At The St. James Infirmary


for Writer’s Island prompt #13  Titles

We were asked to take the titles from a CD, or record album, and use all, or a portion  of them to create a written piece. The only ‘rules’ were that the titles should remain in their original form and were to be listed somewhere in the post.

Because I have done some version of this exercise twice within the past month, I was a bit reluctant to do it again. Those were done in poem form and a challenge I created for myself for other very different prompts. They can be found at 

The first one was my attempt to use the titles of all the responding 40 plus poets within one piece and is titled Entitled Conversation. The second was a coded tribute to John Denver, using, and alluding to 26, of the titles to his songs.

I have often used this altered mnemonic device to memorize material that had a lot of detail or information. Also used it in my classroom to spark students onto the page, and show them a means of opening up avenues to their own intuition and creative abilities. I find it a really good tool to hone the intuitive faculties and put them through their paces. So today, you are going to get an example of process in action.

The problem with this exercise is that music titles have very strong associations with the lyrics and music they are attached to. Trying to get them to speak of something else can be frustrating and sometimes difficult work. On the other hand, it can just be fun and satisfying when it works.

Because intuition is built on that associative skill, however, the task would seem to be to remove the words from the surrounding lyrics and music, simply using them to whatever purpose is intended. A task I didn’t completely succeed at, but gave it my best shot. Without further ado here is

At The St. James Infirmary

“Please officer, my head is exploding and my brain feels a bit like flotsam floating somewhere out in the ocean. I know you want to know what happened, but that means I have to think, and under the present circumstances that is difficult.” I closed my eyes for a moment and continued.

“I was at the market, looking for some Prism Song, that’s a perfume my wife really likes, but it’s only available at a stall in the Saturday Market held near Perkins Park. Anyway, as I was strolling through the different stalls, I thought I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. But, when the guy turned and looked straight at me, although he seemed to recognize me as well, he right away turned, and moved off. I just sort of shrugged it off and continued on my way.

But, no more than a few minutes later, I walked straight into the man. He seemed reluctant to acknowledge me, and thinking he was embarrassed because he didn’t remember my name or some such, I said, ‘Excuse me mister, but don’t I know you? It’s been several years, but it was back on Malaika Island, and I remember you had that young kid with you a lot of the time. He was a little man, nine years old, if I remember correctly. Always wanderin’ around that old square. God bless the child, he was a pretty boy, and that seemed to get him into a lot of trouble. Always sporting bruises and black eyes and such.’

“The guy seemed to get really antsy when I spoke of the boy, looking around, impatient sort of, you know? But, the more I talked, the more I remembered, so I said, ‘We, the other guys and me, called him The Fly Bird, because he was always flying around, humming some tune or another. Would sometimes start singing softly, you know, like he was crooning to himself. It was that old folk song from way back in the sixties, that one, what was it? Oh yah, “We’ll Sing In The Sunshine,” I think, or something like that.’

That’s when the guy grabbed my arm, said real low and angry, “Yah, I know you rider, and you’re in trouble. See, I came to the city just for one reason, didn’t think I’d meet up with anyone I knew. Then you gotta come strollin’ out of the crowd, holding me up, talking about that snot-nosed kid who was always whining, and crying, couldn’t stand up to anyone. But, I taught him a lesson, a real good lesson.”

I tried to pull away, the guy was angry, spitting in my face, his eyes really crazy looking. But, he wouldn’t let go, kept leaning in closer, talking ugly and low, mumbling almost.

“I lack the patience, got me some real problems, those old, oh-brandy-leave-me-alone blues, if you know what I mean. That boy was no good, I tell yah. Couldn’t learn nothin’, could never stand up and be a man, like I tried to teach him. Run off a coupla years back, but you gotta bring it all back, don’t cha? Remind me of my failin’. I gotta teach you too, I’m guessin’.”

That’s when he picked up the hammer from one of the stalls, raised it over his head, said, “Take this hammer, hit you in the head, “and as I watched it come at me, he said, “Sleep you now, gonna send you to a better spot, a more lovin’ place, if you know what I me…”

And I woke up here, in this hospital bed, with all these bandages wrapped round my head.”

I was exhausted, even felt sweat on my face. The officer smiled, then turned to a young man, dressed in a loose t-shirt and jeans,  who had been standing looking out the window with his back turned to me, the entire time. “Guess you got it all right Melinda, your story checks out, according to Mister Jansen here. The young man turned around.

“Fly Bird?” I asked.

She nodded her head, smiled, and spoke, “Been trying to track down that crazy mean old coot for over sixteen months. He wasn’t my dad. Stole me when I was four, made me dress and act like a boy, said it was better that way. When I saw him with you, I knew there’d be trouble, especially when he picked up that hammer. I moved as fast as I could, but obiviously not fast enough. Could only deflect it a bit. I’m sorry, Mr. Jansen, you were the nicest person I knew, and I wouldn’t want you hurt for any reason.”

“Well,” the officer said as he moved toward the door, “I think I’ll leave, let you two get reacquainted, just wish all the calls could be this easy. Being as it was Market Day, there were plenty of other witnesses and that man is going away for a long, long time. You take care, you hear, both of you.”

These song titles come from an old record album, my daughter replaced with a CD, a few years back. It’s titled We’ll Sing In the Sunshine, and was recorded by Gale Garnett who had three or four albums out in the sixties. She wrote much of her own music, and says that this album is a series of songs she defines as child’s blues. I couldn’t quite divorce them completely from their genre, but turned it into a sort of child’s rescue and freedom story.

These are the titles as they appear on the CD.

