Friday, February 25, 2011

Combatwords, February 25, 2011: Friendship. Friendship?

Combatwords, February 25, 2011: Friendship. Friendship?

We pour into friends a portion of our identities. We also receive some of their identities. In so doing, we are transformed and preserved at the same time. We have dear, but awkward friends; secret friends—some have no friends and are internally sterile and stagnant. Are we social animals, in need of this exchange, or can you really be an island if you want to be one?

Combat Expiration: 12am PST, 2/28/2011

Critique Expiration: 12am PST, 3/2/2011

Bonuses/Penalties: +2 if posted by 6pm PST, 2/25/2011, +1 if posted by 12am PST 2/26/2011, -1 if posted by 6am PST 2/28/2011, -2 if posted by 12pm PST 2/28/2011.

The Rules:

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  1. osmotic pressure

    in my thin coat of air
    off to the side
    i ride a puddle
    squatting with a stick
    poke poke poking
    connecting my belly
    to the oily water
    the pretty girls
    all shoulders
    and hair-tossed whispers
    stacked in stakes
    with smooth jeans
    boys peer from pebbled places
    for training bra straps
    clutching tampon instructions
    between giggles forced
    from slimy tongues
    only pretty girls count
    i draw in the mud
    pretty bison
    pretty elk
    pretty mammoths
    all the pretty people
    i am not
    watching shoes of resin and venom
    rippling on the surface
    as their musical words
    screw me in a jar
    with chloroform-soaked cotton
    pull me out
    stick me down
    fingernail eyes
    flay me alive
    each layer of my skin
    mucus bubble thin
    peeled spread apart
    pinned to a board
    each component of my body
    labeled precisely
    gears still whirring
    springs unwinding
    fluids leaking on blotter paper
    counting 1,2,3,5,8,13
    watching them move behind me
    a rubber kick
    my hands shattering
    such girls
    to have


  2. And This is Why I Don’t Have Any Friends

    If others serve us merely as our mirrors, as reflections
    of how we see ourselves, then I’m in trouble
    for every face reminds me of the desert
    where arid crags sprout barrel cactus stubble,
    saguaro phalluses ablaze with blossom,
    clumps of opuntia best approached with caution.
    This prickly pear is succulent, you’ll find
    ...that is, if you can get past the damn spines.

  3. Betrayal (part 1)

    Isabel was the first person I befriended after I moved to a new town and started working. She was kind, caring and had a wicked sense of humor, all traits I admire. Too soon after meeting her, though, I had to test our blossoming friendship. I asked her to watch my cats when I was out of town on business. I was wary about giving her the keys to my home. It was akin to opening up my mind and emptying it onto the floor – it exposed too much. My décor revealed things that could be used as leverage against me at my very conservative job. I had no one else I could ask, though.

    Once I returned I waited patiently for her to say something. It took her longer than I expected, nearly two weeks. I was walking through the break room one day when she posed the question. “Do you have a coven?”

    Of all the first questions she could have asked, I wasn't expecting that one. I smiled, “No, I'm a solitaire.”

    Isabel nodded and looked thoughtful but didn't say anything else.

    After that decidedly odd interaction, we grew closer. We went shopping, had lunch, went to concerts and plays. Her kids would call me when they needed help and she was unavailable; I spent holidays with her family. Isabel and her family became my second family.

    When I found more like-minded women to perform ritual with, she joined us, often bringing along her daughter. She enjoyed immersing herself in Goddess worship and neo-pagan culture. Seeing it through her eyes brought me new understanding and appreciation of a life I'd lived for some time. We danced around bonfires, chanted under the full moon, shared our hopes and fears on sabbats; we were closer than sisters.

    Lives change, people change. Isabel was offered a promotion even though it required relocating. She jumped at the chance to manage her own store. We tried to stay in touch through phone calls and e-mails but our lives had diverged and eventually we lost contact.

