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.
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.
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.