Collaboration: Poetry and Art

It’s no big surprise that my pace for posting has slowed down because in the last few months I’ve had the incredible opportunity to fall in love. Gasp. I know. I had written it off, to be honest. So many failed attempts made it harder to see hope. The interesting thing is that I wasn’t looking for love. I had gotten right with myself about being alone for the rest of my life. I figured if my grandmother could do it, so could I. She was one of the strongest, kindest ladies I ever had the pleasure of knowing and loving.

In a previous post back in April, I am sure I mentioned that I was doing something new for poetry month. I collaborated with another poet by using their overall theme and then their daily prompts. It took me exactly 27 days to fall in love with him. Romantic and silly, right? That about sums me up, anyway. When the month of poetry was over, we decided that we weren’t ready to let go.

Each day has been an adventure. We write poems separately now and I continue to work on both of my novels. We inspire each other to write better, to reach farther, to try new avenues. This is the best part of collaboration. Along with all of this, we have taken to writing each other love letters which we send the old-fashioned way through the mail.

This spawned a poem by him about a 4th century Prince and Princess. He asked me to write the second part of this series. It was a bit of a reach for me, but I did it. As something special, I had sewn, quilted, and beaded a piece to go with the poem. His work inspired my work. I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

Here is my poem in the series:

Amor Aeternus, PT. 2

The season pass so slowly
it hurts to breathe
as I sit by the window
waiting for my prince to return.

The memory of his gentle fingertips
trailing the edge of my cheek,
the way his eyes pleaded forgiveness
as he left the castle, haunts me still.

At night, sleep eludes me, calls up my ghosts
as I walk the cold stones to the tower.
I call out to the moon, tracing the sky
and it’s barely visible constellations.

With the sunrise on my face
I yawn like a cat soaking in the rays.
We share seemingly different worlds
and I pretend the warmth of his body covers mine.

The strength in his eyes carries me through
the days, follow me in every shadow.
The damp fog raises the imprint
of his kisses upon my neck.

I’m filled with longing, a deep impatience
though there is nothing to be done.
There is no salve to cure my heart,
no way to close the distance.

The kingdom grows restless in his absence
as they look to me for guidance.
My leadership half-hearted 
and I feel the wolves closing in.

I stare at the horizon for his hopeful return,
the chair an uncomfortable punishment
as I stitch another patchwork with nimble hands.
They automatically flesh our hearts into the fabric.

Oh eternal love, come back to me,
I whisper into the wind, hopeful
my words will find his ear
and bring his safe return.

Aleathia Drehmer 2020

Micro-Fiction: The Love Child of H.G. Wells

Photograph by Aleathia Drehmer

Time moves slowly in the desert propelling me at half the speed of light without stealing the memory of time travel from my sun-bleached gray matter. In my state of disillusionment, I find my cold body in the same place I left it; my brain having traversed the expanse of a million years of untouchable land coveting layers of history I shall never have access to. I have to live with this knowledge tucked behind the soft curves of my ears, always whispering at high decibels absorbed by silence.

Ideas: The Untapped Potential of Dreams

Photograph by Aleathia Drehmer

I have had a lifetime of powerful dreams. Many of these I can still remember in detail from twenty or more years ago. There was a time in my life where this ability was heightened and my recall fantastic. If I look back on these times it is usually when I am under great emotional duress.

Recently, I have not been under such stress and the dreams fade away without being remembered. The ones I do remember I interpret as I believe our own minds do try to tell us things. This isn’t a post about dream interpretation though, it’s about how some of those fantastical things can be turned into short stories! Think of the potential.

I’m going to share a dream from June of 2017 which was a very hard time for me. This will eventually become a short story along with the others. Maybe it will be a book of short stories. The world is wide open.

The Dream (6-8-2017)

In the dream I am standing in a parking lot without cars in the company of unknown people and I look around for someone I know. I don’t see anyone so I go to the side of the lot and start to do yoga. I feel like I am waiting for someone. The parking lot is near the ocean and I can see the sand. I stop doing yoga and go over to the beach and feel the sand under my bare feet. I can see a storm coming in the distance. The sky is dark and grey. I am standing alone. I hear people screaming and feel wind on my back. I turn around to see a tornado coming. People are running. I run from the beach to a long wooden bridge like a boardwalk or dock towards a group of houses. I am running with other people to warn others about the tornado. We run to the end of the boardwalk and there is a house. There are several people who tell me to go down into the basement via a ladder. They tell me when I get down there to move the ice around to make feathers. In the basement, it is a small room like a bunker with a chair and a bed that is made. I move the soft ice around with my foot and make patterns. It is not cold on my bare feet. We stood there for a while with no one talking. There is a dim light in the corner. Someone opens the hatch again and says we can come out. I do not remember climbing the ladder out.

