Mentoring a Creative Writing Class for weSPARK has been a remarkable experience for me, and I feel very blessed and honored to have met some wonderful people in this process. As a non-profit that is “dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients, weSPARK has become “home” for many people trying to survive the chaotic events around cancer. My husband died of pancreatic cancer (2011) and recently (2016) my dear sister died with kidney/brain cancer. The suffering of everyone involved, the people with cancer and the people who love them, is inescapable and incalculable. After Roger died, I fell apart. Slowly, I rebuilt my psyche and forged a new life. One of the tools I used to do this was writing and that resulted in a book: Memory Clouds: Good Grief Bad Grief.
Regardless of any success for my work, my life has continued to bloom and soar in all directions. I owe that, in part, to the benefits I get from writing.
Working with the beautiful, talented people in my class at weSPARK, which lasted four sessions, specifically helped me process the grief surrounding the recent cancer death of my sister. We all have to deal with grief eventually. I suggest writing as one way to help in process.
The following poems and scenes were generated
from our class.
For the poetry, I gave everyone the same two prompts (one of the prompts was the picture of the ocean at the heading of this intro). The diversity of subjects is a testament for the variety of talent in our class. For the scene descriptions, I asked the writers to describe a place using our five senses. Out of this, I asked them to come up with characters to step into their scenes and talk, and that dialogue was read with great enthusiasm in class.
Many thanks to the writers who are sharing their work (see below).
My heart to yours,
An Homage to Friends Seen and Unseen by Beth Brown
The life I knew quickly came to a halt.
I think I hear the attempts to communicate
Or is it a way for me to really listen to my longing heart?
In the middle of this chaos, I finally heard the laughter…
Laughter from another place
Reassurance that life goes on
Now with me, more present, more alive
Sometimes I feel freer than ever before
Those on another plane have come to my aide with grace
Are they the saviors of the world?
Are these the new mediators?
Somehow many others have heard my cries
Seen friends new and old have also aided me with grace
Advice, comfort, and delicious delights
Either way, I gratefully accept the support whether
Spiritual or corporeal
Three Haiku by Joyce Kane
Lands aircraft, eager to set
His suicide bomb
Buddha’s hand lifts, flame ignites
Love explodes on earth
Squirrel toes red bark
Six nipples, soft dangling cones
Claws clasping acorn
Three Poems by Andrea de Lange
Tranquil Night – Limerick
There’s magic at twilight, tonight
Colors pop in the glimmering light.
The jasmine’s in bloom,
And there’s plentiful room
For the feeling that all is alright
The scent of jasmine is thick as a fog
It fills me up and feeds my soul.
Its essence soothes my mind
And the tension drips away
My muscles surrender to the newness of calm
At this moment, it seems all is right in the world
He was a tranquil guy
Not your typical knight.
He spent his spare time
Writing poems and whittling wood.
He wasn’t aggressive,
And didn’t like to fight.
He’d rather be daydreaming,
And finding figures in the clouds.
Like most knights, he was loyal,
And chivalrous to the core.
Luckilly for him,
There was peace, and not war.
Poem by Sara Davenport
The ache of her bones comforts her.
She knows the dirt, but not the ground she explores.
She does not look back at the cold unmoving calm.
Trying to catch the wind.
Tranquility by Jan Finer
To have some faith and trust would help
Allay my frequent fears.
The worries and the what ifs
Have plagued me through the years.
I’ve often felt I’m doomed to stress
And can’t claim calm and mellowness.
My goal, in life, will always be
To conquer what now conquers me.
Lullaby and Goodnight By Lynn Smolen
Lullaby and Goodnight, a touch of madness in my prison of eternal life.
I sat upon a rock. Here the earth met the sky, the horizon peaked through the night in the moonlight a path in the water broken by the rising dorsal fin slicing through its surface. Its silent assent blended with the crashing waves. I watched it come. So like me, the mighty hunter, the Great White Shark. Behind me sea lions slumbered. Not knowing what waits for them in the coming dawn.
Another lay upon the sand. His blood still warm upon my lips. He wore the mark of the vampire on his neck.
Foolish man. He, who hunts with his crosses and stakes, knows not who he trifles with.
I stood upon the rock, the wind had risen. I raised my arms and turned into it and vanished as I came.
The Vineyard by Sara Davenport
Row after row of knobbed and twisted Ts reaching out for their caretakers offering fruit in exchange for water. Edges of the grounds are lined with olive trees dropping slippery seeds leaving streaks of heavy oils on the ground. Jasmine awakes as morning glories nod their heads into slumber, their perfumes cling to the ar. Bees pass by humming while they work, building the terroir in the dusty afternoon haze.
