Paul Corman-Roberts’ 2nd full length collection of prose poems, Bone Moon Palace will be released by Nomadic Press in the Summer of 2021. Previous collections include 19th Street Station (Full of Crow Chap Series, 2011) and We Shoot Typewriters (Nomadic Press, 2015.) His short story “The Deathbed Confession of Christopher Walken” placed 2nd in subTerrain Magazine’s national contest and other fiction has appeared in X-Ray Lit, Red Fez, Connotation and subTerrain. A three-time Pushcart and Best of Web nominee, he currently teaches workshops for the Older Writer’s Lab in conjunction with the San Francisco Public Library as well as the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute and To Live & Write … Wherever You Are. He sometimes fills in as drummer for the U.S. Ghostal Service.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #1
Lament for a Lost Kingdom
You probably don’t remember, but when you were young, there was a moment you discovered there were other worlds that existed besides the one you live in.
Between that moment, and the moment it was explained to you that you couldn’t live or even travel to these other worlds…between those two moments, you lived in a state of grace. And you perhaps don’t remember that state of grace. And that is unfortunate because it is a feeling every human should know.
That’s what coming to the Colorado Plateau was like for the Katsinas. We could breathe clean air. We weren’t slaves to reptiles or angels. We were free to live and love…not just like the humans, but WITH the humans.
And most important: there was nothing that had been made for us. No preserve, no culture, no pretensions to a civilization…and no rules. How could this new reality not call to us the moment we learned of it? We had the power to remake it in our own way. No chaperones. No guards. No parents.
And we accumulated power in that it was a choice WE had made together in the liminal space, the humans and the guardians.
Until we decided that wasn’t enough. Until we decided we needed to have the best of both worlds, the sensations of humanity and the power of underworld gods. And that’s when we built Chaco.
And I ran Chaco. Isn’t that how all the Christian kids say it? “I run this shit?”
I ran Chaco. At least in my time. I came with the first migration. We had been in the Terrarium, with the humans who were the first on this land mass. Indeed, we were bonded to the humans. Over time we became their familiars as much as they were ours. We depended on each other, and we accepted that, because we loved them. And we shouldn’t have. But we did.
But for a beautiful period of grace in time, I ran Chaco, and I was a Goddess who was adored, pampered and loved for my ability to hold the Southerners to account. For my ability to make a unified peace and make gods of us all for a time.
It always seems like it lasted longer than it really did. I guess that is the nature of nostalgia. There is no crueler fate than slowly becoming human over an eternity.
June 2021 | Flash Lit Collective | Prompt #2:
Honestly, I’m not offended by the name Anasazi. I am much, much older than the ones you think of as Anasazi. You feel shame at your unintended racism, and then replace the slur with an equally absurd label when you rename them The Ancients.
Compared to whom? I ask you. You appear to me as the electron appears to the physicist; in brief flashing intervals of interconnected cycles whose depths you couldn’t begin to measure. Not that that ever stops homo-sapiens from trying. All of you want so badly to see all the things you’re told you’re not allowed to see; always salivating for the apple you are unable to pluck.
Oh, you remember that story? It wasn’t just humans who were banished, it was a whole tribes, nations if you will, of beings who lived in that place. Many tribes, many sentients. You don’t remember that part hmm?
I don’t know how to explain a reality that isn’t some convenient air bubble where all you need is a set of modified gills to replenish your spirit. If you were visit where I am from, you would need to adapt to the environment or you would not survive long. That’s what guardians could do on the Colorado Plateau. We subsume saguaro, we become saguaro. We subsume spider, we become spider. Or we become as much of saguaro or spider as we need in the moment as the need of the great houses demand. You think of it as something hard and difficult and full of filth, mastication, digestion. With us, its more complicated and sublime than that. We don’t consume…we assimilate, in the most liminal sense.
It did not take us long to find water. It did not take us long to learn to track water. And once we learned how to track water, we also knew where we could find water. When you have this ability, this power, you know that the whole of the world is yours to move through with trust and knowledge, with the faith of your lore which tells you no lies, for better or worse.
Armed with that knowledge, one might be more willing to lift their families and all the relics that contain the imprint of their DNA upon their very own backs and haul them to any place that shows the signs of the water houses. The deep mountains. The etched canyons. The places where we would build our kivas and dwellings. If we can keep our portals and our hearts close to the great stores of the rain Katsinas, then our stories and the things we learn will continue to be taught to the younger humans, the only vessels left keeping the memory of us alive.
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.