Maybe I was safer stealing my neighbor’s tiny bicycle at four years old and pedaling for the city with all my might, than I was riding my own tricycle within my own yard. After all, hundreds of children disappear from their own driveways each year. Safety in numbers, you see. Nobody kidnaps a four-year-old child while he is pedaling on main street, at least not that I have ever heard.
One day I kissed my mom goodbye, descended the tall porch steps carefully, one foot after the other. I stared at the old faithful, a tricycle with white frame and red on top near the handlebars. I always had a vivid imagination, unfortunately, too many times, I acted on thoughts others abandoned. And I abandoned that old faithful trike and headed to the duplex up the road, determined to escape.
The kids in the duplex were in school. They had taught me to ride that little red bike the day before, and I had not forgotten. It was like…heaven, rolling on two wheels onto the gray open road. I snuck through the neighbor’s lawns, sought out the shady spot near the garage. The tiny red bike looked like my dad’s 500 BSA Goldstar propped up at the wall. The shade of a huge sprouting maple tree covered me in the act of my sin. I savored the moment, swelling with pride. The better of two worlds had somehow at that moment come together—I could ride a bike, and now I had a bike—this was going to be a blast.
I lifted my short leg over the shiny crimson bar and sat in the leather seat. I gripped the plastic handlebars and pushed my way out into a three-way intersection, coasted before firing up the engine so as not to awaken anyone. My feet had more freedom pedaling than they had ever had doing anything else. The asphalt streamed under me like a gray whale swimming just below its young. The clouds could breathe beneath the sun; the fields could laugh as the winds blew across them in satisfying waves.
‘Umph!” The bike jerked almost to a stop. Gravel scrunched the solid rubber front wheel, huge smooth stones blocking its way.
I come from a family of bikers, so I was in no way out of my element, though I detested the slow progress I was making. I lifted the handlebars and pedaled through the gravel like a bug in quicksand, barely made it to the thin gravel of the main road.
Ah, the satisfying purr of log trucks sweeping the corner of a main road. Weyerhaeuser’s smoke stacks spired like candy canes and leaked their smoke over huge piles of sawdust. Stacks of green fir logs enclosed the perimeter of the mill in an oval shape that went around for miles, sprinklers keeping them wet and then spilling into the trench, moat that circled with the logs.
A millpond, what a sight. The dry dust I left behind me wafted toward the long rows of silent trucks that filled the sand and Gravel Company’s parking lot, like the yellow Tonka trucks I had so many times loaded Lincoln logs onto. Some were packed with logs, some empty with giant empty ribs stretching at the sun. I dug deep into the pit of my youthful strength, giving pedals an extra push, as if that huge grunt came from me held a velocity would launch me into an earth orbit.
My Aunt Darlene’s newly remodeled ranch house was last barrier between me and freedom. The curved road, scattered with trucks and cars, looked like the curvature of the earth to my adolescence: once I got around that log laden corner I’d enter a new world where I could do as I pleased, no rules, no time limits, just me, a stolen red bike, and the open road. As a rallying cry, I heard my toddler cousins Dan and Christy, cheering me on at the top of their lungs. “Donny! Donny!” And why wouldn’t they? I had escaped the restraints of my youth. Life held no limits for me; I lived and did as I pleased.
I, on my stolen bike, was a tiny speck charging past rolling fields. I entered the main road to loop around the curvature of the Weyerhaeuser plant. My aunt Darlene emerged into the drive of her house, swinging out the door of her Plymouth. The engine of the Plymouth roared.
I pedaled faster, knowing if I reached that one spot quickly coming into view, that last horizon, I could never be detained. That curve was the key, for it hid all else of humankind and nature in its huge vastness, unlike the tiny already discovered territory I had just escaped.
When Aunt Darlene dropped my red bike into her trunk, it could have ended my dreams. Still, running on a four-stroke engine and two wheels, I remember the dream, and what it felt like to be free on the open roads of Oregon.
