Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Thoughts

While watching the supermoon lunar eclipse, my daughter said, "This is the coolest night in my life." Later when I coaxed my kids outside a second time to see its progress, she stood on the sidewalk for a moment and said, "Okay, I see it. Can I go in now?"

Oh, how quickly we bore.

I'm guilty too. My nightstand is stacked with phenomenal books--The Things They Carried, The Clothes on Their Backs, I am Malala--but can't seem to peel my eyes from reruns of Futurama.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

This is a poem...

My students did an exercise called, "This is a poem..." (Thank you, Sheila Bender). It is supposed to help students focus on imagery and pacing before trying their hands at a narrative.

Here's is the result of my example. This happened on my flight from Vienna to Frankfurt.

  1. This is a poem about the weariness of travel.
    This is a poem about waiting to board and there’s not enough seats, so I lean against a column.
    This is a poem about seeing a guy in sweat pants and his phone tugging down his waistband.
    This is a poem about seeing a teen boy steal a seat from an old woman.
    This is a poem about boarding.
    This is a poem about the heat, the lack of air-conditioning in Europe, and perfume masking someone's BO.
    This is a poem about being tired from hanging out with writer friends for one last night before we had to leave.
    This is a poem about finding my seat and discovering it’s occupied by someone else; a man on his phone.
    This is a poem about showing my ticket to a flight attendant who, in German, asks the man to move.
    This is a poem about realizing it’s the baggy pants man moving to the middle seat.
    This is a poem about his red cheeks and eyes.
    This is a poem about displacing a man in tears.
    This is a poem about feeling guilty for taking the window seat, for barely keeping my eyes open, and guilty for dozing in the man’s time of need.
    This is a poem about offering granola bars, distractions, dialogue.
    This is a poem about the box of kleenexes at his knees.
    This is a poem about watching the city fall away, the buildings and pools, the Danube and the Prater.
    This is a poem about a little girl offering her graham crackers to the sobbing man.
    This is a poem about how he disappeared to the water closet for a while, and how when he returned the flight attendant gave him a beer.
    This is a poem about his wails silencing the tail end of the plane.
    This is a poem about how he pressed a palm against the headrest from the seat in front of him and lowered his head to weep.  
    This is a poem about being desperate to help alleviate his suffering.
    This is a poem about holding his hand until we landed.
    This is a poem about how he said, "My six-year-old son died."
    This is a poem about a sick child.
    This is a poem about my own little boy, safe at home. 
    This is a poem about asking his son's name: Tomán.
    This is a poem about preparing for descent.
    This is a poem about love.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The frog and the poet

They’ve broken up, 
That couple that was taking the world by storm, 
Lancing it with a credit card and selfie-stick. 
His father had warned him, 
“It’s easy to fall in love with a poet.” 
And it was,
Like the frog in a simmering pot.
But they worked, until Madrid.
How many girls can kiss him? 
A set amount. 

the poet is enrolled in school in Dublin.
She’s lost weight, 
Bought a pink bra,
wears sweaters off the shoulder. 
He’s moving to London. 
They’ll be hours apart.
He'll take a train and a ferry, 
Wait outside of her class with a coffee.
Her red lips will smile and her heart will break.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Post-silent Treatment

(The following is fiction.)

We've just dropped him at the office. He took with him a lunch and the choke-hold on our voices.

"Don't you think the mountains look like a green blanket thrown over some junk," I say.

My daughter squints through her sunglasses. They are pink with little mustaches. "I can see it," she says. "It does!"

"They're not junk!" my son protests. He's five and to him words have singular meanings.

"Stuffed animals then."

My daughter gasps. "I can see the folds. It's exactly like a blanket."

"They're not junk!"

"You're right. Bad comparison."

We talk about metaphors on the drive home.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jogging in Headphones

I don't hear my feet pound the sidewalk.
I see them--
Blue blurs, floppy laces.
I can't hear myself breathing.
          But I must be.

On the loop by creek,
The slugs' trails are silver dashes,
Like strands of ghost-pearls strewn over the concrete.
Some slimed across the walk only to loop back into the crab grass.
I am strangely relieved that most completed the journey.

I race past a few (four, five, six)
That were splattered by giants,
          and giant bicycles.
They were asteroids up against the Earth.

If I spot one struggling to the other side,
I pick it up and drop it safely across.
Have I saved it
Or denied it something?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

I'm trying to read "A Rose for Emily" at the pool

I'm trying to read Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" at the pool.

