Interestingly, Jan of the below just titles the piece Prose Poem. I say interestingly because I wouldn't consider it a prose poem, really. In many ways it follows the standards of "fiction" insofar as it has character, setting and "plot." Of course this brings up some interesting questions about the difference between the two forms (prose poetry and flash fiction). I've used the term flash fiction as a part of this blog, but I use it very loosely. I prefer thinking about short prose as a blurred category (though I suppose most good writing blurs the line somewhere) and I think this is an interesting example of how people see the form. What are your views of flash fiction? Leave a response in the comments if you have something to say on the subject.
Please send your blurry pieces to email@example.com
. I look forward to reading yours.
Prose Poem by Jan Notzon
The sweat-stained blanket of night spreads mercilessly over the land
and in the distance, the dogs
The heat of day that manacles the spirit in a desperate prayer for deliverance, clings like a sultry appendage to every forlorn atom of the air and blows a desiccated, anhydrous whisper, born in the bowels of the earth's molten core, across old wooden windows that protest in an angry rattle and with time, crack and bleed from aching void of moisture. It rouses from a restless sleep the dust from gravel roads and desert's exsiccation that claws and scrapes its way into each and every pore, turning the throat to sandpaper and grit.
For Jason, the implacable, barbarous heat making sleep a fitful wish, the moments pass like hours, hours an eternity.
The wind dies a halting death; the windows settle into mute stillness and the silence of the night starved of motion and grace descends in pitiless exigence of air and space. Then slowly, faintly, and from such a desperate distance it echoes hollowly in the lugubrious, night-cowled viaduct, now abandoned by all save the “Equis”, the “Chacon” and the other darkness-loving youth gangs that haunt it, one solitary beast, a wary sentinel in the vacuous, oppressive night air, begins its nocturnal duty, and forlornly emits its plaintive call. Its distant, troglodytic warning jiggles the syrupy somnolence of the tenebrous desert town, now all, save one, imprisoned in the arms of Morpheus.
Immediately, two others then join the dirge, answering the companionless cry of danger or suspicion; the timorous tocsin then complemented by a siren perhaps and, after a breath of eternity, another. The ponderous iron thudding of a distant train with its whining, mournful wail; cars, unconcerned by sleeping officials, whizzing by in the night air, the ubiquitous cricket, unconscious and unconsciously questing its perpetuity, all joining the mysterious white noise of the still night.
The gentle breath of Jason's one dear friend at his side on the floor below, ever-loving, ever vigilant in her canine devotion, brings a hint of solace.
But outside, there were ever the dogs...barking.
So still it was, so dead, so bereft of movement, of escape from the heat and the sweat and the senseless sounds that take possession of his soul as he struggles to escape his involuntary vigil.
He agonizes, Jason does, sometimes cries, for the loneliness he senses in the dogs barking. He knows them; soul mates they are; close now, down the block, across the forlorn street, over the friendless viaduct as it echoes and magnifies the sounds' shrewd sorrow. The claw of agony grips his viscera with a fist of iron, twists the red-hot pike of despair in his guts that is his constant companion.
He longs, he aches for...what? He prays, he begs God for...he cannot say; he has not the words.
But breath after shallow breath, as he struggles to fathom the mystery so elegantly posed by those constant feral companions of sound, his anxious eyelids grow heavy, dance the dance of halting somnolence; the taught muscles of trepidation in his stomach lose their struggle to remain so, marching heart slowing to a lowering nocturne, and desperately though grudgingly, he drifts into the murky haze of life's balm, the little death—of sleep.
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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