Janet Salsman is a writer cleverly disguised as a personal trainer and Pilates instructor. She loves flower photos, picture books, carousels, and single malts, though not usually all at the same time. Janet has been an active member of our writing community, To Live & Write … Wherever You Are for several years. She has been a regular contributor to The Flash Lit Collective and Alameda Shorts, and in the past year has also finished one book and is working on another even as she sits down to revisions on the first. She is the host of our Friday night Proof of Writes and a staple of weekday Write Alongs and monthly Mini-Retreats. You can read more of her short stories and poetry at Janet’s Random Blogspot.
October 2021 | Prompt #1:
If The Shoe Fits
Cinderella, Grandmother Now she sits, rocks, rests. The house is quiet, children chased the dog out into the yard or the world or adulthood. Gone, anyway. Sometimes they clatter back with their own kids trailing laces and juice box dribbles and she hugs them tight. There are stories to read— mice, magic, moonlight— Then lashes curl on sleeping cheeks, one bare foot flung out from the quilt. She smooths the sheet. Memory, cool as glass, slips around her. She dances again at midnight. Read more Janet Salsman
October 2021 | Prompt #2:
A Bird In The Hand
Salt Marsh Field Trip, Circa 1978 Bird’s heartbeat, so light and fast and warm feathers against my dirty palms. The bleak salty mud suddenly glorious with— with what?— life, maybe, or beauty. Ranger releases the little bird back to the sky. The fourth grade gasps as it vanishes. Read more Janet Salsman
October 2021 | Prompt #3:
A Stitch In Time
A Stitch in Time Ball of yarn, tightly wound, slowly unspools and changes, on the needles, grows a body, a sleeve, a collar. The ticking tips stitch— knit, slip, purl— lace time into a garment to warm some winter day. Read more Janet Salsman
October 2021 | Prompt #4:
Early To Bed
Early to Bed The day’s eye weighs on the horizon, red, tired, heavy. I should be working— there are dishes and boxes, words and messes. The long ache of muscle and the dull pain of thoughts pull me instead to bed, but there is no rest there. I can’t wrestle the sheet and win, much less the hot and tangled dreams. I rise up in the dark to start again. Read more Janet Salsman
October 2021 | Prompt #5:
Many Hands (For T.) I used to put a hand on the place you kicked from the inside—to welcome you and maybe soothe you, but the first hands to hold you were the doctor’s, the one from the hall, because you came so suddenly. I never knew her name. Then nurses and then, at last, mine. Not really last— Between that slippery baby and the fine young man, there have been many hands. Some, raised with urgent answers, some reaching to pull you up, some waggling an admonitory finger, probably even some fists. Now it is in your hands— the future, the work of it— May they be deft and defiant and determined.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | prompt #1:
Feathery lashes, plus feathers. Wings of hair flying back from her face. Here, pinioned, pinpointed, a specimen for a gaze, caged in ink or paint. She objects— subject not object, but subjected to the process. Her thoughts, invisible, glide away on thermals and she vanishes in clouds.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #2:
Hiss like a tape, trapped
into the waves,
nibbled by sea stars,
buried in sand—
those are pearls that were his eyes—
become something strange,
Ocean flows backward,
weave below the lotus.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #3:
Tongues of Flame
We build boxes— golden arks, gothic chancels, filigreed and silver-chased cages of words, shrines of bony relics. Inside, we hide, kneel, recite, chant, incant, decant the bloody wine. We pretend we understand. Then the fiery feathers rush upon us and we burn, our boxes so much kindling for the bursting Spirit so much bigger than even the cathedral dome of sky and its infinite whirl of stars. No wonder the angels start with Be not afraid.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #4:
Photographer: Shannon Marsden. Like her work? Let her know: Venmo @Shannon-Marsden-1
Afterwards, when the light returns and the water smooths, when the shouting stops, we see the rocks were always there. Some inevitability, some quantum magnet of chaos, drew us to this sharp shock. The tide may ebb and waves recede, but time will not flow back, back to when we were whole.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #5:
Photographer: Jesus Manuel De Haro
Follow him on Instagram: @grizzlydeharo
Tip/donate: Venmo @jesusdeharo
For the Alchemists
This or that. Mine or yours. Water or rock or air. We sort, categorize, label, because otherwise we have to bow our heads, overwhelmed by our fusion, the only way we touch at all. Waves break on rocks, break rocks, the sand swirling through and through, droplets leaping up and up and spattering back down. Not many things: Just one reality.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #6:
For Christina Rossetti
To eff the ineffable: see the wind hear the silence taste the emptiness and smell it touch the nothing or just let the silken scarf billow flap bellow snap and say enough.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #7:
How to Make a Home
Shingles, studs, spigots, timber, plaster, tile, grout, molding—so much molding!— doors, jambs, handles, pink cotton candy insulation, tubes and wires, switches, sinks, toilets, tubs, but all that is just the body held together with nails. Soul moves in with the books, the geraniums, the swirls of paint, the red kettle on the stove, the laughter of children.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #8:
After Paul and Blake
If the whole body were an eye, the shimmer of the red desert would warm it and the luscious fuzz of the peach would feed it. All the music would be coloratura. The scent of the beloved would be light in a dark place. Perception has many doors, all of them infinite and shining clean.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #9:
Like this? If I grow my hair out? If I shift my hips forward, tuck the prickly opinion behind the cage of bones? If I raise my arms, my voice, my consciousness? How about if I bleach out the color, turn it all down, turn up the excitement? Is that what you want to see? Inside: vibrant fleshy cartwheels hooting with laughter.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #10:
Artist: Edna Cabcabin Moran
On the Limits of Language and Conception
The world is like— like— like— like a tree, spreading infinite branches with leaves in all the colors and fruits that may be luscious little universes themselves like an eye, nerve connected to consciousness, lens shifting perspective, pupil dilating against the dark like a creature sleeping in a den roused by tearing hands into hurricane rage or not. The world just is, spinning without hands, dancing without feet, itself.