[the poem consists of the first lines of 22 books; each line is footnoted. If any of these lines leap out at you , run out and get the book(s). And if you’re ever in Galway, get over to Charlie Byrne’s (http://charliebyrne.com/). Gratitude, admiration, and apologies to each of the authors quoted here. Italicized lines are my own. ]
Scanning Books at Charlie Byrne’s
Wonderfully, it was the boy-[i]
The cancer-ridden only son of a dangerous driver who has thoughts about turning herself into a man[ii] -
Who saw the gods leave,
Wicking away like water off a skillet.
They departed on the day of the strange tide.[iii]
The plane was nearly empty.
Disease is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.[iv]
‘I’ve been knitting voraciously since I was seventeen.’[v]
He said this to a lover once.
‘I think it is what cured me.’
The premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help to solve the world’s problems: [vi]
It’s what he has replaced Them with
This boy now man
A book: 12 years in the writing
49 years in the making.[vii]
At first glance, it looks very similar to its predecessor[viii]
You can read the next one through the last.
He drives across Ireland,
A gentle rain, as light as breath,
That soaks him to the skin.
Surely They’re here somewhere;
Hiding is not the same as escape,
Except for when it is.
He settles for the cows.
Blind with highway hypnosis
He has pulled onto a muddy verge, stepped out, watches.
His glasses fog.
Cows have no need of gods, he thinks
They have no need of stories
For them, the present is sufficient
It’s never been for him.
One protests in the rain, the others are silent, damp, standing, pacing, lying down
Rain in their eyes
A waft of manure
Women in the river, singing.[ix]
Some that once were here are gone now
Others have yet to arrive
Tucked against their mothers’ flanks
Wondering why they’ve come
If cows wonder.
They don’t, he decides.
They merely are.
Unaccustomed to driving on the left,
He’d clipped a couple curbs
Little Left, Big Right
He couldn’t get too nervous, couldn’t think about how nervous
Or it would be all over.
Critical thinking is something we all do, but we are not necessarily aware of it.[x]
In Irish, this is what they’re called.
He makes a point of tackling the language
Of every place he’s ever been.
(A highly inflected and idiomatic language, Irish presents a great challenge for learners.)[xi]
I might be the villain of this story, he thinks. Even now, it’s hard to tell.[xii]
Words come first, a grid of squares, a puzzle on the plane:
2. Krishna __________
4. Dickens name[xiii]
People here temporarily,
For different reasons,
Fuzzy with jetlag.
The lives touch across time for a moment ,
Make a little knot of noise
Then go their separate ways
A handful of people
(the palm of God; He doesn’t care what you believe)
And finally, lives, some little moments that will someday go in stories:
Three days shy of her 15th birthday, Alison Pope paused at the top of the stairs.[xiv]
In the early 90s (it might have been 1992, but it’s hard to remember when you’re having a good time) I joined a rock-and-roll band composed mostly of writers.[xv]
You know, I try to be polite.[xvi]
Some that once were here are gone now
Others have yet to arrive:
On the evening of March 27, 1969,
My father was in Leningrad,
In pursuit of his advanced engineering degree.[xvii]
Nine days after Mama disappeared I heard she was throwing down with Shelton Potter.[xviii]
When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.[xix]
Do not set foot in my office.[xx]
I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.[xxi]
Both before he came here
And after he departs
Each of them has seen, will see
What he is seeing now.
Human life, so bound up in stories
That we are thoroughly desensitized to their weird and witchy power.[xxii]
Is that the form they’ve taken now, the fickle, absent Gods?
Perhaps they’ve been here all along
The hand-lift waves of passing drivers
The gods are maybe ours to conjure
Sure and the stories are ours to tell
Hanging here, in veils of mist
Before and yet to come
@Melinda Rooney, 2017, with acknowledgement to copyrights of quoted authors
[i] Ireland, Frank Delaney
[ii] Ithaca, Alan McMonagle
[iii] The Sea, John Banville
[iv] Mania, A Short History of Bipolar Disorder, David Healy
[v] Alterknit Stitch Dictionary, Andrea Rangel
[vi] Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa
[vii] Absent Voices, Rochelle Altman
[viii] The Pamphlet Debate: On the Union Between Great Britain and Ireland, W. J. McCormack
[ix] Arcadia, Lauren Groff
[x] The Art of Deception, Nicholas Capaldi
[xi] Irish Grammar, Nollaig Mac Congáil
[xii] The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai
[xiii] New York Times Sunday Crossword Omnibus, Vol. 2, Ed. Will Weng
[xiv] Tenth of December, George Saunders
[xv]On Writing, Stephen King
[xvi] We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
[xvii] The Book of My Lives, Aleksandar Hemon
[xviii]Sweetgirl, Travis Mulhauser
[xix]The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
[xx] Black Swan Green, David Mitchell
[xxi] Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
[xxii] The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall
The autofill text-message game goes like this.
Begin a text using only one initial typed word (for example ‘Hello’), then hit the space bar. Then complete the phrase with as many of the three autofill helper words that appear above the iPhone keyboard as will give you a complete sentence. Write as many sentences as you like, beginning each with an initial typed word, then autofilling.
Hello there you
How are you feeling
I’m sorry I didn’t get to see you today
I hope you are okay
I have to say
Something about the way you get to have what you want
Is not a good thing
The fact is
I have a little time for a good day
You can do that for me and I’ll be okay
The fact is
I am a good person to you
And I love that I am able to give you a good life
I hope you are most definitely not okay
But you don’t know what I want
Women should be able to make their own choices
Men have the most important things and they don’t know how to feel about it
Women are not going to be there for you
Men are not going to be there for you
Friends and family members have been there for about two days
But they don’t know what you want
Wives are not going to make you happy
Husbands are not going to make a big difference.
Children, of course, are the only reasonable ones
Babies make sure you do what they want
But they don’t know what you want.
I’m still trying to get it out there.
I’m still trying not to get it out there.
Lying is not a good thing, but
Truth is the only reason why I’m still here.
Lying is not going to make a big difference
Truth will make sure that you are not going to make a big mistake
There is nothing to say about that.
The fact that I’m still trying is just a thing that makes me sad
Speaking about how I was really trying to be a good person
Is the only thing I want
Promises are not the only thing that you can make.
Mistakes are easy too
A great way to get the right person.
Look at you and me
Look how well you can make decisions about how things will be
Pain can make you smile but it doesn’t make you happy.
So I’m not going to see you tomorrow
I’m not going to see you
Everything is okay
But I’m not going to see you again
I hope you have a great time with your family
I’m not going to be a bad thing for you
You can be my friend
Only if you don’t have a reason to believe that I love you anymore.
Life has not always been good for me but I’m still trying to figure it out.
Men who can make me feel like a good person are the only reason why I love.
But sadness is a way to be a good person, a reason why I love:
You are the only one who can be your own friend
Sex was the only thing that could make us feel better
You are able to hurt the only person that can make you feel
I’m sorry but it was just a bad idea
Loved the game but it’s not going to work
Wishing you all the greatest things
Wishing for the most amazing things to come to you
I hope you get to see the other side of your life.
©Melinda Rooney, 2017