Tag Archive | Allison Garcia

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 9: WINNERS

Today, it will please you to learn, is National Read in the Bathtub Day. I inform you of this first in case your plans did not already include reading in the bathtub and you need to change around the day’s itinerary. If you’re looking for reading material — which bathrooms ought to offer anyway — and have not read all of this week’s compelling tales, allow me to recommend them to you. The stories our judges awarded Honorable Mentions and above to are directly linked. Don’t miss out!

Remember to join us back here tomorrow for the first part of our interview with Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan. And come back Wednesday for our second Warmup Wednesday feature: lots of fun writing and chatting. And, obviously, chocolate, which this week is brought to you by dragon captain Tamara Shoemaker, who came over to the lair this weekend (pic proof here; we’re joined by Margaret Locke & Allison Garcia) and taught us the proper way to eat Tim-Tams. (“Eat” being a rather generous term for the slopping/gnawing thing the event actually was.)

Finally, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who earned the Ring of Fire badge this week. Please be sure to visit the Wall of Flame to get to know your fellow dragons. Note: if you earned the badge but haven’t requested it yet, please contact us here with the required info. Three stories in a calendar month, and the badge is yours to flash for that month!

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark A. King sayWow, did everyone make us live up to our position as ruthless judges this week! Ninety stories, and all of them so, so good. After anguished emails back and forth, we finally made our shortlists, only to discover that even with our shortlists, we still had more than half your stories in consideration. We culled, and culled again, and each time it was quite painful. When we hit 1st Runner Up and Winner, we liked both of them so much that we considered drawing straws to see who won. We didn’t actually do that (the Atlantic is a wide stretch to reach the straws), but there was an ultra-slim margin between our choices. So now you know that though the ones below are splendid examples of flash, so were most of the rest of the stories submitted this week. We hope that you still received recognition for your quality work in the community comments even if your story did not make it on this particular list. And now, without further ado, here we go!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Line: Deb Foy, “Life is a Curious Thing.”  “Then, without trying, that single line got its perpendicular mate.”

Fantastic & Vivid Word Pictures: Clive Newnham, “Little Heaven.” 

Unusual Twist on the Prompt: Sarah Miles, “Piece of Mind.”

Making-Us-Feel-the-Raw-Bite-of-War with the “unsexy shadows”: Brett Milam, “A Fallen God.”

Most Dance Steps in One Flash Story: Reg Wulff, “The Dance.”

Most Fleeting Moments in a Row: Charles W. Short, “Harrison Crosses Camphertown Square.”

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sydney Scrogham, Quitting Isn’t Complicated.” 

MK – I feel it’s time to tell you about some of the discussions we had… I mentioned to Tamara that I had the utmost respect for great romance writers. It is, in my opinion, the hardest thing to get right. This was a great example of something I enjoyed. Fantastic description here, “sitting crisscross applesauce, and he picks at the hem of his brown t-shirt. My hands sandwich between my legs as I bounce my knees up and down against the grey-blue couch cushions—like a butterfly without flight”. I also enjoyed this, “My face lifts with warmth and I release the breath I’ve been holding” – understated, yet very powerful.

TS – Subtle, well-written romance that avoids cheese and goes straight to the heart is one of my favorite things to read. The author of this piece, I felt, captured that balance perfectly. I love how zoomed in we are at the start. The descriptions are really, really well written. “My hands sandwich between my legs as I bounce my knees up and down...” This is my constant position anytime I sit – I love how it’s described. Also, Mark was teasing me about my love of “story frames.” The repetition of the first line and the last line – the beautiful artwork inside those perfect ends – the emotional twist at the finish – this whole piece was just really well done.

Carin Marais, Blue Ribbons.” 

MK – An incredibly sad story and one that removes us from the rain itself, as the story informs us from the very opening line, “There should have been rain.” What a great start. The follow-up line is incredibly sensory, with “black clouds, thunder, and the tick-tick of hail on roofs before the ice stings your skin as it falls and bounces on the black tar.” We have more examples later, with cicadas and bees, flowers and cut grass, all leading up to the day at the undertakers. Congratulations on a brilliantly executed and highly evocative take.

TS – I totally agree with Mark; this is so evocative! The sensory language flows so richly: “Perhaps it should have been autumn. Yellow and red leaves. The smell of fresh compost in the back garden. The rough bark of the apricot tree beneath my hands and knees as we scaled the branches.” I could feel myself sinking into such a world as I read this, could nearly smell the compost and the crisp autumn air. The final line drives that home with: “For a moment I smelled mulberries.” Horrendously sad, and even more emotional with the exquisite use of sensory appeal to underscore it. Gorgeous.

