Summer Peels off its Mask: Story and Gallery

The yellow leaves twisted, icarean, as they helicoptered down from the trees. A soft breeze teased the grass, except where I’d tonsured a path to, from, and around the pool, raised bed gardens and duck yard, shed, and flattened miniature Stonehenge where the kids like to swing on the forgiving branches of the maple tree. A plastic orange horse with unruly blue mane lies sideways on one fallen pillar, and various play paraphernalia punctuate the circle of leviathan stones: an insect-patterned soccer ball stares you down, a blue-green geodesic dome ball peeks from behind blades, a baseball mitt is upended on another flat rock. Other spheres are caught in the trough of the stones’ belly, but a pair of girl’s well-worn tennis shoes, size 10, still tied in double bows but unfooted, wait outside the sacred almost-ouroboros. Their occupant has tromped away on purple-flowered roller skates, lifting her legs as if hoisted by cranes at the knees.

“Look, Mom, I walk like C-3PO in these.”

These scatterings seem to me a forlorn solar system, guideposts gone, lessons unlearned.

Farther back, fresh human dreck of a tricolor beach ball and a spent pool filter litter the ground, half-mown, where the orange snake threads a path among the stones, and meets its dark counterpart in a charged union of opposites.

Mating and molting, and switching one mask for the other, are already underway. The sun metes out its blight to all within blindness’ field-sight, the sky’s flash bulb freezing a moment in the white-heat of infinity.

And the dog days of August lope off in search of dead smells and living motions, that they may loll in the bed of September’s early, protean decay.

Cicada Shadow

Cicada and molted cuticula. By Leigh Ward-Smith

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16 thoughts on “Summer Peels off its Mask: Story and Gallery

    • Well, Plaridel, the secret is that I make sure to take my long-windedness pill (Prolix brand, ha-ha) before I blog. 🙂 But on a serious note, I do hope you and your family are safe and sound after the NorCal quake and aftershocks; I could be wrong, but I seem to recall you are in that vicinity when you’re not traveling the world!

  1. I really like your writing and alternative perspectives on things other people would see as ordinary.
    I especially like your description of the tennis shoes “unfooted”, but it is all good!
    Your sentences stretch long and melodical. Excellent post! Lady of the word smitthery!

  2. Lovely. Couple of thoughts, A few short snappy sentences would give time for the imagery to rest. For example “Other spheres are caught in the trough of the stones.” (I’d drop belly) is beautiful and luxurious and deserves a sentence all to itself. Lose the “but” and the next bit still flows.

    Also, don’t be diffident – why “almost ouroboros”? It is your vision, make it unqualified or broken or spavined. One of my personal challenges is editing out all the “seems to bes” and “likes” in my own writing. Yours is strong enough to hold bold statements.

    Finally, and this is a real nitpick – who is “you” in “an insect-patterned soccer ball stares you down”? perhaps make it intimate with “me” or more active.

    Sounds like a lot of points, they’re not, just moments of precision that would be wasted on someone else. The pictures are fab too.

    • Thanks, Ali. I agree wholeheartedly with these suggestions. I should have given some reader relief/imagery rest with some shorter sentences in there. Bad habit of mine, addressing the reader as ‘you,’ probably in a subconscious attempt to draw him/her into the action at hand. The almost-ouroboros was almost just ouroboros! I’m slavishly devoted, sometimes, to exact accuracy, and should have taken a liberty there (the “circle” is not a true circle of stones, more like a U-shape with 2 bits at the “opening” of the top of the U). Maybe more like arch meeting ground shape? In any case, I felt like I couldn’t get away, accuracy-wise, with making it a snake- (or dragon-)like circle. I’m going to start calling you “Astute as always Ali”!

      • Great feedback here! I suffer from some of the same writing symptoms as you, Leigh, and was once advised to give the reader space (but not too much) to breathe. Finding that balance is difficult. But your prose is exquisite. I very much admire your writing.

      • Thank you; you’ve truly made my day with your compliments, Robert. What you do with the language of poetics is mindboggling. I have to admit, I feel your poetry but I do not always understand it. And yet I’ve grown comfortable(r!) with that over the years, though I still strive to acquire both knowledge and experience. Plus, I love the challenge of poetry (and difficult prose). Hope you have a productive holiday weekend!

  3. Yes, this is prose so rich that I would go with Ali’s suggestion to expose the beauty of your sentences. I like to think of the background spaces in a painting that persuade the eye to focus on the main subject.

  4. I’ve always wondered what a Cicada looks like. The insect world has never ceased to amaze me either. Incredible how the metamorphosis takes place in such a way to change one thing into another. Love your photos showing this. They’re beautiful!

  5. This was beautiful. There is something both sad and exhilarating about the change of seasons. Sad to say ‘goodbye’ to the passing season, but looking forward to the ‘new’ changes to come.

    I know cicadas are harmless, but I still find them peculiar and a little creepy! (Great photo, though!)

  6. I enjoyed reading this as it was. You have your own style and I like that it’s something different, brave florid prose. I can see both sides of it but I would say, does modern prose not veer towards the incredibly sparse? as we become more impatient. So as almost to be nursery rhyme-ey at times. So Poe, Chekhov, 1800s, v florid, descriptive, uninhibited diction too. Then we leap to the age of instant plot hooks, etc. Somewhere inbetween ok? So this is a shortish piece, capturing these moments and time, can it not unravel in its own style. I see that some short sentences would perhaps make others stand out but it has its own style and grace and is your own piece as such.

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