Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: LIGHTS

Cee Neuner, thank you for coming up with such interesting prompts.

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When Self Can’t Sleep: 3 a.m. in her cottage at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig

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Late October: Walking back to the cottage after dinner in the Main House, Tyrone Guthrie Centre

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The cottages at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig make maximum use of natural light.

Self was able to keep working on Blue Water, Distant Shores, her novel-in-progress about 18th century Philippines (As of now, 322 pages)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Sunday: AINE MacAODHA

Self really likes that the cottage is full of poetry books. Every time she comes, she discovers someone new.

She found a book called Landscape of Self (Belfast: Lapwing Publications, 2015) by Aine MacAodha.

Here’s the first half of a poem called

To My Children When I’m Gone

Some mountains are higher than others
Winter can cause frost bite.
Without a bit of darkness
We may not appreciate the light afterwards.
Remember the good in the world
The take your breath smiles
The smile from a stranger in a strange place
The beauty in a daisy chain
The elegance in a buttercup
The wonder of a webbing spider
The warmth of a heart
When another’s fiery arrow hits it
Love and goodness costs nothing
Hatred causes illness
Treat the nature around you with respect
Treat your spirit with kindness others too
Manners are easily carried.

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

For Sarah Balabagan, OFW, by Marianne Villanueva

FOR SARAH BALABAGAN, OFW 

Note:  OFW stands for “Overseas Filipino Workers.” As of 2010, there were believed to be close to 2 million OFWs working in almost every country in the world, including Albania, Mongolia, Romania, and Swaziland.  

You with the round face, the dark blue headscarf, I saw you first at 3 p.m.

It was a hot afternoon in September.  I’d opened Marie Claire or Glamour, I don’t now remember which, and there you were, grave and unsmiling. (But what cause would you have to smile?  I found out all, later.)

Your father’s name was Karim, and your mother’s, Bai.  You grew up in the island of Mindanao, in the Philippines.  You were fourth in a family of fourteen children.

The man who raped you was dead (I was happy to read).  You stabbed him 34 times.

You knew that most likely you were never going to get a husband. Not after what had happened.

It was the worst thing you ever imagined.  Not just the pain, no — it was worse than that.  The telling to your mother – it nearly finished you.

He gouged the skin of your throat with his long fingernails.  You were afraid, but the fear was nothing compared to your shame.

You asked yourself, “Why?”  Your brothers too said it, but they pointed fingers at your mother (who wept, who refused to leave the house for months, who even attempted suicide) and sometimes, (though not as much) at your father.

Your brothers shouted, “Why did you let her go?  To a place like that?”

The newspapers recorded every accusation.

As if anyone could ever have foreseen such a catastrophe.

The man who sat across the table from you at the police station in Abu Dhabi, the man you knew only as “Pak,” said over and over:  “You said that such and such a thing happened on such and such a day.  Why do you make up such stories?”

You said, “I swear to God – “

“Swearing is a sin.  Whose God are you swearing at?  You will be tortured if you don’t stop these lies.”

They said you would be permitted to return home, but only after you confessed.

You held out for four months.  Then, the man named Pak came again with the form and this time, you signed it.  “Now you have nothing to worry about,” Pak said.

A week later, you were in the courtroom to hear your sentence. While you waited for the translation, you imagined yourself back home.  Your lawyer patted your hand.  The look on his face was sorrowful.

Sentenced to death, he said.  “What?” you said.  He repeated, Sentenced to death.

I read how the murdered man’s sons spoke on your behalf.  Yes, they told the court.  We believe our father capable of rape.

Because of their testimony, the sentence was reduced to 100 lashes.  After another year in prison, you returned home.  You were thin and wan – Oh, you were much changed.

They said you became a singer. Your voice, though untrained, was described as “pure,” which must have pleased your brothers no end.

You became quite well-known, and sang in shows with Heart Evangelista and Dulce Amor. You opened for Dingdong Avanzado, and were invited to record a duet with the popular Ogie Alcasid.

As for your mother, she still says, over and over, It was never my idea.

You had your first child at 18.  The father was a journalist.  He left you after two years.

In your mind, you have never left Abu Dhabi. You are still in that small barred cell, shrinking in horror from the jailers who point at your shaved head and mutter curses. You will always be there, enacting penitence for an event that never ends and a guilt that never leaves.  It is there always, in your blood, as is fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

– End

Novel-In-Progress: Hard Pruning

Self has cut so much from her novel-in-progress, Blue Water, Distant Shores, it’s now just 314 pages.

The parts that stay, that made it through three drafts, will be part of the end manuscript now. For sure.

Such as this passage:

The new Gubernador-General announced his intention to establish a system of garrisons ringing the southern Philippine kingdoms of Maranao and Sulu, to contain the Moslem threat. Everyone knew this was idle talk. Spain could not send more soldiers. As the situation stood, she could barely hang on to her prize, the Most Holy City of Manila.

