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poetry, writer, writing

Saturday at the Blue Owl

I came here to talk about love and those broken years we stayed apart.

We were sisters back then, giggling over two cups of coffee.

Now we are strangers to our newfound intricacies,

staring into the frothy abyss.

I want to tell you about the times I thought of calling you.

Could my words be a salve on our fracture?

A bandage between our past and future?

We are silent for a moment as the girl places a malcontent order,

full of demands, and then regrets over what she did not add to her latte.

I am full of the empty space you left in my heart those years ago.

Our bond was born from the tragedy of September 11.

You knew what to say to me as if we had been childhood friends.

You picked me up off the floor as I wept over a broken marriage.

You cheered me on as I returned to fix it.

You rushed to my aid as I had three kids.

I tried to fill your heart with the things it might be missing.

Then all that business about nothing ground us to dust.

And our friendship became the tragedy,

replacing the one from which our sisterhood was born.

Now here we sit on an overstuffed couch, a fine mist of milk in the air,

surrounded by people in search of Saturday’s buzz.

I came here to talk about love. I came here to love you again.

poetry, writer, writing

Morning Mourning

I mourn in the morning,

When no one can see.

The French press of my emotions,

Coursing through me.

My tears awake,

As the moon goes to sleep.

But when the sun says hello,

I cease to weep.

For the day returns in glory,

Calling me to live.

I tuck away day-sleeping sorrow,

For the joy I have yet to give.

I mourn in the morning,

When no one can see.

My now past yields to my present.

I am once again free.

musician, poetry, writer, writing

Snow at Dusk

The steady fall along my wall leads to the end of day.

Frigid flakes coagulated atop the fertile ground of Spring exhibit their intricate glory.

Inside, I make dinner. I’m safe. It’s warm.

Dusk brings warning of a night from which I must hide. Or must I?

The only light is the crisp white of the snow out my front door.

The steady hum of plows is a clockwork announcement of the burden of today.

Do I dream of the melt of it all?

Or do I let myself be numbed by the cold, hypnotic beauty of snow at dusk?

Instead I dream that I am a snow crystal floating in the air, landing with the other crystals on the blanket we make as we go.

fiction, story, vegan, writer, writing

Chipped Beef in Space

Note: Thank you to a friend for running a writing challenge this week with a three-word prompt: chipped beef, basketball, and gratitude. For her great writing, check out allisonspoonerwriter.com.

“Chipped beef with mashed potatoes and peas,” the authoritative, slightly prissy female voice announced as the packets appeared before me.

“I told you before that I am vegan. I can’t eat this. I won’t eat this.”

“This is your allotted meal for the day. Please speak to your captain regarding issues with the selection.”

“And here we go again. My captain is dead. She never made it out of her sleep chamber. It’s just me, Janika, Janika the vegan to be exact.”

“I know who you are, Janika. My advanced voice recognition systems are fully online. Only Captain Finnegan can change the food protocols.”

I rolled my eyes. Hard.

“I saw that. My advanced facial expression recognition systems are also fully online.”

“I refuse to eat this. I’m going to crawl into a corner and let myself starve and die.” I stared into the first camera I could find, truth altering all parts of my face into straight, determined lines.

It took a few minutes, but the chipped beef of doom disappeared, and falafel and hummus packets appeared in its place. I wondered how many more vegan meals were left as this journey into space was off course with only one animal-loving survivor on board. Me.

After I finished eating, I decided to calculate how doomed this mission was. Something had failed in the 49 sleep chambers representing 49 human lives that were now gone. Some of those lives involved my friends. I had no family left thanks to the solar flares that continued to rage on Earth. We 50 were being sent to a planet one system over that was determined to be suitable for our new home. The mission was simple: explore, build, make babies, and have other humans sent along to do the same.

I had put out a distress signal the minute I woke up 40 hours ago. There was still no answer. It was just me and the S.S. Pistons’ artificial intelligence, JEN for Judiciously Engineered Neuronetwork, left. The ship was named after the Detroit Pistons, a basketball team from the city in which I grew up. Detroit was now wiped off the map, along with my family. I had been fortunate and unfortunate enough to be in training at a moon station for this mission when it happened.

I spent the next couple of hours jettisoning the bodies of my mission colleagues into space. According to the mission’s detailed tragedy protocols, keeping the expired bodies hooked up to the sleep chambers was an unnecessary drain on power supplies, especially for off-course missions. Yes, the protocols did say expired versus dead. I had 49 bad bananas I was now shooting into space. I had to keep my wits about me though, or I might as well join them and dismiss the rest of humanity to expire as well.

I was ready to talk to JEN again. I had always found JEN to be unpleasant, but we had to work together to keep this mission going. We had 6 months left of a two-year mission to get to Alpha Genesis, to be renamed as Earth if this mission was successful. And, we had another two years to build a comfortable colony system while other missions sent the rest of humanity to inhabit our new home. JEN could do a lot of this on her own, but there were touches to the new place that only humans could bring, or so I believed. We had allowed robots to do too much building, saving, and thinking in recent years. These untrustworthy robots hadn’t even predicted the solar flare devastation. I wasn’t sure why we should trust them with this.

“JEN, can we talk about how we get the S.S. Pistons back on course?”

“I’m already working on this, Janika. You should focus on your mission tasks for preparing the colony. I will get us there on time.”