Don V Standeford
Feb 15, 2017
Grown from such a sweet small flower
Tiny toes, tiny fingers
Trapped in the hot light of an incubator
all three pounds fourteen ounces
of baby in your tiny hospital gown
so tiny and so frail
My little Thumbelina
Lying in your walnut shell cradle
Rocked by hands of hopeful love
the pain your tiny teardrops tore
into my heart and into yours
You were such a small newborn child
too soon from your mother’s womb
Too far from your father
But Christiana, Christina
you’ll always be my Thumbelina
Born from the earth
you unfurled like a flower
the stubborn seed still within you
You were such a stubborn one
You wandered with the wayward winds
Got captured by some demon toad
Who held you in his dungeon dark
Cold, weary, wanting more
After a summer of warm simple Sundays
when fall had drained their light to dusk
sultry winter made you bitter
and the ivy poisoned dew drops
suffocated your love torn leaves
When I was young, I was weak
But when I was weak I rose up strong
Though I was never the invincible oak
That cracks the unforgiving stone
I Was Much the Same as You:
Endless streets I walked alone
Waiting for buses that never would arrive
Glimpsing mirages of the warm, the safe and the dry
those people born to live life large and free
So happy in their busy bustle, soaring
in their red painted sleighs and holiday hustle
Did you dream of your faithful prince —
With his dozen white roses,
Red lip-Stick kisses?
Still you knew those dreams were mere candy
for other children, the children of another promise
so wholly complete and winter worn.
My life has always seemed to me a partial ellipses’
I wonder how many times you cried
how many times you died inside
who sent you into the winds of time
while the world was happy, doing fine.
The past is just a bubble now
Pursuing you, a relentless streaming dream
just one strained ticking of tensile time
we know giants existed then;
they fell upon us with their swords
So Christina, my Thumbelina
Lean forward and hold my arm
Together we will flee all those monsters
only the cold fog and darkness sees
we’ll put an end to all our despairs
all our miseries
And one day we will see our Lord
His wholly light, mystical mercies,
His wonderful worth
Look below us where his angels fly
a soft cushioned cloud to lift us up into
the ether as rear guard beings behind us fly
Flashing hope from angel’s eyes
Their solid swords stretched out to swing
and turn to dust all demon beings
at our Lord’s command.
He does all of this
My little Thumbelina
I saw you once, a pretty song
Faithful from your lips this song flew
No blue-bird, meadowlark or Robyn’s
Chirp rose higher or as true
Blessed, so blessed I was by you
I watched you put Christ’s words to memory
from some simple notes on a sheet
But then you switched to singing rock-n-roll
I had to watch that goodness go
My little Thumbelina
Soul so long searching
for your flower fellowshipping prince
Our Lord lifts high the humbled weak
Undrugs their mind from Satan’s sleep
He put you in my mother’s care
she shared with her a certain strength
The strength of God
I saw it in you
I saw the light of her brown eyes
Glow in yours, a holy blue
her smile found your fearful face
And while in His presence
you seemed whole again,
Romantic and renewed
Did her strength stay in your soul
when darkness drug your body low?
Did her prayers struggle in the dust
help you repel the heavy “MUST”?
That foreboding LAW
that deigned to dam you to an early grave
Held you heavy in unhallowed ground
where whispers swore out, “grace is dead”!
And pushed you
with its heavy
Was it my mother’s persistent prayers
that bore up your soul, lifted you
From Earthly fears?
As your enemies taunted
you lay below them bathed in tears,
so tight and strained
you were subdued
Oh, you could never ever be
this bride that stands in front of me
My little darling Thumbelina
Now your light glows with such peace
Aurora borealis’ magnetic grace
Your parents’ prayers, uncles, aunts
Grandparents, all those people past
Who watched a tiny darling girl
Fistfuls of fingers, wiggling toes
And sent a word or two to Heaven
More words probably than you know
Now how bright with peace you shine
A hallowed hail of hope divine
As one Christina and Shawn will share
In a vast eternal fairy tale
We know not where our futures go
they spread like colors in a stream
they cannot be fully finally fathomed
But will always soon be seen
Like Shawn, who now holds your hand
your prince who bears your flowers now
He’s prayed for you to be found
And you’ve received a pair of wings
to fly with him to where Christians sing
Maia, nurturer, Angel of Mercy:
Grab tight the wrists of all who need you now
Grip with all your stubborn might
go now, save all whom He sent you to save
Then together, Christina
You and Shawn will fly…
1. Introduction: Have you heard of the term “Objective Correlative?” The term was coined by T.S. Eliot to explain emotional connections between people and objects in literature. In a story if you want to summon emotion, you put that emotion into an object and the emotion is stored there. Later you can summon that emotion up in a powerful repetition of the word.
