Story Starter February – Allyson Latta

**February Contest Closed**

After a terrific January response, we’re delighted to announce our February Story Starter, courtesy of returning OWC facilitator Allyson Latta!

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art featured below. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original. Submit your entry in the comment section below. Check the full entry rules and format here.

by Allyson Latta

2013, Allyson Latta


















Allyson Latta

Photo by Keane Shore

Allyson Latta has edited bestselling adult and young-adult fiction and creative nonfiction by some of Canada’s most respected authors. Many have garnered national awards, including the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and Governor General’s Literary Awards, and outside Canada, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Jamaican National Book Awards. She holds degrees in Psychology and Journalism, and has been an editor and staff writer for newspapers and magazines, a freelance writer in Canada and Japan, and a media relations coordinator for Queen’s University and University of Toronto. She is a creative writing instructor and online mentor for University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies (Memories into Story I; Memories into Story II) and has led workshops for libraries and writers’ organizations in Ontario. Allyson has also taught in the United States, Chile, Costa Rica, and Grenada. In 2012, the U.S. magazine The Writer named her Memoir Writing & More one of its 16 favourite sites for writers. Visit

  • Me alone among the rolling hills, thoughts cascade in my brain. The hills are withered and cracked, so like society…broken! Isolation helps to focus the mind, yet the words, are screaming at me. Soil without life…why? How do we nuture nature? I sit and ponder at this vast wonder. Help to restore our land and man, and lending a helping hand. Grow from within and beauty will appear!

  • Dale Synnett-Caron February 2, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    “Harley’s coming back, I know it. He caught a scent is all.” Through oneness of soul, the boy too imbibes the rabbit’s trail: wet nose dizzy with the chase, muscles yearning with the possibility of fulfilled instinct.

    Dad yells from the car, his words reverberating from the cracked earth. “He’s gone, pal. Time to go.” With dusk approaching a veil of tears scrambles the stark landscape. The boy holds vigil. Dad starts the engine.

  • One year ago today, I watched her pick up the last bag of her things, and stand at the door. Her cheeks were glistening wet from tears she’d cried, and was still crying. She’d held my gaze for nearly five seconds, then lowered her eyes in defeat, slowly closed the door and was gone. When the latch clicked into place, the sound echoed through me. It was the loudest sound I’d ever heard.
    It’s so quiet now. I miss you Mom.

  • What cast the shadows I sit upon,

    of forks in the road and parallel perfection?

    I ponder the question ‘Y’.

  • He closed his eyes pressed his tongue against the roof of his mouth exhaling in a long slow sigh. “Such a fitting landscape.” He sat, crossed his arms and rested them on his knees. They were coming for him. It wouldn’t be long now. The sun disappeared behind a large grey cloud a warm breeze caressed his face. It smelled of old dirt and manure. In the distance he heard the sirens. He squeezed his elbows and rocked back and forth, “I didn’t do it, I didn’t kill her.”

  • The rusted Ford baked in the Badlands. Mum and Dad bickered over dots on a map. The twins sang Brownie songs. I shushed them for the tenth time in an hour. My head was splitting open, boiling in the heat – a thousand miles from home. Dad stopped to pee behind the rear bumper. I kicked off over a crusty ridge and sunk down, my back to them. “Pete. C’mon.” I pretended not to hear. I missed my guitar and Jenny. They weren’t aboard this stupid family dig for dinosaurs – just dust and the sweaty smell of being cooped-up.

  • The undulating terrain reminded him of the ups and downs of normal life. A normal life which he could never have. He knew he was dying from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And on that glorious spring’s afternoon, when the abundant swallows frolicked in the heavens above and the plentiful flowers quivered on the hills afar, he meditated on the beauty of his village with a strength as unyielding as the solid soil upon which he sat. And,during that whole afternoon, neither did he shed a tear, nor allowed his soul to succumb to fear.

  • I waited, son. I was trembling, crouched between rolling ridges of dry earth, like a flea stuck between the wide wales of a giant’s grimy, corduroy pants. It was sizzling hot and I was grateful for the cap.
    “Run child. Hide in the giant furrows,” momma had hissed. Her pupils were huge. “I will fetch you when it’s safe, my love. Run! Go!” She pushed me out the back door. The latch slid into place. I ran and ran. In the distance I heard two pops.
    It was so cold that night, son.
    I never saw my momma again.

