The words hewn from my mind are forced into uncomfortable arrangements.
Sentences with broken backs and incomplete endings.
Things that dangle.
A worrisome focus on grammar and clean lines—syllabication truncated to succinctness.
When all I want to do is run through words like a child through a field of flowers.
Wild and untethered,
I would pluck the verbs that please me best and make of them a bouquet. Smell the deep earthiness of adjectives that bite the tongue when you speak them.
Crush the scented mint between lips full of prose.
Using adverbs sparingly so as not to overpower the taste.
And with great pleasure.
Carefully measuring synonyms by the spoonful.
But harnessing words is tricky business.
Bringing them through the slip stream of consciousness and pinning them to the page is not unlike stabbing a butterfly after the ether withers them.
Do they become inert things no longer filled with life?
Pretty facsimiles of something that once breathed?
If words are not my playthings, then what toys do I have left?
How to describe what lurks in the folds of my mind?
If I cannot use them with abandon, are they orphaned?
Are they lost forever in a void of never-has-been-ness?
A not-being that sucks my soul into a black abyss.
Am I then become wordless?
Memory is the golden shore where summer waters lap. Where sanded children shriek like gulls, And mothers shade their eyes and search The ever distant beach for tears or missing faces in the surf.
There the castles build and fall, where triumph tragedy becomes. And sticky mouths suck greedy gulps of sugar-saturated pops— Rainbow colors melting down.
See criss-crossed marks burned into skin which will no permanent memory make To keep from repeating the mistake of measuring the sun by an SPF span. Boiled-lobster faces whine and belated zinc is applied in futile effort to rewind time.
Gritted bodies, tired, worn but happy with a day’s respite, Ride the chariot once more toward the sinking orb Which threatens little from its perch on the lip of the world, Leaving a flip flop token of remembrance behind.
You’ll find no ribboned concourse marking childhood’s end. It is fleeting, passing, and no trumpet heralds its demise. So, measure well those steps you take on burning sands They will the hourglass wind down and scorch tender flesh In haste to reach Lethe’s waters.
*I wouldn’t ordinarily have a footnote to my poetry. But I’ve never had this happen before. I don’t know what to call that little slice of word jumble at the top. I tried leaving it out and that felt wrong. I tried putting it in…even wronger. Is it a foreword? A prelude? A prequel? I’m not sure what to call it. So, I’m not calling it anything. It just is. And I hope that is enough.
I wish editing were like hiring someone to pluck unruly overgrowth from your plot.
WARNING: Mangling of Metaphors, Shameful Similes, and Tree Torture Ahead—Proceed with Caution!
I have, on occasion, taken a side-long look at my collected literary efforts and sighed–gusts monsoons would envy. In those glances, I have seen the colossal effort it would take to shape them into something even vaguely resembling sense. Instead, each year I write a new, rambling incoherent piece like a prolific procrastinator of pandemic proportions. *
Do you remember my promise that I would provide the critique of my work following winning a review at last year’s writer’s conference?
Well, you are all still waiting. Because the biggest take-away from that evaluation is that my story is starting in the wrongplace. Book one of a three-books-at-least series, is mis-planted. It isn’t a weed, exactly, but it is a sprawling volunteer in my literary garden. It is like the tree in my backyard–it is a moss-encrusted mess!
It isn’t a bad tree. Yeah, sure, it has oozing cracks running down two sides, but it is lush and otherwise verdant. It’s just planted in the wrong place and threatens to split in several directions. And like my over-grown novel, it has got to go.
Faced with massive edits and rewrites, I say: “Bring on the shredder and let’s make some confetti!”
It would be so much easier to chuck my writing aspirations and plot a life without creative expectation. To slash and burn every word I’ve placed in a holding pattern, using up the data of an entire computer until I have to buy a new one to store version 15.2 of the samedamn novel. At least, that’s how it feels. It’s either that, or actually sit down and try and straighten out the mess I’ve created.**
Trees are unlike writing, as it turns out. They are actually pretty easy to dismantle. At least the guys from 1, 2, Tree made it look easy.
