Night Walk

as comets streak cross galaxies
I dance down a puddled street
splashing through a sea of stars
reflections wet my feet

I walk past lamp lit skeletons
their leaves now lost and drowned
and wonder on this winter night
where can truth be found

Tio Stib

2014, 2019

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Lumpy Gravy, Thoughts on Writing Well

I’m working on the rewrite of a chapter in a new book and in spite of hours of effort, when I pause to listen to what I’ve written, it sounds like lumpy gravy.

Yes, I realize that gravy doesn’t talk, sing, or make any other noise, but it still seems the perfect metaphor for my imperfect words. In case you’re not familiar with gravy and, in particular, lumpy gravy, a brief description-

Gravy is a sauce made from cooked meat juices, stock, and other ingredients. One ingredient is flour, which is used to thicken the sauce. When the flour is added incorrectly, the result is lumpy gravy, little balls of unmixed flour in the sauce, a culinary no-no. Like good writing, I believe creating good gravy, a sumptuously smooth sauce, is a combination of rigorous practicality and delicate art.

My own experience is that lumpy gravy usually results from hurrying, compromising time and care because of impatience, setting an unrealistic timeline for creating something that simply cannot be rushed. There is a proper order and way to add and mix ingredients. don’t do this and you get lumps.

what are the lumps in my writing? Words and phrases that don’t sound right, feel out of place, don’t fit the desired style, don’t truly support the theme. Adverbs and adjectives that were easy to insert but, upon reflection, don’t add anything. 

What I write seldom comes out smooth and lump free the first time. Admittedly, I rarely succeed at creating lump free gravy either. In cooking, there are two ways to fix this, stir or whisk much more, or, something few will admit to, strain the gravy through a sieve to remove the lumps. 

This is what rewriting is all about, the writer’s process of removing the lumps from his work through careful consideration, in my case, listening as I can’t see what I’ve written. Often I brainstorm words, sentences, even paragraphs. with the magic power of today’s word processing technology and my text reader friend, Alex voiceOver, I can quickly try and listen to many options, until I hear something that is smooth and feels right. And on I move to the next paragraph.

Ultimately, I’m the cook in my word kitchen and I know, that unless what I’ve written passes my taste test, unless I’ve taken the time, done the work, to make perfect, lump free, gravy, those words can’t leave the kitchen.

tio stib

2018, 2019

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River of Words

River of Words

my life floats down a river of words
on paragraphs, syllables, tales once heard
they call out as I drift by
love and pain, both truth and lies

emphatic “yes!”
a stolid “no.”
the overused, unhelpful “so”
“goodbye”
“forever”
“I’ll be there”
“why not?”
“you said”
“I don’t care”
“quiet, please”
“how can I think?”
“have you ever seen the sky so pink?”

the words speed up
the rapids roar
fearful sounds from times before
then I’m lost and swept away
chaos and cacophony
gulping right and spitting wrong
gasping as I’m thrown along
shouting voices, “me! me! me!”
screaming insecurity
then bashed on conflict’s argument
my heart gives out
my soul is spent

in drowning plight
I see a dove
one final thought
remember

love

the verbal roar falls far behind
consciousness comes back to mind
as grace, sweet heaven, sets me free
and quiet waters welcome me

my life floats down a river of words
heading towards a voice unheard
yet whispers on the waves call me
“you can, dear one, you can be free”

love

love

love

tio stib

2017, 2019

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Breaking Trail

in winter stillness
ancient aspens watch
a chickadee flitting past
feathered music
bouncing
over infinite blue

alone
atop the buried meadow
a man paused
turned
looked back at the trampled snow
the trail of footsteps
each print a shadowed testament
to sweat falling from his brow

all he could see was white
reflected memories in a sea of snow
light’s harsh truth
stinging weary eyes

a deep sigh
a gasp of icy air
a hesitation in the heartbeat of being

a smile

he chooses life

again

tio stib

2016, 2018, 2019

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The Challenge of Climbing Mountains

most think the challenge of climbing mountains
is reaching the top
sweating
aching
heart pounding
pushing past fear
step by step
to finally stand victorious
in the rare air
above the clouds of ordinary being
surrounded by distant views
of unclaimed summits

but
with each descending step
the real work begins
returning to the valley of everyday existence
the spirit begins to shrink
atrophy
for it can no longer be fed
by ordinary life

the real challenge of climbing mountains
is never surrendering the summits of our dreams
to stand alone
bold and free
with only mountaintops
for company

tio stib, 2016, 2019

You might also enjoy  Breaking Trail, Dead Horse Point 

A Season for Adventuring

rocketing through a cacti forest
past towering sentinels frozen in moonlight
night air and music blasting through the cockpit
singing with Cat Stevens
Riding on the peace train

I’m speeding into wildness at 3 a.m.
crossing into the unknown
road tripping
on the loose

Fall has called me forth
to a season for adventuring

ghosting through the morning mist
as day slides from gray to gold
I’m pulled by hunger into a small cafe
cradling a warm coffee cup
I spy the famished hiker beside me
demolishing a plate full of pancakes

he turns and smiles

Fall is freedom
the work is done, the harvest in
I’m on the road again

mornings are cool now
Fall brings a sharpened awareness
a time to wipe fog from my glasses

as growing sunlight melts shadows from the river
cold water swirls about my shivering thighs
I cast to a distant riffle
the line lays out softly
the fly disappears in a splash

lost in the sweet perfume of pine sap
following a dusty trail of memories
the buzz below me sounds familiar

Jeez!

Damn! Helluva rattlesnake!

all those blue highways
all those maps, long before GPS
all those little country stores
all those stops to buy a soda, asking directions

where the heck is Boggan’s Oasis?

and the magic of those unexpected moments

chasing wild horses through a sea of purple sage
eyeing eagles falling from heaven in their mating aerobatics
cresting a final ridge to discover Shangri-La
an azure lake sparkling in an alpine meadow

immersed
alone
in a hot springs pool
steam rising into nothingness
feeling forever in all directions
soul steeped in gratitude
as sky slips from gold
to pink
to gone

I will not travel these roads again
but they will haunt my heart when
once again
Fall calls the vagabond
to a season for adventuring

tio stib

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