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Yeah Write #204 entry- The Death of A Poet At the End of the World

 

The Death of A Poet At The End of The World

by

Shannon Barber

The girl is pretty. Her brown face is round with sun flower aspirations. If you imagine her smile, it feels like summer sun and feral joyful gardens.

But she is not smiling. Her face is cold, a steel sculpture of a sunflower.

“Put it down and walk away.”

Her voice should be sweetness but it is sharp and hard as a knife to your throat. You do as you are told.

“What are you doing here?”

Here is a cubby inside of one of the reclaimed buildings. It is an ash filled shitbox of a place. Here is the first line of defense against the remains of Them.

Your hands describe sleep in the air. Slowly, so she knows you are no threat. When you try to speak your voice is toxic sludge in the air and she nods.

“They took your tongue poet?”

She knows, of course she knows, your eyes fill with hot tears. Her surety wrings water from your desiccated body. When They came for you, your voice was heat and poison to Their ears. Your reason was a weapon. Your pen and tablet prohibited weaponry, your words an affliction to be cured with pain and madness.

You remember- They took your weapons and left you to die.

The pretty flower faced girl knows it all. She lowers the gun and her voice is warm as August air.

“Come with me”

She leads you through a warren of tight tunnels; her hand finds yours when there is no light. When you stumble she lifts you in strong, soft arms.  Hers is the first flesh, you’ve touched since They came for you. Your need to survive barely surpasses your need to be touched. You can wait.

The way is long and you nearly give up when the light begins to brighten. These are the survivors you prayed to your dead god for, the ones you cursed in your dreams.

Everything happens too fast. Sad eyed men tend your battered body, wash you and dress you in clean clothes. You are deposited in a bed with the sunflower faced girl. She holds you tight, whispering fragments of poems and songs.

You cry on her breast.

The sobs wallop your entire body; these are not the tears of panic and fear you’ve been crying for months. These are tears of relief, of joy. The pretty girl holds you gently and lets you cry.

These are the tears you wrote poems about- tears of cleansing fire and emotional fecundity- tears that shout down the deadness.

There with your hot cheek against the breast of a girl with a face like a sunflower you remember the truth of your body and soul.

For the first time since They took your weapons, you are full of hope. The words caroming around in your head are bright, they are like her smile and everything is full of dark hopeful beauty.

While you are dreaming, you can distantly hear the sunflower girl conferring with the men who cleaned you up. You already know. You are dying. You have been dying for weeks now and perhaps hung on for this moment.

You knew when you stumbled into the shitbox cubby.

Sweet tongue less poet you know.

The flower faced girl holds you and they stop speaking when they see your content smile. You use what is left of your voice,

“s’okay. Uoves.”

The flower faced girl translates with tears on her cheeks.

You said, it is okay loves- those will not be your last words, but they are the ones the flower faced girl will remember.

Your death is quiet and soft, the final thing you hear is the voice of the flower faced girl.

“Goodnight Poet. Goodnight.”

###

PS

I will nerd later this week about my second person experiment and an idea of the apocalypse.

 


Yeah Write 203 Entry- Driver

Driver

By

Shannon Barber

 “I’m tired of dragging your ghost.”

I’m talking to nothing, holding on to the steering wheel for dear life. I know you’re there. I can feel your cool gaze like a hot hand between my legs.

There is no answer- you never answer. You only follow me on highways, through empty houses and into nights so long I could be convinced they are eternal.

I am one of those people who wander into brightly lit convenience stores at four in the morning looking for stale coffee and absolution.

Where other spirits run and crowd to speak through my mouth and touch the living with my fingers, you remain silent.

“Please?”

I speak to you in the day, when the other ghosts are quiet and watchful. My pleading cries hang along with the dust motes in the sun and still you will not speak.

You defy my heavenly gift.  Destroy my connection with all our honored dead-I would give it all away for one more word.

I have the answers to what belongs to the after and yet all I can do is yearn for a single whisper, a small yes, call my name in the dark basement of an abandoned house.

I will go to my grave gladly to find your touch and your voice.

I won’t, I will drive. Holding the steering wheel with panic fueled strength and ashy knuckles.

But I won’t cry, I won’t cry. I won’t cry.

