So Why’d I Ask?

So what if I could one day rein
thoughts I have crowding ’round my brain,
these images I see of You-Know-Who
to as few as let’s say one or two?
Do I really think my life’d be that much better
if I never wrote another cryptic letter
to a universal someone who’ll never end
being the adult version of my imaginary friend?
Question’s moot, dear Know-Who, since never was just one You.

On Day 9 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day quest, I combined prompts again. Robert Lee Brewer asked for a poem titled “So (something),” while NaPoWriMo.net suggested a nine-line poem. Nailed the former, but really folded, spindled and mutilated the rules of the latter. Meter and rhyme have never been my friends, imaginary or otherwise.

But NaPoWriMo’s supposed to be all in fun.
Even if all those muse You’s might really be one.

STET ~ A Story

After reading his latest message, Alice Blanchard had enough of Clive Swindell. She balled up this note, tossing it at and missing the wire wastebasket next to her writing table in her tiny apartment.

“Honestly, Lucy, that man makes me so angry I could…” Alice finished her sentence with a sob.

“What’d the jerk say this time, Alice?” her roommate Lucy Watkins said as she picked up the offending projectile and smoothed out its prose, which, essentially, was what Swindell was telling Alice to do in the first place. Only Lucy did it much more gently.

“He says this latest draft of my novel lacked any discernible plot, was short on dialogue and action, and long on exposition and, what he called ‘the mewling and mawkish meandering of some high school girl.’ The publisher is expecting this manuscript in two weeks. Now I’ve got to type the whole thing out again with the changes he’s ordering based on what I think is his personal animosity toward me,” Alice said as she pulled the marked up manuscript of her second book from a large manila envelope.

“Looks like it’s bleeding blue blood, Alice. Like Swindell took out his poison pen and just kept stabbing it.”

“The publisher loved my first novel. Not sure why they assigned their — and I quote — best man to be my editor. He’s downright rude and demeaning. I’m going to take the train downtown to his office — uh-gain — and confront him with his edits. I followed every one of his ‘suggestions’ last time, the time before that, and the four or five times before that, and look at this,” Alice said, fanning the pages of her manuscript in such a way that its passing pages looked like a light blue wave crashing on her writing table.

“And all he does is look at me, barely blinking, saying, ‘Well, Mis Alice Blanchard, I’m trying to help you make a success of this book and we’ll keep working on it until it shines,’ like I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“Maybe he hates women,” Lucy said.

“I just know he’s mean to his secretary and pretty mean to me,” Alice said, putting on her best hat and gloves and heading for the door. “Don’t hold up supper, Lucy, I should be back before 5:00.”

Alice silently practiced what she planned to say to Swindell when she got to his office. She recalled the meeting with the editor where he had tossed the third draft of her novel manuscript at her from across his desk.

“Not nearly good enough yet, Miss Alice Blanchard,” he said. “I wish to be carried along on the emotional wave of your heart and voice in this work.”

“He’s never written his own novel, you know. He’s really just a poet,” his secretary told Alice. “Probably editing and polishing it until he’s satisfied…which will be never. One of his authors told me if he’d kept rewriting until Swindell said his book was finished, he’d be waiting until that Hitler fella came over and planted a kiss on President Roosevelt.”

Alice grinned and rose from her seat in anticipation of the subway grinding to a stop down in mid-Manhattan’s Flatiron District. She walked right by the secretary and knocked once then burst into Swindell’s office.

“Why, Miss Alice Blanchard, what a surprise to see you here. Have you completed your redraft already?” Swindell said, not the least startled nor perturbed by Alice’s abrupt entrance.

Swindell was a man in his late forties who always wore a suit, keeping his jacket buttoned and rep tie knotted at his starched collar. On his desk stood four columns of manuscripts, each about a foot tall and as perfectly square and plumb as the building in which they sat. In the darkest corner of the office, a Victrola played a recording of Leopold Stokowski leading the Philadelphia Orchestra in Brahms Symphony No. 4.

“No, Mr. Swindell, I haven’t completed my redraft. How many redrafts do you expect me to do when you have me change something only to mark that you want it changed again? Sometimes back to the way I had it in the first place.”

