The autofill text-message game goes like this.
Begin a text using only one initial typed word (for example ‘Hello’), then hit the space bar. Then complete the phrase with as many of the three autofill helper words that appear above the iPhone keyboard as will give you a complete sentence. Write as many sentences as you like, beginning each with an initial typed word, then autofilling.
Hello there you
How are you feeling
I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you today
I hope you are okay
I have to say
Something about the way you get to have what you want
Is not a good thing
The fact is
I have a little time for a good day
You can do that for me and I’ll be okay
The fact is
I am a good person to you
And I love that I am able to give you a good life
I hope you are most definitely not okay
But you don’t know what I want
Women should be able to make their own choices
Men have the most important things and they don’t know how to feel about it
Women are not going to be there for you
Men are not going to be there for you
Friends and family members have been there for about two days
But they don’t know what you want
Wives are not going to make you happy
Husbands are not going to make a big difference.
Children, of course, are the only reasonable ones
Babies make sure you do what they want
But they don’t know what you want.
I’m still trying to get it out there.
I’m still trying not to get it out there.
Lying is not a good thing, but
Truth is the only reason why I’m still here.
Lying is not going to make a big difference
Truth will make sure that you are not going to make a big mistake
There is nothing to say about that.
The fact that I’m still trying is just a thing that makes me sad
Speaking about how I was really trying to be a good person
Is the only thing I want
Promises are not the only thing that you can make.
Mistakes are easy too
A great way to get the right person.
Look at you and me
Look how well you can make decisions about how things will be
Pain can make you smile but it doesn’t make you happy.
So I’m not going to see you tomorrow
I’m not going to see you
Everything is okay
But I’m not going to see you again
I hope you have a great time with your family
I’m not going to be a bad thing for you
You can be my friend
Only if you don’t have a reason to believe that I love you anymore.
Life has not always been good for me but I’m still trying to figure it out.
Men who can make me feel like a good person are the only reason why I love.
But sadness is a way to be a good person, a reason why I love:
You are the only one who can be your own friend
Sex was the only thing that could make us feel better
You are able to hurt the only person that can make you feel
I’m sorry but it was just a bad idea
Loved the game but it’s not going to work
Wishing you all the greatest things
Wishing for the most amazing things to come to you
I hope you get to see the other side of your life.
©Melinda Rooney, 2017
Reposted: my first Anthology submission (actually, I asked my former student if I could use it, and she said yes). Tori’s Canto 34 is the response to my assignment (set out below) to my freshman Western Heritage class at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the Spring of 2016.
[NOTE: the New Yorker cartoon below appeared several months after Tori composed her Canto.]
WRITE YOUR OWN INFERNO CANTO, WITH YOURSELF IN DANTE’S SHOES: AUTHOR, CHARACTER, HERO. DO WHAT DANTE DID. DRAW ON
- ‘THE REAL WORLD’ (PEOPLE, PLACES)
- PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: FAMILY, FRIENDS, GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION, KEY LIFE EVENTS. HOW ARE YOU LIKE DANTE?
- PREVIOUS ‘ARTISTIC’ INFLUENCES—MOVIES, BOOKS, TV SHOWS, VIDEO GAMES
- YOUR OWN TALENT!
- THOUGHTS AND IDEAS WE’VE DISCUSSED IN CLASS
- THE ESTABLISHED LITERARY FORM OF AN ‘ALLEGORY’
Think about how Dante pulled off this amazing piece, as we broke down its qualities and characteristics when we were studying the text, and focus on implementing them in your canto:
the sense of ‘epic scale’
the vividly rendered ‘sinner’
the clarity and variety of the immediate close-up details
CONTRAPASSI: symbolic punishments befitting the sin
the dramatic quality of human conversations
sections of Christian doctrine
the shifting emotional tone (humor, terror, disgust, anger, fear)
the constant sense of movement up and down and around
the developing awareness in the Pilgrim-Narrator (that would be YOU) who has to make emotional and conceptual sense of it all.
Downward still, we travelled, my guide so fixed to his path
that we nearly missed the split in the rock, so clearly discarded from the main trail,that I wondered if its intent was to remain so perfectly hidden.
I pointed there, finger outstretched,
to the putrid lichens that devoured the stone where it parted,
so sharp and spiteful I would fear to near it if not for intrigue,
my guide halting where he stood and looking back
as a child caught ignoring the wishes of his mother
when he otherwise meant to avoid them.
“What foul matter lies beyond, that hides behind these overgrown spires of stone,
that you would pass by as we have not yet done before?
Were we not to visit the entirety of hell?”