Some dawn it will all be too much. While the voices of the others, the eager ones fade in the background following the night your silence will drive me into oblivion.

Maybe pills, maybe the blade or perhaps the car, my hands frozen at the wheel and my eyes wide open at the on rushing wall.

I will talk to nothing and drag your ghost until I can join you and hear you whisper my name one last time.

###


On that Grind.

Okay.

Seriously I am on that grind this week. I’ve been writing like hell.

I’m trying really hard to figure out how to balance all the things I want to do and make a little bit of cash in the process.

Shit is fuckin hard y’all.

In other news I am plowing my way through a superb reading list. I’ll have some new reviews up soon.

Um whoa so this happened. Aside from being in excellent company it really touches me that my sort of off the cuff I want to write something today post made sense.

Over the years I’ve come from skipping meals to buy Poets & Writers or to buy “good” quality typing paper and renting time on ancient PCs at Kinko’s and shit to sometimes making a little money, learning how to unsubscribe from the fancy monied author mythos.

I have had to do a lot of stuff that has been hard. Figuring out how to balance my ethics with my need to eat. For instance when I opened my etsy store I had a rash of weird White dudes wanting 3$ Cuckold interracial porn. I’m talking dudes wanting like 10K words with these shortass turnarounds.

Once upon a time I would have done it. Enough 3 buck porns could someday buy me lunch or shoes.

I had to sit with it and do what other authors I’ve seen do. I had to set some rules and after a lot of self flagellation (How DARE YOU turn down actual income) and struggle I did this:

If you are looking for custom erotica here are the rules.

1.) My rate is firm at 25$ a page. This includes a first draft, final edit. Put together with a plain cover and available as a pdf/doc/docx file.
2.) I am not heterosexual. I will write hetero but it is not my forte.
3.) Do NOT send/offer to send me photos of your genitals I will ban you.
4.) No, I will not barter.
5.) No incest, underage, bestiality will be considered.
6.) If I am not into the idea I will not take the commission.
7.) If you want a sample of my work, buy one.

Currently I am not looking for/accepting custom work. When I am I will post a special listing.

Honestly y’all. Do you now how hard that was for me to do? To really put down in words that I will not suffer foolishness and that my porn is worth professional rates?

That started me on a path to wanting to Free myself with freelance work. I started grinding out research and things and realized that some parts of a freelance career are just not things I do well. Aside from that, I just don’t want to write for some pulications who would probably take me.

Pump the mother fuckin breaks.

I honestly had weeks of arguing with myself about it because as we know, there is a lot of pressure for especially WOC to go be in ALL the things and break through the whiteness of certain markets and everything.

I have been just, fighting with my desire to earn that money and those thoughts. The what right do have to not want those opportunities?

What kind of nerve do I have when I need money for shit like shoes and underwear, to not want to take the full leap?

WHO THE FUCK IS YOU.

And then I keep thinking about things my publisher Milcah has said to me. I keep thinking about what we’re doing with the book at Self Care Like A Boss. I think about what my best friend has been saying for almost 20 years. About when my partner is just like YES DO THAT SHIT.

I think about the authors I love the most and how many of them joke about low book sales and write shit that moves me.

I am the writer who write really fucking terrible copy for really fucking terrible heteronormative sex toy anon/affiliate websites because I wanted to save up for shoes.

I am also the writer who has turned down some amazing opportunities because they would make me feel bad in my heart.

I am book pregnant with the best book baby daddy Milcah. 

Way back when I was about 14 and dreaming about being an infamous writer, I dreamed about a life of liesure paid for by literary patrons.

I thought that was how I wanted it.

Looking back I realize that I would not be a bad ass writer right now without the struggle. If I had no struggle, if I didn’t have to write out all these fuckin feelings, if I hadn’t spent SO much time poring over literary magazines I couldn’t afford and low er high key learning how to absorb everything I need from as many sources as I can find that are free.

I would not cherish the lessons I learn from the books I buy.

If I wasn’t struggling with shit a lot, I don’t honestly think I would be so comfortable with how I am figuring out what my work is worth and who I want to work with.

One thing that goes through my bones is that easy doesn’t teach me well. It never has. If I didn’t have to work shit out I would not work it out.

I am on that grind.

