Writing Coach, Workshop Leader, Book Reviewer, Author.
I’m very pleased that my essay, In Which I Survive My First Silent Meditation Retreat, has been published by Apiary Online.
”There’s something wrong, I tell my therapist. I’ve got sand under my skin. It’s hidden under the freckles of my forearms, the soft place beneath my ears. I mess with it when my car sits at a red light. My fingers probe minute granules under their soft covering of skin. I’m edgy. Panicky.
You do not have sand under your skin, my therapist says. He’s one of those hip atheists who think non-humans should be given the right to vote, but he still comes off as a hard-nosed rationalist. The Buddhists have it all over the West, he insists: You need to learn to meditate. You need to sit in silence until you discover there’s nothing in your skin but post-modern anomie. Your real problem is that it’s 2012, and you’re alive. Here’s a flyer. Sign up.
So in the dead of winter, I drive to the heart of Massachusetts to confront my inner sand at a Vipassana Retreat. That’s “Mindfulness” for those who don’t speak Pali, the language of Gautama Buddha’s writings. Mindfulness meditation appeals to me because it’s low-tech. You sit and notice your breath. That’s it. I won’t have to dredge up the night I went to my senior prom with PsychoTeacher. No one will ask me about childhood spankings. No prescriptions involved, just people sitting serene as apples in the meditation hall.
To my surprise, the retreat center people aren’t argumentative, like my therapist. You’ve got some scratches on your neck, says the lady who registers me. Do you have a sand problem?
I am among friends…” Read On
My prose poem “Homeland” appeared in the fine Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. I was playing with notions of ownership and statehood, and the fear that lies at the root of these concepts.
We smile from opposite sides of a table. You are warm with the pride of your homeland, but no soft figs from your grandmother’s trees lie in a bowl between us. With sadness, you recall the white cloth rippling on the sunny hillsides, and you describe European women lying topless on your beaches. (You have not been there for a long time, and whatever happens disappears.) That sun is the sun of my cold Europe. Our oceans and rivers pull against the land, and the world in its sheath of water is one scarred fist. Very few have seen this, while in every tongue they say it as a creed. They are right that the world is a fist, a stone, a heart, but in every tongue, everyone is afraid. I am afraid of your holy men, and you are afraid of my white men. If here and there are the same, the hedgehog might be an adder, and a tsunami might burst from granite cliffs. I might wake up in your skin. To prevent this we say Self, we say Other. We say, Take a number, get in line. We ache with nostalgia for a homeland that has no soil, lacking even the density of sky. It cannot be secured or raped or burned alive, but this is a secret that everyone guards in order to forget, in order to sit on opposite sides of the same table.
Helen W. Mallon draws on her Philadelphia Quaker background to explore the tensions between tradition and change. In Pertaining to My Arrest for Indecent Exposure, the protagonist’s sister sees his dignified reserve as cold and uncaring. In Golliwog, the protagonist’s mother considers herself progressive, but the daughter–only twelve–thinks her mother is a racist.
Helen celebrates the potential for absurdity in everyday life. In Casual Day at the Crazy House, the dad in the family starts living in the bathroom. “You Say You Want a Revolution” explores the rage of a young casualty of the sexual revolution. At what point does honoring one’s dying father become an act of emotional suicide–Did You Put the Cat to Bed?
The Conjurer’s Daughters is Helen’s novel-in-progress. When Perry Lindley’s super-competent younger sister attempts suicide, Perry is forced to re-examine her idealized childhood image of their charming, irresponsible–and estranged–Quaker father.
Writing Coach. Helen loves a good workshop! These meet in northwest Philadelphia. Conjuring With Words: Creative Writing Workshops. Contact: hmallon(at)navpoint.com
In her work with private clients, Helen weaves together encouragement, editing expertise, craft guidance, and coaching in organization. Her goal is to help clients identify their writing goals, then work with them to achieve those goals. Several clients have completed or are finishing book projects. Check out Boy of Bone, Twelve Short Stories Inspired by the Mutter Museum. Vanity Fair mention Here.
Book Reviews: Helen writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Fiction Writers Review. Latest reviews: The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, and The Carriage House by Louisa Hall. COMING: J.M. Coetzee’s The Childhood of Jesus for the Inquirer.