creative writing, poetry, The China Chapter

周五闪回 – Flashback Friday: Fades

Time for another high school poem I found while packing for China!  Oh, creative writing…I remember you.  This poem was written, according to the scrawling across my paper, in February of my junior year. I don’t know why I was in such a summery mood.

The room is bright,
Not by man’s light–
But daylight–seeping in.
It reminds me of lying there in bed
Being told sloth is a sin.
The sunlight drips down folded curtain;
Gateway to my mind.
In this tired summer afternoon
Dull winter’s far behind.

In the valleys of the curtain cloth
My soul rests in glory splendor–
Relaxes and lies, shrinks in size–
To the shadow’s sweet surrender.
I know not what tomorrow brings
Or what yesterday’s left behind
I only know the curtain’s filled
With shadows of my mind.

I only know, the room grows dim
And glows in fading hues.
I only know that day will die
And ‘morrow be renewed.
I only know I sit alone,
Sunlight seeping towards my core.
And I only know that dripping sunlight
Fades the curtain more.

creative writing, prose, teaching, The China Chapter

“Falling with Style”

Cleaning for China, I’m found a lot of papers I had forgotten about.  I hate throwing any writing away, even the terrible bits.  I love looking back, years after writing something, and thinking either, “How did I phrase that so poetically?” or, more often, “Ugh, what on earth was I thinking when I wrote this?”  Because I had little physical room in the luggage I was dragging across the world, I discarded much of the prose I’d written.  But first, I catalogued it.

This particular, unfinished piece was written when I was teaching in Virginia and trying to show fifth graders how sketching out a story (actually creating little drawings) could help you recall details of a story that you might otherwise forget to include.  We were also practicing brainstorming.  The assignment was to think of a person dear to you and come up with three or four memories you had of that person.  Choosing one, we then mapped out our stories and started writing.  What follows is my roughest of drafts that I never did finish nor edit…

My Dad 

I was flying down Eisenhower Lane.  This was the first time I had been on a bike without training wheels and I had not fallen yet.  “Don’t worry,” my dad shouted, “I’m right behind you.”  He grabbed the seat of my bright red bike and steadied it so I would not wobble.

I rounded the corner from Eisenhower, bearing right onto Rutherford Drive.  I was almost all the way home!  I felt like I was racing.  How was my dad keeping up?  I turned my head to see how hard he was running.  But when I looked back, I noticed he was way behind me.  Oh no!  How could I stay upright without his hand guiding my bike?  I felt myself teeter as I downed the final hill.  “I’m out of control,” I thought, forgetting how to slow down.  I was still flying, but now, I was terrified.

“Help,” I tried to scream, but my shout was cut short by a loud crash.  I had hit a neighbor’s black metal mailbox and fell, headlong, into a pile of gravel.  Small rocks buried themselves into my palms and kneecaps.

I tearfully looked back at my dad again and, through blurry eyes, I saw him anxiously running towards me.  Blinking to stop from crying, I sorely stood up, gazing down at the blood dripping from my fresh cuts.

China, creative writing, films, poetry, songs, teaching, The China Chapter

诗意搞乱- A Poetic Mess

It’s a moment,
then it’s gone.
Your heart catches in your throat
and you wonder if it was ever real
just a figment of a life you could imagine for yourself.

I realize I’m not making much sense here, mostly just waxing poetic.  I had so much to say about last week, but yesterday, when I went to write, my words froze in my fingers, hovering but a breath above the keyboard.  I spent time rearranging my discombobulated mind to the tunes of Cat-Stevens-turned-Yusuf-Islam and bathed myself in the comforting knowledge that music can wrap you in a tight embrace and make you feel so magically whole despite how crazily confused you might be.

But, being as though none of you have any idea what I’m talking about, I’ll stop with the self-analysis portion of this update and move into what’s actually been happening here in Chengdu…

Well, life’s been busy.  The first week after getting back from Bali, I spent a lot of evenings just eating Chinese food (Shao Kao and Chuan Chuan) with people.  Agh, I had missed that in Indonesia!

