing her poor choice in words. We all knew Jerry was capable to spitting out much more that he could chew . . . or swallow.

“Well, his art was making firewood.” He nudged Thomas with his elbow to break the awkward silence coming.

“You’re just a dang ol’ fool,” Grandma finally said. Her frown melted away with the tension, and we all had permission to laugh at Jerry’s inappropriate joke.

—Nortina


The A to Z Challenge is coming to a close! It’s crunch time for us stragglers. Either we can squeeze all of our posts into today, or just finish the challenge out in May. I haven’t decided yet, but make sure you stop by at around 11:59 tonight, just to be sure . . .

The Moor

Make Love Not War. The sign flaps in the wind as the dark skin man sitting cross-legged on the cobblestone road plays his guitar. The guitar case lies open at his feet—a few dollars, anchored by stacks of quarters, inside.

“Why does everything have to be political?” Bryan asks. His wife has stopped to listen to the music, dig some change from the bottom of her purse, but Bryan notices the sculptures on either side of the guitarist. A crescent and star painted on one bull’s horn, the other’s ear—a universal symbol of Islam. The word “peace,” its presumed translations in foreign script.

“Darling, how can love be political?” Janice claps her hands over her head, spins in a circle, and stomps her feet like a Spanish Flamenco dancer. The wind lifts the hem of her skirt over her knees.

Bryan shrugs. “I just don’t like being told something obvious.”

“That’s the problem of this world,” Janice says. “It’s not always obvious.” She folds a twenty and drops it into the guitar case.

word count: 175

—Nortina


photo-20160328032234526Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly challenge where you write a story in 75-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Above the Ocean Breeze

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with the Japanese poetry form. My favorite are the tanka and haiku, though I’ve been exploring other forms to try too.

Recently, I hooked up with new blogging buddy and Nigerian sister based in the UK, Amina (Check her out at Ameena’s Musings) to collaborate on a renga.

Renga (meaning linked poem) is meant to be written by two or more poets. It consists of alternating three-line and two-line stanzas. The three-line stanza should have a total of 17 syllables (similar to a haiku), while the couplet has seven syllables per line.

I think the collaborative poem is definitely our thing. This one reads as if it were written by one person. Enjoy! 🙂

beautiful-sexy-blonde-girl-walking-on-the-beach-sea

Above the Ocean Breeze

Walking down the beach
Foot impressions in the sand
Music in my ears

Waves rush ashore ferrying
Seashells across vast oceans

Pondering on my life
How? When ..did it all go wrong
Why did it all change

I touch a dead hermit’s home
To my ear, listen for you

You…I loved you so
But you left when the tide changed
Now here I am – sad!

Standing on edge of earth as
Sun sets where water meets sky

Feeling overwhelmed
As the colours seem to fade
Memories distant

Three thousand breaststrokes away
Reunion makes me seasick

I try to jolt back
To a time I was stronger
I, my own person

When love neither made me nor
Broke me; bearer of my own

A time where my strength
Brought some hope to the hopeless
Where I could stand tall

With my unwavering voice
Part seas; sand feels like concrete

I need to reclaim
All the bits of me I’ve lost
Patching piece by piece

Like sediments of rock build
New structures out of the old

The new and old merge
Creating a stronger bond
Redefining me

No longer bound to life with
You beyond the horizon

Finally I can
Look forward to a new start
Where I love myself

I wrap my arms around my
Body, tight like rip currents

At last, I can breathe
And have freedom like the birds
This is my new start

—Amina & Nortina ❤

#BlaPoWriMo: Push-Up (poem)

I push myself off the ground,
neck muscles, upperarms
bulging under weight of
restless earth dancing
between shoulder blades.

—Nortina


Written for BlaPoWriMo prompt: write a poem for the Strong Black Woman

#BlaPoWriMo: Masked Beauty (poem)

In art class we design
African tribal masks—
long, oval faces,
almond eyes, patterns
of diamonds and dashes
painted on noses,
chins, and cheekbones.

Sabine slips her new face
over sable skin—a deep,
glistening purple like
blackberry juice.
Swirls of red and yellow
dance a rhythmic gyration
below curved lashes peeking
through slits for eyes.
I roll my neck, arch my back
in and out, pumping to the absent
heartbeat of the djembe drum
she plays between her knees.

Cool! You look so nice!
I like all the colors,

her classmates recite.
It’s the first time she’s
ever been called pretty.

—Nortina


Written for yesterday’s BlaPoWriMo prompt, write a poem for the mask wearer.

Taxidermist

“You lookin’ at me?” the buck’s eyes question. They shimmer as if moist, as if at any second, they could blink. Esmeralda tousles the short brown hairs on its neck, warm and soft to the touch, as if blood still circulates through its veins.

“I didn’t know you hunt,” she says.

Flint chuckles lightly. “Hunting implies killing.” He shakes his head. “No, I only extend life.”  He presses his palm into the small of her back, guides her to the couch.

She plops down on the cushion, crosses her legs. The wiry beard of a black schnauzer hidden underneath the coffee table tickles the top of her bouncing foot, startling her.

“God! I thought it was real!” she says, patting her chest.

“At one time, he was.” He takes a steaming mug from the table, holding it in his palm. “I remember how much you like English Breakfast.”

“Do you stuff all your animals?” She blows, sips, licks her upper lip.

“I make the living into art.” He finger combs her beach wavy hair.

She nods, rests her head on his shoulder. The mug slips from her fingers, spilling tea onto the carpet.

word count: 189

—Nortina


ffpp-6Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner is a weekly challenge for writers to create a story in under 200 words using the provided photo prompt and introductory sentence as their ‘muse.’ Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

#BlaPoWriMo: Self-Portrait (poem)

All brown children color
their faces. First families
shades of yellow, red, black.
Self-portraits traced with edges
of brown crayons; they know
their identities long before
they are taught race.

What color is my skin?
A resounding tale of fallen shackles,
of long tenancies on distant
masters’ lawns, of coal-painted
faces dancing on stage, of misplaced
ballots and grandfather clauses,
of front row seats on public transit,
of Black Power and Panthers,
of raised fists and Afro puffs,
of Black berries sweeter than sugar,
purple juice on their puckered lips.

Why do we color?
African lineage documented in
mixing shades of nude on pallets,
wielding artistic instruments—
colored pencils, crayons, markers.
With every brushstroke
They match their complexions;
Tiny realists never white-washing,
erasing their existence.
We are here.

Little brown children, present
yourselves as unabashed
workings of self-identity.
Do not cover your skin
for a fearful colorless society;
coat it in a deeper mahogany.

—Nortina


Black Poetry Writing Month: Will you join the challenge? This is a revision of a poem written last year. Click here to read the original version.

Art Gallery Pianist

Again and Again, he calls it. “I composed it just this morning.” Again and again, he stabs at only four keys with a single finger.

I cringe at each flat note, wince at every extended pause in the sporadic melody as he tries to memorize which key he last struck.

Patrons turn from paintings, cover their ears. I share their torment but remember Gramma’s words. It’s your duty as a woman.

Melt in his sex appeal, even if he’s as homely as they come. Praise his musical genius, no matter how tone deaf.

“Play on,” I purr in his ear.

word count: 100

—Nortina


hh-spinet
© Jan W. Fields

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly challenge where you must write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to ready other stories and add your own.