1.  I Know You Rider
2.  Take This Hammer
3.  Oh Brandy Leave Me Alone
4.  Malaika
5.  Little Man, Nine Years Old
6.  I Came To The City
7.  Pretty Boy
8.  Wanderin’
9.  Prism Song
10. We’ll Sing In The Sunshine
11. Sleep You Now
12. Fly Bird
13. Lovin’ Place
14. St. James Infirmary
15. God Bless The Child
16. Excuse Me Mister
17. We’ll Sing In The Sunshine (Hit Version)


About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here:
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20 Responses to At The St. James Infirmary

  1. brenda w says:

    This is a lovely story. Darkness covers the beginning, but redemption comes. Call me a sap, I love a happy ending! Well written story. thanks. ~Brenda

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Brenda, I usually steer clear of fiction, but as I looked at the titles I could see the story start to take shape. Glad you liked it and I’ll tell you a secret, I’m a sap too, lol. To lots of happy endings, yes?


  2. systematicweasel says:

    It is very difficult to divorce song titles from their lyrics and music, but you have done an great job at doing just that in your piece! I couldn’t quite divorce the titles from the music for my piece, instead, I tried to sync my work with the music played. It’s easy to remove titles from song lyrics if there are no lyrics to begin with. Wonderful work here!


    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Weasel, thanks for the comments and encouragement. I didn’t think of that, doing instrumental titles. Oh wow, now I’m hearing Ray Lynch, he has the most wonderful titles.


  3. vivinfrance says:

    This story was like a Russian doll: stories within stories. You surprise me by saying that you steer clear of fiction: you have a real talent for it, specially dialogue.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Oh, but Viv, this one is all your fault. I was about half way through it and struggling, then remembered the surprise on the end of your story and it all fell into place. Thank you mucho, much.

      And I hope you can laugh out loud with me, but the reason I have always steered clear of the fiction was because I truly didn’t think I was any good at dialogue, lol. I still have a great deal of doubt in that arena.

      Back in college, I worked, and was a Teacher’s Assistant for my advisor in History. When she went to Russia, one year, she asked me what I would like her to bring back for me. Her specialty was Austrian and German History, but we both knew I had a peculiar fascination for the descendants of the Romanovs. I didn’t even have to think twice and said, “I want a Matushka doll.” I still have it and my grandkids love to play with it for hours. She surprised me the following year, with a hand-woven shawl, decorated with the same pattern as the one on the doll. Still have that as well, in a cedar chest.

      Thanks for the lovely comments and the even better memories,


  4. anthonynorth says:

    You used the titles excellently, with great changes in mood in the story.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you, Anthony. I think I am starting to like this short fiction stuff a bit. That surprises me, more than anyone else. I’ve always been a veracious reader and fiction has been what I have devoured for years. Thinking maybe I picked up a thing or two while committing word gluttony. Again, that surprises me. Why, I have no idea, but maybe I should stop calling it “my sin.”

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some eating (oops, reading) to do. I came late to the table yesterday and now must play catch-up (I think I could do something with those last few words, but I won’t). I heard that grateful sigh,


  5. Mary says:

    Just a quick comment. I used to write a lot of fiction, but now that I have only smaller ‘bursts of time’ I am much more of a poet. I do enjoy writing fiction though, and your fictional story was a good read.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you, Mary, and I bounce between poetry and personal essays, with just a wee bit of the spice of fiction, now added. While you were here, I was at your place and left you a little surprise. Hope you don’t mind, I really like Neil Diamond.


  6. annie says:

    I fell head over heels into your story, Elizabeth. When I arrived at the end, I had to double check. Was I really at the end? I wanted to learn more, more, of the young woman’s story. Oddly, in my part of the world, we have a real life story of a girl taken at nine and found 18 years later. Fortunately, she and her resultant two daughters have been protected and shielded for news media. Someday we will know that entire tragic story that, thank God, had a happy ending.

    Thank you also for sharing your clicking language story. The aurel imagination, once it is heard, is like an echo for me.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Annie, and thanks for your comments. I am familiar with the story you speak of and have followed the few tidbits I could find, as well as several others of a similar bent. I have a strong personal connection to them.

      And I completely understand your comment about “aurel imagination”, even though I have never seen those two words together before. Oh,oh, I think I hear another poem dancing its light footsteps toward my door.

      And sometime, I’d like to talk to you about using collage as a writing prompt.


  7. pamela says:

    Elizabeth you do have a way with the pen
    Incredible piece I throughly enjoyed reading it!

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Pamela, and thank you very much from one pen rider to another. Putting the pieces together was fun, but the quotation marks got a bit dicey as I was rushing it. I’m very glad you enjoyed it,


  8. beyourownstory says:

    Two shorts: you can’t say any longer that you don’t write fiction. Good response to the prompt. Enjoyed it.


    • 1sojournal says:

      Thanks much Susan, but two doesn’t yet make a pattern or a given. More the clearer possibility, or another ‘short’ tangent, I might explore on my journey. And those can definitely be fun and provide interesting spice to the soup I seem to be cooking, more like a hobo stew, I would think. In other words, we shall see, my good friend.


  9. totomai says:

    i always thought of writing a poem with song titles in it but of course i didn’t have the creativity to do one! lol!

    the story was very well-written, the dialogues are engaging and i think i was there. nice of you to list down the titles at the end 🙂

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hello totomai,

      Ummmm, I’ve been to your site and read your offerings. The creativity is certainly there, you may just have to allow it to find its own way to the surface. And thank you so much for your kind words, and I will really have to consider my self-block about dialogue.


  10. Jingle says:

    great piece.

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