  • I guess Tristan was always in the Badlands, really. Looking out day after day for those white sails. Hoping against hope that Isolde would come back to him. We knew it couldn’t work out. Too many people’s egos involved. Too much political infighting. Too little space for new ways of doing things, new kinds of alignment. But look. There he still is, even when the ground is dry as elephant hide. Even when there’s been no ocean around here for centuries. He’s legendary now.

  • We went on vacation when I was eleven. I wanted to stay behind and hang out with my friends. I was miserable and I let everyone know it.
    We made camp in the Badlands beside a lifeless, bony tree that broiled in the afternoon sun. I sulked and went off to sit by myself. Silently, the tree’s dark shadow slid down and joined me. For two hours I watched, transfixed, as it desperately groped and reached for its brothers far across the furrows. Understanding flared within me. Compassion melted my heart. On that day I began to grow up.

  • The otherworldly, furrowed landscape beckoned to him once again to nestle into one of its timeless grooves, in anticipation of what thoughts might come his way. He had perched in six other furrows, meditating and contemplating in six different ways. What would happen this time? A haiku, as it turns out:

    Perception distorts

    Yet my vision wavers not

    I know who I am

  • Insouciance causes youth to antagonize seniority. And seniority, though enervated by life’s incalculable rigors, and fragile like some ancient and undisturbed earth, always indefatigably tolerates youth’s shortcomings. Thus, seniority’s perspicacity impels her to provide youth with sound advise, necessary for youth’s attainment of self-actualization. Which, if not realized, can mar youth’s psyche with unfathomable despair and isolation.

  • Badlands a Path that leads to no where on land; a City beneath the Sea rise up on top of this land, a lost soul emerged sitting on bare ground alone, without a home, a Helicopter up high in the Skies, set eyes on this land below, with one lost soul sitting on the ground below. The Helicopter landed on ground, and went down below the ground, into the lost City beneath the Sea; many lost souls were found a prize to save, but the Helicopter sunk into the Sea, leaving one lost soul sitting high above Badlands City.

  • The child’s heart had hardened like the terra firma on which he rested. Today, not even the archaic benevolent spirits, which for two millennia had diligently kept vigil over these ancient and sacred mounds, could afford him solace. He pressed his knees harder against his chin and every fibre in his frame quivered as he envisioned his subjection to the wrath of his father’s alcohol induced malevolent disposition.

  • Mako Sica

    Quiet my racing heart
    and listen to the wind
    as it ripples
    over ravines and gullies as owls take to flight
    Sitting I gaze in wonder
    at ancient hoodoos and chiseled spires
    Alone I am not lonely
    I am strong as the jagged buttes that in splendid colour rise before me
    Breathing in the celestial hope that gestures to the sky.

  • A million thoughts can fill a room; ” Oh to be a fly on your wall” they’ve said.
    Time in silence can create a master piece, all life’s dreams can come alive.
    Clarity can fill the brain, when clouds are sometimes all I can see.
    Who chose this path of such difficulty?
    Who decided this should be me?
    Answers which I can not find, but yet, I already know.
    I’m told, passion speaks louder then words, but words can only speak my passion. A conundrum at its best.
    I’m good…but not good enough. Like a bird learning to fly in peaceful skies, until the wind decides to blow.

  • Im thinking about you again.
    Like a virus; you come and go, taking over my body, leaving me weak.
    I have to know, are you thinking of me too? Can you feel me?

    I feel its all I can do to resist my thoughts of your kiss..your touch.
    A battle between my heart and mind… whats right and whats wrong… whats mine and whats his. I feel like im losing.
    Maybe if I feel you hard enough, you will feel me too. Maybe see me for just one second… the way I see you.

  • Lost in a dream, I see folds of velvety green hills
    rise and fall,
    like waves crashing in on the shores of my mind,
    sucking me into whirlpools of my hoary past,
    long forsaken.
    I hit rock-bottom, and then rise again—
    sitting cross-legged atop a hill
    bathed n a sea of gold.

  • Trying to comprehend father crying “mother needs surgery on her heart”, he wants to fall into the crevices, ripple down to away. Sees fingers waiting to come, grab him, shake the reality out. Could be solid, still, fingers of surgeons, ready to save her. Either way, he cannot bear thoughts of her falling through any cracks. Father’s tears could liquefy difference till they’re fractured through these faults of not his happy-place – just a sculpture? – and each collapses to pieces. Strong rock could hold to ensure she rolls right on through to the other side… But he wasn’t really listening.