Five Senses by Joyce Kane
The smooth, pastel green and white tree stands proud and tall, covered with rough, thick, orange sheaths peeling off in chunks. Rust, grey and brown patterns snake and intertwine like fingers across the pale trunk, creating strange shapes like an abstract painting. A squirrel head with pink cheeks and button eyes peers out between curving strips of shining sienna skin. A forlorn man with one big, hollow eye holds a walking stick, a black feather falling from his brow. A brown baby elephant sits on his haunches, reaching down with his thin snout. A man with round, white eyes and a funny khaki hat stares at nothing. Long, rectangular strips of wet, yellow bark bend and lift up, revealing glowing lime wood speckled with tiny pinpoint holes. Raindrops glisten as they run in rivulets over interlacing patches of red and brown bark. A breeze streams drizzle through the air.
Leaves gently rustle, then shiver in waves high above, crinkling like paper. Long, thin, pointed chartreuse blades drop like spinning darts down onto muddy grass. The fresh, invigorating smell of mint wafts with the damp air. I breathe deeply, the scent filling my lungs. I lick cool, soft rain on my lips, taste the fresh water on my tongue—grateful for the swaying, majestic eucalyptus in the storm.
I Was There…Were You? The 80’s by Beth Brown
(The Atlanta Limelight)
Thump. Thump. Thump. The bass was hypnotic. Where was my friend? We’d come here together and now…I don’t know. But, all the beautiful people dressed in crushed velvet, boots, gold chains, and fringe were there. Strobe lights illuminated the rhythm of the dancers on the floor, on the dancing platforms above the masses and even glistened off the koi and gold fish swimming underneath the dance floor. Where was I? We’d come here out of curiosity, and though I thought I’d never been here before, it seemed familiar. Red ropes and green velvet curtains hid the activities behind me where I now suspected my friend to be. Thump. Thump. Thump. It was loud.
I sipped at a drink that was sickly sweet and took an empty seat at a previously occupied table. The place was glamorous and fantastical, but had a familiarity to it that I couldn’t place. Observing the layout, I noticed the long railing behind me, the circular pattern of the room and the barely noticeable but still there, the tragic/comedy masks of theatre hanging above the dance floor like a guiding star to someone who would notice. Is that a Gloria Gaynor song playing?
The dance floor is packed and I’m bored. I concentrate on the Muses above and the realization hit me. The Harlequin Dinner Theatre had been my refuge from engineering school. Here it was turned into what I now decided to be a tacky garish nightclub despite its international clientele. I closed my eyes and images of Molly Brown, The Music Man and other memorable dates came flashing through. How long had I been in my naïve fog before strong pressure on my right shoulder wakened me from my innocent memories. “You can’t sleep in here!” The baritone voice boomed. As if I could. Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” began to crescendo as I looked around and saw my friend parting a green velvet curtain and straightening her dress.
The House on the Side of the Hill by Beth Brown
SCREECH! CRASH! Expletives from a fourteen-year-old boy as he sees what has happened. I looked out of my bedroom window and saw where our brown Pontiac station wagon had hit a Loblolly pine tree. He was driving. I decided to run away. My mother had 132 acres of Loblolly pine trees and knowing the reaction from my father, I could hide out in these woods for a while until the crisis calmed. I called out to one of our mixed breed dogs (part English shepherd, German shepherd collie) to follow me. Skipper had the markings like an Appaloosa horse and was a gentle, sweet dog. I left my room and began to walk fast and then run away from the hissing car and agitated two years younger brother. I could still hear him cursing in the background. I ran through the un-manicured woods and down overgrown trails away from the known paths to the three acre pond. This trail was not familiar and I knew these woods. Blackberry bushes covered parts of the path. They scratched me as I carried on to the end of Mama’s property.
I had now been running about twenty minutes when Skipper and I came to a clearing. The scent from the pines was soothing, and the sight of the rock in the sun was welcome. I sat. The panting dog next to me received a special hug for staying with me. Suddenly he ran off. I peered in the direction he was running and decided to follow him. There before me was a stopped-up stream glistening in the sunlight. Skipper was lapping up water. I looked farther down the stream and to my surprise, I saw three beavers working on their masterpiece. This sight took my mind off the previous events. I don’t know how long I observed them, but I began to notice the afternoon shadows in these woods.
Finding a stump to rest on, I began observing the surroundings. Across the stream and up a hill, more water streamed out of a pipe. I peered further up the side of the hill and saw it. The house was old. The grey horizontal slats were loose. The porch on the left side was leaning because the rocks holding it up were settling in the pine covered ground. The windows were dirty and the screen-door as well as the front door was closed. Wow. I didn’t know anyone lived here. It was on the other side of the stream and it wasn’t my mother’s land, so I just observed. Skipper didn’t seem to notice. As the shadows deepened, I decided to go back home hoping that the crisis had been resolved.
