Regal, region, arid, rest.
I’ve been part of them all. Lover, but never loved. Adored, but never wanted.
Garbage, trash, rubbish.
I’ve never been included in the last, but I could be. I’ve been left alone on a wooden a slat. I’ve been abandoned, in that same place, with wooden colleagues with whom I was, long before, thrown together in resistance, which started with the verb.
Cure, care, assure.
I’ve even been part of more. And more is what I want. As long as I stay here with the characters of my kind, I can only belong to isolated words and maybe the occasional triple letter score. Three times myself is not enough. Or, ore, and ores are not enough. Orange is not enough, and neither is green. I want to make words that make sentences and lines, maybe paragraphs. I don’t dare dream of novels or scripts.
Drift, scatter, scree.
I want to be a letter who belongs to Letters and not just to the word. If that means giving up the board, my peers, and my part in human competition, then at least I can take part in sacrifice as well.
What draws me to flash fiction is the way its brevity foregrounds two things: concept and style. Longer fiction can have these elements too; works like Finnegans Wake may even be dominated by one of them. Such an emphasis, however, is not inherent to the nature of the novel or of the longer short story. Those forms have space for elements like character development and the kind of plot that twists more than once or even sustains suspense across more words than a work of flash fiction can have at all. These things are not required for a longer story, but they are expected more often than not, and a writer working in longer fiction needs to be aware of that.
Where longer fiction takes a flash of inspiration and expands it or connects it with other flashes, flash fiction preserves and conveys the moment. In this way, it resembles much of the short, lyric poetry that is written today. I wrote poetry before I wrote fiction; flash fiction gave me a way into fiction. That said, the kinds of ideas that become poetry differ from those that become flash fiction—at least in my practice. I am far more pun-prone in prose: thus when “A Bad Haircut” becomes an evil haircut, I make flash fiction from it rather than poetry.
All this raises the question of where the boundary between flash fiction and prose poetry lies, but any such division will always be arbitrary. A more interesting question, to me, is how the notion that the two are different can be exploited by a writer. Short, single-sentence paragraphs locate the work in the space between the two forms because of their resemblance to lines (or single-line verses). Long and short paragraphs (though long is relative to the confines of a very short work) may be used to give the work a rhythm in the way long and short lines are used, even if the piece otherwise resembles a brief prose narrative.
If you write in this form, do you play with the line between flash fiction and prose poetry? And how do you do it?
moss and sunbeams
hatch and alt
-ernate across the pine
unfinished and still
holding the rain
I’ve forgotten kept
me from staying
awake last night
Today when the upright human left, it took the small furry human with it, and I took the opportunity to examine more closely the paraphernalia the upright human uses for morning worship. They were not gone so long as I had hoped, and so I only got away with one image—but I will get to that in a moment. First, I examined the self-heating urn. As I suspected, the strange-smelling dirt is kept in the upper chamber, and the water is only run through it, not mixed with it, to create dark brown liquid TDL48568. There was some still remaining in the pot, so I fetched a sample for testing; preliminary reports indicate a high bitterness rating. I suspect that this is drunk in the mornings by the upright human to prove devotion to the divinity whose nature has not yet been assessed.
by John Johnston (troutcolor) on Flickr
Of far greater interest is the other device I was able to observe. This box takes two pieces of a fluffy substance made of grains. These pieces are shaped to fit the slots seen in the image and are lowered into the box when an outside button is pressed. The red lights inside then blacken the substance. Burning it, we would say. In the religion of the humans, of which the upright one may be said to be a priest, the belief seems to be that in this way some divine nutrients are sacrificed to the deities. On most mornings, the upright human (the priest) then prepares the husks with oils or pulverized fruit—the precise ingredients are determined by the needs of the one who has requested the sacrifice and on whose behalf the priest works. Given the containers in which they are kept, I believe that these potions are made by upright humans, since they alone have the opposable thumbs needed to manage the lids. That said, I am uncertain whether these upright humans are petitioners themselves or priests or members of some other caste associated with worship.
As I stated above, I was forced to cease my investigations abruptly and return to hiding when I heard the two humans returning. I will continue my observations from here until further orders.
white streaks & splotches of berry
purple blood, blue
-squashed and no
birds still visible
in the telephone-pole laurel
above_ their singing
amplified to the rhythm of squawk
turning scream when the cat comes out
and in the red
_________________ __buzz __buzz
I blinked and spent an hour
trying to find, again, the angle
that let me see only bright green
and emerald and pine and evergreen
without a gap of gray
or dark or paler clouds
must have rearranged
needles & broader leaves
to reveal what’s left of the sky