by Thea Constantine
Never before have we had so much access to so much media with so little effort. It’s actually harder to avoid the news than it is to find it. Television and the Internet stream and broadcast local and international news 24 hours a day in every language imaginable. All this input can result in anything from outraged muttering, eye-rolling and cursing at people you’ve never met, to finding yourself tearing up or cheering on total strangers living halfway round the world.
These images and sound bites that assault our senses daily can provide a rich source of material, a transformation of the Five Ws to something deeply personal. Here are two great examples, the first by VoiceCatcher author and poet Shawn Aveningo, the second by Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine:
Binders Full of Women
… and they brought us whole binders full of women.
– Mitt Romney, US Presidential Debate, 2012
It wasn’t until after the attack
I discovered the binder. Forty-seven
girls drugged, stripped, photographed,
raped. Page 48 sits empty, waiting
for the photo they took of me. Greek
Council enforced crackdown on hazing,
but for this, Sigma Chi had no such
policy. Buried beneath public
philanthropy and brotherhood, lie
bones of broken sisters, shattered souls,
shards of shame – a mosaic whose mortar
weakened year by year, one woman bravely
blowing the lid off the coffin.
– Shawn Aveningo, VoiceCatcher: a journal of women’s voices and visions, Summer 2014 issue
A Little Black
The children of Juarez have run out
of red crayons. There’s so much blood
in their eyes; the bodies of mules
dumped in their schools, hand & heads
by the road, blood in pools, blood
in stories of blood. Before I know it,
I’m planning my own crime, the worst
a poet can commit: to steal suffering,
call it mine. How vivid, I think, what
a strong detail on which to build.
I open my computer, the great self-
making book of our age, search for
more of the story, for the words, run
out of red crayons. I find children
out of red in Pakistan, in Haiti, no red
left in Afghanistan, none in Georgia.
The children of Sierra Leon have gone
through pink to purple, in Myanmar
they’re down to brown. I thought I had
something to add. I have nothing to add
but a little black, the color of the line,
color that consumes all others.
–2011 Brendan Constantine
This poem appears in the book Birthday Girl With Possum (2011 Write Bloody Publishing)
Both pieces evoke a somber, dark mood, but as anyone who views the morning news is well aware, there are all kinds of absurdities out there just begging to be teased out by the right pen. That’s just the standard stuff, too. Many presses feature a “News of the Weird” column chock full of some of the strangest truths around. I recently clipped a story about a man right here in Portland who tried to strangle his lover using his dreadlocks – you really can’t make this sh*t up, but you can sure have a whole lot of fun with it.
See if you can find a few stories that call to you this month. October’s a wonderful time for weird – and if you’re feeling generous, please come back and share.
Thea Constantine is a writer and certified AWA facilitator with PDX Writers. Her short stories have most recently appeared in In Focus, the quarterly magazine of the PEN Cyprus Center; Stellazine; Roving Writers; “On the Yellow Line,” a weekly column for Street Roots; and an original serial for the online magazine The Black Boot. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies. She just won 1st Place Short Story in the maiden edition of the Watercress Journal. She is currently at work on her first novel, Stumptown.