ROXANNE ON SEVENTH STREET
by Marie Lecrivain
you don’t have to turn on the red light – The Police
How long ago did you stop caring? The search for Prince Charming in the red-tinged parade of faces that hover over yours, night after night, has gone beyond a raison d’etre, beyond the need to believe in fairy tales. The spike of your heels slowly sink into the concrete. The edges of your skirt fray along skinny steel thighs as you scan the streets for signs of expensive tastes; the quicksilver jaguar, a flash of gold around the wrist, the gleam of bonded teeth. Those trappings can sometimes guarantee a better class of client, though, not one who will caress ivory limbs gone marble cold, slowly build up the fire within, or, who will brush away, with soft kisses, the patina of sadness over your smile. As the sky darkens from purple to indigo, you spot a sports car as it snakes down the boulevard. You assume your best siren stance, turn on your crimson aura, and wait for him to find you.
copyright 2012 Marie Lecrivain
Bio: Marie Lecrivain is a writer/photograher/editor who resides in Los Angeles. She has been published in a variety of journals, including Haibun Today, Heavy Hands Ink, Poetry Salzburg Review, and others. Her newest short story collection, Bitchess (copyright 2011 Sybaritic Press), is available through Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.
The rise of the popularity of flash fiction coincides directly with the widespread use of the internet as a form of communication. With so much information flying at you at words per second, a reader’s attention span is a valued commodity. Either keep information and content short and to the point OR be so damn interesting that the reader is compelled to finish reading. Flash fiction has the strength and advantage of being able to capitalize on both these factors, perfect for internet reading. And yes, for you purists out there, I am talking about microfiction.
Even though flash fiction has always been part of literature, (in ancient times mostly because of a scarcity of paper, indelible ink, and people who could read) not until post-modern times has the proliferation of flash fiction as an art form proliferated. Ernest Hemingway popularized the form a bit but he did not intend to do so. His idea of revision and rewriting was to strip everything away from the sentence and keep the sentence as short and terse as possible. His main weakness is that no one can call his sentences poetic or lyrical, the overall effect may be poetic but the bits to achieve the effect are not poetic, I call the Hemingway style a flash fiction by way of pointillism as a point of comparison, excuse the pun.
The masters of the short story and the short-short story that I prefer are two Argentine writers, Jorge Luis Borges and his protégé Julio Cortázar. Two characteristics drove their style, also unintentional. One is the genre, Magical Realism. The way I like to describe Magical Realism is simply to say ALL METAPHOR. Write a story in all metaphor. A writer must know their archetypes in order to do this, which is completely different from surrealism where a writer creates original metaphors. When a writer distills a story to only metaphoric archetypes then a writer can keep the story short. When the metaphoric archetypes are expanded upon then the short story can be expanded into a novel such as 100 Years of Solitude.
The other characteristic that drove the styles of Borges and Cortázar is the way that the Spanish language constructs sentences. As a Latin based constructed language, most of the information in the Spanish sentence can be given through the verbiage, which is completely inversed from the Proto-Germanic languages where most of the information is given by defining articles and nouns (particularly true with German.) Spanish can confer the same information in one sentence in what takes English three different sentences to achieve. Some of Borges’ short stories are actually one long run-on sentence which are accepted and common in Spanish. His English translations of his short prose do not do him justice nor are they as poetically written. I am not sure if this style of writing in Spanish is “translatable” into English. Borges is the polar opposite of a writer such as Hemingway but his stories are just as short.
A phenomenon I have noticed more and more lately are poets basically bucking the fad of the “spoken word revolution” and admitting that if the narrative is only prose disguised as poetry then they will basically just write the poem as flash fiction. Almost all the academic poets have started doing this to differentiate themselves from the Charles Bukowski / Michael McClure / Beat Generation imitators, of which there seems to be no end of copycats. Why should they even try to endeavor to versify narrative poetry, when the form itself has almost lost all meaning by this point?
Confessionals are the worst with every coffeehouse poet believing that every little instance of their life is fraught with meaning. Couple the confessional poet with the empowerment of the urban poet and mix that in with the passionate rant of the political poet and a scene is set for the most excruciating repetitive night at any poetry open mic. Many of these poets hide their ineptitude behind prosaic free verse, with the nonsensical line breaks, the lack of punctuation, the creative “cell phone text” spelling, non-capitalization, all giving the appearance of poetry but really just being a sorry excuse for badly written prose in poetry form.
Academics simply say, no, we are not going to play that game. And some have begun to perfect microfiction by weaving in poetic lyricism. Two local Los Angeles poets and teachers have written many poems in this manner- Charles Harper Webb and David St. John. They have also written lyrical prose, which is when the sentence is structured like a poetic line but the poem is written in paragraphs. A mixture of versification and short story paragraphs may also be compounded and blended into any one piece. David St. John excels in this type of lyrical prose.
And then we have true microfiction as an overall poem. Our current Nobel prize winner, Tomas Tranströmer, cultivates and refines this style of flash fiction. Each word a brush stroke, perfectly placed, perfectly nuanced, each sentence flowing, many poems no longer than a 3 to 5 sentence paragraph. I cringe sometimes when I see that some of the translated poems are broken into verses in English when I can also see the Swedish version right next to the translation is actually written in prose.
Marie Lecrivain’s poem, Roxanne on Seventh Street, is a Tranströmer type of poetic flash fiction: long flowing lines, perfectly placed comma breaks for breath. This poem is meant to be read aloud. The brush strokes are there comprising a fully fledged narrative in less than 70 words. The flowing lines also denote movement within the poem, movement with words, and movement with images. We see red, silver, gold, and white under a black sky with the darkness pressing down on the flashes of color beneath. Three words jump out in the sentences that also make up the act breaks: “raison d’etre” “patina” and “siren.” If this poem had been written as verse instead of flash fiction, the piece would have lost all composition and strength.
Marie Lecrivain wrote a great exemplar of flash fiction, one which I am proud to present.
– Angel Uriel Perales, April 2012