  • Mounds of silt and soil and sand
    Spread throughout this sad dry land.
    Rolling high and deep below
    Searching for their way to go.
    Wind and water wore them down,
    Well outside the walls of town.
    Rolling hills striped of their threads
    Of vines and leaves and well fed beds,
    Of flowers trees although some said,
    “Without the loss no one would know
    There is no better way to show,
    If we don’t watch and care and tend
    Land erodes to a sad end.”

  • The world weighs heavy on your shoulders when you’re just 11 and you’ve been told you have to move; leave your friends, your school, everything that you’ve known all your life.

    “I don’t want to go,” you lament. “Why do we have to move?”

    Your father’s gotten a new job in a new city and this is what needs to happen for the sake of the family, they say.

    “It just sucks.” If only you were 18 and could stay behind, where you feel you belong. You sigh, get up, kick at the stones and go home.

  • Your sister found the fossil.
    You kicked the pebbles at your feet and walked away complaining of the heat,
    mumbling about the stupidity. What’d we come here for anyway?
    I watched you, shading my eyes against the merciless sun. At first annoyed at your sulking; demands to, “get back here” at the ready.
    Then I saw you, shoulders squared, gaze far into the distance. You absorbed the nearly incomprehensible landscape in a way the rest of us could not.
    The fossil had been pocketed, forgotten.
    And you, there, infinite.

  • It’s exciting for me to watch him just sit there. I wonder what he thinks when he’s still like that, when he thinks he’s all alone. What wonderful dreams must be going through his young mind, what adventures he must be planning for his future.

    Only a mother would have such optimistic hopes for the thoughts going through her sons mind. I laughed to myself and thought about myself at his age. He’s more likely planning his escape from our fun family vacation. I had better keep my eyes and ears peeled.

  • Basking in the knowledge of accomplishment, with an eye to chapter two in this life. I recently graduated from studies in humankind I am smitten with the introduction of my mentor to be. This is a time for short meditation before the real work begins. I will learn, with guidance, to steer and grow others to become leaders among men in preserving this way of life.

    It is a moment to be cherished, sitting here, in the outstretched palm of my Mentor, contemplating the trials ahead that will enable me to grow as he has grown.

  • He sat there totally isolated amongst the ripples of sand. There was no one to talk to, no friends to play with, absolute nothingness—desolation all around him. The first thought in his head was that—after the summer hiatus and returning to school, the first question would be “What did you do this summer?” Whatever could he say. He was desperate to be able to relate something, anything, but he couldn’t think of a thing. He could only continue to stare at the isolation, the bareness, its loneliness; and hear the deadly silence.

  • Just One

    In the rolling hills of the badlands, he finds himself.

    He sits as the silence envelops him.
    Away from the madness, the fast-paced hamster-wheel called “life”,
    he savours the seconds in stillness.

    His eyes close and one deep inhalation synchronizes time and space into the depth of his being. With the curves of oceans past and crumbles of life long lost, he becomes one with it all.

    One hill.
    One valley.
    One speck of sand.

    Just one in all that is.

  • Whose hand carved
    the giant furrow I sit in?
    And for what purpose?
    Was it to hide the sorrowful Tristan,
    he who escaped the gallows
    and set to linger in these badlands,
    to lick his wounds
    and pine for his beloved Isolde?

    But time does not stop to listen.
    The wind howls
    scattering sand across the field.
    The story becomes lost to the elements,
    locked in history,
    and my questions go

  • He hadn’t seen rippled land before. Not like fields. He remembered Dad’s tractor, old and off balance. How it had tipped and fallen, rolling over – no, he wasn’t going to think about that day, what had followed. He and Dorrie were sent to Grandma’s and Grandpa brought them here to the Badlands. But it wasn’t a real park, with rides, and cartoon villains to scare Dorrie. Now Mom was selling the farm. He was glad. It was bad land; he didn’t want it. He sat on a ripple, thinking of oceans, all the places in the world that weren’t flat.

  • I wanted to practice my Ghost Rider. You know, launch my BMX bike of the highest hill and watch it sail before it crashed to the ground. All the cool kids do it. But the ground’s been dry on account of a drought. Dirt’s cracked real deep. On impact, the earth split open and swallowed my Ghost Rider down to the underworld.
    Shoot. It’s going to be a long walk home. And then what to say to Mama?

