Ode to the Saratoga Springs Racetrack
The track attracts women with hats
and men in flamingo pantsuits.
Each one swears to God they dress the gaudiest.
Everything sprinkles green.
Horses have their own paths.
A few hundred have died here,
but no one remembers the collapses,
just the traipsing past the finish line.
Some women probably bet their money
based on ribbons, or the color of bows,
or a mathematical equation that measures
how fast the horses’ hooves go per meter
multiplied by their number of eyelashes.
Either way, their husbands underestimate them.
The heat swells in the spectators’ chests
but they are faintless. Their bodies rise
like tides when their horses circle towards them,
and they draw their binoculars from their pockets
like handguns. They don’t wish they were cowboys.
They don’t feel shame. They dream of money
and wake covered in paper.
O muse, sing of how I am nothing more
Than this, so mute, so selfish even now
As I look deep into these godlike words;
I am made small. This is a prophecy.
O muse, sing loudly of my weakness
And my pride! I wish for gifts I cannot
Claim, hold my ambition high with my own
Flawed voice—my death erased by glory sought.
O muse, sing of the things I think I know:
The machinations of the human mind,
The greatness that eclipses dying suns—
How I bid haste to these old dreams of mine.
Sing hymns of how inferior I am,
Of need to prove that I existed—breathed.
The Trail Of Tears
This winding road
Through these sprawling hills
Always takes me to what I need second most:
Some days are good and others
Not so much
But without fail
On this road to alcohol
I always cry.
Yesterday I cried
The least I ever have
In the high school parking lot
And I am reminded of the trap I’m in.
North: your job. Your family’s church where you had the funeral. Your house. The coffee shop.
South: the school.
East: Freddy’s, where I learned more about you. Chick-fil-A, where we took you to get out of the house after your brother’s death.
West: the trail of tears.
Right smack dab in the middle: me. My house. The memories.
I wonder what
Your parents tell
Your younger siblings
Am I a monster now to them?
Did you tell them to be wary of me?
I wonder what you tell yourself about me. Maybe it’s nothing at all,
You tell yourself something.
But maybe that’s me wishing
Maybe that’s just me hoping
Either way I hope I’m engraved in your memory
I hope you feel just as awful as I do when you hear a taylor swift song
Or some shit about republicans.
I hope your body fills to the brim with salt water that burns your every minuscule cut every time you even remotely think of me
I hope the water can’t escape and I hope you build with pressure till you explode
I hope the sea foam clouds your vision and your thoughts
I hope the brine clouds your smell
I hope the water boils and blisters your skin
You see, this is what you do to me.
I’m devastated one second and the next I’m pissed and the next I’m in love with you all over again
I wish for you to fill with the ocean but in truth I’m the one caught in a whirlpool and I keep getting sucked back toward the center every time I make some kind of progress.
At the top: plundering, destroying, raging.
On the edges: devastation, wreckage, catastrophe.
At the bottom: love
Purple Ghost Lady
Winter was setting in early.
At least, that's what I told myself to excuse why it was so cold.
I retreated further into my sweater, relishing the warmth in my torso and wishing I had worn more clothing. Shoving my hands in my pockets, I stared at the ground in front of me and focused on not tripping over anything in the field. The dry grass crunched under the sound of our footfalls.
@Miggie walked beside me, better prepared for this sudden cold than I was. She had a scarf around her neck and black fingerless gloves on her hands. Her lipstick was the same shade of burgundy as her jeans and, as always, her face was on point. From the first day I saw her, she only seemed to have gotten prettier. I made a mental note to ask her, once we got back to the hotel, if she could teach me how to makeup. In this instance, Miggie was the mom I never had.
Just the thought made me feel extremely guilty.
If Miggie was my mom, then @Lsu11, or Lisa, was definitely my godmother. She was always looking out for me from above and making sure things worked out. She was the clear, cloudless sky in my life that I could always depend on to warm me. Lisa trudged on ahead with a smile on her face like always, @paintingskies at her side.
If there was a single one of us that I had to look up to, it would be Sam. She was the palm tree in the hurricane that always made it out still in tact. Sometimes her trunk would bend and her leaves would get frazzled, but you could always depend on her to come out stronger. You could see the thunderstorms in her eyes, but you knew that she had sunshine somewhere in her, even if she didn't feel it and told you it wasn't there.
Last, but not least, was @Lynn in her yellow skinny jeans that did so well portraying her personality. She herself was quiet, maybe even shy, but I knew inside her was a person with fire in their eyes and flowers growing in their chest. I didn't have to look behind me to know she was the only one of us looking up at the sky, probably dreaming about plays she could write or reciting the lyrics to her favorite song.
