Flash Fiction (Not that kind)

Its been a while since I posted any reaction poetry so I thought I’d start with several on a theme. I’ve been watching the CW show The Flash and highly recommend it. I especially like the character/s played by Tom Cavanagh. So here are three reaction poems based on several of the many complex relationships of The Flash. As always, my reaction poems can be read with or without viewing the source material. Poems belong to their readers and even though I wrote these as Flash reactions, they can have vastly different interpretations when viewed through other lenses.

 

The Problem with Time Travel

I hate you
You must die
You are too powerful now
You were once a child
I see you
Small, weak
Vulnerable, alone
Learning, laughing
Growing, living
Looking to me
Trusting me
Loving me
I love you
I hate you
You must die

 

In the Trenches

When your Dad is not your father
And your home isn’t brick and mortar
When your education isn’t from a school
And you’ve never met your closest friends

When you’re not afraid of losing things
Because no thing has true value
When you’re excited by knowledge
Because it’s new to you

When you’re slow to trust anyone
But much slower to betray them
When you always catch the bad guy
But mainly when he’s falling off a cliff

You learn that
Everyone’s been better
Everyone’s done worse
Everyone has someone missing them

And that
Though everyone deserves
Something good and something bad
It’s not your job to decide
Which they deserve today

 

My Joy

Disappointment in your eyes
Hurts me
But doesn’t stop me

Unanswered phones
Terrify me
But don’t make me forget

Not knowing
Carves out my heart
But doesn’t derail me

Nothing will make me something I’m not
Until I’ve lost every hope of you
And then nothing will stop me

 

 

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After Twilight: Tomorrowland

Author’s note: I actually tried writing today’s post as a poem but it insisted on coming out as a full-prose article. I guess sometimes reaction poetry can be reaction blogging. Also, I haven’t been posting very often in the last couple months because life, but I have been writing poetry and will be posting more often for all you lovely people.

After Twilight: Tomorrowland 

“It’s not a question of the youngness and chiseledness of your pecks, it’s a question of how many times you’ve been around the sun.”
-John Green

Warning: Slight spoilers for Tomorrowland

Relationships between vastly different characters can be fascinating both to read (or watch) and to create. Genres, Sci-fi and fantasy especially, offer authors tremendous opportunities to peel back usually unbreakable norms to explore them in greater depth. One example of this is having characters who, for whatever reason, don’t look their age. Immortal children, androids, and vampires all allow the author to delve into relationships that, in our world, would never happen.

Two movies that do this are Twilight, the hugely popular book series turned movie saga, and Tomorrowland, Disney’s recent Sci-fi adventure about an alternate and futuristic world. Twilight matches a teenage girl, Bella, with a 100+-year-old vampire, Edward. Tomorrowland, on the other hand, is not a love story but does include the story of a fifty-ish Frank reuniting with Athena, an unaging robotic girl he met as a child, twenty five years after they last saw one another.

Though the two stories are very different in tone and scope, one way to put them on a level playing field is to remove the sci-fi visual filter. Imagine the characters, not as they’re portrayed, but as who they are in relation to their time spent on Earth.

If you imagine replacing the child actor, Raffey Cassidy, with a battle-weary Sigourney Weaver or Cybill Shepherd, her reunion scene with George Clooney would still ring true. Replace Kristen Stewart in your mind with a more age appropriate actor like Dakota Fanning or Abigail Breslin. Got her? Great, now imagine her in a romantic scene with Kirk Douglas.

While Stewart and Robert Pattinson are roughly the same age, the characters they portray are nearly a century apart. No matter how much fantasy fix-it goo you throw at the story, there’s no getting around the fact that this is an old man in a relationship with an underage girl. In order to make the relationship feel at least genuine enough for movie goers, one or both characters have to not act their age. Either the man who has seen a hundred summers has to act like an angst-ridden teenager or the girl who is just beginning her life has to have maturity beyond her years. Since a mature woman would realize this was a predatory relationship, the story goes with the first option.

On the other hand, the relationship between Athena and Frank is much more identifiable. Though the movie doesn’t specify how long Athena has been around, and being a “robot” makes age complicated, her relative maturity level is shown to only start advancing after she meets Frank. For practical purposes she is slightly older than him. They’ve been apart for a quarter century and are brought together by a common cause and a ticking clock. As such, their relationship is now more of a comrade-in-arms deal than a romantic one.

But the familiarity of an old attraction is there as well. Even amid frustration-fueled verbal spats that would give an old married couple a run for their money, they demonstrate seamless teamwork while under pressure. Their witty banter, meaningful looks, and silent apologies uphold this picture of equals—despite the fact that they are played by a 12-year-old girl and a 54-year-old man. The romantic aspect of the relationship is shown so subtly that there is no creepiness between Clooney and Cassidy. The most physical contact they have is when Frank carries Athena when she is damaged.

