Stalking the Rose

A note to Mister: It often comes to this. Of course, I love you. I’ve loved you in the darkest hours of the night, the thieves’ hours—when the world is asleep and stealing what I want is easy. An unlocked window, a child’s rocking horse close at hand, darling in its painted saddle, tufts of brown plush for a mane. I reach in and snatch it, no one awake to see, and the child doesn’t deserve it, not this precious little toy. I carry it under my arm, ditch it behind the dumpster, come back later or leave it. It’s easy and the world is asleep.

I slip in a back door, trip on a soured mop, catch the handle before it drops, move to the front, to the mailboxes, lift the little brass doors with my chewed thumbnail, rifle the envelopes for checks. Take what I need, take the love offered in the darkest hours, lift my hoodie, blow on my cold-stiffened fingers, slip out, soft. It comes to this often. I loved you then and now, tonight, when the fullest moon, the perigee moon makes you howl like a dog and you grovel on your purple couch and clutch your red and black hula hoop. Hang on, because, of course, I love you.

 I wrote a book, told you a story in the darkest hours, hours stolen from my four-poster bed with it’s down comforter and handmade sunburst quilt I bought in Solvang when I was alone, traveling on assignment to nowhere, nibbling pfeffernüsse. It was a daytime impulse, not a dark obsession like writing a book, not like you.

And, later, your memory with me in the dark motel room, I sensed you sniffing at the rosemaling tattooed on the drawer fronts and complaining about the wooden shoes planted with flowers. You were turning a phrase, talking about latex and restraints, turning my head with the story of the boy with a knife and cat eyes, while I worked saltine-flavored songs on my laptop. Now it’s done and I’m writing letters and flyers and press releases to tell everyone what we did in the thieves’ hours, offering to show them and buy and sell them, seduce them and make them mine. Of course I love you, but it has come to this:  

I wrote you letters and you read them, made vague grunts. And, I study your letters for clues about how to write, not sentences, but for state of mind, for emotion, for truth and heat, for the moment when the artist’s guard is down—like I did with Rilke, Anne Sexton, Conrad, Flannery O’Connor, Steinbeck and Hemingway, Joyce. I see the tangled path and try to follow with panting heart, treading the rocky trail, stumbling on roots and skinning my palms. And now, of course, I write again in the thieves’ hour because I’m done and afraid.

I worked today in the light, went to UC Davis and stalked the acres of experimental roses in full bloom with a Bakersfield pediatrician and plant pathologists. I talked with them about creating the perfect rose, about their private obsessions. Of course, I love them and I love you.

I’m trying to sit very still now. I wonder what’s going to happen? Tomorrow, I’ll get up with thieves and stalk and wait. I can’t sleep without you, without getting up to steal the writing and read the emails from everyone, from you.

Note: This post is inspired by an email from a gifted writer who works in a unique style, one that always intrigues me and sparks a creative reaction. I came home dusty and wind blown from the rose seminar, tired from walking the test fields, and read Stephen’s email, popped out a reflexive response–a melange of fact and fantasy. It’s a jazz riff, a variation on a theme.

About my obsession: Adrift in the Sound, should be available in paperback and ereader about June 1. I’ve also just published a slim book about the final editing of Adrift, co-authored with my editor, Tom Thomas. It’s a collection of emails between us that look at the collaborative process between writer and editor during a final book edit, it’s a peek behind the curtain, reality TV for writers, like the extra matter at the end of a movie, what the director or actors have to say about the project. Between the Sheets: An Intimate Exchange on Writing, Editing, and Publishing is available now through Amazon for ereader and in paperback.

And, while you’re reading, know, of course, that it often comes to this: I love you.

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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