"Am I supposed to be seeing my breath? I couldn't three minutes ago." Lynn's voice.
"I don't know," I said honestly. "Maybe it's the water." At the other end of the field was a small bridge leading across a trickling stream. It lead off into the forest that surrounded the field at every point. Autumn leaves drifted from their places in the branches and skidded across the wooden slats of the bridge before falling into the stream and drifting away. Those that didn't land in the water were piling up on the ground and against the trunks of the trees.
"Maybe," Lynn responded doubtfully- we both knew it wasn't the water. In truth, all of us knew it was the forest itself that was making the air chillier and radiating the unsettling atmosphere, but none of us would've said it. Honestly, what was there to say? That the trees were 'scary' and that the forest was 'spooky?' No, none of us wanted to seem dumb in front of our newly met friends.
We had all accepted the invitations from the Prose. headquarters inviting us to their gathering of sorts at one of the hotels in the city. The five of us had decided to take a stroll on one of the paths in the nearby woods for some alone time. It was a once in a lifetime chance, being together, and if just for a moment it would have been nice to say in person what we'd been saying to each other over the internet for so many years. But we'd gotten lost when I, with my marvelous ideas, decided I wanted us to go exploring. Now here we were, who knows how many miles away from the highway we'd stopped on the side of. I guess the mighty @Prose profile was mad at us for branching off from the rest.
We paused on the bridge, balancing on the edge of two worlds. The field behind us with its hard, stout grass and the forest ahead with its slender trees.
Sam shrugged her shoulders. "We could go back."
"Or we could keep going," Miggie said. "Not like we know where we are anyway."
I looked around at the others, shrugging my shoulders. "She's kinda got a point."
"Most the time she does." Lynn pointed out. The rest of us agreed silently before walking the rest of the way across the bridge. If I thought it was cold before, this side of the stream was definitely colder. I huddled slightly closer to Miggie, seeking her body heat. The forest floor was made spongy by the fallen leaves.
I gazed up at the tree branches sprawling out above us- at the leaves and how the branches intertwined. A couple crows were seated there, eying us up and down. "Fall is always my favorite season," I said to no one in particular.
Lynn stepped up beside me. "Mine, too. I always love how you can wear shorts and skirts or pants and still be comfy no matter what. Plus, there's Halloween and jackets. I love jackets."
I was about to respond when Lisa called out to us. "I think there's a path over here!"
We all clumped together around the spot. Indeed, it did look like a path. There was a clear absence of undergrowth leading deeper into the trees, even if the path itself was blanketed in fallen leaves. "Do we want to take it?" Lisa asked after a couple moments.
"Might as well." Miggie stepped past us and started down it.
I turned to Lynn, smirking. "Well there you go, I guess."
Inside the woods it was dead still, although the branches in the upper parts of the trees were rustling against each other. The sky was mostly covered, but in a few places where more leaves than average had fallen, it peeked through. I could tell by the color that it was nearing sunset.
The whole scene was veritably aesthetic. What with the colored leaves and the little path and the sky, it seemed straight out of a Tumblr mood board. I was glad I had friends here to share it with me, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that something was... off.
Sam's voice was swallowed by the trees. "It's cold."
"It's almost too cold," Lynn said, wrapping her arms around herself. Her voice, too, was quieted by the woods. "I don't like the feeling of this." She had just voiced what all of us were thinking.
In truth, it seemed colder than when we were out in the field and the temperature had dropped. And tied together with the overall aura of the forest, it radiated a very ominous demeanor.
I glanced around warily at the shadowed undergrowth, suddenly uneasy. As I watched, it seemed to close in, threatening to swallow us and the entire forest whole. The cawing of the crows reached a crescendo and the tops of the trees shook violently.
I crashed into the back of Miggie and the images melted away. I peeked over her shoulder to see why she had stopped and through the trees I saw a house about a hundred yards away.
"Sorry. Why is there a house out here?" I asked, then squeezed my eyes shut. I had a tendency to blurt out my questions before I thought about the answer.
"I guess we're closer to the road than we thought." Miggie muttered.
As we neared the house, I realized that it was most definitely abandoned. The windows and doors were boarded up, even though some had been smashed through again, and the roof was sunken in in some places. The tree branches completely blotted out the sky here, leaving the area in shadows and the ground without foliage. Spiderwebs sprawled out in the corners of the dilapidated porch.
Lisa cleared her throat. "I don't mean to be a Debbie downer, but it's about night and I'm not sure if we should walk through the forest at night."