So why, despite all this, was Twilight a huge box office hit—igniting fandoms, raking in millions and allowing for the creation of the rest of the Twilight saga—while Tomorrowland was both a critical and box office dud? The easy answer would be to say that it’s because fans of Twilight are vapid, lovesick teenagers ready to throw their money at anyone with a sparkly chest and brooding eyes—or because ambitious films like Tomorrowland require too much mental stretching for that same tasteless audience. But it’s much more complicated than that.

For one thing, Twilight had a preexisting fan base, while Tomorrowland had to stand on its own merits. More than that, though, there’s actually a lot of good about Twilight. As much as we love to hate it, Twilight has some interesting ways to deal with common fantasy elements such as mind reading, future telling, pack minds, and ethics of immortality. The book can be a valuable tool for writers looking to include these elements.

And whether or not you like the story content, the movie does a pretty good job of telling the story it set out to tell. In the video quoted at the beginning of this article, John Green, the author of The Fault in our Stars, goes more into depth about why it can be ok to like Twilight than can be covered here.

And though there are great things about Tomorrowland, there is a reason many people who were prepared to love it wound up disappointed. It has some serious story problems. They’re complicated and spoilery enough to be saved for another article, but the general feel is that it really did have some sort of source material—an original story that made sense—and the movie Swiss- cheesed it. It is also a bit heavy-handed in its message and doesn’t quite know what to do with its villain.

Possibly, the main reason Twilight did so much better is that it is about the relationship. Bella and Edward are the story. They are the whole point. A movie where Frank and Athena were the whole story might be good in its own right, but it wouldn’t be the epic, high minded invoker of wide-eyed curiosity that it set out to be. It wouldn’t be Tomorrowland.

The relationships in Tomorrowland may not carry the weight of the story but they make it enjoyable. It’s worth watching for its ideas, however poorly developed, and more for the chemistry between George Clooney and his two young co-stars, Cassidy and the wonderful Britt Robertson. Hell, you could go just to hear Clooney talk.

Though Twilight is a more streamlined love story, and a basically enjoyable fantasy, Tomorrowland has ambitions far beyond anything Twilight could imagine. It takes an impossible relationship and makes it not only palatable, but endearing. Even with all its problems it is, at its heart, a story with a mission—not to save the world, but to save the concept of optimism. While Twilight says little more than “girl needs boy,” Tomorrowland says “we can do better.” And that’s a message we need to hear a little bit more.

When Things are Finished

The air starts moving again
You almost
Let yourself forget the stillness that paralyzed your lungs
Kept you from shifting your weight even a little
Just in case the floor caved like everything else
Or gravity stopped obeying the rules too

You can almost
Think again, almost
Let one idea flow from another
Without stopping the train at every station to check for contraband
Images that can never be allowed home
Words that can never be respoken

The phone calls know you’re almost
Available, can almost
Pick up and answer, can almost
Affect a lack of hatred towards the voices that say
The sun still sets in the West
You’re still as wonderful as ever

Friends who almost
Have enough courage to talk to you, almost
Make you believe that you can almost
Live through this, almost
Accept that faking it is making it
That this is all there is

But I’m not the like the cowards who hide
Behind uncertainty, support your chance to fail
I’m the one who screams the words you don’t want to hear
That the air has always been moving
That the ground never stirred
And that I don’t believe in almost

From the Beginning

The world has flashed me an exit sign
Screaming that dead dreams have no heartbeat
If I get out today, resuscitation may be on the table
But I’m still here

I know now that romance is the dust of a hazy glamour
And Paris is made of concrete and pickpockets
Cities born of angels spend their nights cleaning up feathers
But I’m still here

Every day with you is one less layer of skin
There are no more nails for this coffin, the straw has landed on the camel
When I crawl bleeding into the night, I’ll do it alone
But I’m still here

Because this was never about romance
All my dreams were borrowed from experienced fools
Diamond traders outsold by zirconia. We sparkle just as brightly
So I’m still here

I still live in a world of jewelry and caskets, dirt and halos
Of beauty and uncertainty and falsehood and imagery
My only constant is that you never lied to me
And that you’re still here

________________________________

Reaction to Paris, Los Angeles, and this quote by Elinor Glyn

Aaj

Aaj

Today, I met her for the first time

As we sat around the fire

the young played and the old told stories

of other lovers meeting

we went around the fire

more stories, some songs

getting dark, time to go

Today, I took her to meet my mother

Sister showed her around the house

father, grandmother, brother all like her

I think they are happy

she hasn’t decided yet

Its fast for her, I’ll give her time

Today, she decided

I face her as the music plays

mother, sister, grandmother

white dresses

she made her decision, her final commitment

it was time for her to take this step

When reading this poem from an English or American perspective it can be seen as a simple love story. Boy meets girl at an innocent campfire get-together, their relationship grows and eventually they decide to marry. By employing familiar symbols we can understand the story—campfire stories, meeting the parents, white wedding dresses.