Nancy Chenier, “Slobber and Sympathy.”

MK – Wonderful take on the prompt. Great line here, “alien skeleton”, to describe the umbrella. This was also lovely, and heart-warming (not knowing what was coming next), “The wistfulness in those two words makes your tear ducts tingle.” For me, the Point of View deserves a mention.

TS – Really enjoyed this. I love the fact that the main POV thinks they have the umbrella guy figured out three times before the final line, which swings way wide of what the original understanding was. I felt that this was understated and subtle, which shows a lot of writing finesse.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Becky Spence, “Distraction.” 

MK – I have to hand it to you all. I didn’t think about the office blocks or windows overlooking the scene, but many of you did. In this story we have the drudgery of office worker, Rich, staring out of the window. “Distracted he watched the rain, stared through the translucent patterns, saw the artificial light catch in the hypnotic molecules,” not only places the character, but creates beauty with the rain drops. There is a real sense of Walter Mitty about Rich, with many of the following lines, especially this, “Thunder cracked loud and invasive, office buildings all around, perfect for a sniper, for a single shot of death. Still the faceless man stood, relentless he was unmoved by the noise, by the torrential rain, pouring upon him.” We get the confirmation of daydreams at the end, by which time, we’ve been transported around the world and back again, back to Rich and his mundane office job. A very different take on the many office stories. Original and well written.

TS – The stream-of-consciousness style for this piece was a little different, but I thought it worked really well. The piece is a wrap-up of Rich’s daydreams, one thought colliding with the next as he stares at the man out of the office window, so anything less than stream-of-consciousness wouldn’t have felt as dream-like. Heavy skies falling down,” “tears of the world,” “droplets dancing on the pane“… This is the kind of imagery that leaves me breathless and hypnotized. Beautiful story.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Phil Coltrane, “Visions in a Morning Sunstorm.”

MK – I deeply connected to this as I thought it was the best example of a real-life character. Yes, I know it’s just a picture, but I can see, and more importantly, I can feel the fabric of the life this man lives and the life he has lived. It’s not mentioned, but I can taste the dust and concrete; I can feel his excitement and joy for living – and this is a truly wondrous thing to do as a writer. I adore the title. We’re more familiar with the word “sandstorm,” yet a “sunstorm” is something that conjures colour, heat and feeling. This really sets the tone, “Retirement is for old people, and I’m barely seventy years young.” We then have visions from earlier days, “When I was a child, this was all cornfields” and “…at night I dreamed about life in the big city”. My father is a builder, so I can vividly see this; but you don’t need to have lived it to appreciate the craft of the great writing, “…worked our magic across the landscape, metamorphosing horizontal agriculture into vertical architecture”. The writer gives us clear and joyous links between the practical work of construction site and the majesty of a storm. This was simply fantastic, “I see the sparks from the welding torches setting the girders into place. Thunder claps like the staccato rhythm of the riveters, and the bass rumble of the earthmovers.” Despite the great images, I still come back to the character, the life he’s lived and the life he’s still living. Bravo.

TS – This story does an excellent job of connecting the past fleeting moments to the present/current rainstorm/prompt. Rain slapping broken pavement connects to sparks of welding torches. Thunder equates with staccato rhythm of riveters. Lightning flashes with bustle and children laughing. Such a great interlacing of past and present images.

Also enjoyed the ring of fire in the sky; I wondered if it was a nod to the Dragoness’ Wall of Flame she’s introducing? I, too, loved the use of the word “sunstorm.” Such a vivid term, accompanied by lots of rich mental pictures in my head. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Emily June Street, “A Fleeting Dream.” 

MK – This story has everything. It is a prime example of the art of flash conveying an entire novel in the space of 200 words. Indeed, I’ve read many 400 page novels that struggled to deliver a single percentage of this story. The opening is clear and simple – it gives us the backstory without any wastage. This is a great example of how to save those precious words for later. With this line, we have the hopes and dreams of both characters, ‘She had imagined greenery, a garden, goats. She had dreamed their children, eyes like his. “We’ll have a healthier life in Costa Rica,” he had said. “Rainforests and eco-living.”’ There is then clear transition to a new phase of the story, on in which we learn that all is not well, ‘She has tried and failed to make friends, to learn Spanish. “Gringa, macha, men hiss when she dares to walk out—old-world sensibilities rule here. Men see her as loose if she ventures out alone. Women wonder where her babies are, why she doesn’t attend church,” this part not only tells us the human story, but paints a vivid picture of the new world. The line, ‘Once-easy love now strains,’ is just perfect. Despite attempts to build happiness from inside, it is impossible to do, as ‘Concrete stretches beyond her window. Leaving the city requires hours of driving in diesel-tainted air. There is no garden, no goats. Her neighbor begs for money to buy crack.’ A dream turned vividly to nightmare in a truly brilliant flash fiction story.

