Dogbane Beetle

Muse Ariadne is a digital writing club I created where a new writing prompt is posted each week, and every member [ideally] posts a response to it on their /muse page! This is my page specifically for that club, where I predict I'll share mostly poetry and flash fiction in response to our prompts.

If you'd like to join, you should check it out! It's low pressure and a friendly community space. Here's the club site's button as well:

week of jun 10th

prompt: think of a moment that’s both nostalgic and visceral. it can be old or new, but something that feels both vague and like you can still feel it in your skin, muscle, and bones. write about it however feels right.

week of jun 3rd

prompt: think about undercurrents as you write– movements and energies that flow beneath surfaces. what surfaces do they lay beneath? is it an undertone in skin or a song, a literal current, a political movement?

the fool

     sheets sweat around me, wrapping me in,
                           pushing them off– the weight of a man,
              heavy with ripped tendons & seams–
my body tugged toward the cutting board,
slicing peaches & nectarines, blade sliding against the flesh,
crushing– sweet juice spilling	          down the handle, staining wood.
    i press it to my mouth, grooves of my thumb against my lips,
            sweet sap filling my mouth– like how i thought, at 6,
                          hot oil	          must taste,
             betrayed by a loving image,
suddenly a cartoon seeing stars
              dancing around me, closing in,
eyes wide, little pop rocks daggers in my mouth that
            slough chunks off my	  hot-to-the touch cheeks,
like shoveling ice off a car              (just more unwanted stuff–
            “ who needs so much skin,             protection? ”)
and the stars fill my mind            again, pulling
me off to bed for sleep, melting into unchanged sheets,
              the cotton cutting me–        rotting my body–
and my cheeks            healing

week of may 27th

prompt: look for patterns in chaotic & ‘random’ events, experiences, behaviors, etc. these could be in nature, in our own emotions & actions (or inactions), in the structure of a city, in a computer, in a body. do these patterns uncover an underlying order or meaning? are they coincidental?

week of may 20th

prompt: write about brief encounters, fleeting moments, first impressions. what do these leave behind for us?

the first time i see your face, we are slamming into each other / the pit hot, sweaty, electric– / your body a radiator i want in the cold of winter / but winter here is never all too cold / and i really just want you now / to punch me in the gut on accident / stop me falling / or just pick me off the floor / i want to know you in the pit / learn the feeling of squishing arm against my hip / and the way your body crumples / and the way your hair smells / and we’ll become strangers again / after / buying from a vendor / sharing a glance & smiling

week of may 13th

prompt: write about evolution and devolution. how do we unravel & re-ravel? think about what histories our bodies & communities & species & worlds are made of.

i try falling asleep, this taste in my mouth–
of every candy in that swollen pile–
every pound of his thinning body, 175
lost slowly under the weight
of all those averted eyes & minds.

i sleep under the same weight, now–
know their cast-down gazes so well,
with shadows building in their sockets, avoiding
something burning so quick & fiery,
even if they remember him.

remembering ross is only ever through a lens of fame,
never really taking a candy– stepping into dissolving
and sitting with what we’ve done & do– never wanting to–
never looking anywhere but at our shoes.

the fan hums & i turn over in bed,
and honey-sweet candies turn over in my mouth,
and histories turn over in my mind– still-fresh wounds we all hold
& try so hard to ignore, so when they start to scab over,
we don’t stop it as they’re picked open & apart again:
freshness renewed, dissected.

they’re probed and pored over, but always with a coldness,
and i wonder when we’ll realize we’re guiding their scalpels,
undoing ourselves, anesthetized & unaware.
this exploration is a class on how to do it better
the second time around, and the medicine will wear off,
and the doctor is an analyst, and i need us to know
the pain before we have to feel it– to know what this is
& push his prying hands away.

i want to take your hand and press a candy in
& think of how we’ve loved & how we’ve failed,
& know the aluminum wrapped couldn’t hold
anything like the sweetness of his body, heart, mind.
i want to revel in his memory & make our own.

