Fireside Chat

I never doubted

Though surely I feared

That all I’d earned

Might disappear

The spigot can’t stop

‘But it can’ says fear

Who inches closer

As I hold hope near

Though silent she waits

Tucked under my arm

Assuring and wasting

My gifts and her charms

So parry and feint

I say to myself

Fear goes first

And offers her help

‘What matters my dear

What you surely must know

That here where you sit

Is easy and slow’

Nestled securely

Hope at my side

Fear made sense

Silent was pride

Though wisdom is surely

Fears winsome tone

Something inside

Grew restless and moaned

‘Fear, you old fart

What tricks you belie

Speaking of ease

As if she divine’

Ease is a fretful

And leery companion

Easy to welcome

Hard to abandon

‘Fear you must think

Me silly and twee

I surely know you

But you hardly know me’

‘Ease is a wasteful

Wanton old fool

But slow has none

Of her restful appeal’

‘Slow’ I laughed

‘Sparks nothing you heel’

Fear reeled back

Hope grew in my lap

The balance was shifting

But that wouldn’t last

Desperate fear gathered

Her strength on the ledge

Found logs for the fire

And rested her head

Finding her balance

She lazily said

‘You almost got me

But I still see your dread’

‘Your dreams are not real

Your not up to the task

Whatever you dream

It won’t come to pass’

Using my weakness

She scored such a blow

Hope hid behind me

I stared at my toes

Defeat settled in

And made a quick home

Shoulder foundations

Dimming the gloam

What confidence appeared

Left in an instant

I forgot that my fear

Knew my greatest weakness

Quiet I sat

for weeks it seemed

Feinting and faking

What I’d always been

A valid and winking

Preposterous self

Who faked his way to

The top middle shelf

Who only need fear

To settle, abate

Dragging self doubt

To add to the weight

But though she hid

Hope never was absent

Though silent she surely

Wanted for presence

But quiet I waited

Til fear took a nap

Finally betraying

Her weak, gentle grasp

Quiet I whispered

To my partner hope

I knew she was stronger

Than fears loosened ropes

So I fed her and nursed her

And quietly whispered

To hope all the dreams

My fear had withered

Hope found a ledge

Toes found purchase

In stoking my dreams

While fear lie useless

We worked and proved

Our dreams to ourselves

Plotting and planning

Like off season elves

But as we grew strong

We started to stumble

Would fear bring with her

Our final tumble

Feeding and building

And growing in strength

We finally committed

And slowly embraced

Our fear as she lie

Dormant by slumber

Embraced by the arms

Who needed her thunder

I drew her closer building courage

‘Fear’ I quietly spoke in her ear

‘Don’t worry, it’s hope and I

Who draw you near’

‘We will not release you

That you must know.

But worry not

You’ll come where we go.’

Fear jerked and jumped

Writhed in our grasp

Not knowing what strength

We’d built while she napped

‘Unhand me you slob

You ungrateful jerk.

I was trying to help

Your inevitable work.’

‘How do you figure?’

I started to blurt

But hope held my hand

And helped me divert

The rage that fear

Could bring to my bile

Reminded me of

Fears useful desire

‘You aren’t whoever

You think you are fear.

Hope has taught me

To limit and steer’

‘How can hope know

Fears mighty purpose?’

She blurted

Exposing her delicate surface

‘Fear you aren’t a driver here.

Now listen to me and sit in the rear.

I’ll call you to service when it is heeded

For now your presence is all that is needed’

So hope and I turned our eyes to the road

While fear settled in and shared the load

A tool that is useful to stoke the fire

That hope shall tend with me as the driver

The Sport of Writing

‘I mean, c’mon. It’s his focus. I mean look at him. He’s really flowing you can tell. it’s in his posture. Some people say body language doesn’t mean anything, it’s all hokum. But fuck that. He’s on fire. I can’t wait to see what comes out of this.’ Flip Barton pronounced.

