Category Archives: writing

Preemptive

Submitting work to journals can be quite a circus.  It’s an act of will to keep sending work out.  I imagine it’s also quite an ordeal to read every well-intentioned piece that comes through a journal’s mailbox.  I sometimes wonder if editors ever get tired of being polite…

 

Preemptive

Dear sir, it has come to our attention that
you are contemplating submitting a poem
to our journal. We are contacting you now
in the hope of avoiding this regrettable
prospect. Prompt action on your part now
will save us all precious time later.

While we have your attention, we are
somewhat concerned you may be tempted
to pen another composition today. With all
good will, we beg you to resist this urge, and
instead give yourself to something better suited
to your talents. Like brick laying. Or crochet.

Should you feel the need to contact us
further regarding your work or our
literary standards, please do not do so
in writing. In fact, if possible, simply
lie down and wait for the urge to pass.
With all best wishes.

 

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A dog from Hell

I was browsing books at our local Goodwill store on Saturday, and there, nestled among all the copies of “What to Expect…” and “Tax tips for the 1990s,” was a copy of Charles Bukowski’s “Love is a dog from Hell.”  I brought it home and started reading.  Bukowski can feel like the long-lost uncle you don’t really know if you want to invite to the family reunion.  He is hilarious and profane, self-centered and offensive, completely unapologetic for who he is.  He just seems to tell it like he sees it.  And in compelling style – at least to me.  After an hour with “Love is a dog from Hell” I wrote this response. (To share with friends at dVerse Poets Pub).

 

A dog from hell

He’s at it again,
chasing cockroaches across
the bathroom floor with
an ironic stream of piss

some nameless hooker
is lighting up in the bedroom
crouched on the headboard
and shouting at the television

he says he likes the ones
with personality, but I can’t
help noticing he chooses
the ones with big tits

he loves to tell about it while the
booze is flowing and the telephone rings
and he just ignores it all,
cave-painting in skeletal lines

and I hate him – the misogynistic asshole –
hate him because I am so damn jealous
of that clear, unapologetic voice.
No, I am not bored, Mr. Bukowski.

 

Spaghetti

My dad is one of the best writers I know.  He taught me about literary style and choice of words, persuaded me to read Orwell and sat with me as I hashed over early drafts of essays.  It was a labour of love, and no little patience, for him.  He’s my hero!   I hope a little of his example will spill over to the next generation as well.  I’m trying, anyway…

 

Spaghetti

We’re sitting in the kitchen,
pouring over his latest essay.
I jump up from time to time
to stir the spaghetti, then flop
back down again at the small table.
It’s like this, son, I say, sagely.
The English language may be
compared to a well-stocked pantry.

A lot of words hang out on the
lower shelves, or in big barrels.
These are the staples, your common
or garden prepositions, nouns,
proper names, infinitives,
the odd gerund. You gotta use these
just to get through the day, they
won’t do you much harm and
for the most part they are
pretty good for you.

But then look a little further and
the shelves get more interesting.
Some words are sweet, which can be
pleasant in moderation, but I’ll bet
you know people who overdo it and
end up breathlessly waving their
hands up and down and popping
the same bubble-gum over and over.
Maybe one of them is a cheerleader.

Some words are poison. The obvious
ones aren’t so bad, because you know
right away just from the look of them;
but others are slow-acting carcinogens.
Steer clear, OK? I don’t care how much
they tell you words can’t hurt. They can.

Then there are the exaggerations,
the steroids of our mother tongue, which
pump up one’s discourse to impossibly
inflated states, while also exposing
one to secret ridicule, to say nothing
of awkward back hair at some future date
(metaphorically speaking, of course).
Play it cool. Don’t overstate your case, OK?

Finally, there is the F-word. Keep this one
handy at all times, but use it with care.
It is the essence of anise – just one drop
will infuse an entire pot of sauce.
I glance over at the stove. It is the
perfect complement to so many
situations, and there are times
when it is the only word that will do.
Anyone who tells you otherwise
is either a liar, or too scared to live
a little. Trust me. Now get lost,
Hemmingway, I’ve got work to do.

The spaghetti sauce boils over.
He goes back to his desk, sifting through
the elements of style, leaving me
alone with my thoughts, and the anise.

 

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