Interpreting the World With the Writer’s Eye


Image taken from

Say Something About Child’s Play

Chris Abani

The soldier asks the boy:  Choose which

do I cleave?  Your right arm or left?

The boy, ten, maybe nine, says:  Neither,

or when I play, like a bird with a broken wing

I will smudge the line of the hopscotch

square, let the darkness in.

The soldier asks again:  Choose which

do I cleave?  Your right leg or left?

Older in this moment than his dead father, the boy

says: Neither, or when I dance the spirit dance,

I will stumble, kick sand in the face of light.

This boy says:  Take my right eye,

it has seen too much, but leave me the left,

I will need it to see God.

As writers, there are characters, images, or settings that haunt us.  They thread throughout our beings.  When we unearth the tale behind them, we see what they see, know what they know, and experience what they feel.  We may have had that one character, image, or setting that just won’t let us go.

When we interact with our world, we use that “third eye” perspective, that writing intuition that documents every detail in a unique form of expression.  It is what sets artists apart from the rest of the world.

For me, it was a character, a mother who faced losing her children.  Her story stayed with me, and I am still struggling with how to tell it.  Another image has been the loss of something important like an idea or an institution.  I keep seeing a person losing her notion of an idea or institution, and as it disintegrates images of what that idea has been float around her in slow motion.  It’s like in the movies when someone is about to get shot, and the person’s life flashes before their eyes as he or she is about to lose it.  The person feels the same way as her fairytale notions of this idea are being destroyed.

Again, the images are there, but I need to weave them into a narrative.  Ahh, the task of the writer!

What characters, images, or settings from either what you have written or read remain with you?  How do you interpret your world as a writer or artist?

4 thoughts on “Interpreting the World With the Writer’s Eye

  1. I wish I saw the world more poetically like this. I really do. I think it’s where my struggle with writing fiction lies. I feel too pragmatic for this kind of thinking and often struggle to wrap my mind around the concepts you are talking about. It’s just how my mind works, or doesn’t work. When I read a passage, like the one you cited above, I am touched and in awe and admiration by the poetry of the words.

    • Well, poetry lies in all writing. It is not only the musicality, but the conveying of emotion and experience. That conveying is found in writing fiction. Even in your blogs, I find poetical elements as you connect your ideas to readers. They are moved by what you have written. If that isn’t poetical, then I don’t know what is… 🙂

  2. Beautiful and sad, I take my journey, all of it and put it in my writing as all writers do, fiction is easy, I can tell the truth, my truth and no one need know. That’s why nonfiction is so much more difficult, at least for me, I spent so many years pretending no to be hurt, not to feel pain, that letting it free as truth, is still to personal. Your poetry is haunting but I have no doubt that you will find your words!

    • Thank you for your comment, Yolanda. The poem in the post is by Chris Abani, not me. I do agree with you that it is a haunting image. You are right about nonfiction being so personal and it makes you vulnerable. Instead of offering a fictional world, you are offering your your personal world to be entered by readers. But fiction and nonfiction are alike: you touch lives by the experience, real or imagined, you resurrect through your words.

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