TS – So, so much story packed into such a small amount of space! Absolutely agree with Mark that there are novels out there with less story than what is right here in this little flash piece. Some of the phrases were delicious bites to feast on: “She had painted paradise in her mind.” “Happiness is between your ears.” “Once easy love now strains.”

The downward spiral is so heart-breaking. I’m pulling for the brilliant dreams that I see at the beginning, but with lines like “Down pours the rain,” and “Where is he?“, I can feel the foreshadowing, and am drawn in. A silent clock ticks time toward a dark resolution in phrases like “She sits inside, watching the rain.” “Afternoon rolls into dusk.” “He disappears for hours.”

In the end, that final line: “Water rises to the crack beneath the front door,” provides dark brilliance as we realize that the protagonist is drowning in a flood of grief and broken dreams. Exquisitely written.

DRAGON WINNER

Nancy Chenier!!!

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“Ripple Effect”

MK – Stunning. Mesmerising. Layered. These are the sort of words that don’t fully do this piece justice. Near the start we have the word “petrichor”, a word I’m not familiar with, but on reading the definition, what a perfect word. The writer gives us this, “Her form shivers like the reflection in a wind-ruffled puddle.” Shortly followed by this, “What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?” The first is a wonderful visual image, the second seems like philosophy given to us by powers beyond our comprehension. Yet it is more than that; it is an early glimpse of the story yet to be told. We have the heart-breaking vision of Cecilia about to be hit, “the tragic song by heart: her giggles, the staccato of her stamping feet, the squeal of tires, her mother’s ragged cry, the fade in and out of sirens.” The writer then combines beauty with the seemingly mundane, “a carousel whirl of colors. Red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella. She stomps and hops and crows the magnificence of her splashes. The driver’s too busy balancing an apple pastry on his latte thermos to notice.” There are many more wonderful lines, but this deserves special mention, “The squeal and thud cuts my pantomime short,” as we get frantic physical action from the narrator combined with the accident itself, conveyed in a minuscule package of words. Then we get the reveal at the end, for the tragic events have cast a ripple across time that Cecilia’s grandfather saw before she was even born. A truly magical tale, told with the best very skills of a flash writer.

TS – I don’t know that I can add much more than what Mark has already said. This piece absolutely floored me. Some of my favorite phrases are the ones with layers upon layers (which were nearly all of them). I could keep unwrapping each phrase and stumble on some new gem or point of genius.

What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?” followed by its mirror image near the end: “The violent death of a child ripples both ways across the pool of time.” These two lines add such a stunning frame to the piece.

The author of this piece struck at this mommy’s heart with their description of the girl: “red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella.” Her “carousel of colors” paints such a vivid mental picture that my heart lodged in my throat when I realized that the driver was too busy with his pastry and latte. Stunning detail. Fantastic imagery. Absolutely flawless story.

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Congratulations, Nancy! Please find below the rights to a second heartbreakingly fabulous winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Ripple Effect

Whenever rain spatters the Paradise parking lot, she rises from the pavement like petrichor. Her form shivers like the reflection in a wind-ruffled puddle. What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?

Five years, I’ve watched shadows replay Cecilia’s last moments against curdled clouds. I know the tragic song by heart: her giggles, the staccato of her stamping feet, the squeal of tires, her mother’s ragged cry, the fade in and out of sirens.

Here she comes now, a carousel whirl of colors. Red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella. She stomps and hops and crows the magnificence of her splashes. The driver’s too busy balancing an apple pastry on his latte thermos to notice.

I leap forward waving my arms. It startles her from her puddles. There’s a flash of recognition, but my snarling face chases her between the parked vehicles. Away from harm.

The squeal and thud cuts my pantomime short. Her mother screams.

I’d witnessed her death since before she was born, and hell if I’d just let it happen. The violent death of a child ripples both ways across the pool of time. The death of an old codger like me won’t – not even if he’s her grandfather.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 30: WINNERS!

