Author: Brianna

Things I have eaten off the ground

this was originally published on a online zine that seems to be defunct.


Wild Onions

We are having a conversation about our breakfasts because we do not know each other well. “I had eggs with wild onions,” I say.

“Where do you get wild onions?” he asks.

“I picked them out of a park,” I say.

“Really?” he asks, eyes wide as anything.

Apparently, this gleaning I occasionally do is out of the ordinary. It’s not necessarily a bad sort of unusual, but definitely an interesting unusual. This casual conversation has led to me revealing a part of myself I wasn’t consciously aware of. I tell my audience of one how to forage in a city. Don’t pick anything you are unsure of.  Have someone who knows what they are doing teach you what you can and cannot eat- my mom was my tutor. Try to adhere as close to local laws as possible.

This patch of wild onion I watched grow in the park for a few months. It’s small and bright green with tiny white bulbs bunched close together underground. It would be easy to mistake for a bit of untrimmed grass if you don’t know what to look for. I wonder how many people walk by without a thought. Wild onions smell and taste like an onion should. The way I’ve always eaten them is scrambled in eggs and a bit of butter.

 

Honeysuckles

I am in elementary school still when my mom takes my brother and me behind what will one day be affectionately called “the shitty trailer,” the one with the opossum sized hole in the bottom. The one that I spent a good portion of my childhood in. The fence there is covered in vines and the occasional orange conical flower.

“This is a Honeysuckle,” she says. She shows how, once you pull off the petals, there is a small edible bead of nectar at the end of the stamen. The nectar is sweet and watery, but not at all honey flavored. This is a real disappointment for a literal-minded child. But for a child with a sweet tooth and no pocket change for candy this is Willy Wonka’s factory. For a nature-loving child who is prone to daydreaming, this is being let in on a grand secret. For as long as we live here I sneak around the back of the trailer to pick a flower or two weekly.

 

Wild cherries

I spend school breaks in Bermuda- not in the way a well-off child might, but in the way many children of divorce are shuffled from one parent to another. I spend the school year with my loving American mother and every summer break I could with my loving Bermudian father. This doesn’t stop me from talking about my summer house in the islands. I have to cope with other children the best I can.

My cousins and my brother are the type to have typical childhood adventures. Playing cricket and tag, climbing hills and trees. I try to keep up the best I can, but I am more the type to stare at clouds and pick at blades of grass. I sit on a brick wall and listen to them play, while I comb through leaves and vines for ripe cherries.

I don’t remember who taught me how to pick cherries. I have to wait until they are dark dark red.  If you are expecting a fruit that tastes like you can get from the store in bunches or cans, you would most likely be disappointed. I’m not sure what they taste like, other than themselves. Sweet, sure. Floral, maybe? I am a little girl content to cling to a wall and watch everyone else gets on with the serious business of playing. I wonder if my quiet, observant nature allows me to find so many cherries or if my love of wild fruit made me quiet and observant.

 

Fennel

I’ve always eaten fennel from the side of the road. My folks split up just before first grade, so my mom and I only live in Bermuda full time while I was a toddler. She pulls the small yellow car over to the side of the road every once in a while. We grab a couple of spindly fronds and chew them to mush before spitting them out. Fennel is easy enough to buy from the store, and the roadside version tastes no different. It is stringy and licoricey, a little sweet and refreshing.

Fennel grows everywhere, large bushy fields along the side of almost every road.  By ten I am old enough and responsible enough to be trusted walking myself from the bus stop to my nana’s house. On the way I run my hands on every plant and tree on the side of the road and snap off a piece of fennel.

 

Dewberries

Maybe mom wants something sweet and all we have in the house is sugar. Maybe we are driving down the highway and she spots some bushes. Maybe it is spring. No matter the reason, we gather the dark purple berries we find on the side of the road in shirtfolds and large Tupperware containers.

Mom bakes dewberry crumble while my brother and I play in the front yard. We are banished from the kitchen after sneaking too many handfuls and cheekfulls of berries and raw dough. Dewberries look like blackberries and taste like sugar. They aren’t much to write home about. It is far more fun spending our weekends getting stains on our shirts and laughing and joking around than it is to eat, but I am a child and sugar is sugar.

 

Dandelion salad

“Do you know why we went on so many walks?” my mom asks.

“Because it was fun,” I guess.

“Because were broke and it was a free way to keep ya’ll entertained,” Mom says.

But I remember her pointing out dandelions to me on our walks, telling me I could make a salad from the greens. I could also make tea from the roots, but it is a time-consuming task. She shows me just in case I ever want to eat them, in case I ever need to eat them.  She teaches me what her grandmother taught her.