“Believe me, Miss Alice Blanchard, I have only the best interests of this company — and you, the author — to ensure this novel will shine to the sun-bright promise of my not insignificant editorial gifts. And yours as writer, as well, of course,” Swindell said. Then he just stared at Alice.

“Well, Mr. Swindell, I think you and your ‘not insignificant gifts’ can take a long walk off a short pier. I want you to take one more look at this manuscript, not with your eyes, but with those of the readers who might plop down their money to buy it. Show it to your bosses, too. See what they say.” Alice pushed the marked up manuscript across the mahogany desktop toward the editor.

“I expect you’ll be sending it back to me, a mess of blue pencil on each page, but I don’t think I can make it any better than it already is…and has been,” she said, turning and walking out the door without waiting for Swindell to reply.

On the train headed back home, Alice thought, Well, that’s it for this publishing house. Maybe I can take this manuscript to another one after I it back with my letter of rejection.

Two weeks later, a fat manila envelope arrived at Alice and Lucy’s door. Inside was a proof of her manuscript and a letter from the publisher that said in its first paragraph they were ready to take it to print.

“Yee-haw, the Texas-born Lucy shouted. “That’ll show that tight-ass Swindell. What’s that other one?” she said, pointing to a second envelope with the publisher’s address in the upper left-hand corner.

“Don’t know,” Alice replied as she sliced the top open with a steak knife. Again, it was a pile of pages, wrapped in brown paper, with a cover letter on top.

Alice took the letter and began to read it.

“It’s an apology from the vice president for my having to rewrite my book so many times and go see Swindell about it each time I did,” she said. As Alice continued to read the letter, her face grew pale and she gave a short gasp.

“Lu, Swindell’s dead. Found him slumped at his desk over a file with my name on it: ‘Miss Alice Blanchard.’ The letter says they decided to send them to me because…”

Lucy unwrapped the brown paper surrounding the envelope’s contents and said, “Honey, these are all hand-written in blue pencil and they’re poetry.”

Alice took the first page and read:

If Only Alice
When the light of day follows the sun
to its westward bed, and clouds tuck in
the moon and stars, I sometimes wonder
what it would be like.
If.
That’s when I see my clearest,
when the distractions of the real
don’t encroach on this vision moment
where the voice in my head echoes the same
sad reverie as perhaps yours might.
If.
That’s why I share this bed with
naught but a weighty conjunction,
a supposition called on account of darkness,
a two-letter regret wrapped in desire
and a vision of you in the not-there.
If.

“They’re all love poems, honey,” Lucy said. And it looks like they’re to … you.”

“I was so sure he hated me. Why else would he keep sending me back edited and re-edited manuscripts? Oh. Oh my, just so I’d come down…”

Alice took the pages from Lucy and fanned through them, seeing her name here and there, as if floating upon the emotion, hearing it in Clive Swindell’s voice above the roar of his final heartbeat wave of blue on white.

Rough two-hour first-draft story in response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the lines prompt of this quote from William Wordsworth: “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” I thought of setting this story in New York City in ,ohhhh, say 1934. Don’t know why. It’s just how I saw it.

That’s one of my old poems I repurposed for the scene. Oh, and STET is editor code for “let it stand,” an instruction on a printed proof to indicate that a correction or alteration should be ignored.

She Left by the Servants’ Entrance

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She left by the servants’ entrance,
perhaps because she felt as tied
to the upstairs and downstairs
of the Homestead as any
Bridget who left Éire to spend
life rearranging the dust,
baking the bread and cleaning
the dirty laundry of her
Amherst Anglo clan.

She left by the servant’s entrance,
carried by men with accents
green as the Kilkenny hills,
driven off in a Carriage holding
but three, leaving behind the crypt
of a life,hidden behind walls
of wood and words
and eccentricity,
to live on in another –
its Roof scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
from which Miss Nobody soared,
a thing with feathers,
to perch ever in our souls.

She left by the servants’ entrance,
an enigma to her last, a loaded gun
that stood in the Corners –
till a Day The Owner passed –
And carried Her away.
Her story today told slant,
with explanation kind –
Her Truth to dazzle gradually,
lest the light leaving
by that back door
strike us mourners blind.