I AM ON THAT MOTHER FUCKING GRIND and unlike when I was a baby writer, I value it. I love it. I am here for it.

Being ass deep in the struggle means I have found the path to my people. And I love my people. My people love me.

And that is pretty valuable.

OH okay a few more things.

I put up a story that is so close to my heart I can’t even. It is a slipstream story involving a wee Haitian girl and Hati and his brother. There is magic, the beginning of my need to explore how cultures can intersect, collide combine and exist together without throwing the brown folks under the bus. It is a bit more expensive than other stuff because of the sheer amount of work it took for me to get it done.

Here is a big ole taste:

“Mama was hurt, Papa was dead. She gave me water in a bottle and papers in my bag. Then she told me to run. She said I was too small and that they would hurt me. She said, Bernadette, you run you hide girl. Hide, hide hide.”

She trailed off, the counselor waited her out.

“I ran. Like a woof-”

The counselor arched an eyebrow.

“A woof? You mean a dog?”

Bernie glowered at her.

“No, woof, you know woof they howl like this at the moon.”

Bernie tipped her head back and let out a full throated mournful howl.

“Ah, wolf.”

“That is what I say. And then I found a place under concrete it was dry.”

[redacted, go buy for more]

“Ayti.”

It was a drawing from a Norse myth, the librarian smiled at her and nodded.

“Would you like to read about Hati?”

Bernie nodded, her eyes lit up.

In her heart, she chanted to the Universe, Ayti, Ayti Ayti. In her heart Bernie was mourning Haiti, the way her Maternal Grandmother had taught her. To think and feel the name of a thing or a person so as not to forget. She could not bring herself to sing the names of her parents, that hurt too much. But, when she spoke Ayti, Ayti, Ayti in the secret voice of her heart, it sufficed.

Next week I will get into how this story came about, that it was inspired by Roxane Gay and a woman I met on the bus.

Okay this  is way too long I need to calm all the way down and go do some editing.

Get Bernie’s Warg here. 

OH also per usual this is not kid or ya lit. This is grown folks business.


A New thing and some other things.

First thing my last  comment on my now infamous Paris Review Post is up as the featured essay in Literary Orphans.

The title is a nod to 2pac. This song in case you don’t know it.

What else?

I’m working on some new non fiction. An attempt at humor about sex work. My failed career as a foot fetish ho. Also in the pipeline some queer flash fiction, some more non fiction this time about my relationship with Western Beauty Ideals and how I came to reject them outright.

Shit even some poetry.

Speaking of poetry I have a new one up at Ink Node. 

I’m still working on my freelance shit. Y’all.

I find the whole process so intimidating. I have a collection of resources and some basic how to shit and I know I just have to fucking write the shit.

OH I will have some book reviews coming up as well. I’ve read some good stuff and I will probably dedicate an entry to the Sherman Alexie book I’m reading because several of my favorite of his short works are in it. It is just so damn good.

How about some more stuff to read?

Check out this interview at The Rumpus with poet Danez Smith.  Ugh yes. Fuck yes. Yes.

My Muse and beloved dear friend writer Remittance Girl posted this the other day about Bad Men.

This bit:

Do you ever get the sneaking suspicion life would be a lot easier if we shut up about our erotic fantasies? I do.

Just read it.

I am going to talk about this at greater length later but a lot of my work is rife with various evils. Some of them erotic, some not. It is what moves me and I want to go in about it because I find it really important to talk about. For now go read that.

OH y’all. So I am obsessed with podcasts and I gotta shoutout Mick Betancourt. A.) He’s a funny mother fucker. B.) he’s posted some tidbits of his memoir in progress. Just go look. Listen.

Also this is an old episode but another of my favorite authors Craig Davidson was on the LA Review of Books. Check it out. 

Tood Robinson from Thuglit posted a cool little Q&A type video on facebook. If you like your lit dark and grimy you for real need to read Thuglit. I’m serious and I’m not just saying that because I was in it once. Just do it.

Now a bit of self promotion.

As ever (I am getting better about keeping it updated) you can come like my official author page on Facebook here.

You can follow me on twitter @weebeasty but I warn you I ain’t shit. I livetweet things like my period and when I get street harassed. So yeah. That.

Read ALL the XOjane Self care articles here.

