SPARK http://getsparked.org get together | get creative | get sparked! Fri, 22 Feb 2019 00:49:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1 Amy Ludwig VanDerwaterand Jan Irene Miller http://getsparked.org/spark39/amy-ludwig-vanderwaterand-jan-irene-miller http://getsparked.org/spark39/amy-ludwig-vanderwaterand-jan-irene-miller#respond Sat, 29 Dec 2018 01:07:55 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17019

Jan Irene Miller
Inspiration piece

Dear Cow
By Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Response

Dear Cow,

I still dream about you. It may not make sense,
but some days for some reason I smell that fall air.
We each stood on opposite sides of a fence,
your eyes and my eyes sealed tight in a stare.
For one wondrous heartbeat and still even now,
it seemed you could read every thought in my mind.
You became human. Or I became cow.
Over rusty barbed wire, our lives intertwined.
Then something or someone, perhaps just a fly,
broke the spell. It was over. We both looked away.
And of all of my memories, I do not know why,
if I could choose one to relive and replay
it would be our shared stare when I lived in your eyes
when you silently taught me the meaning of wise.

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Matthew Levine and Robert Haydon Jones http://getsparked.org/spark39/matthew-levine-and-robert-haydon-jones-7 http://getsparked.org/spark39/matthew-levine-and-robert-haydon-jones-7#comments Wed, 26 Dec 2018 21:40:05 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16985 “Christmas Eve”
Matthew Levine
Response

The Best Christmas Tree Ever
By Robert Haydon Jones

Inspiration piece

When Jimmy O’Hara decided on his Christmas tree at the outdoor lot at Home Depot, they gave him a purple ribbon and told him to give it to the outdoor cashier. Someone would then help him get the tree set up with his car.

Jimmy handed in the ribbon. It was $49.34. He also paid for four wreaths and six boxes of lights. Jimmy was feeling pretty good. Usually, he worried that he had picked a wrong tree, but this time, maybe for the first time ever, he felt good about his tree. It was just the right height and it was powerfully bushy.

When he had selected the lights, a Home Depot employee, an attractive black girl in her mid-twenties, had helped him out big time. Jimmy was fumbling around with the light displays and she came up and asked if he needed help. He allowed as how he did. He was stuck.

How could he tell which lights to get? They ranged from $2 to $69. She gave a little laugh and said, “Isn’t it something?” She asked him if he was going to use the lights after the holidays. He said he wasn’t.

In that case, she suggested he buy the $2 lights. He was surprised. “I know,” she said. “But the cheap ones are almost the same. They’ll see you through the holidays just fine.”

She helped him gather up the $2 boxes. The name on her nametag was “Amanda.”

He thanked her sincerely. She had really helped him. He asked her, “Do you know what Amanda means?”

She said she didn’t.

“It is from old Roman times,” he told her. “It means worthy of love.”

“Worthy of love,” she repeated. “That’s nice. I never knew.”

“Well, don’t forget. You really deserve that name. Thanks again.”

It was a nice way to start the holiday season.

He paid his bill and took his receipt back to the tree lot. He handed the receipt to a very big, tough-looking black guy who walked over to the fenced in holding area. There was Jimmy’s tree! It really was a beauty.

The black guy snatched the tree up and shouldered it like it was nothing. Jimmy looked at him again. Late thirties. Big shoulders sloped like an athlete.

He was big but he had gone soft in spots. He wasn’t wearing gloves. Jimmy was wearing gloves. It was cold – the wind was up too – like it always was around sundown. It was the coldest day yet.

“Man,” Jimmy said, ‘This has got to be the coldest day yet. The wolf is out there.”

“You got that right. That wind makes it bite.”

He pushed Jimmy’s tree into a contraption that enfolded it in a mesh of twine. Then he guided the trunk onto a band saw and cut a few inches off. He made a couple of more passes until it was even.

“You got a real nice tree,” he said.

“Thanks,” Jimmy said. He felt really good about the tree.

“You know when it gets cold like this? In April. I’m still umpiring baseball, and let me tell you, in April, when that wind comes gusting off the Sound, it feels like it was generated on an iceberg.”

They walked over to the lot. Jimmy’s Mercedes was parked in a Handicap spot.

“Yeah,” the guy said, “but you play anyway even in the cold and rain. You gotta love it.”

