I’ve been hanging out with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for the past two weeks. He wrote my favorite Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” He penned these words in the wake of the nightmarish death of his wife and the pending death of his son, his faith in God being put to the ultimate test.
Yesterday morning, I happened upon another Longfellow poem for the first time, “A Psalm of Life,” and was moved by its message. I chose the portrait above this post because Henry’s eyes are haunted with pain yet somehow still strong. Here is a partial line I’d like to share with my fellow writers: “Art is long, and time is fleeting.” (Please pardon the bold print. I HATE bold print!) Anyway, the rest of the poem makes these words stick. Read it for yourself and see.
I’ve been struggling to finish something of my own, a private work with aspirations of a hardback publication, something beautiful and unique, something encouraging with–at the very least–a hopeful ending, something with staying power. Time is fleeting. I pray to God that my art will be long.
The longevity of my words–or lack thereof (because whatever I wrote this morning happens to be as worthless, disappointing, and short-lived as a cheap sidewalk firecracker on a damp evening) caused me to ponder the nature of my content. I won’t share my thoughts on that subject right now because I’m minutes from turning out the lights and defragging my brain before I resume writing in the early morning. Besides, Jack is here, right next to me, hogging my side of the bed, farting hot sulphureous dog gas and I’m about to vomit. (BOLD again. My apologies.)
H.W. doesn’t approve of my vulgarities.
I don’t know. I’m looking around my not-so-cheap motel and I see three or more of maybe a handful of faithful fans. I bulk at the idea of promoting myself and there’s really nothing to promote. So I’m thankful for those of you who have gathered in this room. Room 106. Quality Inn. Where breakfast will be served in the morning but is always consumed by the time I arrive, pencil behind my right ear (even though I’m left handed), wrinkled jeans and bed head. This morning, I squirted out the last of the coffee from the thermos and it was cold and sounded like an ungodly C-Diff shit. Anyway, I didn’t invite any of you here tonight but I’m pleased by unexpected things. July is sitting in the corner seat pinching her nose (it was Jack, not me, I swear). Dragos is pacing the floor and not making eye contact (and I’m not going to ask him what’s on his mind because I’m afraid of the answer). Alan is quiet but supportive in the shadows. And Karen Barr, my mentor, is nodding her head with approvement at a renewed focus on better content. Hey, there’s Lance, a talented novelist, welcome.
I’m confessing to all of you that I’m really questioning the value of my words. Which is a good thing. I might re-post one or two or three of my earliest pieces that maybe none has ever read, some of my more innocent and virginal personal favorites.
No, Alan, I’m not drunk. I’m sober for the first time in a long damn time. I’m just sick of burning my throat with the straight stuff and of ruining relationships with my sloshy, uncensored, unfiltered, unanchored behavior and of passing out in the midst of writing something not worth keeping.
Anyway, I’m going to open a window and fall asleep with some Lion’s Mane on my brain and also double up on some Unisom (because, alas, I’ve no whiskey). I hope your dreams will be as vivid as mine. I’m disappearing into the sounds of a storm. As I drift, I imagine myself to be a tiny twig some child has launched as a boat into a street gutter of rushing rain water to see where it floats . . . hopefully not down a storm drain. (Stop smiling at that last line, Dragos.)