Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ferry Crossings

April heralds daffodils, asparagus, soft rains, and daily poems. Yup. It IS National Poetry Month. I'll pen a poem every day, and post it here. Today I took the ferry to Ocracoke. The sun warmed my face, the birds followed in our wake, and a poem, one of loneliness, took root, reminding me as well of a scene in my first novel. My #fridayflash and NaPoWriMo offerings...

Into the Fire

I escape to my room, lost without my laptop. A new wooden chair, legs intact, sits under the desk. The feet scrape against the floor. I pull forward an empty notebook, uncap the red felt tip, try to focus.

Why won’t I take this goddamn pill?

I stare at the blank page. Thin blue lines blend with the white expanse, transmogrify to a clear, solid blue that reminds me of summer, the day Phoebe and I escaped the hellish Cambridge heat and drove to the ocean. I’d never been to the Cape, which surprised Phoebe; she thought everyone went to Cape Cod when they wanted to go the beach.

“New Englanders are so funny, so provincial about things like Cape Cod,” I remember telling her, laughing. “We New Yorkers go to Long Island, the Hamptons.”

We drove two hours south to Falmouth, U2 blaring from the metallic-sounding tape deck, wind blasting through rolled-down windows. Phoebe chattered with excitement. We cleared the bridge easily; it was Tuesday, the weekend trippers had already come and gone. Our intent was to cool off, eat steamers and lobsters, drive home that night to get to work the next day, but on a whim we boarded the mid-afternoon ferry to Nantucket.

I remember a singular instant: Phoebe standing at the front of the boat, face turned toward the sun, hair swirling in the wind. Seagulls squawked, dive-bombing for fish churned up by the boat’s engine. The perfect cerulean sky framed her golden splendor, her happiness, and in that second which seemed to last so long at the time but now is lost forever, I was overcome with love. She didn’t see me, but I went to her, wrapped my arms around her, kissed the back of her neck. Whispered my love to her. She smiled and said she loved me, too. It was the first time we said it: we loved each other.

The page pales, the memory slithers away. Why won’t I take this pill? I try to remember discussions with Bruce, in group, but my mind scatters, a million thoughts flying swirly-whirly like maple seedlings in a spring breeze, ephemeral and elusive.

It occurs to me being crazy is kind of like being high. In both, I’m out of control, unable to make decisions. To fully function. I use when I’m in pain, when denial doesn’t work, when I want to relinquish responsibility. Which makes me wonder: am I wallowing in this particular bout of insanity to avoid the crap I need to address in my current reality?

My problems feel insurmountable, but what are they? Exactly? When I try to itemize them in my head, they overwhelm me with their number and their magnitude. I scratch them out: the man I’ve called Dad all my life tried to kill me; I don’t know who my real father is; my mother had a stroke and might never talk again, she might even die; Phoebe left, but I still love her, though I don’t know why. Oh, and I want to kill myself. These are the biggies, but others add to my growing manifest: my body and mind are shot to hell; I’m unlikely to graduate this spring, most assuredly not summa cum laude; I’m in tremendous debt; I fantasize about getting high; how do I live with this insanity lurking like the boogey man, waiting to jump me without warning?

A long, daunting list. Makes my head pound. Where do I even begin? Oh Jesus. Panic blooms from the constant speck festering in my heart. My hands tremble, the words not legible. I drop the pen. The frying pan or the fire: this is my choice.

(Excerpted from Brighter than Bright, a scene where a suicidal Ben agonizes whether to take medication that robs him of feeling but which might save him from himself.)


Crossing Ocracoke Sound

Cormorants dive-bomb,
skimming up blues and other
chum churned in the ferry’s wake.

Ahead, the island where
we slept amidst sea oats
singing at higher pitch

than the gulls’ keen,
were we licked butter
and more from the others’

fingers, sweet crab claws.
One hunger sated we
walked into sky coral

colored, sure of night
and the next... now,
though, the engine thrums

deep through my soles,
constant with the sea,
your pulse, a memory.