“You got that right,” Jimmy said. “You gotta love it. Were you an athlete?”

“I was a football player. I loved it. I played for years. I could have gone on with the game…but life intervened, if you know what I mean.”

The guy had paused for a fraction before he said life had intervened. Jimmy could tell he was new at telling his story out like this.

“Do I ever,” Jimmy said. “I sure do know what you mean.”

He opened the trunk with his key. There was plenty of room for the tree.

“Plenty of room, no need to lash it to the roof,” Jimmy said. “Just slide it in.”

There was plenty of room. The guy slid the tree in easy. Jimmy gave him a five-dollar bill.

“Thanks,” Jimmy said. He was tempted to say more. “Easy does it.” “One day at a time.” But he resisted.

The guy thanked him and walked away. Jimmy was feeling double good. He drove on home with the best Christmas tree he had ever bought.

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Robert Haydon Jonesand Matthew Levine http://getsparked.org/spark39/robert-haydon-jones-and-matthew-levine-13 http://getsparked.org/spark39/robert-haydon-jones-and-matthew-levine-13#comments Wed, 26 Dec 2018 21:39:01 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16983

“South Norwalk Nocturne”
Matthew Levine
Inspiration piece

Life Goes On
By Robert Haydon Jones
Response

He was a child, then for a very brief while, he was a little boy, and then, forever on, he was a shockingly handsome man.

The actor, James Dean, resembled him. Eustace Tennyson Shaw was better looking. But he had the same glint. All who glimpsed it thought they were the first to see it. A few learned better. Most never did.

For most of his life he was almost completely unaware of his beauty. There is no question his life would have been different if he had known. But he was so troubled — he really couldn’t see it. 

He had been repeatedly abused as a child. His parents were alcoholics.In later years, he would refer to them as, “Good People with a Nasty Disease.” And that was true. His three younger siblings were bent too. But he was the first and his parents learned a little from the mistakes they made with him.

It took him a long time to really understand and accept that the things his parents were doing were not because of him. That was the last part of his story he had to learn. It took him a long, long time to get it and when he did get it, it was rather late in the game. The way they were was not because of him. It was because of them

He loved sex the way most boys love sex. His beauty addled many adults into scandalous behavior. When he was 14, the wife of a neighbor, a famous writer, invited him in for a cookie and came and came even before she could get his trousers off. He had cookies with her off and on for five years.

He was not homosexual; he was omnivorous. A number of successful artists lived in his town on the Connecticut coast. Some were bi or secretly gay. In a three-day span, two of them told him, “If I were Michelangelo, you would be my David.”

The forty-something wives of older men pursued him relentlessly. He was surprised they showed him no mercy. When he finally understood what was really going on, he played them ruthlessly and, of course, they loved him all the more for it.

He was married and had a son before he was 21. He was a gifted writer and was soon hired as a writer-producer for a hot new advertising agency in New York City. 

He tried hard with his wife, who was four years older, but from the first, she was frozen by fear. She had wanted him and gone after him. Now that she had what she had lusted for – she was a prisoner. He tried and tried to reassure her, but she wasn’t buying it. 

Finally, he stopped trying and she relaxed. He had a life at home with the wife and child and he had another life at work in the city. He was doing well with the job – the money was coming in good. When he had to stay in the city or go away on business, he gave her plenty of notice and kept in touch. It was good. They moved to a nice little house. Before long, they had another son. 

Eustace liked being a creative guy in the advertising business. Early on, he realized he had to be careful, so he did not start up with any of the women from the agency even though a number of them signaled they were interested.

He had begun to drink a lot more – on a regular basis with colleagues and staff. One Saturday morning in February, he woke up in a big bed in a luxury resort in Puerto Rico. Felecia Rizzo was there in the bed asleep. Felecia was a very buxom platinum blonde in her early thirties. She was the Deputy Director of the Agency’s Casting Department. 

It was his first blackout. 

He checked the Room Service menu to find out where they were. He had jumbled, dreamlike, memories of a frantic cab ride and a plane and another cab and checking in without luggage. Felecia had given the Front Desk her Agency corporate credit card.

He took a shower in the palatial bathroom. More memories kicked in. Felecia had a lot of cocaine and they got stoned. They had sex and sex and sex and she was very noisy. He was surprised it was so good. 

