Research & Write

~the following is part of “Prompted Prose,” a series of posts from the prompts I’m working with during my Spring 2016 online writing course

PROMPT INSTRUCTIONS: Do some research relevant to your topic, then apply it to a section of your prose that felt insubstantial or thin.

Feedback on previous pieces, has requested more background on what is not working between Rex and I. By going back into my journals I found concrete details and then created a hybrid of them as a journal entry below.


September 30, 2003

I’m here on the bed, while Rex is in the other room, babying his acoustic guitar. I can see him winding the fresh, new strings, plucking each one to vibrational perfection. But I feel no harmony.

He’s mad, and has turned to his instrument, polishing the curves of its wooden body, with rapt attention. I’m jealous of a guitar. My burgeoning belly begs for just a simple touch. The Mama Massage Oil we were gifted hasn’t even had the seal broken. I want to scream, then sob. But I cannot risk to feel the loneliness of this pregnancy. I, too, am stringing a symphony – our mutual composition – of neuro-pathways, fingernails and a nervous system. I want this being to sense only welcome, not one trace of sadness in my veins. Yet tonight is just another night, watching the hunch of Rex’s shoulders, him facing anything but me. And I’m here with my body, beautifully transforming, in our house thick with tension as he strums.

I’m trying to take responsibility for my part of all this upset. Rex says I need to meditate. I’m sure it would be beneficial. But it’s hard to take that advice from a man whose meditation nook is covered in dust and dried gecko poop. Which is the source of tonight’s upheaval. Apparently, in my attempt to dust the myriad of saintly photos collecting spores galore, I accidentally bent Meher Baba’s picture. So as the Indian-style font beams out from beneath his holy beard, “Love Alone Prevails,” Rex is reprimanding me like a child, scolding me for carelessness.

This outburst leads to his more favored form of meditation these days, a cigarette break outside. It’s supposed to keep the second-hand smoke at bay, but smokers never realize the clouds they create. Their sooty exhalations are far-reaching, impervious puffs that slink in sideways, heavy, invisible but stinking.

courtesy of Daniel Costal
courtesy of Daniel Costal

October 23, 2010

photo by Jessica Dofflemyer

I’m back under the moon with the fire.  This time it’s Hanalei Bay, no wind, small surf.  Spotlight in the sky illumines smiles and the musicians.

I’m just on the periphery, tapping a knee, leaving the strings and chord progressions to the players.  There is the jazz musician, the songwriter – and the bagpipe player is here again with the low whistle and effortless melodies.

I try to watch their finger placements, see if I can recognize a chord with my eyes.  The ever-encouraging songwriter sees my interest and invites me in.  Three guitars?  No, no, I’m OKI’m loving listening.

But he doesn’t believe my words and hands me his Martin.  Goes back to his truck for another guitar, returns and tells me the chords so I can join them.

For the rest of the night I play with the musicians.  Fumble through and let my fingers ache.  I don’t mention that it’s been 10 years since I played with anyone.  That the few chords I know I taught myself from Neil Young‘s Decade songbook.  (Though these points were fairly apparent.)

This kind circle isn’t much for disclaimers.  The words are saved for other things.  The speed of sound and the vibration at which a note is moving.  How the relation of the fret board corresponds to every planet in our solar system.  The B-flat note that ripples out from the Black Hole.  How about that time in Olympia when Phish told the audience they were going to try to make their instruments emanate light waves through the speakers? Have you heard of Alexander Scriabin the mystic musician?

If there is a tribe of music lovers, these are its members.  I am with my people, though a humble initiate to the fold.  The jazz musician moves his hands along the neck of his guitar with graceful ease, ringing notes to the sea air in perfect harmony.

I could stay here in these sounds all night.

What you are comes to you.
–  Ralph Waldo Emerson

In love’s godlike breathing, there’s the innermost aspect of the universe.
Alexander Scriabin

October 11, 2010

Monday morning started poorly as we readied ourselves for another day of first grade.

There was my son’s refusal to eat breakfast, his insistence on wearing an armful of Silly Bands (the equivalent of elementary school bling), and the cutting and spewing of glow-in-the-dark bracelets (“mom, is my eye yellow?  some of it splashed on my face?” !!!).  All before 8am.

Getting my drama out of the way by 8, however, left room for the rest of an uneventful day (thankfully), which culminated in the evening with the sweetness of music.  All non-toxic (but potentially skin-irritating) day glow goo was forgotten as I watched my son sit on a stool and play Baby.

When Jeb’s father, Rex, emailed me from India in 2002 that he had bought a guitar in Varanasi with the word “Baby” in the headstock, I tried not to take it as a sign of our potential fate.  But I couldn’t help wonder, as his email coincided with a vivid dream I’d had of a child in my womb.

Rex described sitting with sadhus by the Ganges  among the bones and smoking pyres.  The holy men strumming Baby til their fingers bled, leaving stains still visible on its wooden face.

The day after Rex’s return from his mystical India tour, Baby’s portent was realized.  Jeb was born into the world nine months later.

Jeb says, “This guitar has been a lot of places.  It’s pretty powerful…”