An exercise from "Writing Down the Bones," by Natalie Goldberg
1. Mango People
The Mango People* pulled faces at her, the women pulling up their skirts--show yours, show yours--but she wouldn’t. All around her were half-naked brown women and their hair was black and curly--show us yours, show us! They implored, always dancing and moving their eyes this wya, that way.
No. She wouldn’t. Even though all the friends of the future were over there, waving their saris and showing everything. Only she was alone like that and only she was wearing all of her clothes and still ashamed.
*in Hindi, “ahm loag,” meaning “common people” literally translates to “mango people.”
2. The Moon & Venus Go Walking
The Moon and Venus go walking on a sky beach. The water rushes in after their footsteps, like children trying to catch them, as they walk on like two women who are still young but not uncertain about things the way women so often are.
Their bodies are large and beautiful. They each give off light and so it seems they are one body rippling down the beach. If you asked them they would let you join them, but they talk in murmurs that sound like the waves, or by thinking which sounds like the wind. You can hear them here, all of the time.
3. Two Lights Walking
Two lights walked down the beach, both right at the water’s edge which meant their straight line kept on moving. They were drunk with it, and the moth as large as a hummingbird with a great furry body and black wings was drunk with them, and everyone could read an e.e. cummings poem with eyes closed and feel that much more alive.
4. Grammatical Deconstructionist
She deconstructed sentences with a pick-ax. She wore a helmet most of the time, (a pinkish-orange). Whe did yoga on 34th street to keep in shape for it. It was a job for life.
5. Palm Trees
All the palm trees were fakes. No one ever looks, said the manager. Who has time to water? Put up a sign that says “no climbing, snakes,” and they pay for a cocunut shipped from Columbo. The secret, he said, leaning in, is to always put one of those little umbrellas in the drink.
6. Get Me Out of Here
Get me out of here! shrieked the woman in labor.
You? cried the child--What about me?
It was a tadpole and it could be anything. All it had to do was think of its name and the changes would begin. If it thought tree, then roots and leaves, acorns or cones. If it thought hula hoop then it was all color and roundness and spinning and children playing. If it thought oyster there wasn’t long to go. It could think railway station, rutabega, picture book, oil lamp, fireball, grain of sand, crucifix, lovers’ kiss. Any of these things-- they all began at the same place of the universe.
If only there was a fire, she thought. That would spice things up a bit.
Her nails were longer than necessary and she always changed the paint. Now she thinned it with kerosene and made a trail through the apartment.
I don’t hate anyone, she told the cops in her mind, I’m just tired of things always staying the same.
Kerosene and sulfur made a delicious smell.
She could not be waiting any more than if she had a sing to carry: “Mr So-&-So”; from “Here to there.” Did she want spare change? A ride to Denver? A supportive husband? World Peace?
“Rhinoceros,” she wrote in squeaking black marker on her neatly trimmed square of cardboard. That should do the trick.
She was afraid of being alone but that’s what she always wanted, and then one Christmas, he gave it to her. It was wrapped up in a medium-sized box--her very own alone suit so she could be with people and still be totally alone.
-Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux, 9 Jan 2012