2. The Old Rocking Chair: Like the man who walks past a rocking chair each morning and slows and gazes at it, tears filling his eyes. He then shrugs and continues on into the kitchen. So why did he take such an interest in the chair? The theater crowd watches your character do that and they store it up in the back of their minds. Then in Act three said character argues with his brother who kicks the chair. Said man goes into hysterics and says, “Leave his chair alone! You hated him anyway!” One day said character ceremoniously puts an end to his mourning. He calls St. Vincent De Paul to take the chair. Reluctantly he watches them drive off with it…his dead father’s favorite chair. So you’ve got the chair as an objective correlative. You pack it with emotion by showing how characters (often different ones) react to it in different ways. Perhaps other characters in the story won’t care for the chair at all, because they didn’t care for the guy who used to sit in it all the time.
3. Start Early On: Introduce an object early on, get your characters to react to it, and later in the story you can recall it to create the desired effect.
4. A Character Can Be Treated As An Object: It is possible to turn a character in your story into an Objective Correlative. After all, character is desire. What a woman wanted when she was young determines what she did when she was young, what kind of people she hung around. And all that goes in to determining who she is today. How other characters act toward her or in response to things she does or says is much determined by their past experiences with either her or someone she reminds them of. The woman may have a daughter she’s close to. She’s been that girl’s best friend all her life, and as adults they are like sisters; they do everything together. The interaction between mother and daughter has caused both of them, especially the daughter, to store up a lifetime of emotions, each in the other, so each time they see each other those old emotions are aroused. The culmination of all the positive and negative emotions has a great effect on how they feel about each other.
5. Pain Or Pleasure? We like what has given us pleasure and usually despise what gives us pain (unless pain gives us pleasure and pleasure gives us pain). People’s interrelationships are complex compared to one person’s action or reaction toward an object. The principle of correlation of emotions transfers from interrelationships to people-object relationships nicely though.
6. Cataloging Emotional Experiences: Objective Correlative works in fiction because it comes from real life. Our minds instinctively collect experiences good and bad and logs them away somewhere. At some point the mind catalogues the gentle and warm and connects them to an object or person (Not always the correct object or person). Negative experience is likewise catalogued. The sum of all those correlations influences a character’s action or reaction to others.
7. Paycheck Day: Imagine if on January second each year a short gray haired man came up your walk, knocked on the door, and presented you with a check for fifty thousand dollars. Each January second, you anticipate his arrival. For twenty January seconds, this short old man gives you a check. Soon you’ve got short gray haired man on the brain. You love old small guys. You laugh when you see them, even think of them. You want to stop and chat with him, maybe give him a pat on his little gray head. Soon you celebrate January second. You call it “Paycheck Day,” and refuse to fall to the mundane on “Paycheck Day.” The front door old gray knocks on is now sacred, and the walk with it. Nothing associated with old gray haired man is bad, empty, and barren to you; not after the second or third Paycheck Day.
8. Guilt Over a Debt: What if a short gray haired balding bill collector constantly harped you about money owed. Every gray hair on his head angers you. Then, after constant harping, you trade your anger for guilt. You feel guilty whenever you see him for the debt. You get nauseous whenever you see him. And pretty soon you feel nauseous at the sight of any short gray haired man.
9. Your Turn: So what objects or characters in your story/poem cause your main character emotional stress? He hates fat people because he’s a glutton? A lady has bad experiences with married men so she is uncomfortable around all married men because, “They’re all the same?” He befriends a kindly old man to replace the void in his life from the dead grandfather he once used to chat comfortably with on the porch?
10. The Dog Whisperer: Some have great sensitivity to correlations with objects. My wife collects knickknacks, pictures of people, furniture, plates, and watches – all neatly organized. Each precious object triggers a flood of emotion in her. It’s the same with her relationship with animals. When I met her I knew she wasn’t a pet person. She had a dog she kept in a pen outside and never talked to or cared much about. One day she took that dog and dropped it off in some neighborhood to get rid of it. Her dad heard about it and went and got the dog and took care of it himself. So, she’s not a dog person, right? Wrong. Our daughter got herself a dog and it learned to depend on my wife. My wife soon grew so attached to that dog that they were inseparable. I had to learn to sleep with that dog in bed with us. She loved dog number too just as much. How could she abandon one dog yet love others? The answer: the first dog, the one she despised was the family dog when she was married before me. She correlated that dog with her ex and all the hurts living with him had caused her. Each time she saw her ex with that dog, feeding it, petting it, walking with it, stored up negative emotion in her she correlated with the dog.