My pre-Dawn poem in celebration of Emily Dickinson, born today in 1830. When she died in 1886, her family honored one of her last requests, that her coffin be carried not by Amherst’s leading citizens, but by six Irish farmworkers – all employees of the Dickinson family – out of the Homestead’s servants’ door.

Things Fall Apart

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Things fall apart, the Irishman said,
and, as days dwindled like hours
dropping by the temporal roadside,
my life sloughing off like a snake’s skin,
I’d once turn to look at the trail of debris
I’ve left along my way.

Along both shoulders of this
pothole-pocked gravel two-lane lies
the detritus of all my broken promises,
crushed chances, dashed hopes,
severed relationships and shattered dreams.
But I reckon that’s what this life’s
supposed to be, not some smooth interstate
of a heretofore to hereafter.

I’ve found it’s like driving along
and That Song comes on the radio
and you see Her while the highway fades away
for the next six miles. Suddenly
you’ve reached your destination and
you don’t remember how you got there,
what you passed on the way, what
you might’ve dropped while recalling
a better-forgotten past and contemplated
a cloudy never-will-be.

I try not to look back, try not to imagine
my destination. This current place
in my journey is what’s most important.
And every time I think of taking a peek,
I look hard to the right and left
and continue slouching toward Bethlehem
or wherever it is I’ll finally fall.

My thanks to William Butler Yeats for the opening and closing lines of this marathon (for me) of a poem. Those lines come from his poem, The Second Coming. We only get one coming, though, so maybe we should try taking in as much of the scenery of our lives rather than who/what/where we’ve been and what it’ll be like when we reach that nebulous destination that we probably won’t make anyway..

Creating the First Creation

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This weekend I finally started getting rid of some of my late Mom’s stuff. I found a few things in what my mom kept of my past. My LOOOOOONG ago past. It appears I did not write my first poem in 2008 or so. My first swing at creating what might be verse was in 2nd or 3rd Grade.

And, true to your present-day poet guy, this piece plays with rhyme the way a cat does a mouse, batting it around before knocking it off altogether. Plus has an abrupt, though so-Joe Hesch ending

Apparently I had to write about Creation:

First light was made.
Second sky and sea.
Third dry land and plant life all.
Fourth sun and moon and stars of light.
Fifth fishes and birds oh so bright.
Sixth beasts of earth and creeping things.
Seventh ….

I guess both creators rested on #7

Hot Day in January, Cold One in Hell

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We’re way past that,
the mushy mess of emotion
that roils and boils
the essence of him and her,
her and her, him and…
It seems the passion’s now
the equivalent of a dead fire,
blackened and cold,
where glowing red heat
once scorched virtual fingers,
slapping them away, leaving scars
reminding me it’s okay to look
but don’t touch, even if only
with gentle words.
Those old lines burn today
whenever I touch them, and wonder
if you ever do too, whoever
you’ve become. Because now I know
no longer does it matter
what circumstances we were born in.

A warmup 100-word poem for the day, based on one of my favorite exercises. I took the fifth line of the Avett Brothers’ song January Wedding to begin the poem and the fifth from last to end it. The creamy filling between is all my imaginings and subconscious insight. There’s no need to protect the innocent. None of us were.

Or Do You?

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With my ears straining, I lie here,
awaiting David’s secret chord to hear.
Cohen said it was good enough to please
young Dave’s big boss. Was it a C perhaps?
Or the big juicy G like I play,
with four fretted strings because…but
you don’t really care for music, do you?

I figure if some confidential tonal triad
exists that helped a shepherd become king,
maybe it could turn a dumb, near-deaf
pencil-twirling, guitar-plucking layabout
into what you might think is a poet…but
you don’t really care for poems, do you?

I don’t hear well enough to dance
a pencil across a page without falling.
Another failing, like why I’d worry
about pleasing anyone but myself when
I fill this space with muffled tones, pastel
shades of gray, dotted with blood red…but
you don’t really care for such musings, do you?

So I’ll just sit and push some keys,
not waiting for some muses’ energies.
My notes you’ll hear, with eyes for ears
and imaginations watching me lie in a lea,
a notebook on my knee, cloud sheep grazing
on blue eternity. And maybe I’m smiling…but
you don’t really believe that, do you?

Tried hard, but couldn’t come up with a thing to write about, so…
Oh, and if you really know me, you understand that last line.