01 April 2011

Finally... P&W Prompt 2

Prompt (which I picked up at Angelspeak):

Write an erasure poem:  Rip out one or two pages from a magazine or newspaper.  Read through them, underlining words and phrases that appeal to you and that relate to each other.  Using a marker or WhiteOut, begin to delete the words around those you underlined, leaving words and phrases that you might want to use.  Keep deleting the extra language, working to construct poetic lines with the words you’ve chosen to keep.

Since I am in Hong Kong and only have one magazine, which I just very recently acquired and do not care to rip up, I took the first article that appeared when I chose “Random Article” from the task bar. I got “Bernard Mandeville”. I ended up using 51 of the 67 words that I chose from article. I've set up a page on which you can see the entire process, but because of the long nature of writing this short story, it was too much to put in a single post. Here is the final product of this prompt:

The World Unmasked

Cold, sharp evenings of the ides of November always drove folk into their homes or taverns or brothels come evening. Into the dank of a peacefully seedy bar stumbled a group of five, the likes of which were rarely known to give patronage to such a lowly den. But men cannot be divided into lower and higher, or at least will not. Thus the well-respected company, known in the society pages for their conversational abilities and relations with one another, acted contrary to the impulse of their nature and enjoyed the entertainment of the common.  None of this activity was actually detrimental to their reputations, they who thrived until age or lack of wealth brought them tumbling down; they were far superior to the brutes found in such establishments.

One man among them, The Philosopher, a satirist, had led the crowd into the bar. He was of the “ministry of advocating intellectual progress” and therefore endeavored to enlighten his wealthy peers, hoping to make them knaves turned honest by exposing them to the cruelty of lesser living.His search into the nature of society piqued the interest of several society types:

One, The Gentleman, who was the patron of our fine philosopher, looked more like a parson in a tye-wig than a financier. His reputation did not fare much better, but his well-paid bankers did and so he came to be a patron of free thoughts. Short and stout, he panted along slightly in the wake of his longer-legged companions, always trying to keep up and steaming from his sweaty effort in the cold night air.

The Poet, another under the patronage of The Gentleman, was famous for his unknown origin. He had come to France to learn the language from which he sculpted his craft and succeeded so remarkably that many refused to believe he was a foreigner. His pièce de résistance had emerged within his first year, two hundred doggerel couplets to his name, leaving all of Paris a grumbling hive of bees for another comedic burlesque.

With the men traveled two women: a pair rarely separate when seen in society. The Prudefemme and The Temptress, Exactness and Beauty personified. The two had managed to forgo falling out of the societal limelight by playing an exigent balancing act in which each embodied the foil of the other. The Prudefemme, shrewd and judicious, was known for her righteous proclamations for the cause of justice. The Temptress, the more socially risqué of the two, was reputed to have graced the homes and beds of the most extravagantly wealthy men in the world. Each of their private vices resulted in various public benefits: while the former was known to obtain the confessions of and absolve the latter of her sin, the latter kept the former active in and attractive to society.  The give-and-take arrangements between the two partners had allowed each to navigate the social waters of being taken in by a man and returning out again, each reputation unscathed. Their sometimes seemingly invisible cooperation had, however, led to the relentless struggle against social death for many a man.

“Come and have your fortunes read,” croaked a decrepit woman from the corner. She sat with a single candle burning low and a glass of some deep brown liquid clasped in gnarled hands, a kerchief binding her hair. A gypsy - such women were not unknown to the niches of Paris, said to come from the basest and vilest of origins. Nor were they unknown to those of a lofty position in society. Those most high dabbled into these lower arts, claiming them as entertainments, for “evil desires existed only in the hearts of the truly wretched”, whose lack of means drove them to petty crime.

Amid their already drunken exuberance, the party of five decided to pursue such historical inquiries as could be conjured by such a woman. She would play the guide that garnered truth in their game of guess-and-tell by properly channeling the ghosts of untold pasts. The crone sat bent in her corner, eyeballing each member of the party as they crowded around her table to meet their destiny. Swaying from side to side, her creaky voice buzzed with a deep hum only to stop abruptly.

To The Gentleman she looked, her voice raised high, startling the ladies to shrieks and making the gentleman jump on their stools, "Beware women! You find close company with a wolf in sheep's clothing. Alas, he has pulled the wool over your eyes. For chaste he may seem, but only to hide his vicious greed for the dexterous management of the female body."

Doubting their ears and looking around nonplussed for the convicted, the company followed the gaze of the woman. The two women, having flocked near the man who invoked the image of the clergy all evening, came contemporaneously to a vile conclusion regarding The Gentleman’s previous absence of sexual pursuit. He must be much more crafty than they had suspected, partaking in “mischiefs that ought justly to be apprehended” as The Prudefemme would later say. The stout man gurgled with anger and fear, opening his mouth to object, but was interrupted by another squawk of their aged reader.

To The Poet this time, the woman spoke not loudly, but in a whisper that brought all faces closer to the candle’s flame: “You were born to the netherlands of an opportunist male … no, female prostitute.”  

All eyed the latest victim with wonderment, not knowing if this would harm or enhance his stature. With writers, one could never tell.

As though she could detect the belles getting comfortable with the higher ground, the conjure woman called again:  The Prudefemme, known for seeking honesty and virtue was revealed as The Hypochondriack, subject to hysteric passions, largely believed to be brought on by immoral tendency. Her cohort, The Temptress became The Virgin Unmasked, belying her reputation of sexual progress.

Now the men turned to the gentler sex and gawked like school boys. The Prudefemme tried to regain her previous countenance as her partner fell into apathy, utterly paralyzed.  Something of their conjoined wonder had gone.

Without the desire to continue the crone’s revealing game, the dismayed group gathered their cloaks for departure and made their way out of the grungy bar, wondering at the still solid reputation of The Philosopher, suspicious that he himself may well have been involved.

As always, I appreciate comments and suggestions.


baringreality said...

I'm hooked! Now do they storm the castle or continue to play out the reaction to the gypsy's insights?

Carina said...

I imagine that they all go silent to their graves about what was said and rag on the Philosopher for what wasn't. :)

Are you looking for more? I hadn't really planned an extension...

Jenna said...

i love what you did with this. Introduced me to a new creative idea, thank you for linking this with the trdc weekend linkup!

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