As Far As I Can See

Dewdrop diamonds glitter
in the brush of a lawn that
gave up its grass majority years ago.
But it’s greener than ever.
As far as I can see.
The housetops across the road
wear halos brassy as church bells
this Sunday dawn. The sun’s probably
as bright as it was when I was a kid,
but I can’t say that for a fact.
Now it filters into my eyes past
progressive lenses, gestating cataracts
and glaucoma’s shrinking field
of left-right and up-down.
But I notice so much more of its
intrinsic glory now then I did then.
It means more to me now, as I write
each day’s biography from my obsolescent
point of view. Probably why I wake
so early and go to sleep so late.
Sight might be leaving me with each
sunset, but more vision comes with
the next dawn.
As far as I can see.

Still Falling

The rain’s still falling,
I can hear it on the roof,
beating a tattoo of the
rat-a-tat-tat kind,
but one that makes the ink
flow indelible in my skin.
It never wakes me up anymore,
only keeps me awake, unless
it expands the rhythm section
with a thunderous tympani
and the flash like I saw
in  your eyes when I was
the lucky one.
Through the curtains I see
the footprints of a billion
soldiers marching in a column
of the uncountable, from above
to below where I fold boats
of white paper and float them
and their crew of words
to shores where they’ll
disembark in hopes of again
establishing a beachhead
and conquering you.

The Answer in a Flash of Morning Sun

I think I’ve passed right over the acme
of my life’s arc, through its payoff middle
and missed it. No Ansel Adams grand vista,
no temporal sweet spot in a man’s life
where he can stand and say to himself,
“Good job, you made it.” I no doubt was head-down
in a reverie about a what, a when, or worse,
a who.

I just looked up and out my window I see
jet contrails crisscrossing the dawn sky,
snaring the sun in a web of crystal near-nothing.
A robin’s sitting in the budding red maple
out front singing his love song. And between them
lies a vast expanse of nothing but . . .middle.
A vermillion-breasted sign of new life and
a silver nib etching across the sky the stories
of hundreds of souls, joined in this moment by
whatever I choose to link them.

More than some arbitrary marker signifying
the end of the Beginning or the beginning of the End,
I forgot the Now I’m in and how I choose to fill it.
Like that moment two disparate birds wrote
the story of my life in a flash of morning sun.

On Day 15 of NaPoWriMo, the middle of the month, I present this rather long discovery of where I am in my life. And, at this moment, the view is pretty good. Photo from out my window, by yours truly.

A Clerihew? Who Knew?

David Bowie,
was dissatisfied with being born David Jones, so he
changed it for artistic purposes — no lunk, he.
Ziggy Stardust doesn’t happen if you keep your name like that Monkee.

John F. Kennedy
Wasn’t quite sure he had the remedy
To put the brakes on a ride to World War 3’s brink,
But Dr. Jack’s ballsy cure worked, because ’twas Khrushchev first to blink.

George Armstrong Custer
knew his troopers to victory he could muster
if it was he who always led the charge.
But his tactic never ran into an opponent four times as large.

King Richard, the Lionheart
left England, in a great Crusade to take part.
But while he was gone, his little brother, King John,
tripped over himself trying Richard’s too-big monarchy thing on.

Queen Marie Antoinette
abdicated her throne in the French Revolution, and yet
the mob wasn’t sated until they took her head
for insinuating starving people eat cake in lieu of bread.

Charles Dickens
knew his writing prospects would be slim pickin’s,
forcing each of his children to eat like a bird.
So, like Scrooge’s Christmas goose, his prose he often fluffed quite loose, since he got paid by the word.

Edmund Clerihew Bentley,
was a poet unafraid to invent, evidently,
a form combining biography and satire in rhyming verse.
At the first two I’m not bad, but the last I couldn’t be worse.

Joseph Andrew Hesch,
a writer turned to janky poet, I gesh,
When writers block brought his prose to an end,
an imaginary poet broke through, penning mushy verse to you, my make-believe friend.

Here’s a placeholder post until I can write something bigger for Day 14 of NaPoWrMo. In fact, these pieces, called clerihews, were prompted by NaPoWriMo.net A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem’s subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light, or revealing something unknown and/or spurious about them.

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.

Blue on White

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen – Torn Notebook

“Fill your paper with the breathings
of your heart.” ~ William Wordsworth

I’ve hidden some dog-eared
notebooks on the bottoms of
my desk drawers into which
I’ve opened a vein and gushed
the contents of my heart
to you like a mooning teen
would in his spiral-bound journal,
his unrequited sighs tearing
at the pages, making a break
for it over the wire.
Hands smudged bloody with ink,
we each pen our own
Twenty Love Poems
and a Song of Despair
.
The pages pulse with heartfelt
exhalations and exultations
to someone we never could outright
tell how they make our hearts quicken,
criss-crossing white dreamscapes
with blue blood trails.

This week’s first-draft poem in response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines Challenge prompt. It’s that quote from William Wordsworth at the top of the poem. It filled my paper with poetic panting in quick order. The short story to go along with the prompt, however, might take a little more time.

A Blog Anniversary and a Writer’s Thanks

 

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The writer at his post

Just received a note from WordPress congratulating me on the 6th Anniversary of this blog, A Thing for Words.

Wow! I’ve been on WordPress for six and on Blogspot for one year before that. That’s seven years of sharing my work with you readers online.

It also means I’ve been walking this second-chance trail for eight years. It’s kinda saved my life, in addition to enriching it for an hour or so a day. Sitting at this desk almost every day with my head down and imagination up (pretension alert!!) breathe some life into a heart and soul that could easily slip back into the dark.

So, if you’re a regular at my joint or not, I thank you for your continued support and encouragement. I hope I’ve added a spoonful or two of light into your days, too.