Someone, Emily, has died, and there's mention of the Civil War, and my son, G, wants to go on the slide. The red one. No. The green one. Okay. We climb the tower, and he shivers in the breeze, stomps in the puddles, and says, "Mom will you ride with me the first time?" Yes. He pinches his lips together and his dimples show. The green slide wins.

I'm back with Faulkner. My towel soaks through. Miss Emily didn't have to pay taxes--under the ruse of...something. The loud speakers are pounding out a song that's more bass than lyrics. She has a crayon portrait of her dad. G drew his dad on the next page. And another of two people arm in arm on a beach at sunset. Is he, at seven, already a romantic? I don't fret; the next is drawing of Squidward.


They have their arms around each other.


This line, "She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water," makes me self-conscious lying in the sun in my shorts to conceal my thighs that touch. Could do without that bit, Billy.

There's a stench at Emily's and people are milling about trying to figure out how to kindly tell her. They push the job onto Judge Stevens. He chickens out. A couple of men sneak over to Emily's at midnight and sprinkle lyme under the house. A youngish girl hustles past, her arms in prayer stance, to her towel. Her body drips on my pages. They're not ruined, but now they, too, have a scent. Chlorine.

Emily buys arsenic. My ten-year-old wants a cookie. I dig them out of the cooler. The chocolate chips are firm. Miss Emily gives the eye to a Homer fellow. There's rumors of a wedding. Will Smith tells me to "get jiggy with it" and some hirsute "bra" is shouting across the lawn to a friend, "You only live once!"
     Emily--did she? Live? Or just tap her foot at Death's door?

Homer was the smell. Homer was the body poisoned. Now he is dust. From dust we began and from dust we must return. The sun pinches my skin. All this talk of dust...
I think I'll take another dip.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Smithey Night Live

It was our family's turn for to be spotlighted in the ward newsletter. This was the result. 

We’re a family of creatives and artists. Of nerds and gamers. We’re educators and trainers, athletes and scholars. We take swings at the status quo and karate chop our Netflix queues. Spike’s our mascot, and badinage, our native tongue.  We’re Whovians and Browncoats and have a summer home in Whedonverse. We’re wordsmiths and jokesterraconteurs.

We are the Smitheys.

Rena, 33: E, ask us questions for the newsletter. Anything. Completely random.
E, 10: Would you blow up a house? With TNT?
Rena: What’s my motivation?
Cole, 35: Was it built on an Native American burial ground and was it haunted by a vengeful spirit who trapped my kid in the television?
E: Erm…yes.
Cole: Yes.
Rena: Isn’t that a movie?
Cole: [Nods.] Polterguest
Rena: Ah. …Isn’t it Poltergeist?
Cole: Yeah. I didn’t want to come across as one of those pretentious film know-it-alls.
Rena: Like Siskel &—
Cole: —Eggbert.
E: Would you rather have feathers or fur?
Rena: If I have feathers, can I fly?
E: Yes…and if you have fur…
Rena: People can make a coat out of you?
E: …you can nap forever.
Cole: FUR.
G, 7: Fur, so I could stay warm and I could fly like a flying squirrel.
Rena: Touché.
E: Would you rather have a beak or a snout?
Rena & Cole: Snout.
G: What’s a snout?
Rena: Like a dog’s nose or a pig’s nose. [Sotto voce to Cole.] Imagine trying to find a body on the banks of the Hudson with a beak? Or a pound of White Pony in a Caddy’s rim? Not gonna happen. [Cole looks quizzically at Rena.] In this scenario, I work for a K-9 unit.
Cole: Yeah, I’m not rooting around for food with a beak.
G: Dog’s nose.
E: Would you be a superhero who smelled like socks?
Rena: Dirty socks?
E: Any kind of socks. Sweaty, clean…
Cole: Do I lose my powers if I take the socks off?
 Rena: Yeah, are the socks my Samson-hair?

E: What?
Rena: My Achilles’ heel?
Cole: Do I have to take my shoes off to use my superpower?
Rena: Are flip-flops my Kryptonite?
E: Yes?
Rena: Then, no way.
Cole: Yeah. I’d do that.
Rena: Okay, my turn. Favorite Mexican food?
Cole: Pass.
E: Churros.
Gavin: Lasagna.
Rena: Lasagna is Italian.
Gavin: Oh, then…tacos.
Rena: Chicken or fish?
E: Chicken.
Gavin: Fish.
Cole: Beef.
Rena: Strawberries or peaches?
E: Strawberries.
Gavin: Peaches.
Rena: Bacon or bacon?
E and G: Neither.
Rena: [Eye twitches.] The apples fell far from the tree.
Cole: More bacon for us.
G: Apple! Was "apple" a choice?

--Rena Lesué-Smithey,

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