We all stared at each other in palpable silence. "Do any of you have reception yet?" It was Lynn.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket, tried a call, and sighed as it didn't go through. "Nope." The other's phones didn't work either. "I kind of agree with Lisa, guys." I said, biting my lip. "I don't really want to walk through this forest at night either. Maybe… we could stay on the porch? I don't know. I just don't want to go inside."
"It probably wouldn't be safe anyway," Lisa pointed out. "I agree and say that we stay on the porch." Lynn, Sam, and Miggie nodded their heads in solemn agreement.
I picked a dead branch off the dirt ground. The others looked at me with a face that said, "What is that for?" I shrugged, and said, "I do not deal with spiders."
The three little steps of the front porch creaked as we walked up them. I took my branch and waved it around in front of me, taking down webs and hopefully scaring away the spiders in the process. I wasn't aiming to kill them, considering I was the one that had come into their home and chased them out of it. I just couldn't deal with them being near me. Once I was satisfied, we sat down across from each other- some with their backs on the railing and some on the house.
We sat in silence for awhile, in which I spent picking at my fingernails. It was a bad habit of mine. "Sorry I got you all lost," I mumbled.
Lynn shook her head, placing a hand on my shoulder. "We all agreed to go with you, so it's on all of us."
Sam sat forward. "Yeah, and besides. This'll do for some good inspiration."
I smiled even though on the inside I was squealing from their kindness. "Thanks guys."
Soon, the sounds of insects died out and were replaced by the silent nightlife. An owl hooted in the distance.
Miggie's stomach rumbled and she placed her hands on her stomach. "I'm starving."
"Me too." I agreed, giggling with her. "Also, thirsty."
"Wait. Did you see that?" Lisa blurted.
"See what?" Miggie asked.
"I saw it," Sam said, her eyes wide. I could barely see her in the darkness.
I looked over my shoulder at the tree line, shivers wracking my body. "Uh… no. But that's honestly terrifying that you saw something."
Lynn scooted closer to me. "What was it?" We stared at Sam and Lisa.
"I don't know. It was white, I think," Sam said, her eyes darting back and forth. "It moved too quick to get a good look at it, but it looked like…" she trailed off.
"A person." Lisa finished.
I decided it was a good time to make a joke. It was how I handled stress. "Oh my god, it was the demogorgon from Stranger Things."
"The what?" They said in unison.
I gaped. "You haven't seen Stranger Things?!"
"I have." I jumped as a voice came from behind me. Lynn screamed. I whipped around to see a- a purple ghost? I squinted my eyes in confusion. The ghost was definitely a lady and she was holding a chicken in one arm and a martini in the other.
"Why are you purple?" Sam asked her.
The purple ghost took a sip from her martini, then set it down on the porch rail before stroking her chicken. "White was already taken."
"Fair enough," Miggie said, her stomach rumbling again.
The purple ghost turned to look at her. "I would offer you some food, but I'm afraid humans can't eat the tasty morsels we ghosts can."
Lynn piped up. "What's your name?"
Purple Ghost Lady turned to look at Lynn and me, but her chicken continued to stare at Miggie. "It's @AnitaRosner, but you can just call me Anita. This here," she gestured around at the trees. "is my forest. I see you've already been acquainted."
"It's very pretty," I said. "But we've kinda gotten lost in them. Are you able to show us a way out?"
Anita stroked her chicken, deep in thought. "I suppose I could. But since you've trespassed in my woods, I'm afraid I'm going to need to ask you all for a favor. It's written in the Ghost handbook that I must.
"Oh, no. Not like a sacrifice or some impossible task." Purple Ghost added when she saw Lisa's worried face. "The media always shows my kind off as selfish and sadistic. But really, I just want you to find my cow."
"Your cow?" We all blurted in unison.
"Yes, my cow!" Anita stomped her foot in frustration. "Oh, sorry. I'm not frustrated with you guys. It's just that my lawn ornament cow, Buttercup, ran away from me long ago and I haven't been able to find her! I miss her terribly so. She was my chickens best friend!" Her chicken clucked as if in agreement.
"That's so sad!" Lynn tried to place a reassuring hand on Anita's shoulder, but she slipped right through. She hesitated before continuing. "I'm sure we can help you find your cow."
Anita plucked and ate the olive from her martini in celebration. "Thank you! Now, Buttercup's favorite snack was Snowdrops. If you'll follow me…"
The five of us followed Anita Rosner around to the back of the run-down house. In a little square garden bed, a clump of snowdrops were growing.
"If you take these and go looking for her, you'll be bound to find her. I would have done so already, but I can't pull them out of the ground, since I'm a ghost and all." She shrugged. "I'm so glad you all are willing to help! It's so tedious filing a report to the ghost council about unwilling human trespassers."
