You were the remedy

You were the remedy–
fierce and destructive,
destroying life
like Hurricane Maria,
doling out blows to your children
with unyielding winds,
battering hope.

She was expected
to be the success story,
the one to get you out of
‘this damn town’;
The favorite,
the light-skinned daughter,
with good grades
and good hair like a Puerto Rican.

Forget a harvest.
You salted the land.

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5 Ways to Make Your Writing Stand Out

Everyone thinks they are a writer. And as I say in “Gods Mourn Too”, most people can write (maybe not well, but nonetheless, they can formulate a coherent sentence). But not everyone is a writer deep down in the core; and, many simply can’t produce something of substance, of change, of authority.

I’ve many acquaintances published by major publishing houses, with books riddled with not only errors, but also lack of substance. Publishing isn’t what it used to be. As a child, and a child of a librarian, book publishing used to be something unique, something almost unreachable, something where the best of the best writers would go as if on Mt. Zion and shine their knowledge upon us. And we would sit back in awe and eagerly feed on their rich words and grow from them.

It’s not like that anymore. It’s about what will sell; and current trends. No longer are the times where we can expect or get substance or longevity. And, that’s the sad part about writing. The majority of writing and publishing are simply produced to fill an immediate trend.

But whether you are published traditionally or independently, there are still ways to make your writing stand out and have a tad more quality in the long run.

  1. Research. I always say I’m not just a writer, but also I’m an unofficial archaeologist–I dig things up. I investigate my findings. I watch the news. I read. I investigate my problem and try to analyze them so I can expand on them in my writings. Characters are real. They should be as interested in the world around them as we are. Despite writing fiction, your story deserves to have real moments described in it. How did the fall of the Berlin Wall affect your character; if it took place in 2001, how about the after effects of 9/11? The list can go on. Research that time point. Characters deserve to be developed to their fullest potential and have their own identity.

    One of the worse things to do is describe each character by the physical attributes when they walk in the room. Let their essence describe them. Let the way they walk, talk, and communicate with others be the what really describes them. Sit back and research human behavior. Sit in the park one day and research how people move their hands when they speak, walk, or even talk to themselves. Analyze them. Each person is intricately different. Finally, your research in daily news and questioning the whys and hows and whens will also assist in character and story development.

  2. Dialogue. Next time you watch TV or talk to friends, listen. Listen to their isms. We, as humans, have our own style in which we speak. There are some people who always start their conversations the same way; others may have their go-to words they tend to overuse; many tend to repeat the same phrase or story over and over. Listen to the uniqueness of your friends, yourself, and others. It’s an opportunity to understand our differences and recreate unique voices for each character. Despite the close bond  created in The Son of Leviticus short story between two young men, I manipulated the dialogue between them representing an obvious sense of naivete and dominance (and even racism).
  3. Location. You don’t have to directly mention the city and state in which the story takes place. But you do need to know about it. I’ve a friend who was writing a story where the main character lived in France. My friend literally spent two weeks in France, mapped-out an area, the stores, the eateries, the amazing food and wines and documented it all for the sake of his character. Everything was chronicled in a journal with photography of people, places, and even menus. When you know a location, you can mention the foods, the streets, the weather and going back to #2 (the dialogue). In turn, the intended audience of your book will know where it takes place without an elementary description.
  4. Opinions. One of the best things about this world is the varied opinions. From abortion, to politics, to race relations, to religion–we’re bound to never agree 100%. And that’s fine. With that said, your characters shouldn’t be in 100% in agreement with each other OR with you. Create characters you simply don’t like. Create die-hard characters who also challenge you as a writer and the characters in their every day life.
  5. Poetry. Even if you are a fiction writer, practice poetry. Description is my strong point. I always say I was a poet first. But the older I get the more I need various forms of writing to properly emote. With poetry, real poetry, classic poetry, you have to study it; study the rhythm even if there’s no rhyme; study the simplicity, the beauty even in darkness. There’s a unique type of editing that happens when crafting poetry–each word is concise and purposeful. You can implement this type of careful word choice and limitation into your fiction.