Peace, Linda


  1. Ocracoke has salt mist and cool breeze flowing, I can taste the sweet crab and buttery finish, a lovely piece.

    Ben, Ben. he is indeed a lost soul trying so desperately not to be desperate. You skillfully chronicle his turmoil - harrowing.

  2. This was so well written. This line stood out to me-"my mind scatters, a million thoughts flying swirly-whirly like maple seedlings in a spring breeze, ephemeral and elusive. " Gorgeous, poetic, wonderful writing. Nice work Linda.

  3. The #fridayflash is lyrical in all the right ways for prose, with no paragraph going by without at least one rewarding sentence. Always a pleasure, Linda.

  4. It's funny, I was really basking in the glory of your descriptions of the relationship with Phoebe, so rich and wonderful experiences, that I didnt see the downside coming of where Ben was right here right now with the pill and the agonising choice. He does have those wonderful memories of her, but I guess they can also hollow him out as they can never occur again in the future.

    Stunningly well drawn by you. "The perfect cerulean sky framed her golden splendor" - this was a wionderful line

    marc nash

  5. Terrific scene, Linda. I love the struggle of an intense life possibly leading to death, or a muted life that might not be worth living.

    I love your writing.

  6. As always, your writing captures admiration for its richness, its sensuality, and its beauty.

  7. Thanks all for reading and your comments. I am actually at the ocean, so feel the richness of sound and color around me. Peace...

  8. Blues and oceans - cerulean skies. They're writ 'deep through your soles' and you soul too I think, Linda.

    A wonderful pairing here - both deeply nostalgic. The angst of 'Into the Fire' balanced quietly against the weight of your beautiful poem 'Crossing Ocracoke Sound'.

    Great work. And creative wishes for NaPoWriMo.

  9. The frying pan or the fire, what a choice. We've all been there in some way. Great writing, Linda. You make your character's problems with drugs to relatable because of how you describe his mental state -what's really the cause of his drug use.


  10. Is there anything you can't do? You leave me unable to express how much I am a fan of your work. Fantastic both of them.

  11. Where to start? A great line from your #ff perhaps? "The page pales, the memory slithers away" I love the image this envokes.

    Your poem is just full of richness, a sensory delight with a sturdy ache at the core.

  12. You do evoke the Atlantic Ocean so very well.

    Ben is in a dreadful situation. I respect that reluctance to take the pill. And your assessment of why Ben wants to get high has the ring of truth. That question: "am I wallowing in this particular bout of insanity to avoid the crap I need to address in my current reality?" - is powerful. I can hear him wondering if it comes from his better self or if it's part of his sickness, like a rat in a cage, turning and turning to no purpose. Your writing is beautiful.

  13. This whole thing, prose and poetry, completely overwhelmed me. There is so much here that cuts so deep. You have so many gifts, Linda. Thank you.

  14. Thank you all for your kinds words -- each one is like the chocolates my kids will find in their baskets tomorrow: rich, lingering sweetness.

    Back from a long car drive after a week at the Outer banks, and catching up.

    Marc, memories can hollow -- interesting inisght. They also can sustain.

    Simon, the ocean does call me. I think it's the pulse of the waves, never ceasing...

    Jai, many folks in mental anguish self-medicate their pain -- the 'real' remedies are so pitiable.

    Mark, exactly. Mania is a wonderful seductress...

    Lou, your words mean so much -- thank you.

    Carrie - ha! You are too funny - most days I feel quite inadequate to the empty page. But thank you ;^)

    Tony, you so nailed the theme of my story. So well I may plagarize your wordage to use as I recraft the dreaded pitch.

    Thank you all. Off to read yours... Peace, Linda

  15. So powerful, Linda. It's overwhelming to read and take in. It touches me to the core with its emotions and struggles.

  16. Linda,

    This is very powerful in so many ways. You capture such a beautiful scene, a struggle of a young man, and his fight to stay alive. I really felt the emotions and power of this scene - so well done!!

  17. Excellent descriptions. Such a happy, then sad juxtaposition.

  18. The excerpt and poem flow so well together. I read about National poetry month at Laurita's and had to come see what you are up too.

    "were we licked butter
    and more from the others’

    fingers, sweet crab claws."

    I can feel, see, taste, this. Beautiful.