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. 

Poets 

Surrounded by poets

from ancient psalmist

to modern prophets

their words echoing

in the heart and soul.

This is my safe place

where imagination and dreams

are free to roam 

along the edges of the mind,

seeing the colors of the world

in the words they use.

Beauty

in the ugliness 

that surrounds our lives.

Shedding light

on the darkened corners.

These poets speak

their voices cannot be silenced

their passion never dimmed,

their hearts overflow

as the words spill out

watering the garden of life

with tears of joy.

A Spring Cleaning

Bits and pieces lay scattered

on the pages of my journal,

nothing complete

a sentence or two

of poems or prose

that I started long ago

the words lying there

as lifeless as dry bones

waiting for the fire,

that moment of creativity

that will bring them to life

giving them vibrant colors.

These bits and pieces

reflect the tattered shreds 

of my own mind,

thoughts and memories

that lay scattered 

littering the landscape.

How does one choose?

It’s like cleaning house

in the spring,

what gets kept,

what gets tossed?

Each word,

each phrase,

each incomplete sentence,

has a unique beauty 

that is hard to ignore.

So maybe it’s time

to open the windows

let in a fresh breeze

to clear the mind

and set the spirit free,

to air out the winter doldrums

giving new life 

to these words I write.

I’m a Bouncer

I’m a bouncer,

not that kind of bouncer,

the muscular, no necks

who stand watch

over the dimly lit nightclub

watching designer dressed people

sipping their specialty cocktails

while the jazz band plays

eyeing one another,

seeking that one time love

that really isn’t love

but a need to feel something

even if only for a moment.

I’m a bouncer between words

seeking the right combo

playing all the wrong notes

with no rhythm or blues.

Needing to feel something

in the poetry of my life

if only for a moment.

I bounce because I’m scared 

of what might happen

of where the words will take me.

I used to bounce on an old sofa

in the basement of our house

listening to the A-sides of 45’s

on an old Sears and Roebuck

record player I got for Christmas

and there, with music playing

I would bounce and imagine

what some call daydreaming,

of adventures beyond my walls

being the hero who gets the girl

the one who saves the world.

Now here I sit, imagining still

daydreaming away, some say,

as these words flow out.

Nothing is perfect

nothing is easy

so I continue to be just that,

a bouncer needing to feel

if only for a moment.

Simply Listing 

Write a list poem

one that is a list

of the stuff you have

ordinary stuff,

that book of Donne poems

that old 1928 Prayerbook

a bag of pistachios 

four bibles four translations

a book explaining all that,

the Burial Office book

and Joan of Arcadia DVD’s.

It’s all a messy jumble

nothing in place 

papers strewn all over

notes long forgotten

fragments of my life

like the lists I create

pieces lost

pieces found

words said 

words not said

words lost on the wind.

A desk of potsherds

a Humpty-Dumpty

all shattered yet whole

piecing together my life.

No Poetry Today

I should have wrote a poem today

I did start on a couple of thoughts

but I didn’t get very far with them

my mind was just not ready to work

to try and find those perfect words

that would make it all a poem

one of those clever poems 

that speak to the human condition

and can change the hearts of many

but today, I’m just not there

the words are like roaches

that scatter when the light is shed.

So, I didn’t write a poem today

I sat, I read, I jotted notes

but no poetry was written today.