When I am out of the basement, the storm is still going on and I can see two tornadoes. I walk down the boardwalk this time in no hurry. There is a car there which has my clothes in it and I am only half dressed after coming out of the basement bunker so I grab some clothes. I look tattered and disheveled. When we are walking I see a large wooden fence to my right and hear the wind loudly. I feel the wind pushing me from behind and I am watching green trees sway in the wind. We keep walking and on the boardwalk a man who is next to me wants to buy food from a man on the side of the boardwalk. The seller is standing under a white tent. I crouch down to look at what he is selling and it is hot dogs and some other meat. The man next to me grabs handfuls of meat and gives the man money. I buy nothing. I stand up and watch the man walk away with the meat.

Poem: I Never Finished The Green Hills of Africa

Many years ago I got into writing different types of formed poetry. I have always been a free verse sort of girl, but have appreciated what it takes to write in meter or form. This poem is a Sestina. I cannot validate how well crafted it is, but it was fun to write.

The joy of writing for me is the challenge to push myself past the comfort zone. I learn so much about myself when I do this. I gain perspective and open up my mind to being more accepting of different types of writing that I might not be familiar with. This is one of five or six Sestina that I wrote. My process is putting out a call for words and then taking some of them to create the poem. This makes it adventurous. Enjoy.

Photo credit to Ike Jakson

He moved slowly and purposefully through splintered
feelings.  His heart pumping around the protruding tusk
impaled in his chest.  It sang deeply of moon.
It pulsated and vibrated more intensely than the alabaster
skin of her thighs.  How he wanted to blanket
his body with her; how he wanted to shovel

his way to her voice again.  He knelt down, hands forming a shovel
and began digging earth, his mind splintered
into left brain and right with no meninges blanket
to force them to work together.  He felt the tusk
burrow deeper with each movement, its girth of stained alabaster
shining like an iridescent beacon screaming at the moon.

“Burn, burn, burn!!” shouted the wicked moon.
Her rays laser beaming the flesh built shovel.
“I will not let you spoil her alabaster
soul again.  I will not,” said the high, tight voice.  His ears splintered
into a million fragments of universe on the ruined tusk,
laying dimensions of sound over the dirt like a sonic blanket.

It was all so invisible, her hatred, this blanket.
He pawed at it on the sparkled ground moon
forming in the lake of blood dripping from the tusk.
He never meant to lay his hands on that shovel,
never meant to enjoy the wood as it splintered
beneath his palms, as it cracked her alabaster

skull with resonance.  She breathed untouched alabaster
no more; she was damaged.  He had done it and now this blanket
of silence suffocated him as the night cursed him in splintered
tongues.  He stood a devil redeemed under the moon.
The spade lay there detached,  a broken tool, a shovel
no more.  His head hung there now noticing the tusk.

She had closed in on him like lust, arms behind her, gripping the tusk
her daddy had killed for in Africa, its gypsum alabaster
shine his recollection to her beauty that could shovel
away a mountain as easy as folding a blanket.
She had kissed his lips in front of the testament of the moon
and punctured his faith with the ivory.  He was splintered

morbidly by the pointed tusk.  Her lies, an evil blanket
all along—alabaster lies forged deep in hatred by the moon!
He lay his broken hand/shovel down, now numb and splintered.

Micro Fiction: Bones of a Friend

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

Bones of a Friend

The bones feel disconnected in his hands; they feel limp like a sleeping infant.  Barnabus is almost afraid to peel back the silken edges, afraid of what he might find though the linear part of his brain knows very well what he will see. They gleam against the blanket, against the succulent soil in mounds. 

Poem: Thomas Jones, A Wall in Naples, 1782

Painting by Thomas Jones, A Wall in Naples, 1782.

Thomas Jones
A Wall in Naples, 1782

One long white stocking
hangs from the balcony
swinging its toes, brushing
the tree tops, brushing against
the murderous beige wall.

Bricks birth through the stucco,
holes left from weather
and persistent birds
each perforating the sanctuary
of the stocking’s owner.

I wait for her to push through the door.
I wait for the window to throw its sash.
I wait for the sun to cease its brutal pummeling.

I wait for the stars
to give me a taste
of silk in my mouth,
silk tearing
against my teeth.

Writing: Impostor Syndrome

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

Last night I attended an online workshop put on by the local library, which featured a writer who was also once a literary agent in NYC. This was a grand opportunity to learn some upcoming steps I will have to make to shop the first novel I completed this year.

The business end of traditional publishing is overwhelming and I can understand why many people take the time to write novels but never publish them. Or how they never quite finish their novel so they don’t have to think about the process.

During the session, the audio messed up when it came time for me to explain what I was working on and this started my frustration and anxiety. I never really got another chance to get the same attention the rest of the writer’s received, so I felt let down. Technology is not always our friends.

This workshop has two parts, and she assigned us the task of finding five current writers (within the last five years) who we feel have some relationship to the novel we are working on whether it is style, subject, journey etc. Trying to figure out where your work would fit among those already published is hard enough. Then to ask you to compare your raw, unpublished work with those who have sold millions of copies is daunting.

If I’m honest, I never thought I’d finish the novel, anyway. I had started it ten years ago and would take it out every few years, add a few paragraphs and put it back. It was something I attempted but failed in my mind. My background has always been heavy in poetry and I have been writing since I was ten years old. My father was a poet, and I spent my life trying to capture every beautiful moment I saw to connect us in our estranged relationship.

