AWOL Week 5 Responses

AWOL Exercise #5

This exercise was based on a link to a short film on YouTube:

The task was to turn it into a story or poem. If the writers felt stuck, they could try describing closely what they saw in the film, as if they were there. If they needed a title, they might find it in what he’s saying, or the title of the film about Cormac McCarthy titled ‘Veer’.

The Forest Sighs and Rolls Their Eyes   by V. Rivers

The Forest Sighs and Rolls Their Eyes


corners turn to spring

moon baits 

body memory’s frantic


all hair spine spiking

milk white


pictures as words words

as mouthblood

bloodmouth crammed with leaves


at trees

Do you feel this gut twist when you sprout


dawn splutters

a choke howl

I stalk the tree for secrets

mouthing roots

clawing bark


I demand you show me how to



    shed spines

      sprout leaves



V. Rivers

For W.F   by V. Rivers

For W.F

                       And then leaves

muzzle pressed to the window

I fog the glass

                       your distance 

a circle of salt dewdrops

I weave lines

along the sill

food I steal

smacks    of salt castles

First lost





of intention

a bed beneath my paws

a taste    of air and cocoa

On hind legs

I remember, you

taught me

how to use keys

V. Rivers

I Over-Identify With Things That Are Rejected   by V. Rivers

I Over-Identify With Things That Are Rejected

adrift wayward wandering missed disorientated lacking

invisible forgotten desolate abandoned barren

hollow deserted forlorn oppressed

persecuted homeless forsaken


loving doting



















shepherding every tattle-tale into a cathedral

I roll them on my tongue

kiss the feet of each

to warm their loneliness.

They wonder why

V. Rivers

Belief   by Peter Marshall


There is no beginning and no ending to our understanding of time.  Motions of a nodding donkey with a film shown backwards would not reveal time’s arrow.  Imagine that loop of time as if of a serpent eating its own tail.  Ever since early symbolic language showed a voice when carved on the walls of Tutankhamun’s tomb, we have seen images of the hungry ouroboros as a snake eating itself.  Numerous mythologies and religious texts through the ages portray dragons or snakes encircling the whole world in this way.  On a slightly more manageable human scale is the image in an alchemy text printed 400 years ago of a tail-eating wyvern. 

Wyverns are quite fun scaly critters – winged dragons really, but with only one pair of legs.  Mostly, they do not breathe fire, instead their exhalations are chilling.  That Dundee statue which people often think is a fairly harmless two-legged wyvern – be warned.  Creep round behind it, catch it unawares.  You will spot a second pair of strong legs firmly clasped about a bollard.  Prepare for a scorching lick of flame! 

But that source of flame is an aside.  Of sorts.  That nodding donkey with its rhythmic clanks and rattles and clicks and mechanical sighs is endlessly slurping from beneath the dusty dry earth.  A borehole has probed into dark recesses beneath layers of hard rock, penetrating to those sandstones saturated with even darker viscous fluids. 

            These oils have been stewing underground for half an eternity, and, were it not for humanity being prepared to consume everything about it, perhaps even our own ‘tail’ in the process, then the oil might remain undisturbed for half an eternity more.  Instead, these fluids are drawn from those fissures between grains of rock into dark pipes, passing on to tanks and refineries, never having seen the light of day – at least not since past existence as tropical forests being swallowed into primeval swamps millions of years before.  There is topical strangeness to writing this as the price of crude Texan oil from these very nodding donkeys slithers below ground zero into negative territory on the graph and, for the first time ever, people are being paid to spirit it away. 

            In 1865, the renowned scientist August Kekule divined the circular nature of benzene molecules. – a dominant volatile constituent of crude oils. He used a scientific method of deduction to reach this conclusion.  But, 25 years later, he went on record as saying the idea of a cyclic structure had come to him in a daydream about a serpent eating its tail – an ouroboros, no less.  Not long before this lecture he gave, in the amusingly named 1886 spoof ‘Journal of the Thirsty Chemical Society’, they’d cartooned a bunch of monkeys holding tails in a circle.  Were they offering a drunken parody of Kekule’s ideas, or was he parodying their parody.  Enough to make the head spin!  These curlicues of dusty facts were tapped from the deepest reservoirs of human information, stored on spinning magnetic plattens, on data-banks half a globe around.  Just a shame that Cormac McCarthy, with his desiccated observational eye, used Kekule and the ouroboros dream as a lead example for the subconscious helping to generate language within the human brain.  It was an essay of impressively circular arguments which flowed as if in a whirlpool of viscous Texan Crude towards a profound conclusion: an inadvertent channelling of The Beano’s Numskulls, suggesting that ‘It seems unlikely that the itch department is also in charge of maths’. 

