113th Annual Conference - Portland, Oregon
Friday, November 6 - Sunday, November 8, 2015

Compression, Cataloguing, and Collage in Flash Nonfiction

Kaitlyn Teer, Western Washington University

I will read a work of flash nonfiction and several prose poems which test the boundaries of form, the balance between narrative explicitness and poetic compression. "Falling" develops a scene while also suggesting cosmological implications through poetic compression. Prose poems from a series, "Taxonomies," enact the rhythm of cataloguing kinds of phenomena. "Ways of Breathing Underwater" makes meaning in the gaps between brief segments collaged together through associative leaps.


Table of Contents

1. Kinds of Twilight

2. Kinds of Erosion


1. Kinds of Twilight


The time between when street lamps blink on and when their light is needed; when the sun hangs beneath the horizon leaving light’s residue, a grainy film coating distant surfaces; before the landscape succumbs to dusk and neighbors draw their blinds; the lavender hour fit for making silhouettes, posing backlit subjects to stand in the shadows of what photographers call sweet light; when sweater-clad walkers hurry over bruised magnolia blossoms and cyclists’ reflectors beam and motorists watch for electric eyes on the shoulders of country roads; when darkness encroaches in increments of six degrees.


Commences at sunset; the time when navigation ends at sea, the horizon’s recession and all but the tide’s movement ceases; comes again at sunrise; one morning the freighter called the Horizon Lines snapped in the wind and became unmoored, drifting ninety degrees because of a broken cleat and slack bow line; when the sun measures below the horizon, twelve degrees. 


When water spills into our bedroom from the windows, and I’m caught in the current sparking from a nearby outlet; the paralyzing shock of dandelions spiking goldenrod in my brainstem, then darkness as I fail under the power, a death dream; when the faint blue of a microwave clock guides steps across a darkened wood floor; rowing hard against the image of a Lord God who comforts and afflicts; when I pray into a cold glass of water for relief. 


2. Kinds of Erosion


The way an electric dryer tumbles fibers from clothing and blows their remains into the netting of a lint trap; the repetition of hand motions that chip away at weakening bones; the way particles are lifted from rock, dust suspended long distances and deposited elsewhere.


The way the soil in my window box splashes the pane when I tip my watering can toward it; the way a tea bag wilts with each successive pot of boiling water poured over it; the fading green of my grandmother’s Pyrex bowl, pigment worn clean by washing; the dental cavities of pregnant women; the way nutrients seep toward deltas, fecund silt sinks in still water, a warm blanket for hibernating frogs; the way floods carry pebbles across the surface of the floodplain, deepening a valley.


The way the wick burns down and is extinguished by pooling wax; the way a piece of paper falls apart according to the frequency with which it is picked up and carried with you, read over and over again, its creases deepening into tears, something atlases and epistles share in common; the weight of slumber on white sheets; the surface creep of debris.