Milcah and I are working like hell on Self Care Like a Boss ahead of us birthing the book. Follow along here.

Keep your eye on the etsy shop. I have some new smut to add soon. I’m talking gender bending, Daddy/Girl/, Literary fetish deep dicking type shit. Until then a current favorite from readers is Bite An Erotic Tale. Remember this is grown folks lit.

Here is a taste:

He starts to speak and I lay my hand over his mouth and shake my head.

“Oh no. Not tonight. Shhh.”

I tilt my head forward and use my other hand to yank the collar of his shirt down to expose a patch of his fuzzy skin. I have to stand on tiptoe and use the hand on his mouth for leverage to get myself to the right height and angle, when I’m satisfied I lean in and bite.

OKAY enough. I have work to do.

What are y’all up to?


Yeah Write #199- Mandingo Incarnation.

Mandingo Incarnation

by

Shannon Barber

prose poem

If reincarnation is real I know how I want to come back. Fuck being a bird or a tiger.

I want to be reborn the biggest, baddest, Blackest mother fucker you ever saw.

I want to be huge and dark and bald.

So big you’ll wonder if I just got off a ten stretch where all I did was lift weights and eat Aryans.

The type of dude who’d smoke a blunt bigger than your dick, drink all your liquor,smoke all your rock and fuck you senseless. Leave you bereft of drugs, money and covered in come.

And you’d call me back because of my smile and cocksmanship.

The type of dude to beat the dog shit out of somebody, then head out for some chicken.

The type of dude every White man fears.

The type to make an officer say, I feared for my life while standing 50 yards away.

….but it’s only a dream.

I understand reincarnation doesn’t work that way. And while it might be tempting to imagine myself as the Mandingo nightmare from every shitty movie ever.

If I can’t dream of being safe-

        I will dream of being danger.

 

 ###


Suttree by Cormac McCarthy A review.

 

A new favorite book.

A new favorite book.

I just finished this book and wow.

Okay first thing is I’m already pretty into McCarthy’s work. Blood Meridian is one of my favorite book. We know I like it dark and grim and  he does it.

I think Suttree might now be my favorite McCarthy book. Read the synopsis here. 

The thing about this book that I love is how well McCarthy captures the casual racism of 1950’s Knoxville and also captures that singular usage of racial slurs that are not backed by implicit hate. They are there, a lot but not overdone and not as some authors make the mistake of doing always used in a very hateful context.

The Black folks in this book behaved appropriately. In their own neighborhood and establishments while they were a bit deferential, they weren’t shuck and jive negroes that populate other books.

There is something very specific about that time period and how Black and white people who are within the same socioeconomic (or close) class interact that was captured so well. It wasn’t the bucolic oh look they could ALL get along, but it wasn’t abject fear and horror.

I LOVE the language and usage in this book. McCarthy is a master with language and this book is no exception. The finesse of using the vernacular of the time, of the Black folks of the time, of the poor uneducated southerners and then every now and then slipping in this beautifully used 7$ vocabulary gave me chills. I am an absolute fool for the ability to manipulate language that way and this book, god damn it.

Even the language around how Suttree interacts with a black queer man up through the end of the book is palpably both loving and a little grossed out.

The whole book has that magic in it, the rhythm of the plot is meandering and at moments turns very sharp but never in a way that takes the reader out of the story. Shit happens and like most of McCarthy’s work there is a lot of darkness in this book and the darkness makes the beautiful moments glitter.

Often when I read books during this time period a few things happen. Often they are all White utopia’s where your average White dude spent a lot of time not saying nigger or worrying about race relations, the conflicts of the time are ignored, or it is Black folks pain porn in one form or another. Or it is LOOK THEY WERE FRIENDS AND LIVED PEACEFULLY TOGETHER IN THE SUPER DEEP SOUTH AND POWER POLITICS DIDN’T PLAY INTO IT AT ALL…*ahem the help*.

I am not old enough to have lived at the time but, I was very blessed to have had access to Black people who did. Some I was related to some not.

There is a lot of nuance in race relations during that time especially in the deep South. Beyond that there are shades of racism and realities that to write that time period successfully while including interaction between White and Black people, it’s just difficult.

This book will be difficult reading for some. The racism, the poverty, the grim winter and general darkness. For those who aren’t deterred, if you’re going to read McCarthy read this one.