  4. Betrayal (part 2)

    I had no warning that she was hurt by our losing touch. I was used to people leaving my life. I never thought less of them when the intensity of our relationship flickered out due to physical distance. I had many such friendships diminish in this way. Often we could pick up right where we left off once we were together again. Relationships should be flexible.

    Trouble came from an unexpected source. Out of nowhere, my lover sent me an irate message. His family read my online journal and confronted him regarding our relationship. They were concerned because I practiced magick and openly discussed birth control. They accused me of fabricating my relationship with him; they told him I was dangerous and delusional. He was rightfully upset but so was I. The internet is a vast place and only someone I trusted could have guided his family to my journal. It was open to the public but buried under my username which was not public knowledge. Only the women in my circle knew it and, of those, only Isabel knew his family; she was my betrayer.

    The trust and love I had for Isabel were shattered. I cut her and those she remained in contact with of my personal life. I could do nothing else and remain true to myself. Months later she made overtures, wanting to take me to lunch or tea, trying to engage me in conversation online about books or TV shows. I ignored her attempts. There was nothing she could say or do to mend the friendship she'd so carelessly tossed aside. As for my lover, six months later he walked out of my life, still uncomfortable over the fact that I prefer to live my life out loud, in the light, instead of hidden behind locked doors.

    It took me several years to trust again, to be as open with my life as I wished to be, after the deep wound Isabel inflicted in my heart. Bitterness still lingers but time, and newly forged friendships, will heal it, eventually.

  5. Eulogy For A Friend And His Cat [Combatwords, February 26, 2011]

    When death gets exhausted, or bored with its tugging,
    It undermines pleasure, and saps with its pressure.

    Take for example my friend with a cat he adores.
    Sickened, the feline urethra obstructed, the bill

    In the thousands, he calls me, he's weeping,
    And he listlessly asks me for money

    He knows I don't have for his sickly pet.
    I pray in the mornings; it's useless and vain.

    Why should I bother with prayer when I'm faint,
    Sweating and everything blurs with the panicked

    Knowledge the cat will be killed and friendship
    Suicide-ended—I scream like a cat

    Afraid of his illness, afraid of disease;
    His only friend promising everything's fine,

    That the tears are a joke,
    Not betrayal, betrayal.

  6. In July 2003

    It became dark quickly.
    Summer cold crept in through the bones,
    shirts closing the access to hearts like shutters,
    excitement for what was to come shining through the cracks

    Five tables stood in line
    Small candles flickering Morse promises
    of future greatness and the perfection of the moment,
    casting shadows of time on
    the crayfish, cheese, bread and the paper plates,
    which were ready to lose their innocence for our pleasure

    You drank vodka and sat on the far side o the table.
    I drank vodka and made your friends laugh (a fragile bond at best).
    I tried to understand where I was
    and why I could not see through the dark
    while people around me
    ran through thorned forests at will,
    but the raised glasses confused me again and again.

    Later, we shared a bed like brother and sister,
    while the sounds of your friends fucking wormed through the walls.
    If you had asked me then, I am not sure I would have told you truth,
    or maybe even known any.

    Later, it turned out that truth,
    your truth, was a thin kind of ice and I went through.

    But by then we were no longer speaking.

  7. Biology dictates terms and conditions of living
    watertight contracts of air, food and sex
    seal a sweet deal of survival.
    Twitter follower ratios are irrelevant
    genes are verified +1
    and nature scoffs at Facebook friend requests.
    So why care for floating corpses
    in the wake of our trajectory?
    They do not necessarily build up self esteem
    and for all we have in common, have even less.
    Bonds beyond boundaries
    baffle objectivity:
    instinct rears its head when a stranger
    approaches at a bus shelter and asks for 10c
    change and of course the initial reaction is
    'take a hike buddy'
    because every guy who's late for work
    weakens the competition and you get promotion.
    Without love, we feel we could die
    yet no person would be happy to sleep alone forever
    friends are not lovers, yet they're loved
    if you don't use them, they don't bring much
    reward compared to what a partner does.
    And yet, we're bound by
    invisible blood-brother rites,
    the ink of life that decrees
    in small-print clauses and codicils
    the benefactors of emotional wealth
    on a pre-mortem testament.