            Are those droplets of oil sad, or glad at the momentary recognition when a sharp spark ignites them into a brief expression of piston power, turning an engine over so it can swift cycle back through to how it was an instant earlier.  Repeat, and repeat again, except, consuming that tiger in the tank with a dreadful constancy. 

            Perhaps, instead, these oils are tired. 

            Perhaps instead, they yearn to see more wind turbines scythe, turn and cycle yet again, drawing power freely from the air.  Wind turbines only rotate in one direction, so, time for them is a simple arrow, pointing the way to the future. 

            We know the way the world is. 

What we might want to believe is another thing entirely. 

2020 04 19      Peter Marshall

where i could hide   by lotty

where i could hide   

words have always been my greatest and sometimes only friends. they are always there when one needs them, especially now when I feel lost as I am locked in in Dark Times. I have called on them to take me on a journey into my mind, each one is a new adventure so who knows what one will find?

It might be we land in the majestic Court of a beautiful and powerful Queen but then again I’m no longer 14 so it will be no longer that scene.

Most likely these days we will land in a  smoky Club that  is alive and  swinging  as the Big Band begins to play.  also, as I glance around, I spot on the stage five or six flapper girls who look like elegant swans, but unfortunately sooner or later I’ll be woken alas beautiful visions which at this very moment I see so clearly will be truly shattered and only exist in one’s own already packed vibrant memory; so on my darkest days I’ll have a place in my mind in which I can hide. 

lotty, April 23 2020

Invisible War   by elisheva katz

Invisible War

Always knew one day our sins would catch up with us. I had hoped it would never be in my lifetime. But here i am. Here we are. Lost in an invisible war. What will become of us i do not know. They say some will die, some will take their own lives, others will simply die inside, becoming dead men walking on our streets. Although there is this one thing i do know; when this war has ended – and it will end – there will be people who are too weak to carry on. It is those of us who are strong in mind and body that must carry the weak until they can hold themselves up.

But now as we stand together on this battlefield facing this invisible enemy – I can only do what you can do. Have faith in God that we will win this war, rising like phoenixes out of the ashes.

elisheva katz 

April 14th 2020

Algor   by Jodi Glass


Miles and miles of dusty roads, grassy plains. With houses and barns dotted around. The car has no air conditioning, with sweltering heat. Sticky hair is only relieved by the wind, kicking up dusty wind from the Chevrolet. 

Train tracks shivering with anticipation of trains coming by. It was a One-Road Town, that didn’t grow even on prosperity.  There was a large bar boarded up, a small bar looking ratty. The DIY shop next door to the closed-down post office.  

Only the church showed signs of life – banners about a Saturday picnic, the community board full of poster every shade of pastel. We could tell it was the community hub. 

Smoking chimneys can be seen far off, and seem to fade when we spot a gas station in the dancing heat-baked concrete.  We are running dry, and the girl behind the counter helps with a story. A story of Algor. 

In the 90’s, black gold was found; the land was sold and nodding donkeys were eagerly installed. Families moved out; tycoons raced in.  When the oil dried up, drained, like the gold rush, people moved to another place. The remaining families, who didn’t sell up, were few and far between. The grass grew back, and nature reclaimed. Algor is a pass-through town. in the background of Texas. Algor is now a forgotten town.   

Jodi Glass

Salt in the Blood   by Kathy Low

Salt in the Blood

 wind backs

            boat veers off course

                   lower the mainsail

                          and come about

                               Set sails for tack….

                                             mind the boom!

                                                       this way and that

                                                                  into strong headwind

                                                                            ….sails billow 

                                                                                        you’re  under way 

                                                                                                steering a heading for home…….

Kathy Low

Changing Course. Veer   by Maggie Campsey

Changing Course. Veer

The bleached grass plains, stretch vastly,

A foreign wasteland to the eye,

As sun has dried every droplet, soil parched,

Nothing grows farmers gone, 


A small town derelict, recession driven,

Gone are the local boutiques,

There are no young ones, city dwellers now,

But the old remain in their decaying ruins,

Of old homesteads.

Now the roads are hardly driven,

Vehicles are a rare commodity,

As top soil blows over the highways,

Creating dusty air,

Cocking at your throat and place is deserted.

It once held the best place to live,

Back when the water tasted sweet, the town prospered,

Now all dried, no lifeline can change this place,

Its demise can be blamed on climate change,

As when the winds turned direction water simply dried away.

Maggie Campsey

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