Amber in the glove box glowed a fierce stone cold, nail clippers and heather-edged maps of my mother’s country outlined in red magic markers in the riverbeds made up with silk-sided sheets for the disingenuous visitor.
[Writer girl walks on stage with scissors in one hand and a bouquet of daisies in the other. The scissors and daisies are beyond the scope of this tirade. Make something up.]
I just received a form rejection from an indie publisher who had been holding my manuscript for 14 months. To be fair, I’d forgotten I sent them anything at all. But let’s recap. 14 months. That’s four and a half seasons. With a form rejection. That’s four and a half lines. And to be honest, not even a good form rejection…I mean, way too many commas in those four and a half lines.
This, my dears, is how reputations sour. And how writer friends of indie publishers flee the scene. So don’t do it. Pretend you were exiled inside the Arctic Circle without internet access, pretend your Grandma died followed by your dog, your co-worker, some guy you met recently—it’s been a tough year—or just pretend you lost the manuscript. Make up some excuse. Because there is absolutely no excuse for a form rejection after 14 months. Not unless you’re fucking Harper Collins or something.
Because the silent rejection of the big publishers is one thing—it’s expected, it’s assumed. I’d worry about the status of the bourgeoisie if they let in a little peasant girl from the borderlands. All hell might break loose. The sea would boil, the moon would fall. But for a patched-together gypsy publisher to look at your work and dismiss it—after holding onto it for more than a year and asking, by the way, that you submit to no other while under consideration—with a form…a form! Well, that’s just plain lazy.
And you wonder why you’re not going places.
[Writer girl shakes her head, rolls her eyes and exits stage left]
At the seams, you might find typewriter ribbons holding it all together, with Scotch tape at the corners and one of those black and silver binder clips for keeping things— straight into the lion’s den on a Thursday, the click of heels in the hallway and I’m on the elevator, waiting, holding my breath (I mean I would— if breathing didn’t give my lungs a thrill). Every skipped floor holds a sudden misdirection. Hail! the inattention to detail that’s begging for a breach.
Plot is secondary to sensation. Don’t let them tell you any different. I mean, maybe this is the poet talking. Why else would I arrange this by line instead of paragraph? Break— for lunch. It’s the randomness I like, the observation of what might come. Not what will come. Image and dialogue and apple red leaves falling from the trees for no reason besides the bicycle wheel of time spinning, spinning, spinning…
I love you too abstractly in red herring words and white feather feelings that come together inexactly at unhemmed edges, where the fabric pulls too tightly; I wish I loved like Miss Golightly buying shoes and strumming something or with the force of storm clouds sparking as the thunder eats the lightning.
Set this scene and knotted heard a sound like a mouse scratching nibble, dribble, feet so fast across the attic and up spread unrested feathers of pigeons nesting in pineapple-upside-down bowler hats, all brocaded and dusty, wide and filled to the crusted brim with straw broom bristles and yellowed paper flowers.
At midnight, all the bells in the deep brown seaweed start peeling away layers like an onion soup with too much cheese and no one smiles in the camera with any truth on your lips, I read your secrets like Braille (by feel) and your demons hang back on the monkey bars, flex the iron grip or steal the flaxseed from the bread crumbs always need more flavor.
Oh smash it down— smash that reflection with a shatter and clamor red ribbons rent and tattered. A flag flickers in the wind on a tall, white mast rising over a sea of glass at the front of the carrion fleet— she ran from bad luck on fair weather feet.
Rejects on the corner making merry has never tasted so cold, anachronistic my mother said leave love out of it and we did, jumped the transatlantic wire with wooden shoes and inside-out umbrellas, nettles boiled down make a soup as good as seaweed, stringy— but we can’t afford to be picky.
Drum beat hums in a hive, he found her sitting with a locket on a chain mail delivered through a slot machine said don’t be in a hurry as the windfall won’t be coming— I’m sorry but the options tanked, the crisis hot and heavy took the back seat in the motorcade and avoided mausoleums, for the present in your hands I’d say, but no one says just what they’re thinking, clustered lies all piled up like honeycomb and laundry.
Nothing fails me quite so wickedly as words! when they turn against me, huddling up in a corner and refusing— refusing to play games with me sulking, like a child with no cake (no flavored tea, no raspberry jam) with clam-shut silence resonating through the whole house, and only my (time melts, colors bleed) impressions for company.