Last week flew by, but was punctuated with a few memorial events.  Wednesday afternoon, while the kids were working with partners to turn picture books into Reader’s Theatre scripts, I felt a bit of shaking.  It was a small, but noticeable undulation, especially when I saw the Smartboard rocking back and forth. “Uh…guys, let’s go ahead and get under our desks, okay?”  The kids immediately crawled under their desks, then peered up at me.  “Um.  Ms. Hannifin?  Why are we doing this?”  I love them and love that they would follow my directions first and then question me.  “Eh, I think there’s a earthquake.  And we just need to make sure it’s not a big one.  So we’re gonna stay under our desks for a few minutes and see what happens, okay?” “Yeah!  We don’t want things to hurt our heads,” one girl called out.  After a few minutes went by, it was clear the small disturbance was over.  “Alright, kids!  I think we’re good to go back to work. But if we feel anything else, we’re gonna get back under our desks, okay?”  “Okay.”  And back to work they went as if nothing had happened.  Earthquakes here might be fairly common, but I was very happy that the first one I felt with kids around was distant and handled very well by second graders.

Last Thursday, after Girl Scouts, two parents took June and me out to dinner at a Shao Kao restaurant.  It was completely unnecessary, completely delicious, and completely appreciated.  Then on Friday, I went out with coworkers to the typical hangout: The Beer Nest.  It ended up being a late night as more people stopped by as the evening stretched on.  But I made it home safely, albeit completely tuckered out, in the wee hours of Saturday.  I didn’t accomplish anything, really, on Saturday aside from Skyping with my old flatmate, Diana, and…napping.  On Sunday, Melissa and I went to go see the movie Seventh Son, which was…a rather interesting movie going experience, primarily because I am naive and China greatly confuses me.  It was a decent flick, though, and well worth the…$6…the entire outing cost us.

So that’s been about it, save my poetic nonsense (oh, brace yourself.  more terrible poetry is heading your way soon!).  I leave you now with a song that is probably going to be stuck in my head the rest of this week:

China, creative writing, The China Chapter

秋天的思索 – Autumn Musings

Today I am tired.  This is the kind of exhaustion that settles in your bones and is indicative of not enough sleep or sunshine or saccharine or…something.  For the first day since I’ve been in China, I feel like going back to my apartment, curling up in my bed, and ignoring everyone and everything.  This may be the start of sickness.  I imagine myself a polar bear jolted out of soothing slumber to find cubs running rampant.

But that doesn’t make for a very good blog entry, so instead I’m typing out something I jotted down on Saturday while waiting to go shopping with other teachers.  It’s not long, but it’s the best I’ve got right now.

Autumn Musings

The soft breeze of autumn replaces the sticky sweetness of summer. I sit now comfortably outside, sweat no longer dripping down my brow every time I get the nerve to walk through Chengdu’s streets.

Everybody walks, bikes, exists outdoors here and — as I watch them scurrying in ant-like fashion to responsibilities or friendships — I wonder how many eyes watch me, the lone lǎowài scribbling in some foreign manuscript into her silly pink notebook, blue eyes darting back and forth in a furious attempt to soak up as much of this world as possible.

I’ve been here a month and am feeling decidedly at home in China despite a phone that doesn’t work, internet that is faulty at best, and not even the most rudimentary grasp on what anyone around me is saying.

On Friday, a Lebanese man who has been in China nearly a decade told me he knew I was new to China because I smiled so often, said hello to so many.  I try to recall my personality in the states (a hard task as I am not as objective as I could be here) and find the grins and greetings are nothing new.  Whether reflexive of personality or upbringing, I’m the small (enough) town girl who will always hold open the door, say “thank you,” and smile.

He’s not the first person to point out my blatantly jovial disposition.

I feel like I’m faulted for that, for being…happy.