To this he replied, his mouth in as tight a line as ever I had seen it,
“I would not have dared to journey there unless you so desired,
but as your hand reaches, so there we will venture.
But as we diverge to a path only meant to be travelled by those who deserve it,
make strong your heart and your ears for a deafening thunder,
for surely what awaits us was not meant to be heard by living flesh.”
With trepidation, I followed his steps through the narrow path in the jagged stone,
sharp and pointed rocky teeth shadowing the air
that brushed us as we passed between,
distantly bringing tidings of the canyon ahead with echoes
that brought dark tidings for the stretch ahead
and rang off slick rock and skin alike.
As we descended further, the din grew to a stew of sound so thick and frenzied
a single source I fought to recognize just as a man seeks his friend in a crowded street,
but to no avail, the squealing thunder deep and grating all at once.
Eager to see what manner of beasts could unleash such a sound,
I rushed to the final ledge,my guide behind me, reluctant to lead,
he stood a cold comfort at my back.
And there they loped toward us with frightful gaiety,
creatures of such nature that at first I thought my eyes deceived,
in guise of children laughing as they skipped,
so merrily that it would seem they had forgotten
hell itself was to be their eternal home, then,
as gleeful as they were in the deafening mire.
My master, aghast, threw up his arm in front of us as they approached,
though the only heed it seemed they paid him
was to brandish instruments within their delicate hands, colorful kazoos.
“Come no closer, wretches. We are sent by One with power greater than your own,
for this, my charge, must witness the poor souls who dwell here
and remember them well. Your meddling will not go unsuffered.”
At the front of the band, with golden hair and a smile
so unsettling that no such gruesome things I had witnessed thus far
had yet sent fear’s cold hand to grip me quite as quickly,
a young boy laughed shrill enough to pierce the thunderous veil
of the raucous onslaught around us
and in response the others mimicked his cries.
Through gleaming teeth he did exclaim, with mockery
and enthusiasm that spoke the opposite intent of his words,
“Wait a minute…who are you?”
The children did not move, and indeed seemed curious
despite their leering grins and voiced mutterings, which to my surprise
I heard the deep voices of adults slip past their youthful lips.
What horrors were these, then, who wore the skins of playful children?
Pity seized my breast for them, these wretched beasts,
who jabbered with ill-suited tongues and jumped in excitement where they stood.
“Master, what are these creatures, who seem so youthful,
and carry such strange instruments? Pray, tell me where we are,
for I had not thought to encounter such a place in our descent.”
And as he sought to answer me, they began to buzz in unison,
a cacophony of frightful and unsynchronized melodies
upon the kazoos they held, the noise saturating the air as a thick veil over our ears.
All around us they began to dance, trumpeting their horrid symphony
until their leader gave a sign, at which they dropped to all fours
dragging their knees against the ground as forward they crept.
“I’m a big, tired cow,” the leader laughed, and he began a note
so low and deep it echoed through the canyon above the din below,
the other joining in, advancing with an abhorrent lowing
of which the Minotaur himself would be jealous to conjure,
and our young pursuers chased us deeper towards the souls that writhed below,
in such a fashion, sounding as a dozen bulls from their kazoos.
Their leader relented while the others continued on, and grasping at my arm unbidden
he dragged me through the lamenting souls, beset by similar horrors,
of such a sort the deafening thunder was no longer a mystery to me.
Performed by such malevolent children, each soul was set to torment
by some variety of provoking sound in horrid concert,
some with kazoo renditions of “Careless Whisper,”
others still with serenades of “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder,
played by groups of children each just a bit off time with the other,
all as skilled as any unpracticed musician and his first instrument.
I began to lose sight of my guide, I called but could not hear him
through what encompassed me, and wailing
faintness touched my head, amidst such rancor, I feared I’d lost him.
Until the masses began to clear, the horrid child guided me
towards a great monument at the canyon’s center,
where my guide awaited me, disheveled from the crowd.
The sinister imp on my arm released me to dance around the pillar
and giggling he joined the other children atop it,
freeing me at long last as I stumbled.
Atop his pedestal, an ominous creature sat chained,
so fearsome to look at that I averted my eyes, for such a soul I had not yet seen,
in every circle I had yet journeyed through, this was the most wretched.
His pallor belonged to that of an orange, which forgotten
had been left to sit at the bottom of a crate for a great many weeks,
only sparing his squinting eyes to be colorless sockets.
Loose across his face, his skin hung as slack as his jaw,
flapping about, words from his lips were lost to the noise around him,
his head bobbing as if seaborne in a storm, his eyebrows desperate oarsmen.
