For this prompt I ask everyone to write two short pieces, and give them about five minutes for each.
For the first piece, I ask them to write about something or someone they have strong feelings for. I remind them that they can use short phrases, full sentences, even single words, and be as specific or as abstract as they like: there’s no right or wrong way to do a free write.
For the second free write, I ask them to write about something found in the natural world: trees, clouds, mountains, a specific kind of flower, anything that comes to mind.
After the two five-minute free writes are over, we combine the two pieces, taking them line by line: the first line from free write #1, followed by the first line of free write #2, then the second line from free write #1, followed by the second line of free write #2, back and forth this way, taking one line from each piece and putting them together to create one new “braided” piece.
The result is always surprising, and often ends up being something like a prose poem.
Mine is below.
Sometimes he comes to me in my dreams. Yellow golden blossoms. He’s young and vibrant and a deep chestnut brown. Sweet scent. Golden red. I brought him home from the nursery. Tiny. My comfort during the worst of my adolescence. He grew tall. He’d lie with me on the cheap carpet while I’d cry. In the late spring the flowers came. Paw on my arm, sometimes he’d lick the tears from my face. On warm summer nights, that familiar smell. I had always admired others and wanted one of my own. Loyal. Impulsive. Gentle. Expensive. With a ferocious bark. Fragile. And a plume of a tail that could clear a whole coffee table of champagne flutes. Lanky. Just a sapling. I filled the wine barrel with dark soil. The roots were wound tight. I’d come home from school, the front door wide open, but he’d be right by Mama’s side. It was healthy. He wasn’t afraid of her madness. The other plants needed fertilizer, but the little tree grew. He never ran off, like I wanted to do. The front door wide open, and there he was. A few years in a row, I would smell it drifting up from the yard below. He was always with us, in one of our rooms, occasionally on one of our beds. I planted that, I’d sometimes tell myself, inhaling deeply. In the dreams, he’s still with me on our long hikes, like the ones we used to take in the hills behind our house. When I moved, it was too heavy to take with me: the roots had grown through the planter into the ground. He led the way, and always stopped and waited for me, looked back. It’s still there, growing, flowering. It’s still that way in my dreams, bringing someone joy. Like he’s watching over me. Still alive.