A Great Writer Speaks – Fiction

“Writers write,” Herman Reisz informed the students, “in order to become a better writer, a writer must write—every day.” Reisz was one of America’s most renowned authors; his novel, No More Light for Scott, published in 1992, was an instant classic and read by every undergraduate studying English. Noted critics like Thomas Stulls praised the writer: “Reisz is perhaps the most significant writer of the last few decades. Not only do his words bludgeon the reader with their profundity, they are also of great import. Reisz is a tremendous literary gift; the same cannot be said of many.” Herman Reisz also lectured frequently at all the top state and private universities where he bequeathed young wannabees his ultimate wisdom.

“Writers MUST live life. Observe people. And, of course, write from the thumping in your chest.” As Reisz was proffering his knowledge he scanned the numerous faces, hungry and hoping to absorb some form of greatness from an aging man with spectacles. He knew that most of them were talentless. Most, he figured, probably wouldn’t be able to construct a memorable line or image, at least, not on purpose. And even the ones with talent, he knew, would most likely be swept-up by the trap that is academia. He was thinking all of this as he was lecturing. He was able to do the two things at once for he had given the same advice, in the same way, over and over. He likened it to the involuntary ease of blinking or eating with your mouth closed. Reisz didn’t hate what he had become—it was reality.

“The best writers bare their skin,” he heard himself say. Now he was watching one of the girls in the third row: Long, brown hair, head rested in her hands, green eyes gazing at him. “…they open themselves up. They have to. That is the obligation of those who wield the pen…” Reisz started wondering about how much that girl’s parents must of forked-over so she can have middling discussions about Blake or David Foster Wallace. And all to what end? So that hack writers can get paid to lecture for only the very few bother to even purchase their buy their pulp? We may never know…

“In addition to being ever-present with reality, the best writers also offer messages of grave significance…” Reisz didn’t know what that meant, and was certain that no one else did either, but they were lapping it up, he could tell. Maybe that girl really is interested in literature and advancing the art-form, he wondered. Perhaps, she is less interested in fame or becoming a “name writer,” like Toni Morrison, Dave Eggers, or Herman Reisz. But so what of it? Most people will most likely never read her work, either because there are too many other writers flooding the market, or because most readers don’t care about originality, but would much rather read something that agrees with their views or utter schlock.

This was when Reisz stepped away from the lectern and turned to the whiteboard. He picked-up one of the pens and scribbled something big enough so that everyone can see (and he underlined it, twice): It was the answer to everything, so if anyone couldn’t see (or read,) Reisz read aloud, “Cut the crap!” He ended every lecture the same way, and knew it was all nonsense. He also knew that, years from now, the books that he published that were so highly-regarded would never be read again for he knew that he wasn’t a very good writer. He had no talent, but he never did feel an ounce of guilt for pushing mediocrity. Reisz coasted through life, writing a few more nondescript books, eventually retiring somewhere within the mountains, waiting for his pleasant life to take its leave.

At the Park

I.

They move away from the sky
to surround a certain park bench.
Everyday, at noon, a hand is there
with the bread.

II.

A crow with a treasure
in its beak, hops away from the rest,
to a nearby puddle. It stares
at the water before dipping
its bread, and swallowing.

III.

Noon again, the birds wander
around the grass, heads cocking
and making noise–their hand is gone.

IV.

A head emerges from a hole
in the bush, its eyes wary
of the world’s movement.
Its furry body appears
in the open.

V.

Rabbits wait underneath
the park benches.  The swings
have stopped moving.

VI.

Squirrels journey from their tree,
past the bike wrapped in rust.

VII.

A small dog walks alone across the grass
followed by a pink leash, into
the brown hawk’s vision.

VIII.

The birds have flown,
marking the sky with their formations
and the rabbits cross the empty road.

Mausoleum

The prisoner woke-up and saw the usual grey and green brick walls. Every night he slept on a straw bed. He had a wooden stool that wobbled on the floor, and a window with a tree in it. This was his room, a home which he lovingly called his “Mausoleum.”

The first time he was cast into this room he was a man, defiant about not letting this suffocating hole shut out his dignity. First, he tried to accept this situation and look upon it objectively, forbidding emotion to drive him into despair. When he was marching down the hall to meet his prison the hall was filled with indignant screams, howling and groans from the other prisoners that occupied their own spaces. He didn’t want to be like that; he was a man. But that first night, when he was staring at the tree outside and the cold surface of the moon his stomach rebelled and turned to sickness. He wouldn’t eat the bowl of brown gruel and bread, and felt like a pathetic animal as he lied awkwardly on the straw. The air alternated between staleness and dampness and his neck gagged. The pain in his stomach was harsh and he could only yell and cry.

But now, he was no longer sick; he was no longer a suffering animal or a man adamant about dignity. He was a man who marveled at the tree outside and wondered what the previous occupants of his room thought of this tree. Surely, some fools saw it as a symbol of freedom. Perhaps a prince stared at the tree and felt it was placed there by sadistic hands, intent on mocking his utter downfall. The prisoner didn’t know better for he often looked at the tree both ways, disgusted, or consumed by joy as the wind moved the leaves.

Grey Afternoon

Will didn’t see anyone, but heard chattering from the windows he passed and the occasional yelp from a dog. It was a grey Saturday afternoon Will noticed; he also noticed that he didn’t go out at all during the rest of the month when it was sunny. He didn’t know why he was outside, walking along the street and trying to decipher the voices from windows; something compelled Will to do these things.

Will was walking toward the beach but realized he didn’t want to contend with the sand so he turned back down the street, passing more buildings. He felt silly, walking for no reason. Maybe he was in some sort of funk, but he wasn’t trying to clear his mind of anything—life was swell for the most part. Will was thirty-nine. He had a stable job. He had money to survive and time for himself. Will looked at the buildings. Will lived in a nice place. He was lucky.

Even though the buildings blocked the ocean the waves could still be heard. A calmness rolled into Will, but Will was already calm.

He returned home. Things were tidy. It didn’t take long for him to make and eat dinner. Will passed the time somehow and he eventually found himself in bed. Will lied there for an hour until a few thoughts wedged themselves between him and the possibility of sleep. They were terrible thoughts. Will tried to shove them away, but they only deepened. He tried to tire his eyes out by staring at the dark ceiling, hoping sleep would follow.

Trifecta: Week 112 

Emil Bennett at the Beach

Tries to escape through summer’s haze,
but only recalls the room some years ago:
students speaking of Antigone and he
finally uttering a thought, but his thought
Is thought superfluous. A silence entering
Bennett. Bennett becoming that silence. 

Heads bob over waves, another couple
passes. Bennett on his bath towel,
burying his fingers in the sand,
legs pointing toward the sea.

But now he is there, watching
the muttering old man
with his metal detector.
The old man stops, his ugly
voice hushes, and bends
down to meet the Earth.
He wonders what is there. 

The folks at Poetry Circle really helped me out with this one. 

Within my Window

One of them still skips over
the road barely seeing
grime lining the gutter. 
Another throws a can
at a passerby. A group
of them shambles by,
some eyeing my clean
window. (They can’t see
my face.)

The children cry and laugh
in their march, through years
chosen by others–they lived
through centuries of hunger’s
panging.

But we’re allowed to finally go;
the driver takes us to the country
where we can fade within the lush
and ordinary.     

Inspired by Vidya Panicker’s 

View from the window of an air-conditioned car