“Big Mama showed me how to make dandelion salad, and poke salat, and how to cook wild onions,” she often says.  Her face looks the same as mine when I am telling someone how to cook wild onions- like we are letting our audience in on the secrets of the universe.

Whenever my mom wanted dandelion salad, I would fetch the leaves for her. She would wash and chop them and dress them with oil and vinegar. Dandelion greens are bitter and gross. I say this as someone who usually appreciates bitter foods. Dandelion salad tastes as interesting as a salad.

I am old enough and have enough to pick a few things up from Whole Foods- not my entire grocery list, but a few specialty items. In the produce section I see a sign reading ‘Dandelion Greens’ in a font made to look homemade. It is jarring to see the greens all washed and tied in pretty little bundles. They are being sold for a ridiculous price. I do not know for how much they were sold, but any price above free is ridiculous.

I wonder if people are paying for permission to eat the same weeds that grow freely in their yards. I wonder if no one else cares to stop and look at the world around their feet. I take my time and notice the small, hidden world around me. I am slow and deliberate wherever I go. I am still not sure if my nature makes it easy for me to find edible plants or if knowing that these treats exists has shaped my nature.

Blackout Poetry

Sometimes it’s good to do warmups to actually get ready to create. Sometimes it’s good to do them in the middle of a project, when you get stuck and need to think of things in a new way. Sometimes its god to do them because you’re bored on the bus and can’t do anything more involved. Sometimes it’s good to do them just because.

Here is my latest blackout poem. What does it mean? Is it good? Is it art? Was it worth doing? Was it worth sharing? Man, Y’all are asking all the wrong questions.

 

blackoutTranscript:

Red swing, and the first sizeable chunk o’ life relentlessly parade in line and out. Cowboy, someone has still unfinished form. Inside the new, still never easy- is where the real is. Parody everything. Spin during dazzling classics. Anchor the role. Recall cameos. Duel choice. Fix. Fix. Together it’s more and less than, but never less than.

 

Ten Things Things only Snake People will understand

1. There are four seasons: Spring, Summer, Pumpkin Spice Latte Season and Hibernation

2. Finding clumps of scales in the shower drains

3.  The Illuminati

4. Having no control over your internal body heat

5. Controlling the Liberal Media

6. Controlling the Conservative Media

7. Waiting for snakeskin purses to come back in style

8. Trying to take over the world when you are too busy watching cute animal videos

9. Being the only ones who know whose backs will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes

10.  The pain of wanting to have on fleek eyebrows even though you don’t have any actual eyebrows

This is the thing I don’t talk about.

There are two sentences I try not speak aloud. There are two sentences that I don’t even dare write directly down. There are two sentences that tell the story of who I am, or at least the parts of me that I carefully guard. These sentences will change the way people think of me, will make me so easy to dismiss: I know because they have so many times before. This is a story about one of those sentences.

This sentence is especially terrible to write down because I have been looking for full time employment for a long time, and I know employers will look at my online presence. I encourage them to. I want them to see how well I write, how creative I am. I am proud of the stuff that I write. I will be proud of this, even though I am terrified.

The summer before I went to college, I finally received an answer to why I was so different than everyone else: I have Asperger’s syndrome- one little speck on the Autism Spectrum.

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How to act like a human (for dogs)

One- stand up: Humans have two legs. Don’t walk around on all fours

Two- wear clothes: “Put some clothes on, no one wants to see that thing!” is what humans say to naked humans. REMEMBER: No shirt, no shoes, no service.

Three- buddy up: smaller dogs- stand on top of each other and wear a trench coat. Humans will mistake you for an adult human.

Four- NO FAKE MUSTACHES (unless you are a hairless breed): Seriously, you have hair on your face already. Fake mustaches will make you look silly.

Five- learn to talk: DO NOT say, “Hello, I am a dog.” That will give you away immediately. Some helpful phrases: “I would like a number four with bacon.” “Supersize it.” “more bacon, please”

NEW COMIC: I made this for someone

I made this for a friend. I don’t remember exactly who and I don’t remember exactly why. I remember that someone I care about needed some support and I immediately pulled out a scratch piece of paper and made a storyboard. Whoever you are: I just wanted to say sometimes I feel the same way too, like I’m talking and my words aren’t making it to their destination. Don’t give up.

 

i'mhere500

 

i'mhere2-500

 

i'mhere3-500There’s one more thing I have to mention.

TWO THINGS

Two creative exercises done while walking

ONE:

weird characters I came up with this week that I have no intention in using for anything but would like to keep record of.

1. A three year old girl who wants to be an old woman. she dresses up in a cotton shawl and a cane with an orthopedic grip. She stuffs her grandma’s old Dr. Scholl’s into some flat shoes and carries around a huge purse stuffed with moth balls, Kleenex, loose change and Werther’s Originals.

