Sunday, April 23, 2017

There Is No Time, There Is No Time

If Arrival were a heist film....

A master criminal, the Boss, wants to crack the safe in the Gorgonzola Bank. The film opens with a planning session.

THE BOSS: All right, you lugs, listen up. As you can see on this diagram, the safe is in a lead-walled room, surrounded by a moat, surrounded by an electric fence, surrounded by a pit of crocodiles, surrounded by laser cannons, surrounded by a troupe of deadly circus mimes.

LUG: Boss, we'll never get in there!

Suddenly, the Boss and his lugs are standing before the safe.

LUG: But Boss, how did we--?

THE BOSS: There is no time, I have to figure out this combination. There is no time, there is no time, there is no time --

LUG: Boss, what are you doing?

THE BOSS: I'm applying the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis to alter my perception. There is no time, there is no time, there is no time --

Suddenly, the Boss finds himself at a fancy party, in the presence of Lon Gorgonzola, the banker.

GORGONZOLA: Even after all these years, I'm still amazed that you could just walk in there, spin the combination, and get it right on your first try. 7-7-7-4, just like that. How did you guess?

The Boss is back with his lugs before the safe.

THE BOSS: 7-7-7-4. And walla! The safe is opened!

LUG: What?!? How?!?

THE BOSS: It's amazing what language can do for you.

LUG: That's ridiculous!

THE BOSS: I don't perceive it as ridiculous. I perceive it as big-budget science fiction.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

One Bad Sonnet

Please point out any badly-chosen word,
My lapses of technique, my tortured form.
You say you have a knowledge of the norm,
And yet, your silence is the broadside heard.
Your criticism, welcomed for a third
And most emphatic time, would not deform
The growth of my intention. If a storm
Is what you have to offer, then be stirred.


Clay might froth and slide beneath a spate,
But deeper seeds take root, and they survive.
Rolling warps the structure of the skelp,
But bending brings a needed change of state.
Your promises of old remain alive;
A critic who says nothing is no help.

Let's take this dead thing apart to see how it died.

Although it is, in formal terms, a legitimate Petrarchan sonnet, and although its octave does rely on trochees and enjambment to break up the sing-song patterns of iambic pentameter, the sestet does not; as a result, the language on the whole seems rigid, stillborn.

This dead feeling is reinforced by a lack of concrete verbs. "Froth and slide" is not bad, but none of the other verbs brings imagery or texture to mind. For this reason, the sonnet feels less like a poem than a series of abstract statements.

As you can see, I'm no critic, but even I can spell out the flaws in a chunk of bad verse. As you can also see, I welcome criticism. I thrive on it. The one thing I cannot handle is the silence of those who promised to take my work apart, and then said nothing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Laconicism Cultivated and Applied

The fewest words can take us to the furthest point.
Laconicism, cultivated and applied,
Can lubricate creative will that pain has dried,
Bring purpose to the drifting dust, make yawns aroint.

Many would prefer to let the dull injoint
A lack of passion to a standard calcified,
But reader, let your energy be magnified:
Drag out the lords of tedium to disanoint.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Without You

Without you, I bring only half a voice:
The weaker half that dreams, or spins a tale;
The half that speaks in text and rhyme; the pale
And charmless remnant stuck without a choice
Of harmonies for singing, to rejoice
In double meaning or in shared wassail;
The broken sound of someone who must flail
Through metaphors of charcoal and turquoise.


Without your public half, I am adrift
When faced by numbers in a happy crowd,
While greeting strangers on the road of night.
Mute before the many, with no gift
For pleasantries or pleasing talk, aloud
I lack your sociability and light.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Glider Panic

I would rather do anything else than write this, and so, of course, I'll write.

Early on Wednesday, I felt isolated, insecure, and this prompted me to glance at the Facebook page of my last girlfriend. Because we are no longer friends, most of her page is hidden to me, but I did notice a new collection of photographs devoted to a March blizzard, one severe enough to stop all travelers, except for her "champion," the man she loves.

Then I felt as I once did when I was in a glider, caught in a wild thermal, carried higher and higher as the pilot beside me struggled to bring us back to the ground. Far below us, a plowed field was losing its topsoil to the wind, and the column of its loss rose like a volcanic plume, gone forever into the sky.

I had always known that she would find someone else, because a woman like her had so much to offer to any man with eyes and emotions. I also knew that her happiness mattered to me, that I would never want for her to be alone. I knew these things, but I still felt that glider panic, I still saw that loss to the sky.

Then I realized that Facebook had not brought me to her page, but to a choice of pages from women who shared her name. This woman and her champion of the blizzard live in Qu├ębec, while my last girlfriend lives on the other side of the continent.

But for the rest of the day, and for the night that followed, I still felt as if I were caught in that unforgiving sky. Even if she has nobody now, the odds are good that she will again, someday.


And if that is what she wants, then that is what I want for her. The whole point of her leaving was to follow her needs of the heart, and to find what she could never find with me. She gave me the happiest years of my life, and I would never deny her a chance to find similar years of her own.

I only wish the ground were not so far away.