Email To A Speculative Poet

Dear B –

You were right to totally ignore those messages from me asking about how to get published. I googled “using Goodreads to promote your work” and there’s a big instructional section.  My publication problems are a thing of the past! – I probably just need one of those algorithm-software thingies.  Anyway, I’ve been reading my Hemingway lately.   I think it’s called… Islands in the Steam?


I served with Hemingway.  I knew Earnest Hemingway.  Hemingway was a friend of mine.  You’re no Hemingway.

Yeah, right. But compadre, in your last email I looked for a kind word from you, maybe about my son’s chicken pox or my wife’s skillful illustrations for my comic novels.  Instead, I get just more announcements of your latest poetry awards and regarding my work, a ninja shiriken in my left eye with the word “silly” incised on it. 

Old man, don’t start with your griping. We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.

You’re uncivil, B.  And what do you know about funny anyway?     

So: I have aroused you. Good. Anger is a good and true thing. Have I stirred in you any aspiration to quality? In your first novel there were traces of seriousness. Must I yell, Don’t be a fucking hack!!?

Don’t shout in the Floridita. What are you drinking?

Another double frozen daiquiri without sugar. It is a good drink. An honest drink.

Pour it up your nose. I bring some levity into the world, as opposed to your bleak landscapes of horror and despair, and you insult me.

You’re lying. I never said you were a hack. You  wrote that just now. Liquor disorients you, my friend. I said your Legion Ayers character wasn’t my cup of tea.

You called it silly. Don’t try to walk it back. You know what’s silly? Your ‘Chrononaut Inductees’ poem. And not funny either. EXODUS, STAGE LEFT is funny.  Sentence after sentence is funny. It moves. It careens. You and every 30-something agent in New York are fucking funny-deaf. Bunch of goddam Wasps is what you are.

You are wrong. I understand funny. Sometimes I put the barrel of a shotgun in my mouth, just for laughs.

And you didn’t say word one about my voices in the audio sampler: the Shakespearean intro, Legion as a Jewish P.I., Moses, the British fop, Suhad the Arabian goddess, Ramses II, the old Mississippi black dude. I’m doing all the voices and the mixing too.

It’s not about praise from me. It’s about artistic integrity, about endless suffering under the whip of creativity’s unforgiving lash.

I’m fucking Mel Brooks, and I’m going to die unknown.  B, you deserve Florida. Wait – you deserve Japan, I deserve Florida. Japan is dark, the Japanese are depressed. The grimacing nightmare people on the subways, you’d love them. I should be on Miami Beach with wealthy retired Jews who dig my stuff and offer to represent me.  

You’re drunk and out of control my friend. Rico! Another daiquiri for Arnolfo el Sensitivo.

The audacity. Did you ever watch yourself go by? You’ve been consumed by the dark things you spawned on the page and become an encrusted relic, a self-preoccupied flatulence.

I would rather be a fart than, like you, wallow in farce. But we must take this dispute outside now, man-to man. Finish your drink and follow me out to the dock.

I’ll dance circles around you until you collapse in a heap, old man, even if I am 70. Fly here to Tokyo. I’ll skewer you with a single yakitori stick. I loved writing my Legion Ayers novels. Legion flowed out of my fingers like honey. Now you have been instrumental in my losing the desire to write!! And what about my new, more serious novel about Barack Obama’s multiple personality disorder and the Iranian terrorist who’s into Marvin Gaye? I was 165 pages in and I can’t even open the Word file any more.

Well, the sun also rises…

Wait – my hand! Look at the back of it, aged and shrunken. The tendons protruding from withered skin as purpled veins worm their way across a desiccated landscape of sere flesh. It’s all so…so Bostonian!  Anyway, what were we talking about?  

You’re talking. I stopped reading this drek after the third paragraph.

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

Still not funny.  

You ready for another daiquiri?

No. I’m done. And you must stop drinking as well. I will pour seawater over the back of your neck now. It has been 20 minutes since the marlin sounded and he will surface again soon.

No he won’t. Marlin aren’t dolphins. They don’t have air holes.

I thought they did.

No, they’re like fish or something.  But pour the seawater on me anyway.

I will. The sun is very hot.

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