Optimism is a foolish, undesirable trait in the world today and because I’m not a pessimist I must also not be a realist; so silly and stupid stuck in my own little world of naivety.

I have to smile at that.  (No other reaction quite makes sense.)  My world is naive, yes, but it is a world full of redemption and forgiveness, second chances and hope.  A place where friendships are born of intense curiosity and kept long past would-be expiration dates.  It’s where tomorrow burns bright with the could-be’s and less attention is given to the would-have-been’s.  And, wherever you find yourself around the globe, there’s always room for another person here.

creative writing, poetry

Flurry of Fury: In *Remembrance* of Snow

I remember the first day I saw you.
You were brilliant
and my breath caught in my throat.
You came to symbolize
cuddling in piles of blankets
and gazing
in a dream-like state
at the quiet
outside world.
Oh, how I adored you!
The way you moved,
the way you danced,
the way you clung stubbornly to the earth,
and the whisper-thin tread of your arrival to my life.
the normal apron strings of the day…
for you, I would forgo them all.
Oh how I love you so.

But the world shifted.
Ignored work simply piled up.
You began to annoy me.
I never thought I’d say that.
Not to you…
never to you.
But your constant presence brought turmoil
and afternoons spent cuddling in blankets
were also nights filled with thought
and mornings that stretched on in boredom.
I gave up so much for you:
that concert
that trip
that peace of mind.
And I resented you so much for it.

While I have made peace with the past,
you still impose upon me,
affecting my present
and future.
I need you out
You are the damned spot in my life
that cannot be scrubbed clean.
Every time I hear of your approach,
I grow angry
I want to remember you
how you were
when I loved you.
Not like this.
Not with me hating,
hating you
for your inevitable
of my existence.
I plea, poetically,
for you to leave,
to abscond from my world
at least long enough
for me to move on,
to set things right within myself
so that when I see you in years to come,
I can feel my breath catch in my throat
from your brilliance,
you beauty.

creative writing, poetry

Implacable Sweetness

I spent a while this evening reading Pablo Neruda, losing myself in his love and anguish, completely breath-taken and to the point of tears. I know that words lose a lot in translation, but a true poet can convey feeling so basic to humanity that their messages transcend the barriers of language and time.

I have never had his talent nor his insight into human nature, but I did write poetry once upon a time. I have decided it’s time to force myself to write more often, but for now, I scrounged up something I wrote back in ’06. As I tell anyone who reads anything I write…be gentle in your criticisms! (I’m no Neruda!)


Silk words tumble from lovers’ tongues
to bedsheets and twist themselves
up in the covers.
Legs entwine
in a bed full of arms that grasp,
reach and stretch
as man and woman unite,
gasping together in biorhythmic harmony.
Faces morph as time pulls
lovers’ smiles into frowns.
Terms once of endearment
become annoying
Man pulls from woman
and likewise woman from man
each annoyed at life’s rough nature
and a little sad
that love is not a paint
that can cover all the cracks.
Dishes smash in anger;
storms brew in once genteel hearts.
Emotion all in motion all building all stirring all wild until
silence–as silent as the grave–
and as fitting
as man sinks to his knees at her headstone.
Nothing more can be said
so he hopes he said it all–
that he loved her even when he was angry,
that she was sexy even when overweight,
that he couldn’t live without her
(not that he could never
but that true lovers should never
be forced apart by a cruel Death).
As he tuckers himself
into his bed at night,
he thinks of whispered words

and his passionate playmate,
wonderous wife.
As his life seeps away–
breath by breath by breath–
he takes shelter in being one breath closer
to the mortal lover of his immortal love.
At the moment of death,
he realizes as his heart slows,
the gravity
of slip-
pulls away the less important aspects of life
and who was wrong
and who was right
that one Saturday night doesn’t seem to matter.
But handfuls of words
are tossed back at his failing body
from a youth
d e e p within,
stirring and yearning for the
physical (display of love).
One last gasp from a dying man
as silk

softly to the pillow beside him.