She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

-- Marge Piercy

Three Goats, Two Marbles, and a Can of Parmesan Cheese


Blink. Blink. Blink. Bloody hell.

“My, my.” A rasping chuckle, totally devoid of mirth, rises up from somewhere behind my left ear. “Aren’t we productive today?”

Cue the Rachmaninoff, Alice. I am, apparently, down the rabbit hole…suddenly eyeball deep in my own private folk tale. No royalty in disguise, no fairy godmother, no dragon-cum-friendly-Labrador here, however. Oh, no.

I just get the three goats—small, medium, large, like a short order pizza menu—and the rancorous troll who threatens to eat them, one by one, as they clatter over the bridge he squats beneath to get to the meadow beyond.

In the original telling, the goats manage to trick the troll out of munching on them by appealing to his somewhat compromised intelligence and his innate greed, and in the end he gets trampled flat, rather graphically (ah, the sweet innocence of childhood stories) and the goats escape to gambol happily-ever-after in the verdant fields of German mythology.

Yeah, well, in my version, the bridge is my psyche and the fields beyond are every story I have yet to write, taunting me with the promise of picnics and daisy chains and elusive prolificacy. (And pretentious words…don’t forget those.)

And the troll? Crouched as we speak in the muddy creek bed of my brain, baiting me with trollish invective.

On and off for the past several days I've been sitting in front of a blank computer screen, imprisoned by the siren song of my own legendary perfectionism, with nothing more to show for my time than a blinking cursor and a growing distaste for deadlines. Especially self-imposed deadlines.

The result? I am not remotely in the mood for fairy tales.

Blink. Blink. “You gotta get busy!” comes the damp and shadowed growl. “I mean, seriously…haven't you written anything?” Blink.

Might be time for a wee bit of old-fashioned animal sacrifice, I’m thinking. (I’m speaking metaphorically here. No need to alert PETA. Yet.)

“You gotta write something NOW!” Blink. Blink.

No…right now, I gotta find a goat.

There’s a sink full of dishes, a week’s worth of laundry and what's left of the peach pie my mom brought Mark for his birthday. Perfect.

I send all three trotting over the bridge on naïve and obligatory hooves. Completely justifiable. Drastic times call for drastic measures, after all…and this is one of them times.

The distraction, er, I mean, sacrifice works, for the time being. The troll is quiet and I can sit down again at the keyboard, uninterrupted, my creativity flowing from my fingertips like water from an underground spring.

Flowing from my fingertips. I repeat: Flowing. From my fingertips. Like water. Blink. Blink. Damn!

Lip smacking and a guttural belch. “You should have finished this blog entry days ago, you know.”

He is now standing at my elbow, bent and belligerent, lumpy face twisted in a scowl, voice like an un-oiled hinge. “You're drying up, that's it. Dry as dust. No more ideas for you, obviously.”

This time, the sacrificial beast is much larger, guaranteed to keep my ill-mannered and uninvited guest occupied for quite a while.

A phone call to Alizabeth; a text volley with my funny, sexy husband; the final thirty-some pages of the June issue of InStyle that’s been sitting on the dining room table since, well, June; the sudden realization that we’re out of parmesan cheese and Mark makes the most extraordinary spontaneous pasta.

Besides, the trip to the store will give me a change of scenery, and driving with the stereo pulsing my favorite song is sure to rev those creative juices…

I'm back. And alone, it seems, finally—which is great, because somewhere in my local Safeway between the frozen breakfast food aisle and the magazine stand I could swear I felt the rumblings of an idea. 

“More like a squeak, or a rattle, I’d say.”


“Yes, most definitely a rattle. Like a box of marbles, rolling around in your head.”

Okay, FINE! You’re absolutely right. You win. It is a box of marbles. (Can a troll look satisfied? Try smug. And leering.) But some of them are quite wonderful...look at this one, all pink and kind of misty inside. Something to do with the magic of an ever-evolving creative collaboration and gardens that expand every spring.

And this one, dark around the edges, but if you hold it up to the light—see the gold and silver at the center? That's the one about betrayal, and the darkness of true colors, and the miracle of real love and friendship rising up out of heartbreak like a luminaria floating in the night sky…

The cheerful clicking of my keyboard sounds like a prayer from a hundred rosaries. Finally something is moving in me, wanting voice, finding purchase in the rhythm of words and images that magically conjure themselves on the once barren expanse of screen. I don’t even know what the prayer is right now. I just let it come.

But I can tell you it’s a whole lot better than the deafening judgment of a blinking cursor.

And speaking of judgment…I wonder when my crusty little critic is going to start in again. I mean, I don’t have a clue where this story is headed, if anywhere. Sentences are choppy, similes misaligned, and there aren’t nearly enough pretentious words to satisfy my long-suffering, sharp-honed writer’s aestheticism.

I brace myself accordingly.

From the far-shadowed curve of the bridge, somewhere in the coppery weeds at the creek’s edge, comes a lazy, paper-dry rattle of response.

“I don’t care what you write. I’m a troll, for crying out loud. I don’t even know how to read.”


No goats were harmed in the writing of this blog. Or trolls, for that matter. Swear to God.

 * * * * * * *

Speaking of writing,  November 1 is Mindful Writing Day and Faith Squared wants to celebrate with a collection of “small stones” written by YOU.  A small stone is captured by simply “paying proper attention to one thing and writing it down.”  Read more at the Writing Our Way Home website and, if you’d like to play along, please send your story (and a photo, if that helps tell your story) to by Monday, October 29 so we can include it in our post on Thursday, November 1.  Any questions, please let us know!


Exprayeriment #19 -- Praying the Hours: Sext

Exprayeriment #18 -- Praying the Hours: Terce