11. How Do They Relate? Where’s emotional correlation in your story? Record objects and characters from your story and think how they relate to each other. How does Tanya, a plain looking lady, view her boss after he made a pass at her then told everyone he thought her ugly to get her back for refusing him? How many positives to erase that negative? A son hates his mom for cheating on his dad. The foster kid walks sullenly up the walkway of his new parent’s house after being abused at his last two houses. The voter shakes his head in disgust when yet another politician promises change.
Find correlations, link them all together in a way you can understand your characters and scene, and your story will write itself.
Don V Standeford
Why Did You End That Line There?
In free verse poetry you should always know why you end a line where you do and start the next one. Your reason does not have to satisfy anyone else but you. But if someone asks you, “Why did you end that line there,” you should be able to tell them why. If they don’t agree, too bad; it’s your choice. But you must have a reason.
Play One Line off Another Line
You might experiment with lines that play off each other, so you read a line and think it means one thing but when you read the next line you realize it means something slightly different. And then you may read the next line and a whole new meaning is twisted in. For example:
She could’ve been a prophet
From some ancient time,
Sent 2,000 Years into the future,
Cross the globe,
An evangelist who’d seen Christ
Raised up on a cross,
Who had shed tears
Upon the lovely
Body, wiped the lovely blood
Off His own hands,
And whose words came
From the mouth of God.
I thank God, she was,
and that she was my mom.
We shared life lovely,
and life hard, our hands
Intertwined, our hearts
At the dining room table.
A Few Examples of Using Line for Effect
This is one of my poems written for my mom (Only a piece of it). The first four lines are ordinary, except the word “She” foreshadows that something is odd — a woman prophet? May be in some religions.
The word “Christ” shifts meaning
But when we see “Christ” it doesn’t make sense. Christian women usually weren’t prophets 2,000 years ago, or evangelists.
That she saw Christ “Raised up on a cross,” adds another spin
Now we find she supposedly not only saw Christ, but saw him lifted up on a cross. This adds to the previous. The image we get when it says “Seen Christ” is perhaps him healing people, preaching, etc. But she saw him raised upon the cross, far more serious.
Next line adds intimacy and inclusion
But in the next line we find she “shed tears.” So we know she cared. But in the next line we find she shed tears “Upon the lovely/Body, wiped the lovely blood/” So now we know not only did she care, but she was one of the chosen, worthy not only of being near enough to see Christ after his death but to actually shed tears upon it and wipe the lovely blood.” She was included into his group.
Who can argue with God?
And her words came from the mouth of God. This cements the fact she is a prophet, one close to the source, Jesus.
One line can change the meaning of the whole poem
Then, in one line the whole course of the poem is changed. “She was my mom.” (So see, one line can change all the lines before it. Now we’re jerked into the 21st century, and we’re not talking about anyone who actually lived in the time of Jesus.
Five lines sum up the poem
The last stanza finishes this new twist by adding a mere five lines on our relationship. First line, “Lovely,” second line “hard.” First and second lines contrast each other, giving reader a chance to see both ends of life’s experiences. Notice that I don’t end the line on the tail end of a thought. This is how it could’ve looked:
We shared life lovely
We shared life hard
Our hands were intertwined
our hearts were entwined;
We prayed at the dining table.
Line use adds to poetic quality of poem
This revision doesn’t have any of the poetic qualities of the original. Since one whole thought is contained in each line the lines seem disassociated from each other. (This isn’t necessarily bad for some type of poems, but only if you want those lines separated for effect. this is usually done using couplets)
Two ideas can share one line
So there is an effect you can get by splitting one thought into two lines. It tends to give continuity to the poem and layers on meaning line to line. If each line contains exactly one thought, there is no transfer of imagery, thought, ideas, etc., from one line to another, which is not good for most poems, though effective to use occasionally.
Do it your way
Free verse is a continual experimentation with doing things your own way instead of like form poems where everything is solidified. What I have shown you is a few techniques. There are many others.
Don V Standeford