week of may 6th

prompt: consider ‘trace elements’-- barely noticeable things and what they change. think butterfly effect! are their effects expected & small or disproportionate? is a ‘trace element’ an extra bit of DNA? is it some milk in a loaf of bread?

i wonder what trace elements contaminate my body,
if they make her heart inhospitable to me– if they will ever.
if i’m an allergen, i hope i’m known– God, what would happen
if i’m not? if one day she goes on diets to find what’s causing
all of her pain & problems, and when she cuts down on my love
& my attention, her skin clears up & her sinuses clear out & the world
is so much brighter?

will she finally notice the hives after our lips touch and the way
she breaks out in rashes when i touch her soft skin to mine?
will the allergy be so bad i’ll feel glad she’s found it?

i hope i am like a kumquat, and she won’t mind the numbing for the sweet.
i hope that how we sting each other’s lips is just part of the charm.

... the rest was removed 'cause it turned out intimate & personal ...

week of apr 29th

prompt: write about or use asymmetry in your writing. what is the intrigue in imbalance? maybe work with different-sized stanzas or long, long sentences followed by short ones, or think about how no two bodies are the same, nor two halves of the same body, or how the feeling of a painting shifts with where the objects sit.

author’s note: the second i decided to write this about my body, i knew it couldn’t be good– it just had to be a love letter. enjoy.

fat sits higher on one hip like a cat on a perch,
a little constellation dotting the other, light spots falling
into place along my waistline, curling up my spine, and i watch
with curiosity at how it moves, almost able to see it flicking like maybe
it's the cat’s tail, after all, and not so separate.

stomach bulges out on both sides some days, flanking the middle,
holding it close, soft protection better than any other, and some days,
it falls to one side, curling into itself & away from the world,

hangs down against my hip and thigh, firm and strong, big like they were built
to support, failed by the aching knees below them, taking turns begging for a break

this is a body constantly moving while still, sewn together at the seams of my pelvis,
the nape of my knotted neck, holding together so maybe blood can flow beneath the skin

week of apr 22nd

prompt: explore the softness & blurring of edges—dawn/dusk, the place between sleep and wakefulness, transitions from youthfulness to adulthood and adulthood to old age. what do those borders & changes feel like, look like, smell like?

nothing prepares me for the way your tears glisten as you smile,
laughing through it with that special shame i’ve only ever seen in your eyes–
trying for a moment to pretend this religion hasn’t soured, that the weight
of this awkward slowness isn’t closing a circle, making us simple strangers again.

oppressive heat is sending our cannon fodder bodies crawling back indoors,
crippling with every moment and scouring for some refuge– so ready to be caged birds
if it means not being prey any longer. this heat is souring our milky hearts, and honey,
we can’t go on like this– we have to go home, now, love.

my breath is stale and sticky– i’m turning a milk candy over in my mouth,
sitting in this driver’s seat like i’m supposed to go somewhere, waiting to be ready
to get out again. i can’t imagine my legs taking me anywhere, can’t imagine my body
knowing what to do right now, so i let my thighs get sweatier & stickier, gluing to the seat.

i’ll peel a sunburn off my arms at home– the first in a long time, my windshield a perpetrator
for pressing all those UV rays into my helpless pores: a victim body, unknowing, thinking
of how we became one body, coupled in hurt & affection, now ripped from the seams into two,
into you & i: soft animal bodies under this same sun, and so far apart in our own homes.

week of apr 15th

prompt: write a piece that uses all or most of this pool of words– glisten, slow, starlight, fruit, molten, calm.

twinkling from comets & shooting stars in a children’s book
fill our sloppy, simple kisses, sweet like the sound of an owl’s hoots
outside your window in the early hours, our lips slick & glistening & upturned
in precious little smiles, puppy love unfurling from our hearts–
little ferns in the nighttime.

your eyes wrinkle at the edges, calm & joyful & so full of starlight, the taste of fruit
still on our lips in spirit, mellow seeds growing slow & fruiting on our tongues,
my heart beating & warming, turning my skin molten lava– bodies redder
& voices a little more giggly, spirits a little higher with each touch–
coming home to each other.

