Ever since studying flash prose with Kathleen Rooney at the David Collins Writing Conference last year, I’ve been experimenting with short fiction. But a book of very short essays I’ve been reading has inspired me to start working with very short nonfiction as well. Here’s a result of that experimentation, still quite new (and quite rough), that I added to the instant anthology formed by participants at the Society of Great River Poets’ Creativity Camp at Langwood Education Center that I attended this past weekend. I’ll never abandon the novel as a form—no, never—but I am enjoying the skill and precision it takes to achieve such compression. I’d love to hear what you think of short prose in general and flash nonfiction in particular.
Two blocks from my house, I saw the rippling lights and thought, What is expected of a pedestrian when a funeral procession approaches? I was on the sidewalk, not in anyone’s way, but out of some instinct I stopped and clasped my hands together, head slightly bowed, as the hearse came toward me. I’ve been in the procession enough times to know it’s an insult to the bereaved to see other people going about their lives, unshadowed, untouched by tragedy. The hearse paced solemnly by and then it didn’t seem polite to disregard the rest of the retinue, cars in a string like beads, headlights blinking. I waited and a couple walking their dog joined me, pausing out of the same instinct, reverence for the mighty reach of death. We exchanged chat. Did I know whose funeral it was? I didn’t. Did I suppose they were going to St. Mary’s, up on Logan? Ah, I said. I’d been wondering where they were headed, where the beloved was to be interred. I observed the length of the line of cars. Some pillar of the community? They’re young drivers, she said. Ah, I thought again, the young always bring out crowds. Finally the last car departed and we all took a big relieved stride, headed back to our day and our tasks. We shared cheery goodbyes as if we had been through something together. I resumed my walk in a day with a new brightness to it, the trees outlined by light. The shadow had passed to the edge of my vision, not completely withdrawn, but with the sky so blue, the sun shining, the air warm and brilliant and full of spring, there didn’t seem any point in thinking about it, at the risk of calling it back.