  • You alone arrived on time, nothing to do with time, flawless and true, you make believe time to show off your colors of grey and black, a little exaggerated, somewhat hard on the eyes, an unexpected pleasure, welcomes something new to the site. My curiosity is peaked with wondering thoughts moving into my mind, thinking of adventures beyond my wildest dream. You did not change your position even though you are running out of time, your calmness intrigues me overtime, nothing is left unsaid, and some things make no sense, except you, dreaming a dream no one believes, except you.

  • My mom takes every opportunity she can find to drive me to different hills, where i sit and plan my route down each mogul run. With SOCHI 2014 this year, I need to do all I can to prepare. I still cannot believe that I qualified! Sometimes I sit for a long time considering the possibilities: when to head down the centre of the hill, when to attack the run from a side. I am told I am a strong athlete, but I know physical strength is only part of every success, mental training and preparation are also paramount.

  • Marie Beswick-Arthur February 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    “Four, five, six…” Sally pushed her forehead against rock a gazillion times her age.

    I dived behind close-by scrub, such as it was. Made it easy for her.

    “Ready or not, here I come,” she warned. I always liked her giggles when she found me.

    Then away she went (I peeked) around the bleached picnic table, over what she called the rocky-waves, and out toward the Saskatoons. I stayed put, considering a tuft of misplaced prairie grass. Minutes might have ticked by. “Ready or not!”

    I searched, rock-wave over rock-wave, concern mounting in a stormy sea.

    I’ll never stop looking.

  • Kristy Leigh Logan February 14, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Mike and I keep our distance, silently watching Travis as he takes in the ebb and flow of the Badlands. He’s so calm and contemplative, especially for a little boy. When he came to us six months ago, we immediately saw how remarkable he was. Every moment, no matter how routine or insignificant to us, was for him a source of quiet delight and appreciation. Even now a trip to the grocery store is cause for excitement. Knowing that we’re about to turn this moment upside-down sits heavy on my chest. Mike gently squeezes my hand. “It’s time,” he says.

  • I had come to Katmandu to see Mt.Everest. Lured by photos in glossy brochures, I had expected to see tranquil lakes mirroring jagged snowy peaks, verdant forests blanketing undulating foothills, and skies of cloudless azure.
    After four gruelling days of trekking across high stony ridges, through barren landscapes devoid of vegetation, we seemed no closer to being rewarded with “the view.”
    Blackened tree stumps protruded through poor soil caused by the yearly ritual of tree scorching.
    In subdued silence, I ate my daily ration of hot dhal on Naan, trying to peer through the haze and smoke pollution.

  • On his journey to Badlands Tristan did not look back, he did not turned into a Pillar of Salt. He concentrated to stay focus not to show off his fears, he sit and waited to take charge of things, nothing happened to bring about the change. He convinced himself that he did right; since he had no choice, lest he turned into Salt, he was the only one left behind. He knew that Badlands wanted him to share this story, and he sit and waited, as he contemplated a Master Plan he once thought of to restore Badlands into Good-lands.

  • I am at peace here in this barren place. It’s where it’s not important who I am or who I am suppose to be. Quietly I sit and wait for my mind to release some secrets. I have no recollection of my past other than what they tell me. For some reason this place calls to me when the pressure gets too much and the life I’m suppose to remember is too overwhelming. I’m grateful she drove me here today but I wish she’d go and just leave and never come back.

  • Can I play? I sat and thought. I can hide but there’s no one to hide from. I’m hiding in the open.

    Row upon row.

    Roll upon roll.

    It looks like too much work to play here.

    A location many would fear. Abandoned, isolated, unloved. Even the sun can’t bring life to this bad land.

    What’s good about it? The peace and isolation, a place to collect your thoughts.

    But what kind of thoughts will your brain generate in a place like this? I’ll think a bit more on this before I retreat back to the land of the living.

  • My Entry.

    It truly was a journey of epic proportions.

    Nothing went ass planned for Tristan. First was the isolation. Then as the shuttle descended and she went oout to repair it, the unexpected explosion sent her spiralling towards the surface of Mars. Her suit somehow protected her from the impact. Regaining conciousness, she realized that her suit was torn and she was breathing the air on Mars. She stripped herself from the suit and set it aside.