2. Okay so you know the movie Kickass? This is like that except for a nerdy girl who is way too into magical girl anime and manga. I don’t know how she deals with the transformation sequence. I do know that instead of trying to beat up crime bosses, she just shows up and lectures them on Love and Truth and Justice.

3. Someone is featured on My Strange Addiction for their addiction to watching My Strange Addiction

 

TWO

walking along, I hear one side of a phone conversation. It went something like “… This ain’t New York, this ain’t Vegas, this ain’t Rome, This ain’t Paris…” And I thought, what an inefficient list.  There is no end. To wit:

A further list of places This ain’t:

1 Ohio

2. Hollywood

3. Gary, Indiana

4. Buda

5. the bottom of the ocean

6. no disco

7. no country club either

8. the head of a pin

9 a closet to a magical realm

10 a plain old closet

11. the moon

12. the shoe what That Old Woman Who Someone Should’ve Called Social Services On lived in with all them kids

13. grandma’s house

14. a bathtub

15. the produce aisle at HEB

And so on. See what I mean? no end.

Write like a _____

Writing, huh? It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort. Your butt has to be in a chair. Bring a notebook everywhere you go. Write like a motherfucker.

 

Yes. Yes yes yes yes.

 

I truly believe in all of that. Not just for writing, but for anything that’s worth doing. Invest your time. Large chunks of it, if you can. If not, steal what little minutes you have: on the bus to your draining job, while sat up sick in bed. Take advantage of your chronic insomnia.

 

But. but.

 

What about the time you are not writing? What if you set a little bit of time aside just for getting a story down on paper, or a poem (or, in my case, a 90 second pun-filled speech that I need to write by May 9th ) and you don’t get anything done? You balance a pencil on your nose. You take your dog out for a walk. You eavesdrop on stranger’s conversations on that long bus ride. Your friends want to go out for a drink after work and all of a sudden it’s 1am and you haven’t even opened up a word document.

 

Is that unproductive? Writer’s block? Have you wasted your time?

 

I have been a turtle all of my life. I hide in my shell. I move slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I am often overlooked. I am deliberate in my actions. I do not let go of anything I grasp until I am completely done with it.

 

It bothered me to no end for the longest time to see everyone else speed past me. Still does to some extent. For the most part I have become comfortable in my own shell. Here is what I have learned in my 28 years of moving slowly and steadily: There is more to creating than action.

 

There is the time spent inside your own head, the time spent becoming comfortable with your own self. How could you make something of your own without this? The only audience you ever have control over is the audience of you. How can you be satisfied with your work until you know what you will enjoy most? How can you make something meaningful without discovering the engine that fuels you, without experimenting with different power sources for that engine?

 

There is also the time you spend outside of your head. That time spent listening to conversations- paying such close attention that you not only understand what people talk about but how: the word choice and the cadence- is the only way you could ever learn to write good dialogue. How could you describe a tree to another person without carefully examining every strip of bark, every vein in every leaf? How can you have a vibrant cast of characters without having vibrant, diverse relationships in your life, relationships that need care and cultivation to thrive?

 

I remember, after reading from my thesis, being asked how long it took me to write a particular story. I remember saying “Two years.” What became my final very short story took me one afternoon to write from start to finish. There was a lot cut, but everything that remains was written in that first draft. I did the hard work of writing it. My fingers cramped, I killed my darlings, I did not move my butt. I worked until I was satisfied and then began the hard work of finding it a home.

 

But first I had to do the hardest work of all. I had to do the work of living. I had to sit very still and notice everything. I had to notice myself. I had to be okay with pulling my head far enough out of my shell to share my story. I had to make dear friends and advisors who I could talk to. I needed to tell someone how afraid I was to tell my own story and why. I needed them to tell me to shut up about it.

 

I needed to see with my own eyes that I wasn’t the only one of me that existed. That if I wrote down how I feel and what I see there would be someone else who understands. “You are not alone” is a hard lesson to learn. It is also one that you have to re-learn over and over again, every time you hide yourself away to write, or draw, or do whatever wonderful thing it is that you do.

 

It is hard to remember that you are actually doing something when you look at nothing but blank pages and see submission dates fly by. When you are getting too old to ever be on the “10 under 10” lists of awesome young writers. It is hard to remember- to be conscious of the fact- that sitting still is also listening and paying attention and gathering information and waiting. It is also living, and loving-or hating- something so much that you want to tell everyone about it. Write often, yes. Or draw or dance or act or paint or make spreadsheets. But don’t discount the quiet time when your page is blank and your mind seems clear. Hard work is being done.