 

[Stephen Earley Jordan II is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also directed and written a few award-winning short, experimental films. Check out his latest book published January 2022, Gods Mourn Too: Essays on Writing and Questions for Thought.]

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Perception is Reality

[I found this poem I wrote, and published in 2000 “Dan River Anthology”. I’ve been trying to find all my old publishing credits and reflect on progress and style. I was about 21 years old when I wrote this]

She sleeps
with her eyes open
wide as a child’s
on Christmas
hoping her fairy godmother
will sprinkle fairy dust
into her Titania eyes.

Tomorrow, she’ll see
the Elephant man
underneath
the duct-taped ass head
and know she is Jane Eyre,
searching for herself
and her ugly beast.

Lie thou there,
Ladies, you Lesbian Lysistratas,
and teach poor Titania
to be a feminist
in this man’s world.

 

[Stephen Earley Jordan II is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also directed and written a few award-winning short, experimental films. Check out his latest book published January 2022, Gods Mourn Too: Essays on Writing and Questions for Thought.]

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Feral Child, Feral World

“Men should never be shamed. . .” was the first line that came to me, and ultimately framed short story Feral Child a few years ago, even though the line doesn’t appear until the end. It’s a frightening line. Frightened me, as the writer. As I wrote it, I recall asking myself “what happens if men ARE shamed? What will they do?”.

I found myself talking to myself about men as if I weren’t a part of the group. This is what happens what I analyze my characters and their intentions. I have to separate myself from myself and everything that makes me comfortable. But the answers to those questions needed to be answered. And the answers chilled me.

I had to divide my thoughts and analyzation of my characters into three categories: child abuse/neglect; domestic violence; and the male psychology.

Many decades ago, so long, I’ll call it high school, I wrote and memorized a speech on public opinion. In the speech, the notion was that many of the actions we complete aren’t because we want to do it; it’s because we are more concerned about public opinion. Many times we don’t follow the paths we truly want because we’re too concerned of public opinion, including the feeling of being shamed. Hence why we have so many unhappy adults in careers they truly never desired; or, even married, for that matter.  For God’s sake, what will people think if I remain single or childless my entire life?

The problem is many men tend to take-to-heart public opinion. Maybe just as much as women. And, to boot, if the public opinion may end up questioning his masculinity, a whole psychological domino effect begins to unfold and everyone in the path ends up feeling the wrath.

I was thinking about the male psychology (or what many folks have now inappropriately deemed as fragile masculinity), as Feral Child unfolded. Initially, though, the story had nothing to do with male psychology. But we, as writers, know that things unfold when and how they suppose to. The story’s initial intent was to focus on the child (named The Moreno) and the developmental studies of language; whether children with little to no human contact can still learn and speak a language. This is why the last scenes are important–it speaks. Yes, it. At this stage, the father had already made The Moreno into a horrific object. But yes, it speaks.

However, from the male psychology perspective, there was one key moment that triggered the lead character to have a mental demise–the moment he felt shamed. And this pure shame is what pushes the entire short story into a nightmare.

Feral Child was the third short story in The Macabre Collector’s Series, depicting the fear of man and how this fear is based simply on shame. In this story, a Puerto Rican family’s racism and sexism become real, yet unspoken; child neglect becomes normal; and man’s shame becomes the ultimate sin and disease for which he chooses to die.

Here, the Moreno, a feral child, was born into a world where language was never spoken, abuse was normal, and as a survival mechanism becomes the unfathomable. Feral Child represents humanity and all things shameful we grow to hide for no apparent reason but for our own selfish excuses and machismo.

Male machismo blinds men and even bonds men. Machismo was first written about in Latin American literature early 20th century by feminists tackling the topic of male-dominated infrastructures within the Latin community. And, as an individual who lives in Puerto Rico now, some of these topics in literature, definitely reflect every day lifestyle–you will not shame the men. And, if you do, horrible consequences have happened.

