12 May 2013

Here’s One

Filed under: Fiction, Reflections — ktismatics @ 7:21 pm

[I mentioned in a comment on the prior thread that, approaching the end of the novel I’m just finishing up, I’ve been writing a chapter consisting of monologues from 14 significant characters in the series. Each of the 14 monologues is 14 lines long, with 14 syllables per line. Prose poems, I suppose is what they are. I just wrote this one, which elaborates on a minor narrative detail in an incident from a prior book that reads like this: “Why am I here?” the Dancer responded to the Ceramicist’s inquisitive look. She scooped up a smooth milky stone from the edge of the road and juggled it in her left hand as she spoke…]



Walking to the Cantina that time, past the two mile mark,
my glance landed on a small stone at the edge of the road.
We had opened the vault of photos, the gallery of
the dead at the two mile shrine. Red rocks edging a red road,
the border of the shrine marked off a world of memory
and loss. Recognizing none, I remembered every one.
Though small, the stone beside the road kept a hidden meaning:
milky white and smooth, it was alien to the redness,
left perhaps by another Pilgrim from another place.
A name was written on that stone, a name I did not know.
I wanted to return to that place; I wanted to bring
my own stone, a name written on it that no one would know
but the one who had received it. Then I would add my stone
to the one I’d found beside the road, a two stone barrow.


[The bit about the name written on the stone is an allusion to Revelation 2:17. One more monologue to write, then four more chapters to go after this one and the first draft is done, hopefully on Thursday.]



  1. I was thinking of the stone’s hidden meaning: that shape is used by the mind to recover the past and as such it forms a basis for memory. That the stone holds within itself the generative history of its legacy, and one can extract from its shape time and memory.


    Comment by noir-realism — 12 May 2013 @ 8:21 pm

  2. Yes I believe that’s so. I don’t recall why I had her pick up the stone in the first place, other than to add a little filigree to the “she said.” But the stone came back to mind today as a foundation for this memento, so for me it did hold the memory — of an earlier story, of my writing that story — within itself. When time comes to edit I’ll be curious to see how much I change details and language of this bit of text, but I like the shape and feel of it well enough as it is.


    Comment by ktismatics — 12 May 2013 @ 11:07 pm

  3. John:
    This is very good. The artificial constraints bring a resonance as the creativity blocked from its everyday prosaic seeking for the familiar, the comforting cliche; finds the new words . (The efflorescence of madness comes I think from the block that has to be worked around.) Here the line is allied to short term memory and lets information be carried from end to end in a cumulative way. Like the sonnet it is just the right length to bring a feeling that is linked to an insight to a completion that isn’t a mere resolution but a living with itself. There is tension but also an uncanny peace.

    Keep her going Johnny, don’t stall the digger!


    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 13 May 2013 @ 3:13 am

  4. I tried just writing paragraphs, then afterward dividing them into 14-syllable segments. That didn’t work. Not only did the fault lines split right through some of the words, but the line breaks seemed clumsy. So I found myself writing a kind of poetry in spite of myself. You’re right: the formal constraint renders the content more strange. Ordinary language is nearly transparent in its utilitarian task of describing. But the 14 x 14 framework establishes another syntax interleaving with that of the language. Ordinary prose points away from itself to what it describes or represents; the structured form calls attention to the text itself as an artifact, as a written thing. Embedded in the context of a long fiction, this sudden calling of attention to the writing takes on metafictional overtones.


    Comment by ktismatics — 13 May 2013 @ 9:26 am

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