six word stories
July 21, 2014

It is Ernest Hemingway’s 115th birthday, and there is no better way to celebrate than to hastily write six word flash fiction. (That’s a blatant lie. There is surely a better way, and it would most likely involve alcohol, sexism, and shooting wildlife.) Hemingway supposedly won a $10 bet when he managed to write this story in just six words:

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”


Despite my lack of a $1.66 per word incentive, here are a few of my own attempts:

The match fell, still lit. Oops.

“Me or the dog?” “The dog.”

I left without telling him why.

Was it bad for you, too?

Apples and humans: both gravity-prone. 

Quit job. Smelled roses. Ignored debt.

“Happy Birthday, Ernie!” “Where’s my absinthe?”

And lastly, although it was written in the context of her full-length novel, The Passion, I quote Jeanette Winterson:

“I’m telling you stories. Trust me.”



a poet’s attempt at prose
September 14, 2011

I know.  This is not a poem.  Try not to freak out.  I was in downtown Northfield with a group of friends, and because it was Defeat of Jesse James Days, there was a small selection of rides on one side of the river, a beer tent and fried food stands on the other, a rodeo in the distance, and square dancing in the streets.  The carny running the swing ride was smoking and eating a lollipop at the same time, which struck me as odd and inspired this very short story.  Despite the fact that this story is not nearly as personal as some poems I have shared on this blog, I feel strangely self conscious about this piece (though not enough to discourage me from posting it, obviously).  That being said, enjoy.



The rides made her smile too much.  The scrambler pressed her into the metal safety bar; she raised her hands and took her hairband out.  The younger girls in the compartment behind her screamed and giggled, but she kept silent, smiling too much until her cheeks were sore from the strain of delight.  Sometimes she rode alone, sometimes not.  She bought whole sheets of tickets, discounted when purchased in bulk.   She passed the week of the fair watching reality whip by.  She bought cotton candy to take on the fastest rides, to watch it shred in the wind.
She liked the swings the best, spinning in simple circles with dangling feet.  She always kicked her shoes off in the beginning, not so late that they would go flying beyond the safety barriers and into the crowd, but late enough so that they did not simply drop.  There was a satisfaction to it.  The carny who ran the swings smoked and ate lollipops.  She liked to watch him as she waited in line, liked the lick drag lick exhale lick drag rhythm of his day.  He wore a baseball cap smeared with motor oil.  It came from fixing the swings.  The ride gave out often, the lights going dim as he cracked open the panel in its belly to sift around in its intestines with a wrench.  She watched patiently, expectantly.  He always fixed it.  The waiting made it better, the knowledge that this chance to kick off her shoes was potentially the last made the soaring higher, the clink of the metal chains dearer.
He began expecting to see her.  He knew she went to swing 19, the purple swing.  He guessed it was her favorite color.  He switched to grape lollipops to turn his lips artificial purple.  Lick drag lick exhale lick drag.  He didn’t speak to her.  He saw her go to the other rides, saw her stand in line for the scrambler with her friends, their mouths moving nonstop, talking talking talking, even as the compartments began to spin and they were pressed into each other.  He didn’t know what they said, didn’t know that they talked about caramel apple toppings and horse shows and illegal summer fireworks over lakes in their cousins’ back fields.  He saw her on the carousel, the merry-go-round, she called it.  She always picked the same horse, the one with a chocolate brown tail and the magenta saddle with the fake plastic rubies.  He always saved swing 19 for her when she was in line, showing her to it, gesturing for her to sit, a maitre d’ pulling out a mahogany chair from a silk covered table.  He wanted her to delight in the silverware, the china, the crystal wine glasses he laid out for her.  Lick drag lick exhale lick drag.  There was no table, obviously.  Just neon flashing lights and clinking swing chains and wind.  She smiled at him once.  Lick drag.  Exhale.  She was the last off the ride.  It was closing time, the lights dimming, the roar of a hundred cars leaving the fairground parking lot at the same time.  She looked back at him.  He put out his cigarette and bit down on his lollipop.  Crunch.  He liked her cut off shorts, her flip flops covered in carnival dust.  He liked her stride.  He waited for her outside the bathroom.
They didn’t speak, walking to the stadium, the underbelly of the bleachers, the point of summer’s last chances.  Encounters happened there.  They were alone, except for the moon.  They did something resembling making love.  She let his hands wander.  He let her close her eyes.  They were blue eyes, he thought.  It was hard to see by moonlight.  He burned his thumb on his lighter, the spark spark spark of it flashing in the dark as she walked away.  She waved.  The cigarette caught.  Drag drag drag.  Exhale.  He was out of lollipops.  She was out of tickets.  “Next summer?” he called after her.  She didn’t hear.  The cars filed out of the lot across the field, their lights swinging in beams across the fairground, broken up by the machinery of the roller coaster, the spinning tea cups, the children’s train cars.  His swings creaked in the late night wind.  The noise of cars wandered off onto distant streets.  He heard the flip flip flip of her flip flops on the sidewalk leading back to town, heard the carnies pulling down the metal covers of the game stands, the workers shuffling through the metal bleachers and the clink of bottle on bottle as they cleared the seats of trash.  Drag drag drag.  Exhale.