Monday, April 4, 2016

Poetry by Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon

Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon is a writer from the Philippines now living in Australia on a Monash University scholarship.

(from a lecture)

To require that a character be consistent and dynamic to be worth anyone's time is asking too much, really. In the roiling oil of tensions and conflicts you fry him in, you can imagine it as survival to crisp up, change flavors, shed fur, lose or gain limb, throw or realize conviction, grow or fake a heart. I mean, to write him up effectively, you will have to set him up for disaster. You are writing as an act of terror, no, war. Same difference.

In your god-hand, you pick up dark matter, breathe pollution to his nostrils and weigh him down with ... what's this ... "potentials for conflict and drama". Your god-heart and god-mind stick him between a herring-bone outline for what will be your "greatest work ever” while a non-pen yielding arm hides a dagger against your spine. In the swell and surge, the trip and slide of things, the story runs ahead on its long leash and takes you to ... "What's this?" you ask. "A plot twist!" The weight, pull, gravity of iron-y! So with your pen-knife, you prick little cuts into the character's skin, not gashes, just enough wounds for bloodshed, drops of it that hide in conversation, furniture, a corner of the eye to plant reader suspicion, stop him from nodding off on the plot.

Suddenly, it hits you to make this plot twist so remarkable, so brilliant, so inconceivably clever, your reader is floored. I don't mean a fall from a pull in a twisted ankle, the kind you get after an early jog around the block in the Nike trainers you got in hot pink because they're so damn cute. No! This is a spine break after your character dies jumping off 15 storeys so that them at the coroner's office have to chalk around his foot on the 6th floor, bits of spine on the 8th floor balcony, and his heart on the edge of the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool. This twist, while alarming in the life-changing way you want it to reach your reader, a reveal that'd make them feel, make them stick their arm down their throats to pull out their guts, wrap it around their neck for hanging on a door nail because, as in our last discussion, this is sympathy and empathy, you'd want them prepared for it too. They'd have had to see it coming. You see, this was the consistency we talked about last time, but not so much that they see it on every corner of every dialogue or a well-placed supra-symbolic object of setting.

So, the big deal, future Nobel Prize winning you takes like a dog padding a paw on a well-hidden bone and start decorating your character before his train wreck ending. Maybe a subtly hinted psycho-drama from childhood that comes out so often in flashbacks the color of joy in children. Oh, you clever, cleverer, cleverest young writer you will fry your character, your readers in a non-stick pan so that on the 10th required number of pages, they will take to the world, their natural lives, out the classroom door sporting burns and blisters they will cover up in sleeves forever.

                                                 Zola Gonzalez-Macarambon


The place is clean, not hospital clean but with enough wear and tear on its walls, just the right places. The kind that looks good on jeans, a tea set, leather boots. The wood of the tables looks like they’ve been salvaged from a ramshackle house a retired barkeep couldn’t afford anymore. He left everything in that piece of dump he called home for years but kept things that still have a good five more: an old mirror, the medicine cabinet from the bath, a Fender Strat 1964 with the strings removed, fat finger marked on the G, F, and E minor, the metal rungs giving. That rusty thing threatens of tetanus and brightens up the wall. There are spots on the mirror near the register, vignettes of brown spots like patterns on the edge of a moth wing or age around a woman’s eyes.

There is yellow light from upside-down tin cans that dangle as a lamp on every table. They suspend too low the level of greasy noses. Sometimes, people speak louder than they should; stabbing at the aural space littered by these ... lamps, its soft light casting each face a hepatitic glow.  There is longing on the surface of the bar glistening like oiled wood. There is nothing in the eyes of the girl fomenting fire on coals under a wire. Her shellacked look creases and cracks around the mouth while looking on the outside where

the city is slick in the streets, slick like the scales of fish. The edge of gutters glistens with spit and the common rain.

Inside, a man with a beard and a hobble wants a fast love song, the heavy girl with the slutty mouth, an oldie-but-goodie to match the little stories she fits in the middle of tiny poems. A couple of young men go through the rules of a game they invented with cards missing a Queen and three Jacks. A table in the corner is rowdier with every bucket of beer they order and piss away in the watering wall that faces the street where the park is, young couples and the sweat of pubescent loves, the church. This place makes the best meat, sauced and burnt on skewers.

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