My 800 Words

 So, I started watching this Australian show on Acorn, the Brit equivalent of Netflix, about a guy whose wife has died and he moves himself and his kids to a small town in New Zealand. Called 800 Words, it centers on their new life and on his vocation as a writer, a cute show and I’m sure we will continue to watch it but what struck me was the way it treated writing. Now, I’m sure there are writers out there who can just sit down in front of their laptops and the words just spill out in perfect order and symmetry but for myself that’s not the case. In this show, the main character, a writer, does just that, sits at his laptop speaking as he writes with little or no editing. The reason the show is called 800 Words, is that is the title of the column he writes for a newspaper, as he limits his subject to just 800 words.  

When I write, it takes time and I’m constantly editing my work to the point of being a bit overly anal about it. Every word, every sentence, I try to make perfect and this coming from an English class failure. It’s not in my nature just to sit down and write straight out and if I do I’m consumed by doubts and fears that what I’ve written is just pure shit. Lately, I’ve tried my hand at poetry and that seems to go along okay, I’m no where near being a good poet since I have no idea what I’m doing, but it has caused me to reflect on my own style.
 Right now, I’ve got several pieces, of fiction and nonfiction all in various stages of the process. My problem is procrastination, my mind is a turbine of words and thoughts as I try to write, so much so that I tend to get lost in the spinning blades. The only editing the author in this show did was to eliminate one word to make his 800 word limit, I wish it was that easy. Here I am at over 300 words watching the word count meter ticking up as I write, having no idea where I’m going with all of this. 

 Am I a writer? That’s a good question and one I continually ask myself. Eson Kim, one of the instructors at Grub Street in Boston, has been most encouraging when it comes to what I have written, but then that little voice of doubt creeps in saying, “That’s her job. To make you think you can write, after all you’re paying for the privilege of indulging in your fantasy of being the next Hemingway.” Yes, I do have fantasies of being a decent writer, then I wonder if I have the discipline and smarts to be one. Writing daily so many words, tying each paragraph together, developing characters with some depth, the kind of people easily identifiable by the readers who come upon my hieroglyphics. 

 I know I have a story to tell, it may not be the rags to riches fare, or about lifting oneself from the depths of poverty, despair or some other great tragedy, but there is a story to be told. Is there an audience that will read what I write? Is that really the question I need to ask, is that the only reason to write to find an audience, to be published? It was Eugene Peterson, a writer and minister who I admire, who wrote that he writes because of a deep need to do so, whether or not he has any readers is not the point. I guess that being an Episcopal priest and a person of faith, I should just allow myself enough slack to write and let the words fall where they may. Whether it is poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, memoir or just my own reflections on what I hear and see going on, I need to write. 

 Too much is bubbling up inside and like a volcano where the magma has been building up over years, the lava of words just need to be released. It may be messy, incomplete, full of nonsense or just plain nonsensical, but these are my words and my thoughts. 

 So I will plug along, slowly like the tortoise, I’m too old to compete with the young guns out there but each day I will challenge myself to write. Maybe this will eventually become my version of the 800 words. Not a daily write but maybe an occasional reflection on what I see in the world around me. For those of you who have volunteered to ride along on this train, beware, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. My word count is now 795, time to stop writing. 

The Headache of Zeus

I’m looking for that perfect sentence

the one that will open this poem

the perfect metaphor never used

so that you will read my poetry.

I even bought a book or two

to help me on my quest

to find the right combinations

of those words that I seek.

Poetry for Dummies is one

that claims to help demystify poetry

only will it help demystify me.

I dream, dreams of words aligned

all in perfect poetic order

then when I sit to write they are a jumble.

Outside the sun shines bright

and I hear the birds singing

the world is slowly waking up 

as I emerge from the dreams.

Now I sit here writing once again

looking at the blinking cursor

on the blank screen of the iPad

trying to remember what I dreamed

in the midnight hours

because what I saw was that sentence

all pretty and perfect

just waiting to be birthed

a sleeping fetus

enclosed in a darkened womb

of my mind

the headache of Zeus

that refuses to be born.

I AM

I am no sound 

just a whisper,

a slight breeze

tingling your neck

in the soft kisses

lips meeting

in the twilight.

I am the blade of grass,

sitting among the flowers

stretching out of the ground

towards the noonday sun.

I am but a plain man,

another face in a crowd

indistinct from the others.

I am your lover,

in the secret spaces

of the heart.

I hold you close

as our bodies cling

shutting out the noises

of a world gone mad.

First Letter

I watch you

sitting there

reading a book

late afternoon sunlight

shining in your hair

thinking about that letter

written so long ago

on a whim 

to a girl I never met

a warm tropical night

on top of a mountain

as the war wore on

in the distance 

the crack of weapons

choppers flying the wounded

to the hospital below

and all you could smell was 

shit and diesel fuel burning 

and there I was

sitting in my hootch

a small light burning

shadows dancing on walls

looking at that picture

of you with dark rimmed glasses

hair shoulder length

smiling for the photo

I take pen in hand

on that cheap writing paper

the crinkly kind

designed for airmail

and I write

a stammering, stuttering

less than poetic letter

that I’m sure you’ll hate

when a few weeks later

there was an answer

and the beginning of it all

baring our dreams and hopes

in letters across the sea

that brings us to this day

as I look upon your face

and the love we share

all from a letter written long ago

Moonlight Dance

He gingerly took off her blouse,

the heat rising with each breath.

She reached down caressing,

as his tongue lightly touched her,

warmth spreading deeply within.

She lay down, her eyes widening,

as he slowly entered her warmth,

their bodies moving together,

a slow, dance as they held on.

Her mouth, parted slightly, sighing,

as he moved within her, teasingly.

Soon, they gave in to passion,

as they erupted together, bodies spent.

Laying there, in the moonlight,

they looked deeply into each other,

their love consummated, their hearts one.