The harmless flatness of its slapper hung up on the nail against the wall. The 1.9 metres of inert unmoved force. The braided tails of it. The tufts, tassels, the snaky spiral of it. The whistle flick of it through space. The definite clunk of its handle. The brand new never-smelt-before smell of air from outside our country. The flexible shaft. It’s useable condition. The thirsty pores. The appetites it deters. The future it safeguards. The way you learn to laugh it off. How the leather starts off sift suede and hardens. The way the wasted muscle loosens the fist. The innocent grip.


  1. David O'Connor

    Excellent detail and love how the details circle the object without a direct reveal, cunning–which makes it more dangerous, which is perfect to the object. The last three words are contradictory–which is the perfect ending. So much power in so few words. The title works too. This is some fine writing, almost a perfect paragraph in my opinion. Send it out into the world! (and thank you for sharing it with us first!)

    • Clementine Burnley

      Appreciate the comment David, as I’d wondered if it was ready and if the title was too on-the-nose. Which publications would you send this kind of work out to?

    • Paul Beckman

      Clementine-Powerful writing and so well done without naming the object (culprit). Great and sad.

  2. Tommy Dean

    Love that use of harmless in this opening! How something flat appears harmless, but you’re writing about the exact opposite! There’s a tension here from the beginning. it forces the reader to think about all the times they were spanked. Creates a deeper well of white space for the reader!

    “The 1.9 metres of inert unmoved force.” yes! play up the idea of opposites here. unmoved force can’t hurt you, but it’s waiting, prowling!

    “The whistle flick of it through space.” yes, again that anticipation of pain is perfect, how this moving through space is harmless until it makes contact!

    “The thirsty pores.” fantastic shift to make this come more alive, to make it a character, with desires!

    “The future it safeguards.” ah, yes! here’s the shift, the way it creates meaning beyond the physicality of the object! It has a purpose in the hands of the person who wields it! Right or wrong, we now have a story, a desire, an irony! Love this so much!

  3. Clementine Burnley

    I am getting a lot of out your comments, Tommy, especially about how to make an object into a character of its own, which I hadn’t given much thought to before. How to create a story is the trickiest part, I find. Thank you. Loved the prompts and the strange, felt path they took me down.

  4. Roberta Beary

    I love this piece. It evokes memories that have never left me, some painful, some not. The language is beautifully descriptive. Each sentence is a gem.

    Out of all the gems, “The way you learn to laugh it off,” is the one that stays in my head. In my readings of ‘Spare the Rod’, I made that sentence the ending sentence. Not sure why…

    Great title and writing!

    • Clementine Burnley

      Hey Roberta, thanks for reading. I am intrigued by the ending you mention. Sometimes it just feels right so am taking that seriously. Will sit with it.

  5. Constance Malloy

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I can only ditto everything that has come before, because I was amazed how you clearly make known the object you are talking about without ever naming it that. I saw your comment about the title, and I wonder the same as you, because one could think you don’t trust the reader enough to know what you are talking about, and there is no mistaking the subject of this tightly, well-written piece. So, perhaps do think about the title. At any rate, do submit this.

    • Clementine Burnley

      Hi Constance,

      love the feedback, which will stop me from pulling the piece to pieces, and yes I think that title is a bit didactic. Thank you!

  6. Kella

    Oh, wow! Clementine, this is luminous micro. I especially love the title as it frames the adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” without, obviously, saying the latter. Your ending line of “the innocent grip” juxtaposes both the framing of the title’s allusion and how things we perceive are not always as they seem. I agree with many that this micro would be lovely living in the world. I feel like Pidgeonholes would scoop this up or Complete Sentence. Thank you for sharing! Eager to read more of your writing, too. ~Kella

    • Clementine Burnley

      Hi Kella, thanks so much, for reading, love the encouraging comments, and really will send it winging its way towards Pigeonholes.

  7. Francine Witte

    very alive in its details. it really does take on a life through the actions it will or could perform. Great job

  8. Meg Tuite

    Hi Clementine!
    WOW! I wouldn’t change or add/delete a word from this kickass beauty! It’s so visceral and with every line, you bring us closer to its beating heart. DAMN! I absolutely LOVE this! Send it out. IT needs an audience! LOVE!!

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