But some of these symbols, when seen from a different cultural perspective- can have widely different connotations. The title gives the clue as to what culture is involved here. “Aaj” is the Hindi word for “today.” In traditional Indian culture, it was not uncommon for a bride and groom to meet on their wedding day- many times as part of an arranged marriage. Integral in the Hindu wedding ceremony was a fire, around which both extended families sat singing songs, telling stories and playing music. The new couple walked around the fire to symbolize their upcoming journey together. To a reader familiar with this custom, mention of circling a fire would be enough to make the message clear. The couple are now married.

So where does the story go from here? The newlyweds often would move in with the groom’s extended family. Now the references to the sister showing the girl around symbolize more than a friendly tour. This is the bride being inducted into her new life. Hindu girls in this situation often faced the possibility of never seeing their family again. This new family was her family now. This gives new meaning to the groom’s giving the girl some time. He doesn’t have to do this, but wants her to feel comfortable in his home before claiming his rights as a husband.

Now the story takes a turn that only someone familiar with Indian culture would see. In India color symbolizes life: the more color, the more life. In this culture, when all the color is taken away what is left is white. White is the color of death, the color of mourning. When a person dies their body is placed on a pyre and their closest relation stands facing them. Now we understand exactly what the girl’s decision is. She only saw one way out of this arranged marriage. This was her final step.

Although much has changed in India today, the symbols and their connotations are still familiar to modern Indians. Reading the poem from this perspective reveals an entirely different story. Many people- from any culture- take their own perspective for granted. They don’t think to look at any situation from any view but their own. We can learn a lot about the world around us by looking at it from another angle.

Ode to the Out-of-Hand Character

There’s been something about you since the day you first appeared
Your metaphorical birth sparking widespread interest
Raising eyebrows, giving Professors topic ideas to hurl at bored students
Fostering that little flame of rebellion in your author
That says “I can make something no one has seen. I can awe creation.”

You had a lock on this whole character development thing
It was the rest of your world that couldn’t keep up, lagging
Like a bogged down internet connection, throwing problems at you
You could solve in your sleep. Forcing other characters to act against reason,
To provide an excuse why you should have any pain at all.

And it was that, your resistance to pain, your apparent invulnerability
That made you a target, that goaded your author into raining untold hell.
It was your strength, your superiority to fellow inhabitants of your particular story,
That made it impossible for you to outlive them. Your author was too clever
Devising an uncontrollable force like you, an intelligence not sustainable even by its creator.

So you die, alone, stripped of your humanity, your love, while inferior personalities live on
While the story rambles past your grave, narrative desperate to make everyone forget
While dull minds are touted as genius and audiences move on to new obsessions
You are thrown on the mercies of fan authors, one in a thousand returning you to former glories
One in a million with to skill to handle fire, to come out less charred than the one who gave you life.

Self-Made

In a home of my own making
Amidst the broken glass of an abandoned Colorado factory
The hollowed-out brambles of a Pennsylvania backwoods
Shared blankets and trash can fires of a New York slum

Sticks and sheets and coffee cans
Huddled under a bridge
Decorated with a showcase of my discoveries

Cobbled together handiwork
Make the best found-item artists proud

With friends of my own making
Fellow travelers and lost boys
Street preacher questioning his book
Cop who turns an eye when I “find” bread

Songs and stories and helping hands
The few who look at me from where they are
And accept the journey to who I am

Cobbled together acquaintances
From the throngs of passersby

Through plans of my own making
Tomorrow’s landing site, today’s art medium
Who to say goodbye to, who to invite along
How to respond to the next insult, what hat to wear

Trails and trials and mangled maps
Close my eyes and point
To who I will be next

Cobbled together dreams
Building a sculptor from the clay

From components handed to me
An upwardly mobile society
A forgotten trade
Poor decisions by someone who once was me

Snips and snails and castaway coins
I pick up where you leave off
Twigs discarded at my threshold

Woven together human
Designs from a graduated cobbler

From leftovers handed to me
I weave art from the twigs

Geometric beauty
A mathematical masterpiece

That no one will see
Until the birds pick through it for food