    She stepped to the edge and sat herself down. Favourite cap on her head and pondered. She pondered the realization that she now was, “life on Mars”!

  • Our Majestic Lands

    Sitting upon the Earth’s mighty uniqueness,
    Thoughts abound as I look over the broadening surface,
    Rock in its own rolling and diverse form,
    A desert floor or an untouched wilderness makes me torn,
    This rollercoaster of simply amazing wonderment,
    Peaks my curiosity to no end as rather distinct,
    How did all of this come to pass,
    The human race will probably never know alas,
    Such stark beauty in the never-ending cycle that we live,
    Natural yet surreal was what time and place had to give!

  • Barbara Wackerle Baker February 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    They said there’d be dinosaurs. I don’t see no dinosaurs. Stupid holiday. Wish I’d brought my bike. That would’ve been rad. I’d table top those first two bumps. Front wheelie the next. Couldn’t choke her up though. Keep her smooth, straight. Let her shred to the end, pop right off that lip. No speed checks. Free wheel. Clear the frickin’ ridge. That’d work. A chute would be so sweet. Give me more air. Totally scream that gap. I’d be so stoked. If I got enough speed, I could clear that sucker wide open. Bet that’d make her proud. For once.

  • If it weren’t for the grey, I’d run to you
    fall down and gather you in my arms
    bury face and fingers in your hair
    breathing you in under summer stars

    If it weren’t for the grey, I’d hum lullabies
    build castles on our remember when
    balance stones and make Inukshuks
    show everyone we were here

    If it weren’t for the grey, I’d give you
    more, like dreams and fireflies
    be everything you need me to be
    If it weren’t for the grey.

  • I like coming up here all by myself. It’s so quiet. There’s no teasing from my sister Brenda, no paper route, no Mrs. Wheeler with her scratchy voice asking me to tell the class what’s so funny. And there’s no stepdad looking for me when he’s had too much to drink. I like to count the ridges, then pretend I can fly out to where they meet the sky. Now that’s a peaceful place.

  • Tired and hungry, the boy dropped, drawing his knees to his chest. Sweat dripped from his brow as the late afternoon shadows began to creep across the rolling ground.

    Somewhere behind and to his left, the black vulture stopped and stood, waiting.

    A low roll of thunder broke the silence of the place and the vulture looked up, cocking its head. Two brown eyes stared down at him, glanced away, then back again. The vulture opened his crooked beak, then nodded and turned, heading back in the direction he came.

    Silently, the ground-fingers began to curl around the boy.

  • I am perched on top of your skin. You don’t even know because I make myself small, hiding inside the folds of your wrinkles between the paths of raised veins. I rest between dimples of cellulite, my spot cushioned by tufts of emerging hair. If you knew where I was, you would be mortified. You deny these parts of you even exist. From where I sit, I see the true, unique beauty of the only woman I have ever loved. Why would I ever want to leave?

  • Even in my darkest moment I cannot think, yet something unexpected comes to my mind, I rejected the thought, reflection, reflection, something is very far from my mind. I do not want to go there, hence I come here, and darkness takes over my thoughts. I am confused, and perplexed, something will have to give. I cannot figure out what to think in a place such as this, boredom fills my inner mind. What a pity, I should have known better, there is nothing here to hold me down, I must return to the reality I know best.

  • There was a time, long gone now, when he had raced across these hills, tumbling wildly, oblivious to danger and what the future might hold. It no longer occurred to him that he need challenge this terrain. It was enough to be here, settled, comfortable and safe, breathing the dry air, soaking up the warm sun. Living.

  • Groggy from hypno-sleep Charles slumped down into one of the runoff furrows. The crusty dirt cracked under the pressure of his soft manicured hands releasing a cloud of fine brown dust. From wealthy galactic trade merchant to farmer in 4 days. What sequence of events had brought him to this desert planet with 2 suns. Had someone saved or doomed him? The hypno-video had instructed him on how to survive on this dust ball. His domicile contained supplies and a mate, which he found disturbing. Dirty fingers stroked the foreign whiskers on his chin. He needed answers.

