Browning MT, Day Three


Creek Clean up Photo: Paul Anderson

We begin the day with a dirge and end with a dance.
Bill — housing activist, festival organizer, sousaphone player — is 64. To the tune of the Volga Boatman, we sing the happy birthday which begins “Death destruction and despair…” ands is graced with verses such as “May the candles on your cake burn like cities in your wake, Happy Birthday” and “Your servants steal, your wife’s untrue, your children plan to murder you, Happy Birthday.” The twenty-one verses are all in this vein; we stop at seven. A good time is had by all.


Today is the first of our service projects. We are asked by our hosts, the Blackfeet Business Council, to help a local Manpower crew clean Willow Creek which runs through Browning. When we are told about this before we leave, I see the waterways of Cairo clogged with the detritus of urban living. Why else would they want our help? I don’t make it to the clean-up, but I see the pictures, grassy green banks with the snow capped mountains in the background. They look more Switzerland than Egypt but a truck of trash is removed.
P6150508At the Stick Game Arbor where we live and hold our forums and workshops, hola hooping continues, boys circle the room on skate boards, Erin has a workshop for kids that makes fashion from junk, clowning is popular with everyone and Chautauquans learn to play the stick game.P6160552






The street dance begins at 7 in a parking lot. There is a DJ, a snow cone stand, a table on youth addiction and a truck with free meals for kids. Matt, a young local man who hangs out with us, says they do them every Thursday night. “They try to get families to do stuff together.”

Healing  fracture seems to me to be thematic in a lot of what we learn is going on in the community programs. It would be. At the heart of Blackfoot culture were theBuffalo. The “white father’s” conquerers destroyed the Buffalo in order to destroy the people who lives were built around them.
P6160641P6160637At the dance, there is a horse race with hobby horses, the music is hip hop and pop and a good time is had by all.


no one leaves home unless


Rally 1-1

Famine Statue, Dublin Ireland 5th September 201

HOME  –  Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
Rally 2-1
On the 5th of September at the Famine Monument on the River Liffey, a thousand people held a minute’s silence for refugees.  In the Great Famine/An Gorta Mor of 1842 to 1845, Ireland lost a quarter of its population to death and emigration.
Twelve thousand Irish people have so far offered beds in their homes to the refugees trying to find safety in Europe.  The government’s first offer was to admit 600.
 Born in Kenya in 1988 to Somali parents, Warsan Shire was raised and still lives in London.

The Creative Process Blog Tour





Bluebells seeding, April 2012

The Creative Process Blog Tour

Thank you Andy Carter ( for passing the Creative Process Blog Tour to me; you have placed me in some very good company.

what am I working on?

“Write a short story every week. It is not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row,” Ray Bradbury advises in Zen and the Art of Writing. I’ve read a number of his short stories and I’m afraid it is entirely possible to write 52 or 82 or 112 bad short stories or not very good ones in a row, which in no way takes away from his wonderful novels. His marathon is inspiring and as soon as I have unpacked from my 8 months in San Francisco I plan to post my first short short in the series on my blog site and see if I can indeed keep the pace for 52 weeks.  I am also working on more quality short stories in a class with Sean O’Reilly at the Irish Writer’s Centre My ‘cheap fiction’ chugs along,  going through another draft of an historical novel.   An American heiress is pushed into a marriage with an Irish aristocrat, as were many American women in the late 19th Century, a “gilded prostitution.” My heroine’s father has a dark past and she is married off to a virtually impoverished lord in the West of Ireland.  Her husband is glacial, the Ascendancy world is precarious and she must either fight or flee.  It’s fun.

how does my work differ from others of its genre?

When I began writing short stories I heard a number of suggestions that perhaps I should be writing poetry and at the very least I had to provide my readers with ‘more information, more background, more explanation’. The writer Mike McCormack gave me Amy Hempel’s   In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried and I realised there are others, better undoubtedly, in the same territory.  As Hempel said about her discovery of the writers brought forward by Gordon Lish They didn’t sound like anyone else I had read. For me, they redefined what a story could be—the thing happening off to the side of the story other writers were telling; they would start where someone else would leave off, or stop where someone else would start. Right now I am still engaged in celebrating all the ways I do not differ. On the historicals, again it is a matter of attaining the standard of those I respect, rather than establishing new territory.  Immediately to mind are Barbara Hambly for moral context she establishes in her Benjamin January series and Elizabeth Gaskell for the metaphysical questions in Wives and Daughters.  A matter of  being able to follow the rules before I break them.

why do I write what I do?

Because I enjoy it.

how does my writing process work?

For me a short story begins with a pressing image and then words, sentences, ideas follow that image. I frequently use a timer and write in ten minute bursts until the story has an arc. At the rewrite stage I go back and explore what is actually there and what I want to do with it. The historical novels, my cheap fiction, after several years of planning and outlining now begin in National Writing Month when I charge as fast as possible my rough draft with no plans whatsoever. This is always in the first person and frequently I will write out scenes from the first person POV of everyone in them. I find the need to produce close to 1,700 words a day to reach NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 word target is great for making the censor keep his/her mouth shut.

I nominate Meryl Natchez of  Meryl you’re up.