I waited for a week for the pens to arrive
anticipating the fantastic poems I would write
because, really, the best poems I ever wrote
were done with black gel pens, 20 years ago.
Poems festered in my head, unborn, but waiting
for those pens to arrive. It would be a literary
hurricane at my desk when those pens showed up
all the poems in me, trying to get out.
Another week passed and the pens still hadn’t arrived
hundreds of poems pushed against me, single words,
whole phrases, I could picture myself writing
in the back yard under the tree
I could picture it perfectly, but not without the pens.
When week three had passed, I started to panic
could feel poems from the weeks before fading, replaced by inferior ones
I called up the vendor, who couldn’t understand my panic
said he’d send out a new shipment—
it’d be here in a week.
It should have changed my life. I watched him
hunched over his work, hours spent
imparting tiny grains of colored sand with intricate thoughts
on the ground, drawing blue flowers, red flowers,
one giant flower, covering the ground. It was so beautiful
I would have given anything to roll the whole thing up
and take it home with me.
But the wind took it minutes
after it was done, smearing great swaths of color against itself until
it was nothing but a disfigured, slightly grayer smudge against the blondness
of the desert sand.
The little man stood up, smiled at me, and walked slowly away.
It should have changed my life. I should have taken it away with me,
his lack of artistic conceit, his willingness to
let his day disappear in the pursuit of beauty, but just the beauty of the moment.
Be here now, and only now. Be here now here now here now here now.
I fully intended to go home and erase everything I had ever written
that day, that week, Siberian year, in my life, because filled as I was
with the artist’s apparent satisfaction at the act of creation
and only in the act of creation, I figured that taking pleasure in just writing
should be enough for me, too. I sat
at my desk for hours, staring at page after page of hastily-scribbled poems,
notes, stories, books almost started and those almost finished
and couldn’t do it. I failed. I wanted to. I want to be free
of these suitcases of loose paper, immolate my dreams,
dissolve the part of me that was saved in those notes
but I haven’t the strength to let go.