Introducing: Prose 3.0 | Portals
You asked. We listened. Prose. 3.0 is finally here.
We have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to bring you the biggest and best update ever.
So what’s new?
Pinterest has boards. Facebook has groups. Reddit has subreddits.
Prose now has Portals.
Subscribe to your favorite Portals and enter specific Portal challenges.
We have launched 3.0 with twenty-four ready-made Portals such as:
• Horror and Thriller
Public portals are a place within which you can read and write.
Restricted Portals are read only. If you’d like to submit content to a restricted Portal please contact us.
Private Portals are exactly that, private. Unless you are invited by an admin, they will not be visible on the Portal list.
Introducing: bold, italic and underline. We also now have justification options.
Challenges: Now you can all post challenges again, use this feature wisely. Challenge yourself, and each other.
You can now share the posts you like with your followers, just like a retweet. You also have the option of Reprosing to your profile.
We’ve replaced likes with Bookmarks. Show your appreciation and save the posts to your Bookmark list. Don’t worry, all existing likes have already been transferred.
All new look:
The brown is gone! *Fist pump* We have a cool new color scheme, post design, and menu. Even if we say it ourselves, 3.0 is looking damn fine.
The read count is self-explanatory, it counts your post reads. Simple.
Someone raising your heckles? Block them. We can’t all get along, and now you don’t have to.
Whilst we really don’t want you to go, deactivation is child’s play and can be easily reversed.
Take your time, have a look around. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact us, send us a direct message in-app, or reach out to one of the Prose admins.
Now, let’s get some writing done, shall we?
Introducing: The Copperplate Awards
Several months ago we were approached by a Proser who expressed the desire for some killer reading material. “I’m just not finding as much of it anymore.”
“It’s all around you,” we told him, “you just have to know where to look.”
That was not the response he was hoping for. He told us that he wanted to help kick things into high gear around here. He wanted to see new work, new writers. He wanted to see people taking their work seriously, respecting the language and pushing themselves harder. The fact that writing matters, it’s a given. “I want to see writing that matters,” he said.
If you have ever read his work, you know what it’s like to read writing that matters. If you haven’t, treat yourself to writing that leaves a sting in the back of your throat, a hot ball of fire in your gut, persistent waves of gooseflesh all over your body. Writing that sticks with you, haunts you, and doesn’t stop even after you’ve read it a hundred times.
We had a few phone calls and exchanged emails with this Proser, all of which further revealed this man’s commitment to excellence. He offered to sponsor a challenge on Prose for the next five years. And so, a creative collaboration was born: a writing challenge like Prosers have never seen before.
With the support of Rolando Hernandez (whom you all know here as @rh), we are proud to announce the launch of the first ever Copperplate Awards.
“By recognizing writing that matters we are reminding writers that there is still a place for their work and the practice of delivering uncompromising truth to the masses,” Roland says of the Copperplates.
The Copperplate Awards, an annual Prose challenge, begins November 1 in conjunction with National Novel Writing Month to recognize excellence in less lengthy works including short fiction, creative non-fiction, and poetry.
Anyone, anywhere can enter by visiting https://theprose.com/challenge/2469. Submissions will be accepted in three categories: poetry (250 word minimum), short fiction (500 word minimum), and creative nonfiction (500 word minimum).
Prose and a trusted panel of judges, including @rh, will be looking for form, content, fire, and creative edge. Each category will have a first and second-place winner. First place winners, in addition to global bragging rights, will receive $500 and an iPad. Runners-up will receive a variety of writerly “swag.”
We’ll share more details about The Copperplate Awards and some of the prizes up for grabs in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. For now, get back to doing what matters: writing.
Quietude is my peace
My rest, away from fellow humans
It is in the midst of a blowing hard, moving rain.
