On the Cautious Road

The Hitchhiker holds his sign hopefully.
It is such a sad little sign;
limp and with a spelling mistake.
Yet it is the way I am going.
If this was 1943 I would stop.
If I was a man I would stop.
Why is he standing there, they ask.
I answer. My children look at me and say,
Well, we could give him a lift?
I can’t admit that I imagine the worst
that could happen, the things
they don’t know about yet;
rare and unlikely but possible
chance of him snuffing out our lights,
their miniature bones lost in the earth.

So I quickly reply that this car is too
noisy for that traveller,
he looks like he has a headache.
We drive straight past.
The children wave.


Spinning flax into gold

Humans are emotional creatures; we react. It could be a flush of desire, or a tremble of fear followed by a roar of anger. Perhaps it is disgust, boiling in the stomach, or obsession clouding the mind like swirls of cream in black coffee: everything is diluted into sweetness and anticipation.


When you get cut up on the road and all the obscenities you know explode from your mouth, remember that feeling and distil it into an imaginary bottle. (I picture the kind of hand-blown glass bottle that has bumps and imperfections within the glass) Then paste a white label and write on it in dark ink,’this is the exact shade of road rage.’ When you get jammed into an elevator with five men all wearing intense aftershave and it brings a roll of nausea to your mouth, bottle the feeling and label it, ‘this is the overwhelming feeling of male vanity.’ As you watch your neighbour stealing your apples and you imagine all the lost apple pies, bottle that feeling and label it, ‘this is indignant-stolen-apple flavoured anger.’

When I say bottle it, I mean write it down. Write it in a file or book and call it: The exact taste, shade, feeling of emotion.

Now you can remember and use those emotions and the metaphors they inspired when your character needs a specific detail. Raid your shelves and pull the right bottle off, fall back into that moment. The more annoyed you are the better the description will be.