week of apr 8th

prompt: try to make your writing as silent as possible. i know it's a weird prompt-- don't take it too seriously. have fun. what does it mean for writing to be quiet?

her skin slips slow beneath mine,
slick fingers combing my spine—
tangled, suspended, closeness
a spell, we stay locked, at home, at rest

my chest rises, her eyes meet mine,
irises full, so sweet, eyelids heavy—
her chest falls, we close together,
i smile & sleep, & so does she

week of apr 1st

prompt: explore the concept of time in your writing. play with the idea of how we perceive passing time [linear/cyclical/all at once/not at all] and make it weird and surreal, or maybe go more classic & write some fun time travel/time loop fiction. how does time shape us?

i scratch at a scab and make new scar– pull apart the deep purple, the hardened salt flats on my skin, the new blemish. i think of sliding down the concrete stairs on my knees– ripping them raw, blood trails, cells scattered, little bits of skin like pilling on a sweater. dark wrinkles spread across my knuckle where the scab was– where the burn was, where i disregarded myself [the world disregarded me]. every acne scar across my chin, cheek, shoulder blade– the boils that speckle dark corners of my skin and leave me with little slits and stretched skin. this skin is some map, some novel in need of a translator.

week of mar 25th

prompt: try writing in the second person. address your audience and sit with them as you tell your story. see how this direct connection affects how you write.

author’s note: i promise i'm okay-- this one isn't about me. sort of odd how we tend to assume poetry must always be autobiographical, honestly, but that's beside the point.

when you fall asleep, your body goes down kicking & screaming, never without a fight,
and you wake again & again in that painful way, at the brink of sleep– then a spasm,
and suddenly you’re falling for a second & your eyes shoot open
and your head hurts, and you try to cry, but your eyes are empty, and you don’t
even want sleep anymore.

you wish almost spitefully that humans didn’t need it– couldn’t have it–
so everyone else could feel day after day: kept awake in the same way a corpse is,
worms & maggots crawling in & out, so abrasive & hungry, forcing its body alive.
your eyes are burning, cheeks flushing the first few hours, and then going white,
light draining from the eyes & then coming back fluorescent like the cough medicine aisle

you wonder when the air around you will start to stale, when you’ll start to stink
despite the showers and your flesh will slough off slowly but surely, skin peeling first,
then chunks, and at least the crows will start to like you more– it’s a silver lining.
something dying or dead is more appealing, and you’re almost waiting for it–
getting ready to walk toward the light, but really, it’s a night light at the end of the tunnel,
and you’re awake, and your body will go down kicking & screaming.

week of mar 18th

prompt: write a piece in which you blend two physical senses. maybe focus in on the taste or shape of words, or the feel of an old memory. imagine & sink into those sensations and see what comes up.

the heat of your grin sinks into my tongue– the shock of you
acting so wild, like you haven’t lost that feeling of being six,
still giggling and kicking your feet, just more ferocious now.
i wonder if you could be a femme fatale, smoldering eyes & smile,
laughter that kills if you like it too much, sinister– if you’re angrier
than you let on.

i feel your tiger fur, splitting the ends of your brown hair,
emerging like some bug from some chrysalis– expansive
in a way that scares me. does it scare you, being so large?
shining like an imploding star, smelling like a gas leak–
but a little too sweet, so maybe not? maybe just a pie, burning
in the oven.

your skin is a soft glow, the prickly fuzziness of static electricity–
of a cactus that looks like it doesn’t bite, spikes so small they’re
just for show, harmless & sweet, and the fruit tastes so hot
on your tongue while your teeth & lips & face go numb. god,
it’s so sweet.

week of mar 11th

prompt: explore a life cycle in some kind of writing. for example, you could use metamorphosis, diapause/hibernation, paedogenesis [very weird], puberty, the salmon life cycle, the amphibian life cycle, or something else entirely! you don't have to be direct-- just start here and get inspired.