When he came out of the bathroom, Felecia rushed in right by him. She locked the door. She showered. When she came out, she was in one of the complimentary terry cloth robes. She stood in the doorway and told him she had lied to him. She was not divorced. She was married to a banker. Six years. Never unfaithful before. She loved making love to Eustace.

He told her not to worry. They had two pitchers of Bloody Mary’s and Eggs Benedict. Later that day, they flew on back. Felecia paid the way. Before they left, they made considered, expert, love. Eustace enjoyed it.  Afterward, he saw her every ten days or so until she started to pester him and he cut her off – just as she feared he would. 

He did real well at the agency. He wrote and produced a TV commercial meant to be run solely on an interim basis while they reformulated the brand. He did it in 48 hours. The spot ended up winning all sorts of awards. It is still a famous commercial.

He was doing the copy and a lot of the broadcast production for four important accounts. He got some big raises.  Soon he started getting offers from other agencies. He wasn’t at all interested. He loved being with this agency. It was perfect size. It was scorching hot.

They gave him more responsibility and he worked harder.  He was staying in the city a lot more – and drinking a lot more. One night at the pub, which served as the local for the Agency, he left early to catch his train to Connecticut and a drunken, newly hired highly placed executive followed him out and took a swing at him. Eustace evaded the blow easily. The drunk was restrained. “I’ll get you, Pretty Boy,” he screamed. “I’ll get you good.” 

Usually his youth (he was 22 and then 23), and his being a creative, enabled him to stay clear of the senior executives at the Agency. Once, the famous founder of the Agency left a note on Eustace’s desk. “Please tidy this dung heap.” Eustace complied.

He carried an increasingly heavy workload. His heavy drinking was slowing him down. His mornings were increasingly dedicated to relief. He took a later train to the city.  Some mornings he got off the train and went directly to a Schrafft’s Bar. Usually, he was the only customer. He drank two tall glasses of medium sherry. It was a beautiful bar, with morning light streaming through ornate, four-story, windows.

He got buzzed on the sherry. It was enough to see him through to lunch. 

He was producing quite a few commercials and he started to hang out with the directors cameramen and owners of a number of studios. He preferred their company to that of the up tight executives from his Agency. Once or twice a week, he would head out to the racetrack with a few of them, catch the double, and ease on back in to work around 3.

He got so squeezed for time, he started seeing women from the Agency. But he was careful. He was seeing two or three at a time and they knew about each other. He started to date Emily Winthrop, the lead secretary for the Executive Vice President. He really liked Emily, a willowy, brown-haired woman from St. Louis in her late twenties. She was smart and sensitive and starved for sex and affection. Eustace did her with his left hand six ways to Sunday. Emily loved him.

Everything was going fine when one of his studio buddies invited him to a party and introduced Eustace to the most beautiful woman in the world.

That’s how Helene Hurley was known. An actress from London in New York for a feature,she had been a traffic stopper since she was thirteen. Men knelt at her feet in the street. What’s more, she was intelligent and kind. She was 22 and had never, ever, been in love. When she met Eustace, she was immediately completely zapped by the lightening bolt.  

They were together that night and an item there after. He told her straight away that he was married. She said they would work around it. She had a splendid suite at the Plaza. He thoroughly enjoyed being with her. Their schedules meshed so they couldn’t see each other too much. He loved being with her. 

They were a splendid couple. A perfect match. They were very, very attractive. They were very, very happy. 

He overnighted two or three nights a week with her at the Plaza. At first, Helene respected his weekends back in Connecticut with his wife and sons. Then she started to question him. Did it have to be every weekend? Did he know how miserable she was without him? Did he love his wife more than he loved her?

Then people at the Agency found out that Eustace was “the mystery man from Connecticut Helene Hurley adores.” He denied it. They were just friends. But, occasionally, when they were out, at a restaurant or a pub or a concert, they bumped into people from the Agency and there was nothing to say. One look told the story: Eustace and Helene were lovers.

So, in no time, everyone at the Agency knew. Helene Hurley was famous and now Eustace was famous at the Agency as her lover.  She had declared in a number of interviews that she had never known happiness until now.  Helene Hurley was in love with an American advertising executive. Some day soon, she hoped they would marry. 

Now Eustace was constantly being questioned about his relationship with Helene.  Was she easy to be with? How did they meet? How was she in bed? Did she know Eustace was married?