The next day I relayed my experience to my mother and father. They seemed surprised as they knew of no one that lived there either. My father was so curious that he took me to the neighbors and asked them about that area of their land. When I described the house, skeptical looks were exchanged. The neighbor flatly stated, “That house was there about one hundred years ago, just after the Civil War, but it burned down a long time ago and nothing is there now.” In that part of the country, my observations could make me a suspicious character, so we left quietly and never told anyone outside the family. My brother, though, was happy with this distraction as it took the emphasis off of his accident.
The Devil Has Three Faces (Sherlock) By Lynn Smolen
A closed red floor length curtain was pushed open by a hand disturbing a layer of dust into the air. Sounds blanketed by the closed window were lost as he looked down into the London hustle and bustle of night life, where street lights cast their beams into the fray of moving headlights with the scurrying traffic below, as the glass in the window reflected his shadowed face.
He stood in profile holding a glass of spirits and sipped at it lazily, letting the tartness of its flavor coat his tongue and the heated swallow spread down into his chest. He turned slightly, street light advancing to engulf two thirds of his face and neck polishing his pale skin to a brilliance. His hair black as night was a curly mop cut short, partially covering his ears with fluffed bangs that lay upon his forehead. Elegantly shaped eyebrows were crowns for the beauty of his hypnotizing eyes. Eyes like a cat, pupils black framed by the almost colorlessness of light blue rimmed in black eyelashes. His nose straight was shadowed on one side. Prominent cheek bones gave him an air of nobility. His lips were soft and curved above a strong chin. He was a tall man, standing straight as his youth demanded. His frame was thin covered with an open beige dressing gown over a light blue shirt unbuttoned at the neck and dark trousers, the hem of the dressing gown ending inches above his shoes in total summation of the disposition of his countenance.
He let the curtain go and moved into the room pacing about as a creeping annoyance and a sense of restlessness began to consume him. He stopped and downed the last contents of his glass and put the empty container on a small round pedestal table. Trying to restore balance to his good nature he picked up his violin and bow placing the instrument under his chin, his hand caressing the aged wood. He put the bow to the strings while his bony fingers keyed them and began to play the haunting tune of Danny Boy. Behind him a fire burned brightly in the hearth chasing away the lingering coldness in the corners of the room.
The sweet smell of burning logs filled the flat. On the mantle under a square mirror a human skull rested on a circular box. Adjacent to it was an ivory handled knife, its blade sunk into a pile of unopened letters. A framed-pinned vampire bat amid various beetles was resting against the wall. Comfortable armchairs, one covered in a plaid throw, the other cushioned in black leather stood on either side.
A lamp burned bright on a mahogany desk littered with papers and a lap top computer. Bookcases with many volumes stacked and slanted nestled on shelves that lined the walls. Multiple rows of black Fleur de lis-like patterns on tan wallpaper behind a brown couch clashed with the red Persian rug on a dark wood floor.
The music ceased as he felt the whisper of breath upon his ear and coated arms encircled his waist. He spoke, the deep richness of his voice tipped with mounting hostility, “You are late. I was beginning to think you were not coming.”
“Not so late. Don’t be angry,” she said resting her head upon the back of his shoulder. “You know I could never resist the invitation to dine with you.”
The devil has three faces.
“No, you couldn’t.” He replied pulling away from her and putting down the violin and bow. He crossed the room removing his dressing gown tossing it on the couch as he went to a closet opened it and took out a scarf wrapping it about his neck. He removed a coat from the hanger and shrugged into it turning the collar down. From the inside coat pocket he removed a small pull out magnifier and from the outer pocket a pair of black leather gloves. He put them on a shelf above the rack of long topcoats. The shelf stacked with blankets and pillows.
“Fool,” he muttered to himself as he put his hand under the blankets and removed a folded knife and put it it the outer pocket of the coat. He shut the closet and buttoned up the coat as he walked to the door of the flat. He opened it gesturing her out with a sweep of his hand. She passed him and waited on the landing of a descending back staircase leading down into a hallway as he shut the door behind him. He passed her quickly and went down first with her following.
“You are famous you know,” she said from behind him catching up. “How do you feel about that bloody awful name the London Times has given you?”
He stopped his descent, turned and looked up at her. “Ah…the new celebrity of White Chapel…Jack… Jack the ripper. How do I feel about it?”
He smiled broadly and clapped his hands together like an excited child. “Inspired,” punctuated by a click of his tongue. His right hand went into his coat pocket and he caressed the pocket knife within. He turned and continued down the stairs, his good humor restored. He reached the bottom and proceeded down the hallway, stopped at a mirror on the wall and pushed back the fallen locks on his brow before opening the outside door for her as they went out down two steps onto the sidewalk.
On the pavement she said along side of him. “You know he’s looking for you?”
He laughed then. The warmth of his breath dropping onto the cold air in a puff as he said, with an over confident air, ”Who? That idiot detective on Baker Street. Not a chance in hell he will ever find me.”
“Don’t be too sure,” she said as he went into the street to hail a cab.
In the distance Big Ben chimed the quarter. Bong…Bong…Bong.