sheets tangle around me, cocooning– gooey and hot–
and i tuck my comforter between my arms, under my face,
held so close and curled. i am bursting from my space–
getting just a little too big, the mattress a little too covered in pillows–
and i am pressing against the walls. i feel so stuck, safe, sleepy; feeling
the wooziness of my spinning head, lost in the soft cloths.

week of mar 4th

prompt: take time to explore different structures of whatever you like to write. for poetry, consider writing a pantoum, ghazal, or abecedarian (some of my favorites). for an essay or fiction, consider writing vignettes, something in epistolary form, a diptych/triptych piece, a frame story, or a circular narrative.

around the blacktop,
boys lined up like little ants.
counting the ball’s bounces before they shoot, they
dribble with all their strength, spittle from their mouths,
eternally their mothers’ children, and trying to be strong–
failing how men always do when they refuse to cry.
grit is for women, and they are simply hungry:
hoping to be fastest in playing ball and playing war, saying
“i’m the captain this time”–
joyful, a feeling that’ll get beat out of them,
killed, pushing them to kill,
like animals: like little boys (will be boys).
most don’t see it–
no, none see it,
only feel it,
pressure that builds atop their lungs while
quarrels break out– squabbles like ones from birds in trees–
raining down, turning this game more real,
so playtime is over, now, and it’s to a new classroom,
teaching conflict resolution: never back down,
uninhibited pride & confidence. stay fragile so you can’t;
vow to forget that you are.
woe are these men; careful,
xenophobic-raised, made of
yarn, unraveling. they are still the
zombies they played as (shooting).

week of feb 26th

prompt: write about echoes, sound, and reverberation. what is an echo– just sound or something more? how can it reverberate through past, present, and future? can emotion be an echo in that way? what else can be?

i imagine two eagles, talons locked, falling to something like death,
but not death– it’s something hard against the walls of your lungs
and the chambers of your heart, and they are falling in love.
they are falling into sex, and into life together, new bodies
that will sprout from their own. they are so loud in their love,
and they are echoes of their parents, making echoes.

this loudness collapses my eardrums, and the world around me
gets a little more quiet, but my head doesn’t. i only hear
the voices i’ve known– every piece of the collage, of the stained glass
masterpiece i’ve been patching together since i fell out of my mom’s
melted, drooping body– messy and hot and fleshy,
burning red like a glazed monster emerging from a kiln.

i hear you standing in front of me on the court,
telling me to follow through, pounding a leathery
ball into the heat-warped blacktop, over and over, sounding
like a beating heart. i hear my own heart beat in my ears.

i hear my labored breathing, her perched up on her elbows,
the rest of her collapsed on me– straddling, crying together.
we are loud, and she looks like a pretty little bird, and i’m grinning
with every tooth out– little garlic cloves, fucked up
and pearly.

i hear charlie’s leash jingle as he walks in the house,
my little body squealing and running to him,
and he barrels into my arms. he is golden between my little fingers,
searching his fur so carefully, as if i was blind– as if i hadn’t touched him
in a million years– so i could grasp at the comfort of his cloudy body.

i hear stories i’ve never felt or known, feel it all against my hot skin,
overwhelmed, sensing everything. i know my great-great-great grandparent’s
memories in my muscles, like an eagle cartwheeling through the air,
and i feel it all bubble over. i am a boiling pot too full,
and my children will be even fuller.

week of feb 19th

prompt: fuck salvador dali for being evil. that said, write a piece inspired by two famous dali paintings, persistence of memory and the elephants [shown below]. consider exploring movement, slowness/speed, heat/cold, and warped sensations.

the persistence of memory the elephants

Grains of sand melt away, coming together like mango sticky rice under my feet. The sun is hot and I cannot stand to sleep, dreaming more waking nightmares than I ever have before.

Above, dead trees bend their spindly hairless bodies toward me, like maybe I am the brutal sun that could heal them at a lower dosage– like they are leaning in closer to listen, thinking maybe they’d understand me if they could just hear a bit clearer.

I imagine them hairier– flourishing– with a thicket covering their now-bare chests and limbs. The sun bears down on me, and the image melts away. I wonder if it is punishment for imagining under such harsh conditions. At a time like this, I should be preoccupied with surviving.