He stuck to his story: they were just friends. He made up a narrative that they were cousins and it seemed to take some of the pressure off. Still, there were questions. Even his clients joked with him about Helene.

Then Emily Winthrop asked him to meet her at her apartment after work. When they met she solemnly told him he had to break it off with Helene. It wouldn’t be long before she demanded that Eustace get divorced. Emily knew that Eustace would never leave his children. Emily loved him so, she was content to be his mistress. Helene was nothing but trouble.

Eustace heard her out. He knew she was right. They made love, terrific love, and then he hurried away and caught his train to Connecticut. 

He didn’t do anything – but the secret was out. Two months later, the film was finished. Helene returned to London. Eustace would start divorce proceedings. After he got the decree, they would reunite. Till then, she would write him every day. 

He took up with Emily as his mistress. He really enjoyed her company and she was happy too until he started seeing other women on the side. They argued. He tried to explain to her that it meant nothing. It was in his nature. She wept. 

He was in Los Angeles on a shoot when he heard that Emily had nearly died from taking too many sleeping pills. He couldn’t reach her at the hospital. He called the Agency and was told Emily had gone home to St Louis on a leave of absence.

Two days later, when he got back to the Agency, he was summoned to Human Resources and fired. They gave him six weeks severance. The reason for his dismissal was incompetence. 

Eustace never answered any of Helene’s letters. They stopped after six weeks. The only time he ever saw her again was in the movies. Three years later, she married a handsome young banker. 

Emily never returned to the Agency from St. Louis. Eustace looked for her on line a few times but never found her. He had a successful career in creative for several agencies and then became a top Voice Over actor on commercials and documentaries. 

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Julia Rolfe and Anya Mayer http://getsparked.org/spark39/julia-rolfe-and-anya-drapkin http://getsparked.org/spark39/julia-rolfe-and-anya-drapkin#respond Wed, 26 Dec 2018 00:58:56 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17015

Anya Mayer
“She Embraces Compassion”

Inspiration piece

Typical Woman
By Julia Rolfe
Response

At the risk of being cliché,
She was hard as nails in the daylight.
A can-do bandana wearing force
of artificial light and perfectly planned city streets.
Her sidewalks straight and swept clean for a proper high tea.
She was a lone city tree planted in a square of city dump compost.
The sunny-faced pansies lay before her, pruned and smiling at her feet.
For the folks passing by she was invisible and untouchable.

She pulled up her roots and trampled the pansies.
Stumbling from the perfectly planned can-do,
Beyond the last shadow of street lights,
Her tears vined and bloomed around her, wild and tangling.
She wasn’t untouchable. She was soft under the moon and never alone.
Still an unbelievable cliché.

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Ann Quinn and Marilyn Ackerman http://getsparked.org/spark39/ann-quinn-and-marilyn-ackerman http://getsparked.org/spark39/ann-quinn-and-marilyn-ackerman#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 05:30:27 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16967

Marilyn Ackerman
Inspiration piece

Cattle in Snow
By Ann Quinn
Response

“Eternity is always present in the animal mind; only men deal in beginnings and ends.” –Wendell Berry

The cold
is absolute
is all there ever
has been
all there ever
will be

Does the tree
feel buds
kicking inside?

Does the snow
know only
its perfection,
its unique embrace
of dust?

Or does it remember
cloud?

And the cold,
does it know
that it
might, one day,
end?

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Lené Gary and Jenny Forrester http://getsparked.org/spark39/lene-gary-and-jenny-forrester http://getsparked.org/spark39/lene-gary-and-jenny-forrester#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 22:09:38 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16961 Lené Gary
“Overwintering”
Response

Untitled
By
Jenny Forrester
Inspiration piece

My three chickens fed in the alley, and I watched over them, my triangle-shaped knitting bag with the handy wrist loop dangling. I worked on many pairs of socks for His size thirteen feet in that alley watching over chickens. When he left, he left all those socks. Huge socks, tiny stitches. A pair of arm warmers for his long, long arms. He left me to deal with the years of us, taking nothing, telling me not to take it personally that he wanted to start over with all the things, and saying sorry he couldn’t help more. He said, “I’m sorry it’s not better.”

I was sorry, too.

I walked today in the quiet cold. It snowed inches and inches today. Horse, my car, had never been covered in so much snow. She’s snug under the weight of it, waiting for the plow to come. A freight train covered in snow idled by the snowy creek and I knew my solitude in a way that I’ve always wanted to know it, but didn’t have the courage to step into.

