Month: May, 2014

The Lydia Davis Project: Mildred and the Oboe

(Based on Lydia Davis’ short story ‘Mildred and the Oboe’)

Like man and wife,
Woman and oboe
Make love all night.

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The Lydia Davis Project: The Fish

(based on Lydia Davis’ short story ‘The Fish’)

A fish not held in high regard
Is doomed to die a life much marred.

His valued worth is soon reduced
To little more than cost deduced.

It seems us humans with low self-worth
Don’t give a damn for planet earth.

And so this fish now stripped of scales
Seems so exposed with fresh entrails.

The Lydia Davis Project: What She Knew

(based on Lydia Davis’ short story ‘What She Knew’)

You cannot know the girl
Who sees herself
As someone else.

Pretty as she seems,
Something else lurks
Beneath.

You cannot know the girl
Who is bewildered by
Your cat calls and wolf whistles.

You see her as a girl,
But she knows
She’s so much more.

The Lydia Davis Project: Mr. Burdoff’s Visit to Germany

(A response to Lydia Davis’ short story ‘Mr. Burdoff’s Visit to Germany’)

Go away to a far away place,
Find yourself swallowed whole
And taken by the sumptuous sights
And awesome attraction.

This place is so foreign and new.
You feel the air you breathe
Suffocates you with fresh perspective.

You’ve done this so many
Times before.
But this time is different.
This time is the final time.

Like all great escapes,
You fall in love.
In love with the city,
In love with the people,
In love with a kindred spirit.

But as soon as it begins,
It ends.
And you wish you could
Start all over
Again.

The Lydia Davis Project: Break It Down

(Based on Lydia Davis’ short story ‘Break It Down’)

Time is money, they say.
And love takes time.
So let’s break it down:
Love costs money.
And heartbreak leaves
You empty-handed.

The rest of your days are
Spent calculating and speculating
What you could have saved,
What you could have made,
Had you not fallen for
That girl,
That boy,
That one who left you breathless.

You round up,
You round down.
Doesn’t matter
How much your paycheck
Was eaten up
When there’s this sting
In your chest.

Counting up the change,
The bills and receipts,
Is a bitter consolation
To not knowing if
I love you too
Was as hollow as it sounded.

The Lydia Davis Project: Liminal: The Little Man

The past is not the past,
The future is here.
The present is ever-changing. 

Little man, where are you?
Tell me not to stress and sorrow.
Tell me I do not have to 
Relive my years. 

Eyes close 
And I am there again.
Eyes open
And I am back here.

So easy to forget,
So easy to remember.

The Lydia Davis Project: The Fears of Mrs. Orlando

(The following is a response to Lydia Davis’ short story ‘The Fears of Mrs. Orlando’)

We are all paranoid women
When we walk the streets
Alone.
Making up fictions of the most
Macabre origins.

Shudder and retreat
Off these streets
When your fears and suspicions
Run wild
And free.

After a while,
Even your humble abode
Will not humble you with
The false comforts of
Hospitality and safety.

The world is the most
Dangerous game.
And you are a player
Without any ounce of
Expertise. So, flee.

The Lydia Davis Project: Story

(This poem is a response to Lydia Davis’ short story ‘Story’)

Girl wants to know
It all.
She wants to know
It all, but he won’t
Be honest,
Be truthful,
Be straightforward
To her.

He leaves her mouth agape
With questions of
Did he?
Is he?
Will he?
Does he?
Or won’t he?

But she squirms in her seat
With a phone in her hand
And she calls him
And he listens
To her struggle
With herself,
Her words,
To be less nagging and neurotic.
Those things they so despise in her.

There is no escaping the
Desperate questions
We ask ourselves.
This is what
She says to rationalize
Her behaviour
As she drives over to his home,
His place of relaxation and rest.

Yes, she has work at 5 in the morning.
But no matter, as
This matter.
Bears more importance
For it’s a matter
Of the heart.

And so she goes there with
A pistol loaded with these
Impotent questions.
Finds herself faced
With more important questions
Of does it matter?
Will one or two or three
Answers ever be enough?

The Lydia Davis Project

Lydia Davis Stories

During my vacation with my family in Hong Kong I stumbled across an amazing bookstore known as Kubrick Bookstore, located in Yau Ma Tei. It wasn’t particularly huge but the selection was impressive and incredibly engrossing. They had a surprising amount of English books and the selection was up my alley (tons of plays, philosophy and contemporary fiction).

During my scoping out of the place I stumbled across The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis who I had heard about here and there and seen elsewhere. You see, Lydia Davis’ writing belongs to a literary style known as flash fiction. That is, short stories with an emphasis on short. There is apparently no specific length to determine flash fiction by, but generally no more than 1000 seems to be the rule of thumb.

So I ended up purchasing the book (because I have no willpower once something catches my eye), read some of it on the flight back, but haven’t picked it up since.

This morning, however, I started re-reading it from the beginning. I’ve decided a good way to pace myself with the book is to do a short story a day and turn it into a project in which I will write a response to each story in verse. And so there we have it: The Lydia Davis Project begins.

Autumn, Wither

Trees on islands of desolation murmur
Sweet nothing like quiet crows, passing
Delicate secrets
In between
Their brushstroke branches
That we claim
As ours.