The “winners” of this year’s Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest have been posted. The contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels and takes its name from the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who penned the original It was a dark and stormy night.
This year’s grand prize goes to Sue Fondrie, for “Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”
Lucian Freud, Working at Night, 2005, a photograph by his long-time assistant, David Dawson.
by Jane Hirshfield
A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.
Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat’s yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.
A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.
Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping—
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin’s smoothness,
The maple’s green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.
A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.
Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.
Part of this week was spent collecting the last documents required for Irish citizenship, my grandfather’s death certificate and a notarized affidavit of estrangement. Terrific, excepting that only two dollars and two cents remained in my bank account when I was done, an oddly symmetrical notation of poverty. I am very grateful to my friend Myke, who, upon discovering the details of my anemic finances, spontaneously sent me a spot of money, enough for the packet of eggs, bottle of milk, and bag of past-the-date oranges which should get me through most of next week. I’m not sure how I would have managed without him. In thankful return, I ask that you take a peek at his store and consider purchasing his lovely steampunk-y Airships & Tentacles Colouring Book, because seriously folks, that rules. Pass it on!
A man approached us, sign in hand, Peace Through Face-sitting, explaining, when I asked, that the peace was for him. He was also carrying a thick book of photos documenting previous “successes”. We declined, but this young woman, about five minutes later, did not. Perhaps he will find this and print it out and add it to his folder.
The Mother Writes to the Murderer: A Letter
by Naomi Shihab Nye
To you whose brain is a blunt fist
pushed deep inside your skull
whose eyes are empty bullets
whose mouth is a stone more speechless
than lost stones at the bottoms of rivers
who lives in a shrunken world where nothing blooms
and no promise is ever kept
To you whose face I never saw but now see
everywhere the rest of my life
You don’t know where she hid her buttons
arranged in families by color or size
tissue-wrapped in an oatmeal box
how she told them goodnight sleep well
and never felt ashamed
You don’t know her favorite word
and I won’t tell you
You don’t have her drawings taped to your refrigerator
blue circuses, red farms
You don’t know she cried once in a field of cows
saying they were too beautiful to eat
I’m sure you never thought of that
I’m sure nothing is too beautiful for you to eat
You have no idea what our last words were to one another
how terribly casual
because I thought she was going a block away
with her brother to the store
They would be back in ten minutes
I was ironing her dress
while two houses away an impossible darkness
rose up around my little girl
What can I wish you in return?
I was thinking knives and pistols
high voltages searing off your nerves
I was wishing you could lose your own life
bit by bit finger by toe
and know what my house is like
how many doors I still will have to open
Maybe worse would be for you to love something
and have it snatched up sifted out of your sight
for what reason?
a flurry of angels recalled to heaven
and then see how you sit
and move and remember
how you sleep at night
how you feel about mail my letter to you
all the letters passing through all the hands
of the people on earth
when the only one that matters
is the one you can neither receive
I’m working as a photographer for the Vancouver Folk Festival Volunteer Stories project this weekend. Given the weather, I’m bringing an umbrella as well as a blanket. Hope to see some of you there!