“Every kind of poem shines with its own beauty.” Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux.
Dead snakes and fallen fruit are augurs of unknown events, and true to form, the retrograde nature of Mercury has stymied several areas of my life of late. Stumped trees make way for vibrant banana plants. Organic processes bring forth big emotions, or something of that nature, so Wordsworth said someplace I cannot recall. Once, I was knee-deep in criticism and theory, highlighting this passage, underscoring words in that passage, scratching my head at Hegel’s articulation of the third sphere. Now, the stories are slipshod, the currents of narrative coming in and going out again, familiar patterns, written tics that betray my limited view. Too many stories end in the falling, sinking, and dropping of things. I am a symbol. In pace with the diminishing laws that dictate there are less days left than lived, I find comfort in a shadowed deer on an evening hillside, pain in the last song of a once vibrant man, hope in the possibility of a forgotten god caught in a stained glass window in some church adjacent to a ruined cemetery. In language there are only lies. Cold tea and cracked panes. Ingots. Burnished lamps cast soft glow on secretive doings. The snapped-off wing of a moth is trapped in the cobweb above the desk—a stark thing, this disembodied part—the spider long since disappeared down the funnel of the vacuum cleaner. I find some redemption in the daydream, in the rippled puddle and its blurred story, in the painful truth of a total stranger. Passencore. All sales are final.
Post the absolutism,
An upside down apple is a fragile
Image and Nation together create
N-trop(-e) chér my dear.
Gallivanting about the frosted country-
SIDE of lamb with mint sauce for afters.
Ministrations to the dead.
The body empty-D of all blud, dry
in the cold funeral home.
Stood in the back garden, slacks iron
-ed and pressed neatly,
as dapper as a bi-
rd on the nearby rowan tree.
Delighted to arrive home from a fraught day at work to find in the mail, a copy of my twelve story cycle about my character, the Bird Mahony, from Pure Slush’s A Year in Stories, 2014. Matt Potter, the editor of Pure Slush went to great trouble and expense to give each writer a copy of their set of stories from this marvelous series. The twelve-volume set of all monthly stories can be found at the website.
My desk is a battlefield of papers, left-over cascarones from Fiesta, paperweights, lighthouse statuettes, and assorted photographs of my kids and I. There are no prizes, nor are there any spaces for such things. A backpack my wife gifted me several years ago is on the floor, next to my chessboard (dusty from lack of use). My tennis rackets have been moved to the closet due to lack of use. Perhaps, in the depths of the backpack is a Nobel Prize in Disorganized Chaos from those tidy, dapper Swedes? Enough that the actual messenger bag I use is filled with graded work for my students. Enough that the week has brought three rejections from editors of some distinction. Enough that somewhere in a large, bright room in a large, bright nursing home on the other side of the Atlantic, my mother is wondering what she had for breakfast, and why they’ve taken her cigarettes away from her (she’s been the naughty schoolgirl, smoking in the bedroom). Enough that phones don’t work and anger management classes for students are a challenge to assign. Enough. Enough. Enough.
Sometimes, times like these, times when the dread overwhelms and the immediate future appears too hard a field to plow, I take the narrow glass jar on the altar in the bedroom and remove a pinch of red earth from it, place it under my tongue, and wait for a miracle. The earth is from the Sanctuario de Chimayo in New Mexico. Years ago now, I removed the earth from the ground beneath the chapel. Sacred. Holy. Blessed. Gritty, bitter, stained earth. A salve. Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done… Priests in soutanes, swish of imperiousness, the ceirt for cleaning the chalk board launched at a dropped head. In my beginning is my end of the innocence. Does the earth spin through my body, into corpuscles, through networks of veins and arteries, searching for the dark seed of guilt and suffering? Does it ever.
Leaven the pizza dough on Wednesday nights.
Read more books than last year.
Write in journal every day as the sun clears the MacArthur tree.
Drink more black coffee in the mornings.
Submit only to places that will enhance my writing.
Savor the lines written, but don’t be afraid to abandon them to the winds.
Don’t be afraid to reconstitute the parts of the novel that don’t work.
Write through the grief, for it’s in the agony that the truth resides.
Bring my grandparents back to life in the pages of the manuscript.
Kneel at the writer’s shrine in my office before each writing session.
Foster strong relationships with supportive friends and colleagues.
Don’t treat my readers like fools.
Find the joy in nature’s destructive patterns.
Turn off the editor in your head and let the writing sing clear.
Accept rejection with grace. Each one is a cobblestone on the road to success.
Sanctify the writing with strong verbs and language.
Set deadlines and meet them as best I can.
Take long walks on the beach to remind myself of how good life can be.
Examine the underside of rocks and fallen branches to discover the unearthly.
Read a passage to my son and daughter every day, even though they may not understand the words.
Have a soundtrack for the writing, but above all let the words themselves be the music.
Never take no for an answer. Always rebound and submit the work one more time. Writing is a relentless endeavor.
Invite success and failure into my home, but open the fine wine for success.
Sharpen the nib with an arrowhead and dip the tip in the inkwell of my grief. The true material is buried in the deepest reaches of the heart.
Create a sanctuary in my home where creativity flourishes.