I watched them turn probably fifty-year’s worth of growth into so much mulch in less than three hours. I admired their editing talents greatly. ***
I did learn something from watching them. They didn’t start at the base of the trunk, trying to tackle it all in one go, but a piece at a time.
First a little here. Then a little there. And, before long, Cal, the stump man, was there grounding down what little remained.
There’s part of me that wants to do this. Instead of taking pruning shears to the 150,000-plus word opus, I’d chainsaw that forest of typographical nightmares and run-on story tangents and turn them into wordy wood chips!
But that isn’t what I want for my novel. I don’t really want to render its multi-syllabic magnificence into so much mulch. But, trim its excess maybe? To make sure it won’t crush my house in the next strong breeze to come through our neighborhood? Sure.
Now all I need is a studly team of guys on standby who will cart away the bits that fall away as I work.
A big shout-out to Jacob, Jeremy, and Mick at 1, 2, Tree for very considerately not dropping anything on my head while I took pictures! I’m sure the temptation was overwhelming.
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:
*I will also assault you with assonance.
**Looking at un-edited work without protection is like staring into the sun…while masturbating—you’ll go blind and you won’t have any fun while doing it.
***I so was NOT ogling them. I’m old enough to be their…well…aunt, at the very least. And an aunt does not ogle young men no matter how bulgy-their muscles are.
———————————–You Read This Far Poet-Tree Bonus—————————————-
Aging ain’t pretty and, sometimes, it gets downright ugly. You are forced to evaluate yourself for flaws and failures. Blogs are no different from people in that respect.
Facebook’s insistence that everyone in the world wish you a Happy Birthday resulted in people I haven’t spoken with in years contacting me last week when I became a quinquagenarian.*
In one exchange, an old friend asks me how I’ve been doing and I oh-so-subtly direct him to the wonders of my blog. His response?
“…Blogs are so passé…”**
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I put my heart and soul into what I write. This off-hand dismissal of my craft resulted in the following poetic interlude—performed in the key of é.
Critique Not-so Enchanté
My writing is passé,
Or so you say!
Perhaps you are no devoteé?
Or maybe you are just a protégé without caché?
I may sometimes, How do you say?, write a hit out of the park!
Sometimes it’s a swing-and-a-miss—or manqué.***
My writing may even skirt the edge of cliché!
But always, I churn the brain frappé
To scoop out a little grey cell pâté.
A luscious, literary canapé!
No hard-boiled reporter am I, producing the latest exposé!
But I do not deserve to be roasted a lá flambé!
Mayhap you will reconsider your communiqué?
But as for me, I am très désolé.
So there you have it. A damning condemnation that not only am I unoriginal, practically staring down the barrel of obsolescence, but so is my writing medium. (Not well done!)
Turning half-a-decade makes a person stop and think! Where exactly am I headed? Have I missed my chance to reinvent myself when I haven’t even invented myself yet in the first place?
Have I’ve officially reached a plateau that says: “Nothing new, innovative, or fresh expected. Move along!!?”
Perhaps it is fatalism of creativity? Maybe I suffer ennui? But I will steal from a kindred spirit—a voice who calls from the realm of the dead. I will lick the pen of a poet and echo Stéphane Mallarme :
Je me mire et me vois ange! et je meurs, et j’aime —Que la vitre soit l’art, soit la mysticité— A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème, Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté.
I can see my reflection like that of an angel! And I feel that I am dying, and, through the medium Of art or of mystical experience, I want to be reborn, Wearing my dream like a diadem, in some better land Where beauty flourishes.)
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*L is the new XL (I’m talking Roman numerals, people, not size!)
**My immediate response? “Oh yeah? Well…your face is passé!”
***I noticed the odd appearance of accented ‘é’ words and cleverly sensed a theme. When I saw Manqué on a list of words ending in é, I had to use it. And then, there is the neato twist: where the definition for manqué conveniently defines how it feels to turn 50!
Man·qué (mäNGˈkā/) adjective:
having failed to become what one might have been; unfulfilled.