This morning, I sit in the car, listen to the famously homespun man from my home state reciting a poem called “Lonely Lake.” Reportage of a beautiful, silent experience with an unnamed Other, every moment soaked in that familiar longing for God knows what and humorless attention to the world’s detailed confirmation of nominal meaning, the poem recalls nothing so much as poems like it. Busy not working, the poet has noticed the world around her, sponged it all up, contemplated, tested experience against its anticipated description. She has crafted something carefully small, flawless as a photograph of sunlight in water. Still, I sit in the car, in the air busily soaking up the lukewarm rain now that the air conditioner is off, let the careworn voice chant the poet’s last few lines, my breath chuffing protest of predictability. Stepping out into the street, I look across the park at the sun holding up the rain clouds beyond the trees, thrusting daylight toward me, at the water birds stalking the grass. Everyone else spends the moment somewhere dry and out of sight, as if the scene is mine alone. Is there a more tempting way to look at a landscape? As if I’ve come so far for good reason? As if I’m supposed to do something about all this.
Do not, I repeat not read that interview with the writer instead of not reading it. And don’t go back to Google when you’re done, don’t see there’s another farther down the page that might be better. Do not read the other one since maybe the first is just him responding to the wrong questions. Yeah, the second has better questions, more interesting answers, but he’s still keeping the magic all to himself, and the inspiration you thought you’d get from hearing how a book you loved got made will only reveal how shallow that love is. Don’t think that maybe the book wasn’t so good after all, that it maybe says that same thing over and over, that we’re just who we are and that’s it, since the world doesn’t allow much else, and certainly don’t waste any time worrying that your own book might not even say that much. Don’t realize away your innocent experience of the story when you experienced it, now that you begin to see the mind that made it, and don’t worry about the politics of your own unwritten story. Do not, not now or later, wonder what he would think of the people in your world, the ones struggling to live on the page, the others still unimagined. Do not confuse his book that exists with yours that wants to, don’t make that confusion an excuse to stall progress. Don’t imagine anything but more things happening in your own world. Don’t have a conversation with the writer, and do not, if you do, turn it into an argument. Don’t try to parse his faux humility, actually certainty that some just got it and some just don’t.
The best poem I read all week, new graffiti appears in the bathroom of the coffee shop. A rectangle of Sharpie ink holds a heading, Petition To Kiss The Jonas Brothers, and three entries in the same hand. The first is obscured by crayon or lipstick, some waxy stuff the color of a new bruise. It’s hard to imagine anyone but whoever is under the substance being the one who put it there, satisfied then that the joke is no longer on her or him. Names two and three, Angie B., Airplane, stay slapped onto the wall in plain view, apparently unnoticed, or undamning, or still eager for those fraternal kisses. Then, underneath, in some shakier hand’s pencil, two more additions: Excited Pedaphile. Sex. Like some British comedians’ absurdist sketch, the list has quickly careered out of control, the penciled genius turning the joke inside out, into infantility itself, a destructive commentary that assembles some new form. It’s hard not to imagine the thoughts of other coffee drinkers who notice me walking out of the bathroom, then right back in to linger on the names one more time, making sure I have them right in my mind.