Although the penis enlargers may have given up on me—Oh, that guy, he doesn’t need out help—I still get my share of spam from the Nigerian con artists. (Perhaps in Cyberland my schlang seems more formidable than my brain.) After accessing AOL I skim the newmail subject lines to cull detritus, and then little remains to read except tedium from professional organizations. Not so yesterday, however, when I saw I had something from talkingriveretc headed “Letter of Rejection.” That grabbed me, though like many a foreign language phrase whose words may sound familiar their meaning didn’t compute. Perhaps I’d unwittingly rejected somebody who now was replying in high dudgeon.
Most literary journals caption their responses neutrally, as in “Your Submission: 5 Poems,” a formula which permits a breath and a mantra before clicking to open the probable turndown. But no, this talkingriver anomaly actually concerned my poetry, and when I confronted the text, from an unfamiliar magazine targeted by my submission service, the message itself was innocuous, just a bland kissoff. Maybe, as Mother asserted, I’m oversensitive, still a kid who won’t leap fearlessly into cold-looking water, who shrinks from reality. Poetry, as any half-civilized clod can tell you, isn’t for sissies.
Yesterday I attended a military funeral, my first, and the last one for the deceased, an Air Force Lt. Col, ret, who lived into his late 80’s, an old friend of my wife’s family, father to her best friend in childhood, a girl who died around age 9. Although he reportedly had anger issues, and despite being extra-fond of Rush Limbaugh, he was consistently friendly to me, my wife, and our kids.
If you compare a U.S. military cemetery with its civilian counterparts you’ll recognize that the former—practice makes perfect in this case—truly constitutes a democracy, where it’s pointless to pretend you can take any of it with you: grave markers uniform in design and size, all ranks mingled and distributed equally over the landscape in precisely dressed ranks and files.
The honor guard ceremony was wordless, ten minutes tops: 6 soldiers, 4 men, two women, one ceremoniously carrying a large flag packed tight into a triangle, which they slowly unfurled, stretched between them, refolded as before, stars facing outward, and presented to the widow, after which one of them stepped aside, played Taps movingly, and then they all marched off, having left us without much to say.
Today, walking to lunch, I found a note on my car excoriating me for not pulling up two feet closer to the crosswalk, making a bigger space for the sizable SUV that had wedged itself behind me. The second page of the double-layered chartreuse post-its offered up only the word Jerk! I felt guilty. Then resentful, and started generating comebacks. Several blocks later I realized I still might have moved my Subaru a little so the person behind me could leave more easily. But I hadn’t bothered, hadn’t even considered the possibility.
It’s kind of a truism that serious poets, those who want to get somewhere, write poems every day. Deep down I’ve bought in, same way I still believe Mother was right when she declared, repeatedly, I was going to wind up a bum in the gutter. I can go there easily: a trickle of water or chill pee up against the old gray Bowery curb, some other sleazebag helping himself to my shoelaces. But when I try to maintain a steady routine for more than two or three mornings I’m tapped out—no vitality in the ideas or language. Oh, I can edit, compose e-mails, pay bills, just not perform what I’ve accepted as my duty, prove my holy election.
Years ago I visited the beach alone on a cold, fog-drowned day, determined I’d write something, and must have sat for two painful hours before I had a viable thought and went on to produce a draft of one of my favorite poems. Trouble is, lacking the will and the faith, I can’t tolerate such persecution very often. Which disqualifies me as an American success story.
Fake it till you make it. (And after that, why change a winning formula?) Such is the rationale for advertising, and if you’re any kind of entrepreneur at all, whether, say, in health care or scribbling, the economics shout, Advertise! Hence this blog. To impress you. And by impressing you to get ahead.
Among the recommended postures:
- Poetry will save your life as it saved mine.
- We all should crave truth and worship beauty.
- Poets are the gatekeepers, and trust me, I’m some kind of poet.
So here I stand, pimping my bling, which includes this diamond-studded gold W on a heavy chain. Are we awestruck yet?