  • Max shuddered as he looked over the barren landscape. They were out there for sure. Long shiny scaled monsters with shearing mandibles and a hundred legs tunneling through the dirt. He could still picture her body lying on the ground, arms and legs eaten by the beasts. The look of terror frozen on his fiance’s face, her belly bloated in the sun. The 20 person research team was now 12. It had taken 3 bodies before Captain Karl would fire the emergency beacon. Ironically he was the next to go. He took a deep breath. 3 days till extraction.

  • Bad Lands

    Mom, you dragged me here for the day.
    You promised me bones, stories, heat.
    You said I would learn some history,
    That I’d be glad I came.

    You led me through dusty winding trails,
    Made me jump from heap to heap of compacted dirt.
    You threw me our only jug of cool juice.
    And I dropped it into a crevice. So, it’s gone.
    And then your long legs left me behind.

    You looked back once, knowing you would be right.
    It’s quiet and I’m alone here,
    Like I own
    These bad lands.

    Catch you on your way back.

  • Connie Di Pietro-Sparacino February 26, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Are supposed to be etched in stone
    Yet, roll back on ocean waves
    Some crashing, leaving me dizzy and confused
    Others predictable and cyclic, comforting me in my solitude
    Are valued greater than diamonds
    Yet, are lost on the youth
    My stories lose competition with the black mirror they hold
    They aren’t as salacious or entertaining as the famous and infamous
    Are all that remain
    Yet, they too are beginning to wither with each change of season
    Eluding me during my darkest days
    Death carries memories away to float on the summer breeze

  • Ever since she came here, she has not left my mind. I have lived every day for her eyes meeting mine, for that smile that paralyzes me. She’s only a year older than me but why can’t I be assured and confident like she is. She has treated me like a cute child; but I didn’t care, as long as she didn’t ignore me. Now she is leaving us. Tonight will be her last one with us. I dread going back; I won’t go back. The emptiness and desolation within me matches these hills. This is where I belong.

  • Hour Glass

    The sun on his back
    hat brim eyes shade,
    as face forward he
    squints to see the future;
    his, written on rippling
    dunes. As sand shifts,
    obstacles turn passageways
    on winds of providence.
    Time, near and distant,
    sifts through the glass,
    his to grasp, to try to hold,
    briefly, warm;
    until as dust
    through fingers
    it slips .

    Leena Rahusaar

  • The boy sits with eyes closed and waits. When he opens them he is inside his own mind, looking out over the grey matter, as if it were rolling, scorched-earth, barren nothingness. He knows a thought will come from out of the blackness if he’s still. It’s a trick the mind plays, convincing the viewer that there is nothing there, nothing to see. When a thought begins to form, the blackness will crackle like charged metal. The boy will pluck it out and carry it home for nourishment. But you can’t force it, he knows. So he waits.

  • It is more often than not that I daydream in black and white
    of worlds less cyclical than our own
    everything around me spins off infallibly in a kaleidoscope
    of grey paint chips
    none of which paint comfort
    but do well to chip away the light
    and encourage the shadows
    those who fear the dark
    as both their creator
    and their demise

  • Perspective!
    That was why Tristan had come. You see, life had become a bit of a quandary. Having been an only child for so long. And now, a babbling, stinky, new brother had arrived.
    This was and is Tristan’s thinking spot. The rich red soil. A landscape that fueled the imagination. A chance to escape from the challenges a child faces as they grow. A place where you can explore the same spot a dozen times and never, ever get bored.
    A place where realities are forgotten just long enough to believe and live in Tristan’s imagination!

  • Despair
    Do I leap across, do I roll down and scrabble back up, or do I back away?
    I didn’t mean what I said. I’m not even mad. I don’t know why I did it.
    I caused hurt feelings. We both cried, hot angry tears.
    Did I have to run away? Should I have stayed and said sorry?
    What if I go back? Is it too late?
    I think I will sit here until I sink into this ditch, become one with the gray dirt.
    I need a hug.

  • ” I prayed to you, sincerely, and you didn’t listen. Your heart, if you have one, is harder than this dried up ground. Why God?” The cool breeze was suffused with the child’s warm sighs, and with tears in his eyes, he perceived the mirage on the distant and unforgiving desert.