WHAT a huge week this is, so huge I can hardly stand it. In prep for Tuesday, I’m not running a Flash Points tomorrow. But then…. hang on to your hats, because it’s the DOG DAYS OF SUMMER contest, hurtling into a fist-fighting, trouble-making, rabble-rousing existence Tuesday, July 8, at 7:30am Washington, DC time. Did I mention there’s prize money?? And bragging rights. Oh yes. Bragging to high heaven, and a chorus of cheering draggins all along the way. Don’t miss it!

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Judge Craig Anderson says: So I promise I will never again sit at my computer on a Sunday and excitedly proclaim, “Where are the results?” From the outside I always imagined the judges’ task to be a quick and simple one, something to be undertaken with a cup of coffee and a big smile on your face. One quick read through, maybe a second just to be sure, and then Bob’s your uncle, knock up a quick email with the winners and you’re done in time for breakfast. How very wrong I was!

Fast forward to my first stint as a judge and my deeply furrowed brow and ever growing stack of empty coffee mugs as I re-read all your entries for the umpteenth time while the deadline rapidly approached. I could honestly find things to love about every story: there was darkness, comedy, spaceships and time travel. You all did a fantastic job of making my task rather more difficult than I had imagined it. I’m not complaining, though; it was a very enlightening experience and has taught me a great deal about the subtleties of flash and just how much difference a few words can make. I also want to take a moment to thank all the previous judges for vanquishing a similarly challenging list of awesome stories.

So please find below my list of SM’s, HM’s, Runner ups and the Winner, and rest assured that I came up with them as fast as was Dragonly possible! 

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

JUDGE Phil Coltrane, “Conceived in Liberty.” Very clever personification of the countries, with America as the rebellious teen and England as the frustrated but ultimately powerless parent.

Evan Montegarde, “Her Majesty’s Independence Day.” I enjoyed the concept that the entire revolution was just a cunning ploy by the Queen to avoid the Kings amorous advances. Fifteen babies!

Charles W. Short, “Life Development Reports from the Gamma Zeta 12 Sector.” A fun and zany twist on the prompt, with a couple of ‘small’ oversights leading to hilarious consequences.

Ian Martyn, “It’s a Man’s World.” America could have been a very different place due to some second rate quills, although Bob would have been pleased. Thank goodness for Mildred!

William Goss, “She Served Wisdom.” I really liked the use of various smells to paint a picture of these powerful men. Also loved the title!

Charity Paschall, “Martha’s Declaration.” I loved Martha’s more direct approach and how she gets right to the heart of the issue in far less time than the men.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Allison Garcia, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Incorporating dialect into the dialogue was a great way to quickly establish the characters. This is always a tricky thing to do well, but here the balance is spot on. There were some really nice touches, comparing the ‘hardship’ of Thomas sleeping in his chair for a few days with the slaves’ straw beds really helped to provide some context to how difficult the slaves’ lives were in comparison. “You get underfoot and the missus gonna send you to another family” reinforced that same theme and reminds us that these people are not free or equal. This story deals with some dark and difficult themes, but then flips the tone with that last line, which was still funny after multiple read throughs.

Brian Creek, “America Can Wait.” The tone of this piece was great, playing with the reader by making them think it was going one way only to change directions at the end and turn into something much lighter. This contrast really worked and made the punchline that much stronger. There were lots of little touches throughout that gave each person character, with Benjamin pushing his glasses back up his nose or Thomas gazing out the window at the city with his part already done. To me it also helped to humanize these great men, they may have been working on one of the most important documents in history, but they still have to eat!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Pratibha Kelapure, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the Big City.” I love how Pratibha effortlessly worked several of the themes from the declaration throughout this story. The first line set the scene and established the struggles this couple were going through and gave context to the wife’s frustrations. I also thought that, “When did the pursuit of happiness become the pursuit of money?” really spoke to how much times have changed since those men in the painting outlined a path to a better life. I could really picture this couple, working all kinds of hours to make ends meet and get a fresh start, thinking of the future and a better life for themselves, only for that ending to take it all away! I still get shivers thinking about it. I’m never working late again! {Editor’s Note: Not 5 minutes off the judges’ panel, and 2nd runner up?? WAY TO GO, Pratibha!}

FIRST RUNNER UP

Bart Van Goethem, “The Declaration of Independence.” This story really jumped out at me as a highly relatable scenario. We’ve all had those decisions that we’ve agonized over for days only to find out that the resolution is nowhere near the herculean endeavour we imagine it to be. The voice of the narrator stood out, those short sharp sentences perfectly capture the protagonists agitated mood and the build up to the big confrontation. I could feel her preparing herself for a fight, only to blurt out her demand to be met with an anti-climactic victory. I love that to her it is a major statement, the start of a new chapter, but to him it’s just dinner. The title was also a great fit for this piece and a nice way to tie it all back to the prompt.