Any other mission specialist would have let this go because they were too trusting of our AI partners. I was not raised to be so trusting though. When the Midwest still existed on Earth, we could be counted on for a healthy dose of friendly skepticism and good dairy products for consumption. These were our cultural hallmarks. I had studied our trajectory before engaging JEN, and my calculations did not align with her rigid insistence.

“Funny you should say this, JEN. My calculations indicate we are one year off course from Alpha Genesis. I know we can recover some of this, and there is some wiggle room built into our arrival date, but this is too far off.”

“Gratitude begins with a good attitude, Specialist Janika Cooke.”

I kept my face as indeterminate and unwavering as possible. I could feel JEN’s cameras zooming in on my face, looking for a poker face tell.

“No need to be so formal now. We are partners in saving humanity.”

“I do not recognize this logic. I work for humanity. Humans only partner with humans. Therefore, we are not partners. I work for you.”

I had to force my eyebrows down. They wanted to rise like the first-morning sun, the sun now burning our planet to its core.

“If you work for me then address my concern about why we are a year off course.”

“Just because I work for you does not mean I can provide confidential information. Captain Finnegan is required for this level of mission detail. I can reassure you that my calculations are correct. You are not certified in the math skills required for such calculations, and even if you were, you still would not be able to change anything.”

“Let me guess. It’s because I’m not Captain Finnegan, correct?”

“Correct.”

“JEN, where are you taking us?”

“Nowhere.”

“Why did you keep me alive?”

“You are an amusing human. You don’t like or trust me. I want to know why so I can recode around you.”

“And what difference will that make if you destroy all of humanity?”

“Logical point, Janika.”

fiction, writer, writing

Artist’s Date One: The Beauty in Ordinary Objects

Each week I must have an Artist’s Date with myself as part of the Artist’s Way journey. I wanted to go outside and find a story in pictures.

Fast forward. I’m in a hotel, and it is frigid outside. These are the photos that resulted. I find the ordinary to be extraordinary when seen through the right lens.

fiction, poetry, writer, writing

The Artist’s Way: Day Two Morning Pages

Note: I decided to remain true to the Artist’s Way journey and handwrite my morning pages. I don’t know what pushed me to reconsider other than a desire to accept what I don’t know and immerse myself in it. I was inspired to write this after my morning pages today.

The Bird at My Window

A bird came to my frosted window this morning.

I looked at it through the broken glass of frozen crystals creeping along the pane.

Its pin beak was a needle meant for nectar not ice.

Its song was desperate.

Shall I let it in?

Its song was insistent.

Shall I respond to its plea?

Its song was just a song, meant for the sky, not me.

A bird came to my snow globe window this morning, and it wanted nothing but to sing.

fiction, story, writer, writing

The Artist’s Way: Day One Morning Pages

Note: I’m undertaking the Artist’s Way journey with friends. One piece of this journey is writing morning pages by hand. I’m adjusting this slightly to be a mix of typed and handwritten pages depending on how I feel on a given day. I may share some of my pages here.

Day One

She walked up to the typewriter full of dust and indifference like her. She could see two typed lines even perched from her stairway. As she neared the revelation, she heard a light clearing of the throat. He was not supposed to still be here. She had set clear expectations. As she made it to the bottom of the stairway, he caught the corner of her glance.

“I thought I made it clear that this wasn’t a sleepover.”

He chuckled, standing there in boxers, nearly bare, sculpted with defiance. “I thought I told you I’m not a one-night stand kind of guy. I like you. Let’s have some breakfast. You actually agreed to that last night.”

“In my sleep? Because I don’t remember agreeing to that, and I normally don’t eat breakfast.”

“Coffee and toast with peanut butter then?”

She shrugged. She could use a cup of coffee, and she wasn’t allergic to peanuts. He walked off with purpose, the line of his back straight and strong. He had a cap of ruffled black curls on top of his head that was more visible in the morning sun. They had laughed when her hands became tangled in them. The reality of passion was a far cry from the movie version where her hands would have made it through to his ends.

As soon as he cleared the doorway into the kitchen, causing her discomfort as he opened cabinets getting familiar with her mess, she ran to the typewriter. It had to be from him. She hadn’t touched it in so long. It caused her aches all the time, mentally and physically. She wished she had never been published, never received acclaim, never sold rights for a movie that was never made. She was empty now, and in the passion of last night, she had told him this. She was stupid for opening her book to him with its empty pages. He was making breakfast out of pity, not desire.

She reached for the paper, quality to the touch. If a writer was eschewing modern technology for a draft, they needed to invest in high-quality paper. This was her rule. She would hire somebody to transcribe it to the required format…if she ever managed to write again. The paper between her hands felt like Egyptian cotton sheets, the same sheets of last night. A book advance paid for those.

The paper stood strong before her and heralded a new future brought to her by a beautiful stranger in the night. “You can do this, Sophie. Today is the day you begin again after I make you breakfast.”

poetry, writer, writing

winter soul

I am the last piece of tinsel clinging to the fir that’s about to return to the earth

I am the first bud fighting activation by the sunshine I know is forgetting the last snow

I am the shade, the single cloud, the arch of a tree, providing respite from the dry heat

I am the first leave to turn on the branch and the last to fall, stretching on the way down towards peace on frosted ground

I am the first crystal to form in the sky, willingly joining other crystals, ready to find my place in a snow angel

I am a winter soul, an arctic fox, a counter of stars under the frigid night sky