The first time a teacher talks to your parents, not because they’re “concerned” about homework or timidity or lack of smile, but because the words you put onto paper were well-placed and worthwhile.
The first time you offer your poetry for criticism and the vultures tear into it, beak and claw and the hunched ruffle of feathers. They leave bones. And you think, “Thank God for the Carrion Eaters.”
when the air stills in your chest…
The puff of pride when, looking up at the person you’ve always looked up to, they pause to ask your opinion. And the humbling stumbling realization of flaws, the relief of knowing you can help.
The awed devastation of pens packed away, a book unfinished and buried at the feet of someone whose opinion mattered more. You know now how little your words matter. So you don’t say, “But you taught me better than that.” You mourn the dead, and move on.
and fingers fail…
A sheaf of papers, cheap ink on the back of rejected mimeograph, and brilliance. It’s looking up at a man who, effortless and unpracticed, has written something better than anything you will ever do. And it doesn’t matter which others have disappointed. He must keep writing. And the moment you realize he will not. He doesn’t bother with a grave. This book is memorialized in the trash heap.
And everything you do after, the stubborn pages, the awkward phrases, seem somehow cheap. You keep them anyway, unwilling, unable to do more.
and you’re done…
for the night but not forever.