And now: for his second time, it’s beloved & highly talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

KARL RUSSELL!!!

for

“A Declaration”

This one really jumped out at me on my first read through with some powerful imagery. “An archaeological stratum of family life” painted a vivid picture of the basement in very few words, and naming the ship the Independent was a nice tie-back to the prompt. “She pinched hold of the mast and snapped it with a shocked giggle,” was a subtle way to show that destroying the boat wasn’t necessarily her original reason for venturing into the basement, but I could feel her surprise at the joy associated with that first piece breaking off. 

The more times I read it, the more I filled in the backstory. I found myself imagining a neglected wife upstairs, increasingly jealous of the object of her husband’s attention, until she’d had enough. The destruction of this fragile object perfectly represented the end of their marriage, and the celebration of the birth of the country was a nice parallel to her own personal celebration of her new beginnings. All in all, the various pieces worked really well together to create a very compelling story with a lot of depth for so few words. 

Congratulations and welcome back to the dais, Karl! Your rebellion-crushing winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your freedom-ringing, updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

A Declaration

The basement was cool and dark, the music and fireworks a distant rumble. Cath pulled the light cord, blinking as the strips stuttered into life, revealing shelves of retired toys and forgotten hobbies, an archaeological stratum of family life. She was feeling tipsy and rarely came down here, and her eyes misted as she saw racquets and bicycles and happier days.

At the workbench where Mike spent his evenings, she peered intently at his handiwork. The ship was minutely detailed, a masterpiece of care and attention, down to the tiny name painted on the hull: The Independent.

With thoughtless ease, she pinched hold of the mast and snapped it with a shocked giggle. She thought of all they were celebrating upstairs, the new world born from so much destruction, and she swept the ship to the floor, stomping the balsa wood to shards.

Then she placed the divorce papers in the virgin space and went back upstairs for the fireworks.

 

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Flash Points: Steph Post

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Welcome to Flash Points. As I warned you yesterday, two stories embedded themselves in my brain. I just can’t choooooose! I moaned to my friend Allison Garcia, who answered patiently, “Then do both!” Such a clever girl, that one. So here we go — for the first time ever, a critique of a second marvelous bit of writing from the most recent round of flash. 

Prompt: Queen Victoria political cartoon

Word limit:  140 – 160 words

Today’s chosen flash piece:  Never Enoughby Steph Post

No, it’s not enough.

I want all the marbles; I want all the fish in the sea. I want to dance on their graves and yours and mine, too, and throw pennies on the coffins and tear my hair and yowl up at the moon.

It’s not enough, not enough, not enough.

I want glaciers, I want continents, I want tribes. I want the blank spaces on the map, empty maws roaring with secrets, impenetrable, tamed only by my footsteps.

I want effigies. And I want them to burn.

I want languages and revolutions, underground cities and elixirs of immortality.

I want to reign in a comet.

Don’t proffer me your crowns; I want to wear headdresses of stardust. Don’t grovel with your treaties; I want to devour whole galaxies.

Can’t you see? Don’t you know? It’s not enough, not enough.

It will never be enough. For me.

What works

“Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?”

“Because it’s there.” 

–ascribed to George Mallory, mountaineer, 1886 – 1924

“Mine, mine, mine.” 

–every toddler everywhere

This piece has haunted me from first reading. It’s far from a “typical” flash piece; half poem, half story, its rhythms pound in your head and won’t leave you alone, and you find yourself coming back to read it again…. and again….  Walk with me through its dark melodies for a moment, won’t you?

With a prose poem such as this one, it’s hard to know whether to begin with structure or content, so tightly intertwined as they are. Guess I’ll just pick content and dive in, eh?  Like Sarah Cain’s story from yesterday, this piece stands alone; we don’t need to see the prompt or grasp the historical complexities of the Victorian era to follow it. I mention this point again because there’s often the temptation to make the story or twist an inside joke between the writer and the other contest participants. Such a joke is great fun, of course!! but it makes for a very different sort of story in the end.