His torment was the loudest yet, a great section of brass about him,
tubas and trumpets all, each blown by several children each in long, thundering bellows,
which whipped his loosely flowing updo to every side just as a bird that struggles in flight.
“Silence! I beseech you, delinquent pests!” My master roared,
“So that we may speak to the one whom you torture, quiet your tumultuous gale,
and you may soon again return once we are finished.”
As they grew quiet, the soul’s attention turned, and my fearsome guide commanded,
“Tell us your name, O sinner, my companion may yet carry your name
back to the realm of the living, for you cannot go there.”
To my amazement, he paused in his speech before he answered,
“Who am I? You want to know who I am? Well, that’s a good question.
People call me many things, you know, but my people call me Trump.”
To which I urged my master, “If he can continue on, should he tell us
which sins have been committed to bring him here,
what merits such a symphony, I would like to know.”
And my guide replied, “It shall be so. Please, then,
recount to us the accord through which you have obtained your suffering,
troubled spirit, that we may find reason to pity you.”
Eyebrows raising and lowering as if to fly from his brow, he replied,
“Am I suffering? Good question. Well I think it’s fair to say that some people are suffering
and that I am one of them. Suffering is the foundation upon which this great
institution was built and if I were to be suffering I would know it. I have people
who know about suffering, and let me tell you, there are a lot of experts on this who
agree with me, that I am suffering. You know, those other guys,
they don’t know about suffering like I do.
I have stocks in suffering, and you know what?
I really do a lot of deals in suffering. Huge deals. So yes,I think you could say
that I do a lot with suffering and that I know about suffering. We can make suffering great
And without a word, my good guide led me away on his own,
the deep brazen notes roaring again as we turned our backs,
to drown that loose tongued soul’s words as he yet spewed them.
Incredulous, I followed without word, for what could be said?
The speech had been so surely given, and yet I found
that nothing of value had been spoken to us.
My master, as we departed back to our intended path, asked me,
“Tell me now, what sins do you now think the souls here commit to
befit such torture, now that you have witnessed it?”
My reply was swift, “Souls who speak without purpose, or for the purpose of speech itself,
possess an incontinence as wicked as those in circles before us;
their tongues are as foul as the serpent’s was in Eden.”
And so back to that fateful road we climbed, ascending once again,
to follow its trail to yet fouler depths, the raucous concert
fading far behind to smother the rampant tongues of the souls we left behind.
©2016 Tori Jadczak
Tori Jadczak attends Carthage College and is majoring in Biology. In her free time she writes, draws, and plots to crush the patriarchy.
Cartoon by Paul Noth, The New Yorker
Renunciation is realizing that nostalgia for life’s vicious cycle is full of shit:
the waving grass, intermingling with a rich profusion of wild flowers, the most beautiful sight I had ever gazed upon;
our own dark environment, where our only companion is the smell of our own sweat.
(One option beyond these two seems to be the attempt to organize and defend the new sphere of civil society not as mediation but as an end in itself.)
If it had ever become ‘necessary’
(I can find no other word)
to strengthen the central supporting column without too much enlarging it or adding to its weight,
no better formation than this spiral could be conceived,
and an almost exact parallel to it occurs
in the air-tubes or tracheae of insects
and the water-tubes of plants.
Although a prisoner’s internal experience
(the smell of his own sweat, her own dark environment)
may be close to
or identical with
that of another person suffering severe pain
or a stroke
or phantom limb,
it is, unlike this other person’s, simultaneously being externalized:
waving, intermingling, a rich profusion.
Ignorant what to do, he is stupefied;
he neither lets go the reins, nor is he able to retain them
(life’s vicious cycle: full of shit)
nor does he know the names of the horses.
She forgets that she is talking to listening children; she lives with the fairy folk,
or the kings
and beautiful ladies, whose adventures she narrates,
a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events
to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise,
Father Arnall’s low and gentle voice:
I wanted to amass information against the enemy we were capturing on the battlefield.
In the fire of the visiting sun their faces shone like the faces of children lit by a golden lamp,
The most beautiful sight I had ever gazed upon.
They began as useful and practical goddesses who cared for springs and wells and cured disease and foretold the future.
Archaeological excavations of sites thousands of years old have revealed bodies that show signs of medical attention:
broken limbs that have been set,
wounds treated successfully.
Relief is not complete cure, and may proceed from different causes:
a few preparatory experiments,
a panegyric upon modern chemistry
useful and practical goddesses.
produced when thin slices of material are placed between two polarizing plates,
have been used to investigate the structures of many natural objects
battlefields and wells.
