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I foresee the day I write
my final story. It’ll be the end
of one long run.
I first began my
paragraph at—what age?
Was it 7, maybe?
Then, the story jumped
to journals. Red covers, blue
& green. Binder-ringed and
thick-paper diaries. Onward,
the paragraph flowed. Squeezed
out in blue in mimeograph.
I began to illustrate the pages of
my paragraph—the self-same one!
So, right now, down in the
garage, in one plastic tub,
you’ll find many an illumined
manuscript. You’ll see the
paragraph tortured into shapes.
Traced into labyrinths, complex
as the lanes of an overgrown
garden maze, out back of some
castle or manor house, owned by
a negligent, louch offspring
of a countess. Dazed and
drunk at noon in uttermost England
or imperial France.
The paragraph rolled on. Soon, it
grew multicolored. Green & blue,
pink & purple. In ballpoint, the
cheapest Bic. And messy,
costly fountain pen. Until I found
the roller ball of dreams.
Then, the augeries of
cyber times—faded printouts from
early Macs and cheap-ass printers.
Pasted into notebooks, as if
the output of our growing hive
mind was untrustworthy.
Needed binding and some glue
to preserve it, between cardboard
covers, safe between pulped trees.
Then, the paragraph exploded!
Onto the world-wide web it journeyed,
crawled, expanding exponentially.
Who knew where? Until, along
came engines, to parse and trawl
the syntax of the interwebs.
And like a dredge, haul up its
treasure from the seabed of
that vast ocean. So, now
you may type my name—
try it!—and you’ll see my paragraph
across the globe. It’s in Slovakia &
Russia! Alaska & Calabria! My
paragraph seems so large and long
and persistent. Though, I begin to
think, more than a half-century
after it took birth, after these long
decades of perigrination and
propagation, after watering and
throwing off its fruit on more
than 10,000 screens and pages,
the gods know where,
that I’ve not said all that much,
for all of that.
I’ve been talking out my life.
Writing out loud, as long
as I remember. Trying to
describe the sky. The sound of
backyard choirs of cicadas.
The taste of samsara’s usual angst
and often sickening ride. Noting,
with close attention, what a hundred,
no, a thousand, no, many thousands
of folks, set across from me, or on
the telephone, or via e-mail, have
had to say. About their life, about
their paragraph. That day,
that hour, that minute. That
very second of their being.
My paragraph is fat and long.
Rich & musky. Superficial, and
deep as the Mines of Moria.
My paragraph is a dodge, a
weave. I’ve written as much to
conceal, as to reveal myself.
I am just now, after 50
years of trying, starting to
figure out what I may really,
truly have to say. Were I to try
& tell the truth, the real truth
& nothing but the truth.
Yet, I also wish my words to
dance before you. To pirouhette,
en pointe, a Balanchine prima donna.
I want my paragraph to strut,
carved cane in hand, the Left
Bank, like a proper boulevardier.
I want my paragraph to wow you.
leave you wanting more. To, if
possible, make you gasp. To
make you—prose willing—cry.
Then, to laugh. And then
to laugh at your crying.
And want more. Every writer’s
dream is you’ll seek out our
paragraph. Not just happen on
it, in the commons, somewhere
downtown, on a rural road. On a
backstreet where all the bad
paragraphs hang out. My
paragraph is good, clean fun, which
often is its fatal flaw.
It longs to be free. To say
what it means. And mean
what it says. This is no easy
task. Most paragraphs are
liers. Dissemblers. Bumblers.
Inept and facile. Poseurs. My
paragraph, at one time or
another—perhaps right now!—
has been all these things.
And more. As on crisp
mornings, when the sun
rises crystal yellow
and October air has the
tang of fresh-cut, green apple.
And the words flow
on the page, on the screen,
hands moving like a magician’s,
flipping queens & kings & jokers.
Which, it should be said, can
lead to deception or to
wonder. My paragraph is not to
be trusted. It’s a brigand, A
poet manqué. A roustabout.
A dandy, lier & a lout. It’s also
an acolyte. A postulant. A
journeyman & seeker. Yet,
after all these many words, I see
the day my paragraph’s story
will be done. Perhaps from sheer
exhaustion. Or exasperation
at the failure of its quest. Though,
now I think of it, my paragraph has
done a fine job, given all the
circumstances. It deserves a
rest, a job well done. An
‘Attaboy!’ I give it five years,
at best, before I write my
final ‘story.’ Then, my paragraph
and I will exit
stage left, into whatever
deep woods remain. And sit
at the foot of some tree at least
a hundred years old—preferably
two hundred or beyond. And talk of
old times. Great turns of
phrase. And what a long,
strange trip it’s been. And pat
each other on the
back. And put down the pen,
shutter the screen. And
just be quiet.
cabell county, west virginia. aug23.2020
POEM | “Body of Evidence”: ‘I’d no excuse not to grok the fact, or traffic in illusions of not growing old. Or denial of encroaching senescence. Or flipping the bird at Mister Death. It would halt nothing of my body’s fade, of our decay. I was, perhaps, whistling past my future graveyard.’
POEM | “Nous Celeron”: ‘Don’t you, Nous Céleron,/wish to lay down your arms?/Enter the Ohio’s cool darkness,/or the Chinodahichetha!/Sounding out each syllable/as a Wyandotte/might utter them …/
POEM | The Pledge: We must imagine/a better country, after/the orange man in/the white house. Tote/our losses & our/wounds. Revelations/about our neighbor’s/secret selves. The sign,/the flag, rippling in/the wind. That says—/’Off with your head’ ….
POEM | “Fridays”: I mark out my life in the passage of a flood of Fridays, the signposts zooming by in Friday cat posts by a favorite blogger.
A Hundred Years of Silence: It should be recalled/most of human history/has been lived in silence.
PORCH POEMS: ‘Ms. Nature & Mr. Death’: So, my day, which when fortunate,/begins with coffee, cat, and dawn,/shifts at some point, to the deck, for some sitting beneath the same old sky,/only this time, eyes closed./Climbed up on the shore, out of thetumultuous stream of thought./I’ve yet to grasp the meaning/of your collaboration, Ms. Nature,/with your ally, Mr. Death.
PORCH POEMS: ‘Overhead’: ‘The clouds don’t care,’/ he said. Blowing a puff/ of cigar smoke at me/ from across the porch./ I sent a pretty good/ smoke ring back his way./ We were not/ six feet apart, so could/ be killing each other, should/ the virus hitch a ride upon our exhalations …