Category Archives: Writing

Poem: Alternative Anthem

united states of america flag

Photo by Gerritt Tisdale on Pexels.com

Alternative Anthem

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

Oh say, can’t you see

In the day’s last blue light

That our country has bailed

And the darkness is looming?

 

What good are stripes and little stars

When we don’t do what’s right?

And our laws are all botched,

By our government’s scheming?

 

And the lies that we’re told

Well, they’re really getting old!

And there’s proof of what’s right

But we must stand up bold.

 

Oh say, can’t you help me raise a flag we can praise—

O’er a land of truly free and a home to all the brave?

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For Santa Fe High School…and all the others we’ve failed since Columbine

As a parent of teenagers, my heart breaks at these high school shootings and the texts exchanged between parents and children during them. In a way, this is found poetry, based on actual text messages, though I changed the wording so it could be between one parent and child. Please, please, when November comes, think about how long it will be before you are the one who receives that first text followed by the next desperate If-I-die one.
A Last Tenuous Connection
By Michelle Garren Flye
Someone shooting in the school.
I love you.
I’m coming.
Don’t. We’re on lockdown. You might get hurt.
My teacher is dead.
OMG. Stay quiet. Stay safe. On my way.
If I don’t make it, I love you and thank you for everything.
Don’t talk like that.
I’m so scared.
I know you are. I’m almost there.
No matter what I love you.
I love you too.
I’m here. Where are you?

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Poem: Standard Haiku

I never really claim to be a poet, but I like writing poetry. I love haiku. Its beauty is in its simplicity. A rigid format that nonetheless lets you play within the boundaries.

 

Standard Haiku

By Michelle Garren Flye

 

We once held the Truth,

It squirmed away, leaving just

A bloody remnant.

 

Better than Justice,

Who left us what we didn’t

Use—her blinded eyes.

 

Oh, Morality!

What have you become? Twisted

Past recognition.

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Jesus Walked Into the Waffle House

Between sexual harassment and racial discrimination, it sometimes seems as if our nation is tearing itself apart at the seams. I wonder if we stopped and looked at the other person’s point of view if we’d see how these things happen—not planned violence or gangs or murder or anything truly evil, but the moments of passion that humans get carried away by. The moments when our failings all add up and someone suffers for it.

I wrote this story in response to several news stories. It might not be popular among those who think every choice they make is the right one, but try to see our world as Jesus, who—according to every Bible story and every preacher—loves us all, would. (For another Jesus story, you could try Jesus Walked Into Planned Parenthood.)

Jesus Walked Into the Waffle House

By Michelle Garren Flye

On the night of the local prom, Jesus walked into the Waffle House. He didn’t want waffles or pancakes. He smelled the frying bacon and shook his head. Hadn’t His Father warned them about that?

He smiled at the hostess, an older white woman who worked the night shift so she could take care of her daughter’s two fatherless children during the day. The hostess didn’t smile back, but Jesus knew it was because the baby had skipped his nap that afternoon and she was simply too tired to smile. As He walked past her, however, her head lifted and she straightened her shoulders. As if she felt a surge of strength to carry on.

He moved peacefully into the dining room where a trucker sipped coffee and thought about his family at home. His wife was pregnant and her father had just gotten sick. The trucker worried that the stress would be too much for her. Jesus laid a hand on the man’s shoulder. “She’ll be all right.” The trucker looked up and nodded. He had faith but sometimes it was sorely tested.

The waitress was taking a break. Her feet hurt. She’d already worked six hours when the manager asked her to work another shift. But she needed the money. She had tuition to pay and no one to help her. She wanted nothing more than to graduate and really get her life in order.

Jesus leaned on the counter beside her. The manager came over. “There’s some prom kids outside. We’re likely to have a rough couple hours of it.” The manager saw prom kids every year at this time. Sometimes drunk or high—and always rough and rude—they often came to the Waffle House for a late night snack after prom. The very thought of them exhausted him. He shook his head and muttered, “Two a.m.? Those kids should be home.”

Jesus knew he couldn’t stop what was going to happen. He could see it now. The manager’s daughter had been raped once and he felt protective of the young waitress who was just trying to make her life better. When the young black man dressed in his prom tux complained about the food to the waitress, the manager would interfere. The black man, who was still young enough to think every choice he made was the right one, would reply, rude and indignant that he had been challenged. The trucker, still worried about his wife, and the hostess, tired and thinking of her daughter and grandchildren, would call the police at the first signs of trouble, long before anyone could calm down and think about what they were doing.

And when the police arrived, a pissed off cop would see a sobbing young white waitress and an angry black boy surrounded by the patrons and employees of the Waffle House, all arguing. And the cop would direct his own anger—born of years of these kinds of nuisance calls—at the boy. The boy whose grandmother was so proud of him for his last report card, and whose teachers had promised he would do great things. The boy who wanted to go to college and get an engineering degree, but who had made a bad choice by smoking a joint behind the gym at the prom and now felt invincible.

Jesus could only watch as the cop proved he wasn’t.

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Writing “those” scenes in the age of #metoo

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Never has writing romance been more of a balancing act than it is now, at least if you want to be sensitive to the #metoo movement and yet still satisfy your readers’ cravings for romantic escapism. Let’s face it, first of all, the day of the alpha hero who demands what he wants from a simpering heroine is—or at least should be—over. Flirting that goes too far is also dangerous ground. And writing one of those scenes—sex, that is—well, that’s harder than ever, and writing good ones has never been easy.

If you take all that away from romance, you don’t have much left—though I admit I wave a cheerful good-bye to the alpha hero. But the rest? What is romance without anticipation, flirting, and, ultimately—because we are human—sex? At our cores, we are animals looking for a mate, and that’s what the whole romance genre is based on.