The heat seeps in through my pores and my sweat seeps out. The sky is so many colors it shouldn’t be, and I wonder what time it is. I wonder if it is a mirage, and how long it’ll be until I start seeing oases and grand palaces.

My eyes start to close, and I can taste water and grains of rice. I think it might be sand on my tongue.

week of feb 12th

prompt: write about a worldly place that is a threshold for you. this can mean anything-- maybe it's some place between end and beginning, forward and backward, past and present, here and there, friends and lovers, or something else entirely!

there is a bus stop that rips me apart– no, this is every bus stop,
and every time i sit, my flesh pools on the bench,
and all my weight realizes that it must stay
laying there for days, while my voice and eyes
stand to travel home:

they see, and send signals
through gray matter and telephone lines,
so i can know what i will think about,
and remind my voice to say,
should i ever get up.

this body feels, and sends signals
through coursing veins and nerves,
so my pulse starts thumping in my ears–
tunk tunk tunk: it’s almost the bus rolling in,
with its old wheels that can’t keep up

its body is moving too fast for it,
and mine cannot move quickly enough.
we are both unhappy, waiting on each other, lagging,
and i only know that i will manage to get up
and on the bus in time.

week of feb 5th

prompt: write about what ways writing plays a role in your life-- why do you like it? is it hard? what's your relationship with it? be as abstract or direct as you'd like.

i’ve been storytelling for as long as i can remember. i wrote my first picture book when i was 5, in montessori, and my second in the 2nd grade, and my third in freshman year of high school. i played pretend through elementary school like my life depended on it– something i even wrote an essay on [which i can hopefully share if it gets published in a mag i submitted to… fingers crossed!]. it’s something that’s always been a part of my life. i’ve always wanted to tell the stories i felt should be told.

it’s hard to write, though. it always has been for me– i’m quite the slow writer, and i need a lot of breathing room between pieces. i need to absorb a lot to write a little. actually writing something isn't hard, but getting myself to is. chronic illness has made it even harder. but it’s worth it. i love getting notice small, beautiful things and put them into words. i love getting to hate and really love this world-- to want to watch it grow and be better and adore the beautiful things i see in it already. i love putting that to words.

writing means a lot of different things to me now– much more than it used to. i feel my drive to write has always been more serious, but i used to actually write simply because it’s fun. that’s a beautiful reason to write, but it’s interesting to see how my conscious reasoning behind writing has changed.

i think it’s telling that i started this piece that’s supposed to be about my relationship to writing talking about storytelling. writing is just part of it for me. storytelling in any form is how we keep ourselves alive, no? it’s how we connect, how we learn, how we tell the stories of our people. it’s how we grow. it’s what teaches us our first morals and principles.

storytelling is quite spiritual, i feel. it connects you to so much you can’t quite put a finger on. lately, i’ve felt connected to my ancestors when i write. i can almost feel their hands on my shoulders and their soft, wrinkled hands pushing bread into my mouth. i think of the nahuatl people i once was– the way i’m more spanish than i am truly mexican, and the way i know a lot of my ancestors would hate me and the ones i love most would love me just as much. i think about reconnecting, and i know writing is reconnecting.

as much as i love that feeling, i write mainly for community– that’s why i created this club. i want to push myself and the people who read what i write to understand more and discover more and search for what is hard to search for. everyone grows when writing happens, and i love being a part of that. i love making and trading zines, and writing blog posts, and writing poetry that fights for what i feel it needs to, and writing essays [academic and personal] on what i want to share, and telling stories that are hard to hear in all this world’s noise, and writing on protest posters & postcards to representatives & walls that shouldn’t exist.

i don’t think i’ve motivated a ton of progress in our world because of writing or anything, but i know i’ve made small changes here and there, and that’s enough. i want to go into journalism, and keep writing creatively, too, and i want to make that bigger change, but i know that if nothing else, i’ve done something i love and changed my own heart. if nothing else, i want to keep doing that.