Rachel’s Thoughts: To Helen (Poe)

Prose adaptation/modification/completelydifferentversionof  Edgar Allan Poe’s To Helen.

Helen, you look like a boat. Now don’t get me wrong; you’re pretty, and practical, too, like one of those log canoes the Indians used to paddle around in. But the kind of boat you remind me of is less the Nicean bark and a little more at home in the swamps of Florida.

Ever since you chalked your hair purple, your skin has seemed even more sickly pale, like mold. You’ve put on airs; you’re thinking Greece, or maybe Rome, but you’re more like London…in the middle of the plague.

You’re always posing–no, literally, posing, trying to look like Shakespeare and Arabian Nights. Even now you’re parading back and forth in front of the window. That flashlight in your hand: what are you doing with it, one if by land, two if by sea? Austen was wrong; your figure does not appear to best advantage while walking. Remember, love, you’re built like an aircraft carrier.

Perhaps I should be glad, my dear, that you don’t speak English, in light of what I’ve said. After all, you can’t help your looks, and I might wound your poor little psyche. But if I can offer some advice, my Arabian battleship, perhaps you should eat a little less?

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Rachel’s Thoughts: The Secret Place

This was my third creative sketch of the late night and wee hours of the morning, and I think this one might just fit the bill.

A gap in the bushes separated our yard from the grasses of the secret place beyond. Tall hedges encompassed the whole enclosure, so that when you crossed into it you stepped into a separate world that smelled of lavender and dead leaves. An oak tree grew in the middle, surrounded by lavender bushes and a little cinderblock wall. Its branches were long and the leaves thick, so that in the summer the roof threw green shadows that danced on the ground. A swing hung from one limb.

In fact, it was rather like the Wood-Between-the-Worlds, except earthier and suited to being occupied by children. The oak gave off the feeling that it was the only thing holding the world together, and that like Atlas it held the sky on its shoulders. It was an anchor binding this world to all the infinite realms of adventure, so that you could always return from forays into imaginary places.

It was perfect for a six-year-old girl to get wildly lost in Narnia. Plots could be hatched, house could be kept, and it could easily be defended against pirates. The secrecy kept it a sanctuary, and the wildness left it the sort of place where anything could happen and something always would.[1]


[1] Phrasing courtesy of Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine.

Rachel’s Thoughts: My First Rare Steak

I was going to use this for a creative sketch declamation, but wasn’t sure if it quite fit the guidelines. So.

Many, many, many moons ago, I had my first rare steak.

Malevolently. That was how it felt like the steak was staring at me. It was the kind of steak that had probably sat on someone nice in a previous life. I had ordered my bloody slab of cow medium to well done, and this was just so…not. I mean, the edges were singed and all, but I prefer my food dead, thank you very much.

Anyway, there it was, sitting on my plate like it owned the place. The cook had refused to take it back, jabbering something in Dutch about the World Cup. Apparently Holland was playing Spain and, being smack-dab in the middle of Amsterdam, he didn’t feel obliged to provide customer satisfaction on such an important night. Evidently he wasn’t concerned about customer safety, either, because this was precisely the sort of steak that might at any moment pull a Calvin-and-Hobbes move and attack me with my own fork. My personal theory was that he too was intimidated by the gimlet eye of the beastly thing, and was secretly chortling about it back in the kitchen. And still the steak just sat there oozing blood, defying me, practically daring me to try to eat it.

Rachel’s Thoughts: Poetry Out Loud: Short Selection

For the upcoming Poetry Out Loud competition, all of the secondary students at Logos School are required to memorize a long poem (25 + lines), and a short poem (-25). This is my short poem: Ode, by Arthur O’Shaughnessy:

We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Rachel’s Thoughts: Part of a Paper: Exhordium: On the Subject of Scarves

In my Rhetoric class, we’ve been writing one section of a paper at a time and presenting it orally for the past several weeks. My topic is that girls should be allowed to wear scarves to school—here is my Exhordium (aka Conclusion). Pardon the references to Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband –our school just performed the play (yes, I was in it) and the script is embedded in my mind.