Driving against a window pane,
In the night while all sleep
Woooing, splattering, tapping hard on a roof
Wind and rain
Wailing forlorn and lonely
Deep into the strings of my soul
The kind of thing that makes me
Hurt and cry, but brings me fullness
And peaceful quiet
Kind of like
You get in an old west ghost town
Dust and tumbleweeds fly
Across an empty street
No one else around, but shadows
Quietude and peace is no one to talk to
An empty house in the country
Only a June bug and it’s high pitched
Frequency shrill piercing
The air yet still, so still, so quiet,
Ringing in my ear
Quietude and peace is me and a mild wind,
In the west, my home,
My rural country
A breeze drifting from a far away arroyo
Dried creek beds filled with stones
The crackling sound of a jumping grasshopper
Yellow camouflaged on silty soil
Me sitting under a cottonwood
Following the scent of the wind to those
Smooth foothills, purple and brown
Not far away
Quietude is my peace
No one else around,
The smell of sage
Looking up that cottonwood’s leaves
Just me and
Leaves stirring, stems turning slow
Sparkles of silver,
Then turning fast,
The wind blowing from far away
Speaking softly, impressions to me while
Twisting leaves wildly, reflecting grey,
Giving them rustling voices
Peaceful sounds, like wind chimes
I sit at peace and in quiet
With high noon’s dancing light,
Shadow and light mottled moving all
Around the ground at my feet
The pungent smell of bark and musty soil
Lonely coooo, cooooing of a beige, grey dove
Undisturbed, high in the branches
Just me and a small
Beetle trudging in the dirt below
At my feet,
In the shadow of the cottonwood tree
Peace and quiet is trekking on a trail, at 12,000 feet or more
In the high sierra,
Hot summer day, sharp stones underfoot
Brittle, sharp sounds like dense shards of clay
Rising from my soles
Creaking backpack, slow rhythm of motions
In walking for miles
Sand’s grit, . . . soft sizzling sound,
Smell of body sweat, bright blue sky overhead
Breathing in, . . . out, in, . . . out
Heart thumping in my veins
In the quiet, I hear, “Why do you walk, why do you climb?”
In peacefulness of the wild places of the Sierra Nevada
I hear a voice, “You walk and climb because it’s there.”
Then, I contemplate, and find it hard at first to answer
“No, that would be in vain,
I go to these places to escape myself
To hear sounds I can’t hear at work
Or when surrounded by people,
Even those I love
To be alone and just let
Alone and just let go
That place where no one wants
Anything of me, or me of them
Querying: What Makes the Perfect Pitch?
A query letter, sometimes called a cover letter by publishers, is the second most important piece of writing, next to your manuscript, that you will write for your book. It is the first thing all agents and editors will see when you are trying to find a home for your work.
Writing a query letter is the writer’s equivalent of puberty. It is a stressful, fumbling, awkward, and down-right uncomfortable time. It seems everyone has an opinion to contribute and not-a-one of them applies directly to your situation. If you’re lucky, really lucky, someone comes along who can put the entire process in perspective and ease the emotional tension. I hope to be that someone. I’ve done a lot of querying, and it sucks. But, if you want to take a stab at traditional publishing, it is a must.
Here I offer four general tips with which almost every literary agent or editor would agree.
1. Know whom you are querying and what they want.
2. Respect the agent or editor’s time.
3. Be able to describe your book succinctly.
4. Do not quit.
Be sure to tune in to the Official Prose. Blog for the full article by indie author and regular contributor, Kendall Bailey (@KBaileyWriter), later today at: blog.theprose.com.
Also, in case you missed it: we recently launched the “Prose Pitch” challenge (theprose.com/challenge/2444) giving everyone the chance to win a full-stack indie publishing deal. Pitch (or “query”) your novel-to-be in 500-750 words. If we like it, we’ll help you edit, market, and publish it so you can share it with the world. For more information, please contact our editorial staff directly at https://theprose.com/p/contact.
Dirt and Grass
The cool breeze rippling through my soft brown hair. Inhale. Ahh. The smell of grass and dirt fill my nose. There is no better smell in the world. I look down to see soft tan dirt littering the entire field, until it meets grass. I left my gaze to outline the entire field. Who knew dirt and grass was such a lovely combination? Who knew it could offer a place to relieve stress, to feel victory as well as loss? I step out onto the field, feeling the dirt clump underneath my metal spikes, I take off at a decent speed. Taking in the view I have. Finished running. Stop. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Don't you feel the calm? I know I do. I close my eyes, and imagine a game being played in front of me. To see nine girls working their ass off on defense. The offensive player ready to take advantage of any minuscule mistake. This, this right here is why the dirt and the grass is my sanctuary.
As I pour the amber liquid into my tiny glass, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The day has been long. The questions asked were more than uncomfortable.
I shoot back the Peach flavored whiskey, then pour another shot. The upcoming weeks activities clamor in my mind. I pop that shot back without a thought and refill the glass.
As the warming liquid begins to course through my body, the world around my starts to quiet. My mind becomes more peaceful.
I go to the fridge to grab a beer, crack it open and take several swallows. Mmmmm. Refreshing.
I throw back one more shot then grab my beer and head to the porch. It is dark, quiet, and peaceful. I can no longer feel, therefore I am happy.
I close my eyes once again, take a deep breath and smile.