I’m mastering a polka- dot dress and a little case of Thursday morning nit-picking has soured my work ethic for near eternity (or close enough), so if you see this in the crystal ball tonight (me barefoot and dancing in the midnight-painted street) don’t be shocked, don’t shake your head— just come and join me.
There are specks of raindrops in the bluest skies, accumulating like dust and cobwebs on a broomstick of muddy string and yellowed straw (not clean at all) and with so little time to sweep out those cavernous pits and craven self-interest— well, nobody dies without a little bitterness.
Curious is not my cup of tea and Alice can keep the Cheshire cat grins to herself or save them for the teetotaling hatter— it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a deck full of cards and they’re all coming up aces.
Sweet like cinnamon, tart like green apples, mixed, matched and patched up in poetry— but god it’s so hard to write sunshine from midnight. Squeezing out blood from a moonstone that has nothing in it… and the whole damn world is riddled with leprosy begging, on scabbed knees, and scarred hands to mask this grim play in fantasy.
Art (as an expression—
as a love letter to a long lost…
can box you in a brown paper package—
with one exotic stamp, and a simple return address.
But nothing magic in it—
you can’t bottle the sea
(or sunshine, for that matter) and
without those, my darling,
you can’t make him understand.
Glancing down aisle fifteen in Walmart, I saw a young girl in a blue dress and black bonnet, (no lace, no ribbons, no pretty white buttons) shopping with a wicker basket that had in it, sewing needles and six nectarines, and her back was turned to me, a simple silhouette of the ghost country that lives beside mine; her black carriage and chestnut horse tied to a streetlamp in the parking lot outside.
Listen, there’s nothing to it and let’s not get into this again having been down one road too many and too many roads too short in temper, I mean, like a fuse on dynamite that’s set and ready or chutes and ladders laid down u n st e a dy against the fire-painted siding of a burning house.
I sink my teeth into the half-life and find myself in the big house where we stay up all night and each night is fifty years long and that’s counting in carrot sticks and lightning sparks precede the least of odd reunions in a library full of books I haven’t read and a man I’ve never met (but a man I always know), like the way we see the twist coming a thousand miles back but come upon it at a railroad crossing, a bridge burning, a lady in black rags, catch a glimpse of something rotten in the rear view mirror and say what the hell was that?
Oh, if you could see yourself as I do! White collar so stiff and starchy—but you’re shedding dandruff, talcum powder and attic dust, filthy as they come, second-hand marionette of a nobody someone, with make-up plastered (shoddy mason work) to the clumps of your eyelashes, the crayon on your lips, the bread crumbs and chalky pink antacids rubbed raw into your cheeks.
because of that page in every test booklet that says “please do not write on this page” - yeah, that’s why.
garden variety - lots of flowers (daisies & violets at every corner), root vegetables (beets, carrots and radishes), bull thistles, a tangled mess of blackberry bushes, very wild, with sparrows and crows perching on every fence post
rage writing between fits and starts of inspiration
4. the moment right now
corner office but don’t get too excited. severe lack of windows. pretentious bitch of a co-worker running her mouth. rage writing to commence very soon.
plot development. endings. dependence on word play and sarcasm.
Listen, boys and girls— I cannot stress the importance of this one, simple test or how it will follow you and define you in every valley, cresting every mountain, still you’ll feel the weight of your former self crushing down, if you fail, if you meet with success—
unkindness haunts your steps. Nothing matters as much as you think, the sum of all things is the grace of just one and fair is fair is as ugly as they come.
I’ll pin you down like a butterfly— and I know, I’ve seen that this is a land of men and monsters. I bake bread on Saturdays, not out of any sense of feminine domesticity, wife to the madman, maid on the stairs— but passing the time more like while weeding the gardens, those overgrown with bull thistle and thorn apples, that rise up and flourish in my mind.
Rag-doll semantics count them one, two, three it’s a better play in technicolor so you’ll need a tulip in your lapel, a dozen blueberry muffins and a mourning bouquet— oh I hate the sad endings, how I hate the sad endings… crave sugar cubes in my tea, the merry breakfast after a lonely midnight! cries his heart with tears and fissures—