Nature is abundant, but Grace is not abounding.
The book says so.
It is the best of those of your poems that you have let me read.
All that I could do was to wait until the tide was at the highest,
keeping the raft
with my oar
like an anchor
to hold the side of it
fast to the shore,
near a flat piece of ground,
which I expected the water would flow over;
and so it did.
Eviction can be contagious that way.
So I have to watch it–be its eyes.
A consistent, enduring effort
Is it about faith or is it about grief?
Well, you’re the detective, aren’t you?
[with gratitude to the original authors, from whom I beg indulgence for the theft and for the occasional tweak for scan and sense]
©Melinda Rooney, 2017
Meredith Brown proposes a repurposing of monument pedestals with her photo ‘The Future’:
Meredith Brown writes: Max is my first and only child. He’s 18 months old. I’ve been a Baltimore City School teacher for 14 years. I’ve been taking pictures for 7 years and started at the local animal shelter photographing adoptable animals. My husband Kevyn and I own The Dog Chef Cafe in historic Mount Vernon in Baltimore, MD. https://www.thedogchef.com/
©Meredith Brown, 2017
You, tired prince in plastic sandals
A table in a room, a chair
A foreign land
Bereft of incense, street scenes, color,
Instead a chair, a table, couch, down the street a KFC,
Cheap fluorescent ring or bar that buzzes, pops, assailed by moths
A laptop wired to link your world,
Oh weary prince with yellowed eyes,
To mine: a housewife, novice writer, decent lighting, central air
NPR, a custom workspace
in a corner of the new kitchen
As you read this, I don’t want you to feel sorry for me
Because, I believe,
Everyone will die someday.
You could be anywhere
I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I have never really cared
You could be anyone
Permit me to inform you of my desire
You could tell me anything.
Which one should I use, you wonder, fingers poised above the keys
What killed my wealthy father this time?
(and if by chance you hate your father, what fun these tales must be to write
Car accident: they lost there lives?
My father was a cocoa merchant
Poisoned in a plan gone wrong
Treachery! His trusted partners!
Discussing on a business deal.
(You stop, consider;
Is ‘on’ correct there?
Google Translate, it will tell you:
Leave it in or take it out.
Fucking English, so complicated)
Abidjan, in the Ivory Coast
Is where he drew his final breath
Secretly called me on his bedside
Suspense account, a local bank
A simple and sincere business
It would be nicer, don’t you think,
Were your fingers stained with ink?
Scratching with a reed or feather
Dipped into a little pot
A scroll, or parchment,
A woven ribbon, wax to seal,
Leather pouch in which to send it, hand to hand, across Africa,
To a packet boat, perhaps,
To sail across and land here on my desk?
These bytes and keystrokes, digital packets,
Not much romance there, for sure.
You strain after the exotic, a tool to entice,
A compelling narrative
But some things only work the old-fashioned way.
You sense instinctively, I think,
That you have to up your game.
I prayed over it
This letter, not intended to cause any embarrassment
But just to contact your esteem
The knowledge of your high repute
There you go. Flattery. Never fails.
Now, follow with a plea.
Please, my dear, I repose great confidence in you
Please, I need your assistance to make this happen
Please, do not undermine it
Next, appeal to mutual interests:
Be a source of upliftment to you,
Finally, appeal to my desire for risk, as I languish here in leisure, desperate for a story:
You have absolutely nothing to loose in assisting us,
You have so much to gain.
I mean, why not!
What could possibly go wrong?
And isn’t it, when I’m honest with myself, the fact that something could go wrong that
Tempts me for a second?
Crash and burn this life
My husband’s money
My children’s college
(none of this is really mine)
That jerk of the steering wheel while crossing the bridge
That moment at the edge of a cliff
What if I did?
You need a cast of characters, you need a set of actual names:
A Jewish businessman, Mark Rissar
The then head of state General Sani Abacha
A Lebanese banker, Chagoury,
Junior brother (did you mean younger?) Ahmad
The present civilian administration of
Chief Olusegun Obajanso
And you’re good with details, I’ll give you that:
Bearer Bonds and Treasury Bills
Certificate of deposit
My family’s cash lodgement
(I’ve not heard that one; a term of art?)
A security firm abroad
The Federal Government Of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation
A Foreign Firm in the
Petroleum Trust Fund
Which I have these information in my custody now.
And this, perhaps the best of all, so vivid we can nearly see it, feel it, chilly, in our hands:
A metal box consignment with Security Deposit Number 009GM
And here we are, the buried lede, the crux of the matter, the big reveal:
(you’ll want to drop that last zero, by the way; you don’t want errors tarnishing your authority)
Invoiced to the tune of
I’ve been told I’m lost in details,
Overly enamored of description.