  • It haunts you till you cease
    You must stop, and pay reverence
    To the path not chosen, the breeze not felt, the miles not traveled
    Every direction laid before you and this is the one you will not choose
    You gaze upon it with wonder and regret
    You are only one person
    What would it be like to spread like the sun? To reach into every crevice?
    Go, in this circumstance
    You must put one foot in front of the other

  • He comes here when he loses himself. Finds the opening, a place far from what is expected and what is demanded and what is required. Somewhere between the rises of rock, in the cool dark he finds it. Sometimes he stares for hours. Heat seeps into his bones, warm wind plays on the lips of his ears, sunlight burns his eyes–till he melts down into the cold stone where he finds himself again.

  • I don’t come here as often as I once did; as often as I should. I feel better when I don’t remember, but I wake up in the night with the smell of her hair on my pillow and I know I owe her that much. After a month of dreams, I make my way back. She is still here, in the Badlands. I feel the arch of her back beneath my hand; the curl of her toes in the rock as the sun sets. I shiver and she is gone, a ghost among the ridges, bones turning to sand.

  • The last time we played on these rocks you were slower. I ran up and down, up and down, zigzagging, our rolling pattern. You trailed behind. At the final crevice – the one that leads up to the edge – you yelped and paused, licked at your paw, limped beside me. I gave you water from my plastic bottle, your panting slowed a bit. You rested your head on my thigh, we watched the waves below. We stayed longer that day – till the falling sun shot dancing flecks over the water and the air was cool. I miss you, my friend.

  • Zip lazed at the edge of DEZ 76, his fingers scratching the red skin where the new implant rested. “58 minutes post sunrise” chirped his clock. Tech needed people like him with no real options to do their crap work. Today he would run into this dead earth zone taking soil and air samples until he reached the other side 1 hour before sunset. His new Body Upgraded Resource Management and Augmentation Implant or BURMAI should get him through on time. If it didn’t some sucker would cut it out of his dead body and return it for him.

  • This place never gets old. I love it. No crabby sisters driving me crazy. No nagging mother reminding me of the chores I haven’t done yet and no getting compared to forty years of greatness, by my father. He’s awesome; I’m not. Let’s leave it at that. It’s just me and my motor revving, trail riding the day away, fighting the wind’s strength, up and down difficult hills, dodging chipmunks and rabbits, boulders and crevices and getting mighty dirty. There’s just nothing like the feeling of riding dirt. Life is good…for the next few hours anyway.

  • Gratitude

    He comes to this cliff by himself, now.

    When he was little he would hold my hand,
    Each step attending
    To what rested on the path,
    Each breath in awe.

    Always, someone would greet us:
    Eagle dipping close, breeze bringing scent of blueberries,
    Hawk singing “kiree!”

    I told him the stories, sang those old songs with him.
    He knows who he is, and will always remember
    Where he came from, who is family.

    I am too old now to climb that rocky path.
    He takes my prayers to sing to the winds,
    And I am thankful.

  • These hills are hollow, this I know. I’ve been inside them in my dreams; beneath the baked earth, staring through cracks to a world I once was part of. I’ve felt its heat; it’s rolling pain. Sometimes I imagine myself sitting up there again dreaming of the hollows.

  • Karen looks often at the black and white picture that lies in her mother’s bottom drawer. She’d found it by accident – snooping when she knew better. But now she’s seen it and she can’t stop looking. The edges of the photograph are frayed; the paper curves inward upon itself and a smoothness has replaced the sheen – as though the photograph has been caressed, she thinks. Karen is bewildered but knows in herself she can’t ask her mother, who is this man-boy sitting on the moon’s landscape lost in his lonely thoughts.

  • With bad jokes ringing in his ears, Sean winced as he sat down. He didn’t blame his brother for being mad, but jeez, he was the one with scrapes and bruises. You’d think there’d be a little pity.

    The late summer sun warmed his sore back as he studied the trails made by their dirt-bikes. I could let my skis run there, explode over that hill and down – where I crashed Josh’s bike – shoot up and make to a snow-flying stop in front of Josh and his stupid friends. He chuckled. Bring on the snow!

  • to fall and see again

  • ALIYAH SARA CLARKE February 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how we find beauty, awed by the sight of this darkness? I look into night skies on days I remember. The first time, the last time and moments between, the scars on her wrist, the places she didn’t cut. Between reality and the thoughts in her head on second thought. The cries he’d cry to him his love pushed away, a bouquets of forget-me-nots. But, I forgot as the number of cracks grew in my skin, the shadows growing with my sins. So, now my time traveler, wanderer of my skin… How is it you love again?


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