when I wanted to be Johnny

When I was fifteen years old
someone asked who I wanted to be
when I grew up
and there was only one guy
I could think of
so I said
“I want to be just like

Johnny –”

— Johnny Carson

not because I wanted to
be a TV guy
who wore great suits
and lived in Los Angeles, California
(which was a long way from…
Minden, Nebraska
and far from Las Cruces, New Mexico
and far from Hibbing, Minnesota
and St. Charles, Iowa
and Laughlin, Nevada…

where I grew up…)
but maybe it was because
Johnny was so much unlike
Uncle Morris, who
drank each evening, and
lost the farm to the bank
and lost his wife to a charlatan
and his children to The County.

Perhaps it was because Johnny,
exuded behemoth cool
with the cigarette carefully hidden
beneath the desk
(the minimalist)
each breath measured and timed
that reassured me each night
at ten thirty (Central Time)
that sanity ruled

after all.

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nothing left to do but to write about it

When there is nothing left to do

but to write about it,

you’ll know it — because:

The locks must be changed,

and you’ll find the keys to the Subaru,

in the mailbox,

and the flower bed,

has been desecrated,

with a sharp instrument,

and the last flight to Philadelphia,

the one that departed 20 minutes early,

is now over Cincinnati.

It’s then you’ll find:

Your driver’s license

book marking a page in

Nabakov’s Quartet, and

you’ll find your Certificate of Live Birth

mixed with the unpaid bills.

You’ll find Captain Crunch cereal

in the dog bowl.

You’ll find crumpled cigarette packs

in the freezer,

and refried beans from the Taco joint

in the blender.

 

When there is nothing left to do

but to write about it

you’ll find out that:

Your attorney is under indictment,

your physician is in restraints,

and a politician of lofty stature,

is called a war criminal.

And you’ll read that:

A young man died last night,

downtown,

with a gun in his hand,

while an old man wandered off,

to die on the tracks.

And some young girls have gone missing,

and more soldiers have died,

while insurgents have been repelled,

and rebels have been armed,

and more dusty capitals defended.

Losers have suffered heavy losses,

while the winners toast their gains.

And in Hollywood, California,

a has-been actor died yesterday,

of remorse, bitterness, and old age,

his body carted off to the County morgue.

And there’s not a damned thing left to do

but to write about it.

Blasting it out

“There’s no rule on how it is to write. Some days it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.” — Ernest Hemingway; 1953

As both of my readers here know, I have written a bit lately about the creative process, or lack thereof. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in a blog post that the poet Julia Vinograd compared writing, when things were going badly, to falling, as when things were going well it was much like flying. Shortly after that post, I came across the above quote from Old Hem’ himself, a man who no doubt had some good days writing as well as some bad ones. I’d copied these words into my notebook, under ‘inspirational quotes’, and forgotten about them. Not one to wimp out on a tough writing project, Hemingway didn’t take a day off to recoup at the day spa, meditate or to prune his bonsai tree. Nope, when the writing got rough, the Old Man got tough, by blasting through at all costs.

In any case, this quote resonates with me today. Earlier, as I was trying to find the perfect blog post to fill my weekly void I was drawing a blank. Maybe it’s the summer heat here in South Florida, or maybe I’ve inhaled too much of the smoke from the fires that are blazing in the Everglades a few miles distant, or maybe I’m distracted by the latest headline grabbing, senseless shooting, I don’t know, but today I decided to drill the holes and blast my way through.

That said, I am wondering if any of my fellow bloggers find that their motivation and creativity tends to ebb and flow with any kind of regularity. Could it be related to the cycles of the moon, the changing of the seasons, exposure to sunlight, or maybe it is related to some unexplained cosmic force? A writer friend told me that that he worked at his creative best for only about one week per month. The remaining three weeks of the month he felt that he was not working at his creative best, although his work output remained fairly constant. The longer I write, the more it seems there is some sort of regular pattern to creativity, although I cannot isolate it to one week per month.

If either of you have any thoughts on this, feel free to comment here.

Now, back to work for me…I have some holes to drill and charges to plant.

thirty eight fifty

One day last month

I put on a clean shirt

shaved and said

that today

I would write:

The Most Profound Poem

ever written:

so

I left 2 dollars on the

nightstand (for the maid)

and walked across A1A

to the Bamboo Bar

and ordered

the vanilla Eclair

from Claire

and I said:

today, great words

will be written about

important causes —

— causes

that must be addressed

and it will ALL start here

on the back of a cocktail napkin

conceived

in a wave of post-blackout

clarity,

such words will

inevitably

be read in Congress

and met with pious nods

and quoted by the President

before being met with

self-righteous indignation

by members of the opposing party

and decried as heresy

by the Vatican

and cause

street signs to be desecrated

in the Third World

and

billboards to be burned

and words of protest

to be painted by rebels

in lime green paint

across a railroad car in Honduras

and to appear

on the rear window of a 1954 Plymouth

on Obidos Street in Havana.

and nailed to the door of a police station

in East Timor

but Claire simply nods

and

sits my coffee before me

on a plain napkin

with a bill for 38.50

from last night.