  8. Hiki: It was playful, but unfocused. I liked it (word twists & imagery), so +1, but you can do better.
    RT: This was unusual. Sincere & metered. I enjoyed it on both counts. +1. The exposition is ok, but I think it would be better without it.
    Van: Your story doesn't really begin until the 2nd part. Seems like you could condense it all into 500 words, w/ an emphasis on the best scenes (practices birth control... ha!). Sorry to do this, but -1; it's too wordy and the interesting parts never really come in to focus.
    Forpuck: There is some real tenderness here that shines through the verse. +1 for that. The ending was very effective. +1 for that. +2 total.
    Nay: The opening is too blurry; -1 for that. But the turn is really excellent (Line 13 to "because every guy who's late for work
    weakens the competition and you get promotion."), +1 for that. Union of your abstract (but still fuzzy, fix it) opening w/ the specific middle makes the word choice effective in the end. So +2-1=+1.

    I'd like to know if people would like shorter combats w/ comments on the weekend, or whether I should just have more combats in general? I like the once a week factor, but have seen stragglers in old threads too. Thoughts?

  9. rToady: tight poem, like the line breaks and rhythm, but the cactus / prickly personality thing is a little obvious to me. saguaro phalluses...ouch, lol. +1

    vandamir: not as happy with this, sorry. it feels like there's a lot of extraneous stuff, especially for a piece this short, and yet the most interesting bits don't get enough exploration (e.g., betrayal, attempts at mending friendship). also, it seems like there's stuff in there that doesn't contribute to the plot or character development, but make i missed something. had potential, but... -1

    khakjaan: masterful line breaks..."the bill // in the thousands". but i'm not so sure about this stanza though "Knowledge the cat will be killed and friendship / Suicide-ended—I scream like a cat" seems kind of forced somehow and out of character for the rest of the poem. little confused by last stanza, but i like that ambiguity. +1

    forpuck: i loved this poem, the imagery, the meter, economical and beautiful. best one of the week for me. +2

    nay: a nice dance between allusions to the precision of scientific or legal language and emotion.i'm not big on references that will get dated too fast (like twitter / facebook), but that's me. takes a while to warm up, could be edited better. +1

    on mine...yeah, i agree, not my best, kinda wandered. i have to work on my editing and line breaks; i think i'm uncomfortable with longer lines. also kept having to fight a descent into sentimentality on this one. i think i was sort of creeped out at this memory of myself hanging around the popular girls like i thought it was going to rub off, while they alternated between bullying or ignoring me. sixth grade sucked ass.

  10. Thanks for the feedback guys...agree with both of you, it's a little too obvious, not as complicated as I would like. Working on it, rewrite's already much improved thanks to your comments. (And yeah, ditched the stupid title.)

    Sorry my critical faculties are not in the best of shape right now, don't have anything helpful to add.

  11. oh, and vandamir, please keep writing, OK? i like seeing prose entries, too. you're a solid writer. :)

    on the combats, once a week is all i can handle right now.

  12. I 2nd Hiki's comments: Vandamir is writing w/ a handicap anyhow; she's in extra pain. Also, she's doing prose, which ain't easy for a short combat.

    Yeah, I bungled the 2nd part of the poem. I was trying to flip perspective & pull off a pathetic simile, but it failed obviously. Re-reading the poem, I also see some ideas I wanted to include weren't in there.

    Great combat. Let's all do better w/ the critiquing. Sunday & Monday nights are always terrible for me commenting; maybe I should return critique to a Sunday deadline? Dunno. Would love to hear from participants & readers alike (don't worry, you can post anon; that's what it's there for).