10/15 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt
An interesting collection came in for this week’s contest prompt: “tears.” The winner is Cathy Coley, who noted: “Boy did i not want to write for this one. But close to tears from sleep deprivation…. ” Maybe that’s partly why her poem has such merit?
If I allow it, the full banks of my eyelids
would overflow, flood a room, then the house,
burst out the front door into the neighborhood,
and solve these past drought seasons.
Cars would float away to the sea
and the world would fill with my tears.
No more land in sight, we’d adapt,
grow gills and become one with the fishes,
swim free and never have to worry about the tears.
Who would see them in the watery world?
If I allow it, all the heartbreaking things would kill me.
But what use is feeling sorry for myself,
I have a job to do.
I have to raise good men in a childhood under war.
My second son raises the bar because every moment
amidst the peopled world is a struggle to cope
in a thousand streams of stimuli his mind can’t sort.
Everyday, I ask
how can I make the world bend to him?
How can I make him fit in this world
when he is clearly a puzzle piece from a different box.
The other day he told me,
I act mean so people won’t know I’m really nice.
What is more heartbreaking than that?
He’s already so separate from the world,
and forming a harder shell around his big loving heart.
My first son, a sensitive heart from early on is doing the same.
I have to raise a daughter protected against the odds.
I have to give her a sense of strength of self,
not just against the tide of what the world will thrust at her,
but truly her own vision:
Joan of Arc,
without the crazy and the pyre.
So what use are my tears, except to flood?
Maybe wash away the hard lines accruing on my face,
heave sobs to break apart the muscle tension from my temples
through my neck and shoulders?
Sounds like a needed welcome relief
and a completely selfish act,
if I allow it.
From Karen Winters: “I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to paint anything new for the prompt, so I’m using an older one from my archives. This painting was in the 2007 National Watercolor Society all member show and it is titled ‘As the Parade Passed By.’ I saw this older gentleman watching a parade, and his eyes were shiny, as though we was on the the verge of tears. I can only imagine what was going through his thoughts. The National Watercolor society member show is a national juried show and I was very happy that my painting was one of about 80 chosen out of the hundreds and hundreds of entries they receive. Although this painting is precious to me and not for sale I take a print of it to some of my shows as an example of the kind of watercolor portraiture I can do on commission. There is no white paint in this picture — the white in his hair is the white of the paper and you just paint around it (very carefully).”
From Betsy G., a prose piece. Betsy worked in a lightning round — she gave herself just one hour for the exercise:
She recognized the handwriting right off, could almost see the Bic pen in his hand scratching at the front of the envelope, forming the letters—all capitals, all the time, not with bold aggressive strokes but a light and graceful slant. It was a plain, white number 10 business envelope; he’d never written her using anything but that.
Finding his letter amid the bills and catalogs had of course surprised her and at first sent a thrill though her. A letter! Each day when she went collected her mail, she hoped to see her name hand scrawled on an envelope as she used to sometimes daily, now essentially never. But she could never fight her childish optimism that a letter would be waiting for her, a shiny red wagon on Christmas morning. But after she finished processing the idea that she’d received a letter at all and understood that the letter was from him, the thrill turned to chill.
And now it sat in front of her on the kitchen table, unopened, a padded package stuffed with white-lined notebook pages. It was surely multi-paged; she could tell by its bulk. She tried to ordain from its weight what it might say, if it was simply a history of all that had transpired since they’d last seen each other eight years ago, or if he might have retraced the circuitous map of his feelings and followed it to the reason why they had not arrived at the anticipated proposal but to his sudden withdrawal from her life at the realization that those feelings did not amount to love. She could still hear his voice that day, the gall that he would he utter the words: “I love you, I’m just not…” She’d had to stop him there to prevent him from completing the clichéd lover’s ending, to stop him from emblazing the full phrase, in his voice, in her head and forever be disgraced for embracing the trite kiss-off.
Or perhaps it was the letter she’d written for him over and over: what was I thinking, of course, what a fool, how could I have, and to you, my pearl. Perhaps he’d realized… That word—“realized”—the delusional verb that she’d finally let go of, and not as long ago as she would have wished; she never again wanted to think this word and of him.
The envelope and its mysteries on the kitchen table, next to the plate of corner bread crusts from her lunch and the glass with its wading pool of Diet Coke, beg her to take action. She is at odds with herself and sits a long time at her place at the table. There will be long-term ramifications, she knows, and probably regret that she will revisit obsessively, but a vision comes to her and starts to solidify. She begins to know—to realize—that she will bring that vision to life despite its obvious flaws.
She takes the letter from the table and presses it to her cheek, the moist blue of the ink on her warm skin. And then she watches her hands, as if they are someone else’s. They are hands on TV or in a movie and she watches with rapt interest as they tear the envelope in half, and half again, and again and again.
From Juliet Bell: “I don’t remember why my daughter was so upset in this picture. We were in the English Garden in Munich, Germany. I do recall that she was truly upset. This isn’t one of my favorite pictures.”
From me (Miranda): As an adult, I don’t always know how to process extreme conflict. On one occasion several years ago, I was overwhelmed by anxiety and emotional upset; totally adrift. To anchor myself, I drew the doodle below, making lines through vision blurred by tears. The notebook paper is 5″ x 8″ — and the lines are tiny. (For a better view, click on the image.) The exercise worked in that I got to a place of being able to function again, after the hour or two that I spent working at the page.
This week’s prompt: “Apples”
Use the prompt however you like — literally, a hint for colors, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to email@example.com by 8:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, October 21. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to amazon.com. Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.
thank you, miranda! i am very honored to win among these entries.
and my frustration doodling is very similar! eyes, lines, spirals, fishes, stars and infinities….how strange!
betsy, i think you just wrote a prologue to the bigger story i’m now curious about!
juliet, that picture is heartbreaking. i was thinking of taking and entering a similar shot, but i couldn’t bear to pick up the camera in the rare instances that baby c cries.
karen, that painting is beautiful. i can see the stories in his eyes.
Thank you for your nice comment! Congratulations to you. I may be inspired to do another lightning round on Apples for next week.
Wow, such amazing entries! I confess I was too chicken to delve into this topic — just too emotionally exhausted last week. It’s so impressive how honest and beautiful these responses are. Thank you everyone for sharing!
these are all truly wonderful pieces. i’d have to say that from these entries, this has been my favorite prompt! so much emotion shared.
cathy, i love reading your stuff. it’s very powerful.
juliet, i love the photo of your daughter.
Great work everyone!
thx, cathy and bec!
oops, and kell and jen, and betsy, too! coffee hasn’t kicked in…;)