Burt Hartley, arms folded let it fly past. Who’s to say, really. Without anything else to go on he could be right. And there was no denying the motion. That was fact. It might all be gobbledygook, but it was certainly coming out pretty quick and fairly steady. Still, he wouldn’t concede. For all that the talking heads credited to ‘process’ there was not real direct line you could spot in the moment, especially watching on TV. In a crowded bar no less. 

‘I don’t know man. Maybe.’, said Burt with the air of an arbiter entitled to an opinion on the matter. ‘I mean there’s no denying the pace. That said, pace is not correlated with quality. Some guys have both, but it’s a fools game to presume causation. More often it’s correlation. That said, I’m more struck by the focus. He seems oblivious to his own context. A passenger on a journey of his own making. If nothing else, he’s certainly lost in it.’

  They’d been arguing the point for years. Simple analysis versus informed interpretation. More often than not the odds favored Burt. He was the one with some context after all. His novels weren’t trendy, though they had an audience. Not a consistent one, but a big enough one to be sure. Besides, his two short story collections had won awards and were nearly perfectly scored on the aggregating sites. 

‘A passenger on a journey of his own making? Really.’ Flip wasn’t one to let that kind of puffed up nonsense just float. 

But before Burt could even turn his head to try to save face the air left the room. The noise had stopped and the afternoon crowd here for the Scriptships were stunned. 

‘Well, that’s a first.’ Flip said, eyes locked on the screen over the bar.

Liston Maize was frozen at his keyboard. 

‘Listen to Parnell. If anything I think his pace is picking up.’, said Burt. ‘I mean, shit. That’s focus. Show him.’ 

‘Are you kidding me. Maize has never edited in a first draft before. Is he reading or deleting? Jesus. What a disaster.’, said Flip.

After a few minutes the ambient noise of the day drinking revelers who had hoped to see a truly competetive match succumbed to the simple pleasures of day drinking with like minded friends as the network scrambled to make the analysis of a match already decided compelling. 

Back in the booth Flip and Burt continued the dance they had been dancing for years.

‘Truth is there’s been signs.’, argued Burt.

Flip laughed. ‘You’re going to try the ‘called it’ maneuver on Liston Maize melting down in the Pen Ultimate. Honestly man, come on.’ 

Burt chuckled. ‘No, but that’s fair. I’m just saying, he hasn’t been ‘Liston Maize’ in years. I’m not saying I saw this coming, but come on, we can’t be that surprised. I mean, he’s out of shape, he’s drinking again and did you see how early he went to the glasses. He’s like late 80’s Kareem or mid 80’s Stevie Wonder. His best days have been behind him for a while is all I’m saying.’

Flip had long since given up their fantasies of writing competitively. Or rather they had put them away in their drawers and on their desktops. Still, it was a national pastime to imagine yourself on that stage. 

‘I just wish they’d move it from Oxford. The south is rich with writers but putting it there permanently dismisses the New England School. And even the suggestion that it is insulting to the Yanks is laughable when you consider the western traditions. Sure they ain’t as long, but Hollywood was recruiting early and that sweep spread the word out west. What about the cowboy poets.’

They both smiled. The long days journey had them now squarely in the midst of the night. Boozy and bored they knew that when the ‘Cowboy poets’ were argued for they’d reached the end of their evening. 

It was like that every year. Not the extraordinary and disappointing fall of a great like Maize. No, this competition, this historic day for watching creative intellects perform was a part of the fabric. No amount of stories about PED’s and drug fueled creative binges was ever going to stop the masses from indulging in the sport of it all, the pageantry. And surely, for Flip and Burt a night like this would fuel weeks of midnight toiling, play acting like the masters. It would fuel months of hope as they worked to create anything that might give them a moment in the sun. A moment that would never happen for the tens of millions who dreamed. But the dream was the prize. The work was enough. And until next year, well, they’d have a lot to talk about.