It derails the story, bogs it down
My reader grows impatient
I’m impressed with how you pull it off
Perhaps it helps to have a goal in mind,
A proposed exchange
An attempt to forge connection between the reader and the art:
- YOUR FULL NAME
- COMPANY’S NAME
- POSTAL ADDRESS
- PHONE AND FAX NUMBERS
- YOUR BANK NAME
- YOUR BANK ACCOUNT AND BENEFICIARY NAME
[You must be the signatory]
Here is the difference between us, prince:
You know why you write
It always eludes me
Wanting to be heard is not enough.
In this way, I suppose,
I mean, I suppose you could look at it this way
You are more honest than I am
Your motives more pure, if base,
For of course there are such things, marriages of opposites
Like you and me, prince: two different kinds of parasite.
And time is of the essence here
I’m a mere civil servant
Who needs this money out
Before the newly democratically elected government ever think of making enquiries as regards the various activities of the past military government.
Kindly contact me above
So that we can swing into action
As time is not on our part.
Mohammed Abbas, weary prince,
Thanks for writing
Take my money
I will take your words.
[all misspellings are verbatim]
©Melinda Rooney, 2017
I stared at the laundry.
I stared long; I stared limpidly. I stared with an impassioned intensity that promised much, if only…
I batted eyelashes; I pleaded breathlessly. Tender tears trembled at the tips of my lashes, and I sighed, longing.
‘Twould not do itself.
I changed tacks, swearing stormily, pouting, stomping my sockless foot (no socks left).
Still, ‘twould not do itself.
I bargained, I cajoled. I made promises I daren’t speak of.
‘Twould not, alas, take that small yet necessary leap into the machine.
At last, I threw in the towel (the towel was dirty too), and resigned myself to going commando.
I got the no laundry blues.
©Hillary Fields, 2017
Hillary Fields is a New York-based novelist and essayist. Her most recent novel is Last Chance Llama Ranch, published by Redhook books. Learn more at https://hillarymfields.com/
Who was the first President
Who was Deep Throat
Who was Jack the Ripper
Who was President during Katrina
Who was the second President
What was the Cubs score
What was the Cold War
What was Watergate
What was The Marshall Plan
What was the Holocaust
When was Millennium Park built
When was Hurricane Sandy
When was Hurricane Katrina
When was the Civil War
When was Jesus born
Where was Abraham Lincoln born
Where was Game of Thrones filmed
Where was pizza invented
Where was Jesus born
Why was the Berlin Wall built
Why was Clinton impeached
Why was sense8 cancelled
Why was NATO formed
Why was the Civil War fought
How was your day
How was your day in Spanish
How was the Grand Canyon formed
How was the moon formed
How was God created
Who is the Night King
Who is the richest person in the world
Who is the next Bachelor
Who is the host of the Gong Show
What is the weather
What is the meaning of life
What is the score of the Cubs game
What is the temperature now
When is Trump’s press conference today
When is Labor Day
When is Father’s Day
When is Memorial Day
When is the next full moon
Where is the Grand Canyon
Where is the love
Where is the nearest Walmart
Where is the nearest gas station
Where is the fire
Why is the sky blue
Why is the ocean salty
Why is the ocean blue
Why is the Governor of Texas in a wheelchair
Why am I so tired
Why am I so hungry
Why am I so cold
Why am I so dizzy
Why am I so gassy
Why can’t I pee
Why can’t I focus
Why can’t I eat
Why can’t I find a job
Why can’t I get a girlfriend
Why is the FBI here
How can I keep from singing
How can investors receive compounding returns
How can I watch Game of Thrones
How can I make money
How should I cut my hair
How should I dye my hair
How should I dress
How should I invest my money
How should I style my hair
How do I embroider eyes
How do I get home
How do I get a passport
How do I love thee
Who will I marry
Who will be the next Bachelor
Who will be the next King of England
Who will be the next James Bond
Who will save your soul
What will happen on September 23, 2017
What will the weather be like today
What will a hydrogen bomb do
What will happen to Illinois
When will Irma hit
When will I die
When will Irma hit Florida
When will the world end
When will it stop raining
Where will Hurricane Irma hit
Where will Irma hit
Where will Hurricane Irma go
Where Willy went
Where will the 2020 Olympics be
Why will Trump be impeached
Why will the world end
Why, William Blair
Why will Steam not open
why will anyone hire me
How will I know
How will I die
How will Game of Thrones end
How will the world end
©Melinda Rooney, 2017