When I started publishing poetry in the small press, both online and in print, I met other writers and began dabbling in flash fiction, short fiction, and micro fiction. These always felt like extensions of poetry to me and I didn’t consider myself a fiction writer until I attempted the novel. Because of this, I never thought about finding an agent or ever moving beyond the small press.

Having my work published was satisfying if one person told me they experienced something from the piece. This has always been the basis of my desire to publish. I want the reader to feel something for a moment… to pause or look at the world in a unique light even if it doesn’t change them profoundly.

Somehow, I lost grasp of this last night. Being vulnerable and rejected repeatedly for a novel I’ve worked so hard to complete put me over the edge. I had a sudden wave of imposter syndrome which made me want to give it all up. The thought of doing all the business side truly makes me not want to write anymore. This is sad because writing is all I have ever known. It saved my life on so many occasions and has brought me to the dearest people in my life.

After the workshop, I locked myself in my room and cried while crocheting. My best girlfriend talked me off the ledge with her kind, matter-of-fact positivity. My boyfriend asked me a series of questions to tease out the genuine reason for my fear. Together then brought me back to center. Things always feel impossible until you begin them. The thought of what it will cost you emotionally and mentally are often less than the high price tag you place on them. 

I have spent a life overcoming impossible odds. Now is not the time to give up trying. For all of you folks out there feeling down or that you are the biggest impostor in the world, just know we are all there with you. Be kind to yourself. Dig a little deeper. Work a little harder. You’ve got this.

Poem: Easy Medicine

Recently, I have been reading poems at night and recording them. My friend and I send them back and forth. This is a helpful tool to understanding where changes need to be made in the flow of a poem. This particular poem is an old one and was previously published. Most of the poems you read here are published except for the occasional recent work.

My life as a nurse has afforded me the opportunity to see people in every shade of their personality and to imagine myself in their heads. This poem will someday be part of a manuscript I’m putting together called “Little Graveyards” which chronicles small and large deaths I’ve seen in the ER or just in vulnerable people in general.

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

Easy Medicine

Skin heals inside out.
We watch the wounds close,
pushing up new cells daily.

It’s her own small miracle
self-created again and again
and again and again
with the razor slowly biting
into microcosmic layers.

Each thickness its own
dimension in time. She stands
witness to blood rising
from skin folds, valleys made
of her innate need for destruction.

A river is nourished
with every ripple it pushes
up over the banks, spilling
into the empty valley
of her heart.

It’s easy medicine for her.

Each groove alleviates pain quicker
than any pill, or couch session.
Making her remember,
that despite it all, she’s still alive.

Flash Fiction: 90 Seconds

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer

They ducked into the stoop of the closed cafe a second before the sky opened up with the wrath of an unseen god. The ferocity of the thunder rattled Cynthia’s bones. Next to her, George didn’t seem phased in the slightest, having spent a lifetime amidst the cornfields of Iowa. Storms there meant life and food on the table. He never gave them a regretful thought.

The two were practically strangers and tucked in close, elbow to elbow. They’d “talked” for months through various forms of social media. Cynthia regretted this was the only way people like to meet anymore and longed for the bygone times when their awkwardness fleshed out in person. It was easier to weed out the weirdos that way. 

Electronically, the two had investigated each other. They checked off lists and probabilities weighed before deciding to appear in human form. They both were more gregarious and brave through the glowing screens in front of their noses. They could be themselves without fear of rejection or ridicule, however, they hadn’t planned on reality.

Cynthia found George handsome and rugged, but in person his charm was lacking and his conversation skills stunted. She spent much of the dinner driving their exchanges and waited for him to lead, just once. It made her feel like she was boring and that whatever interest he’d had in her approximation was squandered sitting across from him.

Huddled under the awning, their bodies were close, but with so much silence between their mouths. 

***

When George leaned over to whisper in Cynthia’s ear he felt his heart rip out of his chest onto the sidewalk with the rain washing away his blood and courage. He tried to find a shadow of his online bravado to tell her how much he loved listening to her speak, watching her mouth form words, and the way she bit her bottom lip when she was nervous. George liked her, a lot. He choked on his words as his mind went blank. Now, he was just a weirdo breathing heavy in her ear.

***

Cynthia felt something strange tickling her ear and turned her head quick. Almost in slow motion her skull collided with George’s nose with a deafening crack, followed by blood rushing down his clean white Oxford shirt. 

“Oh, god. Oh, I’m so sorry,” Cynthia said, trying to stop the hemorrhage.

He clutched his nose, embarrassed. Great, she thought, I mortally wounded him. There goes that.

Published: Issue 19 Big Windows Review

Photo by Aleathia Drehmer, Chicago, IL.

I know I previously posted to the home page and maybe another post about being published at the Big Windows Review, but here is another. I have two poems in Issue 19, Spring 2020

This literary magazine is part of the Writing Center at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI which is run by Tom Zimmerman and Katherine Snow. Thanks so much to them both for including my work in their spring issue.