I will be reading with other Cirque contributors in Portland this Friday. This is a fundraiser for this beautiful Alaska-based journal, which publishes writers from the North Pacific Rim.
The Winter Solstice issue of Cirque: A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, is now available online and includes my short story, “Other Bars.” Cirque is a beautiful journal, available online and in print, published by passionate people.
“She held his hand. Something he had to get used to. At first it was an anchor, keeping him from the bar, the pisser, the jukebox. Now, if her hand wasn’t in his, his thumb tracing her knuckles, his fingers ached.” – Other Bars
This January-March, I will be teaching a winter Writing Memoir and Creative Nonfiction class at the Portland Community College Sylvania Campus. This class, offered through Portland Community College Community Education, will meet Friday evenings for eight weeks. I believe that we all have a story to tell, whether it be a deeply felt memoir or a poetic journey of the soul.
Explore your story through memoir and creative nonfiction. Investigate linked memories, history vignettes and publishing in today’s memoir market. Share in workshops, group reading, detailed discussions on craft. All skill levels welcome.
I have been dreaming in black and white lately. Each dream shot through with hazy Noir outlines, filled with rain and streetlights, beautiful old cars, and the sounds of sleeping cities. There is no great struggle in these dreams, no violence or witty detectives. Instead I am working at jobs I remember from my youth. Hauling hay bales in black and white fields, processing chicken for frying in inky vats of oil. Perhaps the most fitting is my time as a bell hop. Long hallways punctured by identical doors rich in shadow. Tips given in coins that catch the light and jingled in my pocket as I slip down the hallway. In reality my time as a bellhop was little more than a footnote in my time in the professional world. My tips feed me, my pay dissolved into my gas tank and rent check. It was a balancing act that so very many people participate in daily. But in these dreams I am young, my face not exactly smiling but very much alive, my knees ache-free and impervious to stairs. I am always on shift, always attending guests, unloading luggage and listening to the hiss of my service radio. The dream me is somewhere between happiness and contentment as he walks the black and white expanse of a nearly forgotten hotel. There are moments in this dream where I am merely an observer, watching myself play out a life I left twenty years ago. There are other moments still that I am that young man again and I experience a thick envy that wakes me from my dream. I sit in the darkness of my bedroom and my envy turns to a childish grief, the grief one builds by counting gray hairs in the mirror. In this darkness, my room made black and white by dimness, I turn to the sleeping woman next to me. Her hair is a slow curl on her pillow, the cat tucked comfortably under one of her arms, her skin reflecting the streetlight beyond our window. My grief fades away and the dream of me experiences his own burst of envy as I lay back to sleep next to this beautiful woman who even in the darkness is the color of the sun.
My window is open and the sound of rain makes my fingers into a crowd of drunks arguing about love and politics. I should be working on a story, on grading, on any one of the numerous essays I have promised to write, but here I am watching a chickadee hold tight to her branch outside my window. Her eyes are half closed and she calls to herself as the rain shakes the needles of her pine tree. I am lost for a moment, my day playing back to me in fragments of classroom lessons and student conferences. The story I have sat down to write fragments and trails away. There is time to reclaim, to chase it down, but right now the chickadee is singing even though it is raining and I am lost to her voice. I wish for a poet, a writer who is unafraid to shape the metal of my emotion into something more than a paragraph on a tired chickadee and the memories of worn out lecture. I let the wind take my poetic envy, let the chickadee whisper her song, let my lecture finally die out, taking even its echo with it. Bird, window, writer, sometimes there needs to be fewer words to salvage the soul of the thing.