I struggled with this for a long time. I want to believe I’m a liberated liberal woman, but I believe in love and romance. I believe in the value of finding your soul mate and building a life together. The #metoo movement and the ugly stories I heard about things that have happened to women seeking that same thing made me rethink myself. I looked back at my past work and found a number of mistakes and missteps. How could I call myself a feminist if I wrote this?

I put away one work-in-progress without writing that scene for a few weeks, went back and wrote a very bad, almost robotic one with no feeling in it, and finally, a couple of weeks ago, did what I should have done in the first place. I examined my characters’ motivations, especially the heroine’s. Why did she want to have sex at this particular time, with this particular person? I knew she was going to leave him right after, so why did she decide on him in the first place? Once I had the answers, I wrote probably the best one of “those” scenes I’ve ever written.

My point, I suppose, is that romance is a genre in flux right now. I believe you’ll see fewer alpha heroes making demands and fewer simpering victim heroines. If authors of romance are willing to make a change, I think the genre has an opportunity to make an impact—to take us all on a journey away from the #metoo movement to a world where women and their partners can create a world that is safer for our daughters. And isn’t that a world worth escaping to?

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Anne of Green Gables, at last!

IMG_2261This is my L.M. Montgomery collection. I’m a fan. I remember the day my mother put the library book Anne of Green Gables in my hand. “You should read this,” She said. “It was one of my favorites when I was a girl.”

I remember thinking something like, Yeah right. I’ll humor her. I wasn’t really an adventurous reader when I was young. I tended to find certain books I loved and read and re-read them. Little Women, the Trixie Belden series, Chronicles of Narnia, Thornton W. Burgess’s series of animal books—those were my jam. Like Frances and her bread and jam (Google it), I knew what I was getting when I read and re-read those books. There were no unpleasant surprises.

Anne was a leap of faith. It took me a day or two to pick it up. I opened that cover with trepidation, not knowing the beauty and magic that awaited me. Nor that reading about her would later lead me to reading about her sister in literature Emily, who had the same “flashes” that I sometimes did—and then I’d realize that I must be a writer like Emily and Anne.

When our local community theater decided to do a play based on Anne of Green Gables, I knew I had to be involved somehow. Fresh off the success of A Christmas Carol (in which I played one of the only non-singing roles of “Woman 3”), I gathered my courage and, for the first time ever, auditioned live for a part in the play. It paid off and I got the part of Mrs. Barry, and now I’m living some of the scenes I once read and dreamed about as the overbearing mother of Anne’s best friend Diana. My favorite has to be the iconic scene in which Diana drinks currant wine by accident and comes home drunk. I also have a wonderful bit where I trade gossip with Mrs. Lynde.

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Anne’s Snow Queen is an apple tree. Mine is a dogwood.

Seeing Matthew and Marilla in living color has been a treat, but most lovely of all has been watching Anne and friends really come to life through the efforts of the talented young actors playing them. Anne is dreamy and creative, Diana is sweet and loyal, Ruby is beautiful and histrionic, Gilbert is earnest and competitive, and all the others of the Avonlea gang are brought to life in true form. Avonlea has already appeared in all its magic to me on that stage, and costumes and set haven’t even been finalized yet!

My dream is that our little theater performance of Anne will bring others to go on adventures with her. Other mothers may put that beautiful book into their dreamy daughters’ hands. “Read this,” they’ll say. And the dutiful daughters will reply, “Sure, Mom. Whatever.”

 

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Today is another test for civil disobedience

pexels-photo-905191.jpegToday, all over the country at 10 a.m., school children will exercise one of America’s most fundamental rights. In an act of (hopefully) ringing civil disobedience, they will walk out of their classrooms for seventeen minutes in protest of the lack of government action on sensible gun control. In the wake of the Parkland shooting and our national government’s subsequent groveling at the feet of the NRA, students across the nation will seek to make themselves and their opinions heard through this act.

Good for them.

Today of all days I think it is important to remember that civil disobedience has shaped our country in some wonderful ways.

  • Without civil disobedience, women would not have the right to vote.
  • Without civil disobedience, African Americans would still be enslaved.
  • Without civil disobedience, we’d all be paying taxes to Great Britain.

And yet, this week alone, I have seen some horrible reminders that civil disobedience can (and usually is) forced to become militant.

Consider the case of the two Seattle Seahawks football players going to practice who were followed by a woman who screamed at them that they better not kneel during the national anthem because her tax money paid for them to play football. I won’t even address the tax money fallacy or even that she was screaming obscenities at two men who aren’t actually known for kneeling during the national anthem. My problem with this is that they have every right to kneel during the national anthem if they want to and feel the need. Hell, the way things are in our country right now, I have a hard time keeping my knees from buckling during the pledge of allegiance and national anthem rituals I once embraced wholeheartedly.

But worse than that were the comments I read on a local news story about how school systems in our county are dealing with the school walkout. Two school systems issued statements promising to support the students in peaceful protests and to provide safe spaces for them to do so. Comments on the online story ranged from supportive to a some really ugly sentiments like the students were making themselves targets by walking out of the school and one from a parent who said no kid of hers better take part in such a display.

Are today’s young people willing to make their peaceful cause a militant one? Women were imprisoned and beaten for demanding their right to vote—and they kept marching and demanding. In the 1960s, some—not all—African Americans fought back against similar treatment when their peaceful sit-ins and marches were threatened. The Black Panthers were a frightening and militant group who were ready and willing to kill for their cause.

And, possibly the most poignant history lesson of all to every American citizen out there, when throwing tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of British taxes didn’t have the desired effect on the British government, war was the result.

So listen to your children. They aren’t tomorrow’s voices anymore. They are today’s, and you ignore those voices at your own peril.

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