Free Write on a Meadow Lark

by Mr. Sheehy

This afternoon at the TIE conference I took part in the Dakota Writer’s Project/Prairie Winds session , which focussed on writing – surprise, surprise that I’d pick such a session. One interesting free-writing prompt we did was for the instructor (Scott Simpson) to throw out a line from a book of poetry to get us started. Then a few minutes later, he’d toss out another, and then a third a while after that. We wrote the entire time. My product, which I’ll include unedited below, has a feel to it that I develop particularly during free-writing sessions. For some reason, during a free-write I consider rhythm as much and even more than meaning – it’s that rhythm that keeps me writing the entire time , and it comes out in the flow of the words. Years ago, I did this particularly when playing around with essay form after reading Kerouac.

The lines Scott read were from Ted Kooser’s poetry, and when he’d read them, I wrote them at the top of my paper, so I could incorporate them at my own pace. Here they are: 1) A meadow lark waiting on every post; 2) Our common bones; 3) Autumn’s fallen.

Here is my piece, in its raw form, for the sake of sharing that rhythm and purity of the free-write. If I chose to edit it, I’ll jump back and throw a link in the comments here. I titled it in those moments after we were told to put our pens down . . .

Shades of Meaning 

60 miles an hour, dust only behind us, we drove the gravel road like we could control our Escort wagon. Straight – straighter than those now cliche photographs of the desert highways in – where are those highways, anyway? New Mexico? Seems fitting and properly Southwest, removed from civilization (not that we’re civilized in our three million plus crowds by the lake with our common bones crammed into cemeteries with no place to engender silent reflection and memories). But we weren’t in New Mexico; we were headed straight down a straight dirt trail that began in South Dakota and ended, who knows where? Maybe Alaska, but by the looks of things, when we got there there’d be a meadow lark waiting on every post, shouting – no, twirting – what is it that a meadowlark does? And why when it does it do I think that post is also flying 60 mph beside my open window? What power to speak so clearly to those rushing by, who don’t realize they have no control, that autumn has fallen, and that even if an unfortunate curve doesn’t throw them from the path to a ditch, they’ll run out of gas. Either way, they can’t claim they heard no prophet.