Matias’s watchtower preceded the Church. The site he found was a narrow spit of land that followed the Bago River from its mouth to the Guimaras Strait, which united the Visayan and Sulu Sea.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Novel-In-Progress: FARM, MOUNTAIN, SEA, Ch. 1

Self’s novel is set on the island of Negros, in the central Philippines, at the start of the Japanese Occupation during World War II. Honorato, an hacendero‘s son, and Moses, the enkargado, are ordered to the mountains by Honorato’s father.

Self is bringing it, people. Just bringing it. Right now, her manuscript stands at 247 pages.

The next day the forest rears up before them, indescribably dense. It takes them a mere hour to reach the first line of trees. Upon entering, they find themselves under a thick canopy of foliage, the light fading to a cathedral dimness. Birds and an occasional monkey frolic overhead.

Moses leads the way, hacking the heavy vines and tree branches that block their path. Soon, his back is soaked with sweat. Honorato watches silently as the enkargado removes his shirt. The older man’s back is ribbed and corded and hard-looking, with small scars pocking the surface, from what past injury Honorato can only guess.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Another Novel-in-Progress, Found

This one takes place in the Philippines during World War II.

The working title is Farm and Mountain:

Four days later, the enkargado took Honorato to the mountains.

It was almost too late. From across the narrow strait separating them from the neighboring island of Panay, smoke had been rising, for days. The Zeros had made straight for the fuel depots in Iloilo.

243 pp.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Stonehenge/Pacifica

In 2014, self went to see Stonehenge.

She signed up for a small-group tour, the only one allowed on the site towards sunset. All the big tour buses had left. The guide, a retired military officer, led the group across a sheep meadow.

This is unquestionably the best approach. It allows the view to unfold gradually. You are reminded that this was how people, in time immemorial, must have approached the monument: in procession. Self could hardly contain her excitement at her first glimpse of the pillars of stone.

The mystery of the site has stayed with her. The fact that no human habitations were ever built around it. What was it used for?

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From this vantage point, we could clearly see the jagged outline of the stones, just above the rise.

Well before she saw Stonehenge, she’d written about it in a piece called Stonehenge/Pacifica, published in Wigleaf, 2012.

It was a dream I had, some restless night. One of those weeks or months or years when we were worried about money.

But when were we ever not worried?

First there was the mortgage, and then the two.

And then your mother got sick, and your father died.

And my mother I think developed Alzheimer’s, but we never mentioned it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Dystopia In Progress

Self is going to try, while she’s at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, pulling all her science fiction together into one collection.

What to call it?

She’s toying with the idea of making this the first story:

THE FREEZE (published in Bluestem)

Redwood, Oak, Laurel, Manzanita, Pine
Redwood, Oak, Laurel, Manzanita, Pine
Redwood, Oak, Laurel, Manzanita, Pine

Thanksgiving was just a week ago. I served brined turkey with oatmeal rolls and my special fig-and-rice stuffing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

More From Self’s “Residents of the Deep”

Self’s story is set in some unknown century. The explorer who is the MC is something like Captain Cook (Oceania! What a fantastic exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts!):

  • From the lack of authentic records, ascending into remote antiquity, the origin of most very ancient cities is involved in obscurity. Who would have supposed that a very old civilization existed on the ocean floor, one that had escaped the notice of man for centuries, equaling — nay, in some cases exceeding — the grandeur of ancient Rome.

In self’s story, the Residents of the Deep accomplish all their daily tasks in one-quarter time. That is, they appear human, but their behavior is just a little “off.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Work-in-Progress: “Residents of the Deep”

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Map of Oceania

Self began this story on her very first visit to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig and has added to it, bit by bit, over the years. She was in Unit # 4 and there was an old maritime book in one of the cupboards.

She doesn’t worry about finishing this story. It will always be “in progress” — it will always exist in middle time, like her visits to this part of Ireland and beautiful Annaghmakerrig.

Here are the opening sentences:

There is something singularly impressive and affecting to the imagination when, in a perfectly calm tropical sea, under a vertical sun, one is able to look down through a depth of thousands of fathoms of clear water and see on the ocean bottom glimpses of the City and all its strange and wonderful objects. The discovery of a populous City existing under fathoms of ocean is an occurrence with no precedent in the annals of exploration, one that overshadows even the discovery of the Americas by Columbus.

Self’s stories are always birthed this way: with the opening sentences. No matter how many drafts her stories go through, the opening sentences never change. If the sentence is strong, it is like a fine, big engine that can power her through — even 20 or 25 pages later — all the way to the end. See the interview she gave to Bellingham Review, the Contributor Spotlight that accompanied their publication of self’s story, Ice. (The first four or five paragraphs of Ice were unchanged from first draft)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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