Sometimes, we’re thrown out into the cold. Sometimes, we land in the soft bank of it and sometimes, it’s just cold.

The creek was breathtaking, and a man in a blue coat was fishing, huddled into it the way you have to. The cottonwoods were dry and tangled and the sky was pale and winter. The wetland stream above the earthen, flood control dam, slate gray and turning to slush. A pair of ducks flew by and a murder of crows flew high in the gray chill.

Everyone on the walk said hello – the thin running man in stripes, perfect posture, the man on the bike, layered, the woman with her red coat smiling, too, together in our shared desire for this kind of solitude.

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Ipek Davaz and Leslie Grollman http://getsparked.org/spark39/ipek-davaz-and-leslie-grollman http://getsparked.org/spark39/ipek-davaz-and-leslie-grollman#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 01:45:52 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16955

“Entwined”
Ipek Davaz
Response

Warped
By
Leslie Grollman
Inspiration piece

I was given life
on a loom from the smoke
of the ocean from the smoke
of the seeds. I give you desert-blue
stones wrapped in blacked silver
covered in sonnets that would speak
to a god as if bound by a name. The way
a name is tradition. The way mine has meaning
in six languages. Did they mean for me to live out
transgression when they blessed me with Lina’s so she
would be remembered. Her name: a bond. Like string.
Like string, bonds warp. What is the half-life of a coupling,
un-imagined. How long will it take for me to be un-remembered
by the living while I am still here. You and I breathe
each other’s names for now like waves
wrapping us in strings
of madness.

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Kathleen Finn Jordan and Brigitte Nowers http://getsparked.org/spark39/kathleen-finn-jordan-and-brigitte-nowers http://getsparked.org/spark39/kathleen-finn-jordan-and-brigitte-nowers#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 04:31:44 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16944

“Phoenix”
Brigitte Nowers
Inspiration piece

Toile Intérieure
By Kathleen Finn Jordan
Response

Deep down canvas
Swirling, twirling inner urges
Dynamic tsunami of fragmentation
id, ego, superego dance
Play bursting into color
Spin and surface
The depths of blue edgily marginalized
Yellows striving to bring the sun
To the deep eddies and flows of flying snippets
Of thought bombarding the self
Self in center
observing yet reflective as
White spaces await
breathless for resolution

As the canvas demands the brush
And the self …. glacial getaway.

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Brigitte Nowers and Kathleen Finn Jordan http://getsparked.org/spark39/brigitte-nowers-and-kathleen-finn-jordan http://getsparked.org/spark39/brigitte-nowers-and-kathleen-finn-jordan#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 04:20:57 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=16939

Brigitte Nowers
Response

The Cabin
By Kathleen Finn Jordan
Inspiration piece

It’s quiet here
Fall is creeping our way
As trees are tunneling
Leaves are changing their clothes slowly
After shaking their arms in the buckets of windswept rain
That have fueled the creek singing loudly as it bustles
Through the forest that surrounds us
Dave’s Cabin in October
Owls scowl from the deck’s wooden peaks
Birds tweet and chase jumping off the fallen logs
It’s quiet here and the quiet will stay with us awhile
It’s quiet here but nature chants mournfully
The end of summer light.

 

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Gena Stutzman andKJ Hannah Greenberg http://getsparked.org/spark39/gena-stutzman-andkj-hannah-greenberg http://getsparked.org/spark39/gena-stutzman-andkj-hannah-greenberg#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 00:50:52 +0000 http://getsparked.org/?p=17009

KJ Hannah Greenberg
“Autumnal Stairway”
Inspiration piece

Autumn Afternoon
By Gena Stutzman
Response

My photograph has faded now
But not my memory of
That fiery autumn afternoon.

You called me out to play
In the sunshine
Among the neon leaves
Under the vault of blue.

You held my hand
Then, turned and ran away.
You hid among the ripening fruit.
You called out my name

In the sunshine
Among the neon leaves
Under the vault of blue.

I spied the ripe pomegranate
In your small, cupped hands.
You smiled,
And offered it to me.

We climbed the brick steps
Our hands and mouths stained red.
We reached the top
And danced in the clouds.

That fiery autumn afternoon
In the sunshine
Among the neon leaves
Under the vault of blue.

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