Content-wise, this piece starts off with what we’ll soon recognize as its refrain, No, it’s not enough. This line is SO clever — I don’t know a single reader bold enough to stop reading there. What’s not enough??? We have to know. It’s a brilliant first sentence, answering an offstage question and introducing one of its own. So great.

But from there the story flings itself into a bit of a jumbled mess, with conflicting images of children’s marble games, fishing, death, grief, and wolves battling for attention. This second sentence is so risky, because as yet it’s not anything we can make sense of. On the surface there’s no unifying factor or common theme. Nor does it seem to be moving in any particular direction. It’s a mess, loud, cacophonous, like letting preschoolers into a room filled with cymbals. I love risk-taking in writing. Gamble big, win big, right? Or if you crash, what a way to go. 🙂 In “Never Enough,” for me the risk pays off. Six discordant images, yes, but they are tightly written and move fast, and before we know it, we’re at the second refrain.

It’s not enough, not enough, not enough.

The refrain would, you’d think, bring the story to an abrupt stop. But because it follows chaos, its rhythm and repetition feel gentle, soothing. We haven’t made sense of the piece yet, but we’re back on familiar ground, back to that original question, What’s not enough?? and we have to read on. And here’s where Steph’s structure work really shines, because she uses structure itself, the poetic refrain, to create and continue the story’s tension. Tension is crucial; who wants to read a flat, aimless bunch of words? As readers we want to go somewhere, or feel something, or think something, or experience something new. Steph has artfully offered us a mouthful already: a pressing question framing disturbing images. I have to keep reading.

The question is answered in the center section, which is where we find the story’s heart.

I want glaciers, I want continents, I want tribes. I want the blank spaces on the map, empty maws roaring with secrets, impenetrable, tamed only by my footsteps.

In this respect “Never Enough” eases into a traditional flash fiction format (intro, body, conclusion), and it offers us some breathing room by stepping away from the impassioned fury of the opening to explain what’s going on. References to wanting continents, tribes, and blank spaces on the map speak of a hunger we recognize: Manifest Destiny, as it were, or the universal ravenous, imperial cry. Ahhhh, we say. Now we know who’s talking. It’s a greedy emperor, right? Except it’s not.

Don’t proffer me your crowns; I want to wear headdresses of stardust. Don’t grovel with your treaties; I want to devour whole galaxies.

Okay, what???? Is this like Genghis Khan in space? Steph does not allow us to fly too quickly through the story as we do through so many others, whathappenswhathappenswhathappens. Shhhh, she says. Slow down. Step back. Read it again. Her pace is tightly controlled, intentional.

The body of the piece, we notice, forms its own arrogant frame. “I want” repeats four times, greedily echoing the introduction. It reads like a list of demands, the demands of a conqueror. 

I want effigies. And I want them to burn. 

Don’t grovel with your treaties

The reader is the conquered. Our capitulation is assumed. Now that’s arrogance painted in garish, un-ignorable colors. 

From the second, internal I want refrain, Steph then returns to the opening refrain.

Can’t you see? Don’t you know? It’s not enough, not enough.

It will never be enough. For me.

It’s not the cry of a single emperor; it’s the anthem of all emperors. It’s Victoria, Napoleon, Genghis, Alexander, Montezuma, a thousand names besides these, lost to time but chanting in unison: I want more. Whatever I have, isn’t enough. And this may be what I love best about this piece:

It will never be enough. 

The emperors’ lust for power cannot be satiated. “Never Enough” is not a song of victory; it’s a dirge. Not triumph: despair. Steph isn’t just telling the story of a ruler’s rise to power; she has added depth by proposing that one thing (global domination) isn’t, in the end, what it seems. What we see is not what we get. 

There’s so much going on in this piece. I’ve touched on structure and content, but as a prose poem, we have the added element of sound, which I didn’t get to but deserves a post of its own. This story is unique. It’s risky. It’s beautiful, haunting. It’s terrible and tragic, angry, thirsty, and desperate. This story is the sort that devours your soul and doesn’t let you be.

You can’t read a piece like this just once. Or twice. You have to keep reading it, and even then

 It will never be enough. For me.

Thank you, Steph, for sharing this extraordinary piece of work. 

What do you think?

As I’ve said, this piece is different. Risky. Have you ever written a risky piece? What did you risk, and how did it work out for you? Would you do it again? What risks have you seen other writers take, that you admire?