In Puerto Rico, the rate at which femicide occurs continues to increase every year; and the rate at which trans (mtf) murders continues to increase as well. Most often, if it’s a disappearance, the law enforcement will simply say “she ran off with a boyfriend. . .” However, if the murder is obvious, the sentence never fits the crime. This is why there are ongoing marches and protests vocalizing this discrepancy on the island.

As a writer, I may never truly understand the human psychology. And I think that’s the fun part with writing. I’ve become an archeologist–constantly studying and digging things up, in attempts to make characters I create a tad more whole. However, I always tell fellow writers that you must stay on top of the happenings around you–the news (local, federal and international). It helps us understand the plights of a people, of a gender, of a culture. It helps us formulate ideas and adjust characterization for the sake of realism in this feral world.

 

[Stephen Earley Jordan II is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also directed and written a few award-winning short, experimental films. Check out his latest book published January 2022, Gods Mourn Too: Essays on Writing and Questions for Thought.]

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Quests

self-portrait

I take quests to the Moon,
dipping hands in the Milky Way,
and toes in stardust
as I fly away;
I land in one piece,
unaware of the length of stay.

I mine for the intangible–
hopes to find hope,
penetrating soil with palms.
Venus’ light slopes
giving insight.
A departure never envelopes.

 

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Paths Cross

Oh Father! My lovely Father! Please return

on lonely nights or days, you discern

when I need strength and solace;

when life is intense and lawless.

             My mind! My mind is in disarray

             from loss of love; From loves so lost.

             Can you hear me, Father?

             Our paths will soon cross.

Oh Father! My Lovely Father! Grant me signs

before the nightfall calls me to resign,

smothers me with promise

as I sense darkness upon us.

             Sweet! My Father! Please take me.

             I shall wait at any cost

          and surrender at will

              as our paths cross.

Behold! Father, please align

everything wrong with my mind.

My lovely Father, please return

on lonely nights or days, you discern—

   Oh Father—the constant signs.

   Or will I always be lost

   without you

   until our paths cross?

[Stephen Earley Jordan II is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also directed and written a few award-winning short, experimental films. Check out his latest book published January 2022, Gods Mourn Too: Essays on Writing and Questions for Thought.]

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Warm Rain

Black boys are warm rain
on summer Sundays,
baptizing past pain

strong mothers maintain.
Sons never betray!
Black boys are warm rain

with nothing to gain,
while man goes astray
baptizing past pain.

Treated inhumane,
words never convey
Black boys are warm rain.

Innate Mark of Cain—
Readied for Doomsday!
Baptizing past pain.

Recollect. Explain.
His death’s a cliché—
Black boys are warm rain,
baptizing past pain.

[Stephen Earley Jordan II is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also directed and written a few award-winning short, experimental films. Check out his latest book published January 2022, Gods Mourn Too: Essays on Writing and Questions for Thought.]

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I should have been baptised. . .

I should have been baptised
in River Jordan,
drank the heavily sedimented water,
filthy as Flint,
with zero faith.

I wasn’t aware of my illness.
If I had known,
my selfish prayers
would have been unanswered.

Jordan came to me.
Ancestors spoke in Babel tongues
resonating the two Towers falling
in Manhattan.
Dazed, I listened,
advancing ahead, following the repetition:

“You have been here. . .
You have been here before. . .”


I mimicked,
“I have been here. . .
I have been here before. . .”

I was led by visions
and voices heard for months.
I was home,
guided on sandy paths
with semiprecious stones
in direct sun
to somewhere and nowhere,
looking for Abraham, Lot, and myself.

I should have drank the water.

[Stephen Earley Jordan II is the author of several books of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. He has also directed and written a few award-winning short, experimental films. Check out his latest book published January 2022, Gods Mourn Too: Essays on Writing and Questions for Thought.]

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