It meanders beautifully. Some have said it is overlong but I don’t agree. The language is so beautifully done, it could have gone on more and I would have been happy. The POV shifts are done masterfully and smoothly.

This book reminds me of the blues, roots, bluegrass etc music I like. Some of it is so damn sad and terrible you want to lay down and cry. But it’s done so beautifully you want the pain.

So to wrap up.

Read this fuckin book.

That’s all.

I’ll be back with some craft notes maybe tomorrow and next week I’ll be back in Yeah Write with more flash.

I also want to mention that my dear friend Dena Rash Guzman talked about some recent lit world nonsense and said some nice stuff about my work. Get it at Luna Luna.

I feel like I might talk about subversion again. And the general lack of it in the lit world right now. I also probably want to talk about my poetry. I have some feels and whatnot.

AND (shit I have a lot to do, I’ve been sick for weeks and am way off my game) I really want to discuss some important feeling decisions I’ve made of late in regard to my writing.

So yeah LOTS to talk about.

Right now I’m gonna go try to write my first op-ed type thing and chug some mighty fine ass coffee.


Stuff I love about Writing.

I could also title this, “The Sad Barbaric Yawp of the Sweaty angry Writer”.

Shouts for help from the author.

  1. Apparently when I’m working on something that feels right, I just start sweating. Awesome. It would be fine if I was working at home I could just take my clothes off (I am pretty sure Jerry Stahl said something about writing at 4 am fucked up and naked) but I am at my dayjob and I can’t just take my pants off.
  2. I almost got in a fight with an older White dude on my way to work today because he didn’t approve of my conversation with a young Black Poet about #blackpoetsspeak and how vital it is that he a.) write that shit and b.) hustle that shit.
  3. I am 99% sure nobody told him ever that his voice, his hood voice matters. Even though he couldn’t get my phone number i gave him ideas and resources. I told him explicitly that he has to work, write and grind. That it is possible to do this without being educated or fancy. I told him HE FUCKING MATTERS and some piece of shit crusty ass old White dude tried to start a fight with me about it. He had that look in his eye and I’m pretty sure if I didn’t look fucking insane (I was going to hit him in the face with my phone gripped in my fist) he would have swung on me.
  4. I almost yelled “the fucking bell is tolling for you asshole” but I restrained myself to just saying “fuck you, fuck your feelings and keep your racist views to yourself”.

What else?

Aside from sweating while writing I’m sweating while reading some tasty things.

I’m just a bit past the middle of The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology.

First impressions. It is a strong collection. I’m familiar with a lot of the authors already. The writing is across the board so far tight and great. The intro bits were very endearing.

I’m enjoying it a lot and yet I’m yearning for some hood in the noir.

I keep wondering as I read more neo noir, am I really the only person thinking about/writing noir in the hood?

We know I feel the same way about horror and most everything.

Now I’m not talking Hood Lit. That is a whole other thing.

I’m hungry for stories that are yes well written and yes dark as fuck and yes are firmly rooted in the Hood.

This is the same hunger I always have.

I’m pretty sure I need to accept that I will always have this hunger unless I stop reading so widely and that just isn’t gonna happen.

I do write the stories as much as I can but that does not satisfy.

Part of the problem is also that because I have this need that is not satisfied ever, I find I have a disconnect with the lit world at large that I am unwilling to quite let go of.

Above the education of White people I need to keep myself, okay enough to make my own art.

That has been something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past year.  My self care related work has been really a huge part of me figuring out how to balance the gut wrenching bloody things with the not so bloody things.

I’m not all the way there. Sometimes I write things that fuck me up for days and I can’t write anything else.

What else?

I’m still struggling with myself to put up my crocheted shawls (in spite of a LOT of interest) and having the confidence to do art related things without shame or bad feelings.

Shit y’all that bit is hard. As hard as I find it to call myself a poet with seriousness.

Okay I have shit to do and I’m starving.

Another new thing is that writing does shit to my body lately. I’ll talk about that in a whole other post.

Tomorrow I am doing something super special and going out for a fancy super fancy dinner with Milcah and my partner. We are going to be a trio of romantic hot ass looking mother fuckers up in there.

I’m writing about it after.

That’s all for now.


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