Let the grace abound. Let the scarves flow like juicy adjectives from Miss Dow’s pen, and shoes from Mrs. Merkle’s closet.

Let teachers make no more ‘examples’ of cold students. Let them not crush them beneath the claw of cold, by the steel hand beneath the snowy glove! No more, I say, shall the thumb of icy injustice press down upon the brow of hardworking students. Never again shall plagues and diseases destroy the school teams, demolish the state-win records, or send innocent elementary students to utter destruction; and never again will the common cold clutch a single student in its icy grasp and hold on longer than memory of the Peloponnesian War. Never again will the memory of the brave men who fought at Gettysburg be erased by pneumonia. Disease has, for the last time, vanquished history’s defeated and victorious; for warmth, warmth which we will so wildly love, will conquer cold.

Rachel’s Thoughts: The Poetic Math Problem

For Rhetoric last week, one of our assignments was to describe a math problem in a poetic fashion. 🙂

“The 17 sat there, creased at his corner like my grandmother’s eye, arms crossed and leaning against the parenthesis beside him. The parenthesis wrapped its arms around the function within, hugging the Cosine-and Sine-of-X in a tight grasp. The Cosine-of-X and her husband, the Sine-of-X, huddled close together, trying to evade the parentheses’ cold hands. The Tangent-of-X giggled beside the parentheses, beaming at her brother, t, and their little nephew 2, who sat perched on t’s shoulder.

The family of functions sat atop a line like children on a curb, and their pet 9 sat beneath them. The 9 sat, smugly aloof but interested despite her own better judgement. Brackets enclosed the complex family, but various functional family members stood nearby. On the left of the bracket were Secant X and Cosecant X, Cosine-of-X’s twin sisters. They had both been born upside down, and it was still a touchy subject.

The family’s skeleton-in-the-closet, Great-Uncle Z, stood with his girlfriend, 3, on the other side of The Barrier; Z looked frightfully knobby beside his curvy friend. The proper side of the family, the functions of X and the basic numbers, had been trying to get Z and 3 out of the equation for a while, and subtraction had been the farthest away they could get them without making Great-Uncle Z undefined. However, despite the family’s attempts, Z and 3 still managed to turn up every time they tried to solve the family problems, and frequently made the hired solver pound his head into the desk in mental agony.”

Rachel’s Thoughts: What Commonplaces Are We Talking About?

This is an exhortation to all of you out there who keep commonplace books. Commonplace book= a book in which you write down remarkable sayings, phrases, or full-on quotes that you think posses some particular pizzazz.

For my Rhetoric class this year, we’re required to find 10 new commonplaces every week. For example, since this is the 6th week of the school year, we’re required to have accumulated a grand total of 60 commonplaces. This is a step up from the one-quote-per-week quota of last year.

This initially caused some pretty major pandemonium in my class, especially once the clarification had been made that we couldn’t get quotes solely from other people’s commonplace books (such as the Quotable Lewis, etc.), or from the internet. That meant that we actually had to find our own. The horror of the thought.

Hence, the standard has slipped somewhat in what counts as a proper “commonplace.” Formerly, a commonplace was something that stood out among its fellows–“Faith is not blind, for it is by faith that we truly see.” (Emily Cook), or even a uniquely phrased sentence–“My dear, you just crossed the line between creative and gadzooks.” (Hadley Ayers); but the definition has slid to something significantly…stupider. I won’t say who quoted it, or even who said it, but one of the commonplaces turned in was “Look! A chair!” As the teacher pointed out, in context this was probably a rib-cracker…but it lost its zing after the fact.

So. Even if you have to turn in seemingly inordinate amounts of commonplaces for school, keep the quality high. Don’t fall into the five-minute-rush mindset (“The bell’s about to ring! Say something deep!”). If you need to collect ten boring statements (on the first day of the week, just to get it over with) to clear your conscience, but fully plan to write down another ten zinger  commonplaces (to bring your weekly total up to 20), go ahead. That’s fine. But make sure that you get the zingy ones too.

(Metaphors and similes often pack the most punch!)

“Her emotions were swinging like saloon doors on rusty hinges.” –Adam Young