by Richard Bentley

street-smYou haven’t heard of me yet, but my name was once linked to a poet named Edward Starling. Starling gave me a brave name, some stanzas, and a few similes.

Starling and I were ambitious. He wanted to be a famous poet, and I wanted to be a famous poem.

We met at a writers workshop in upstate New York. I was smitten. He was young, tall, and athletic, like a trapeze artist at the circus. He held me for a while as we swung wildly above the crowd. Then he tried to flip me to the next trapeze artist who was an editor at the Pig Iron Review. I was rejected. I tumbled through dark space, into a floppy safety net of inconsequential adverbs and mystical observations.

Still, I had another life coming.

Harlan Winslow gave me a title. It quite minimalist. He called me Poem. Were we as a love affair or just a literary friendship? He scoured his notes, hoping to improve me. He seemed tortured by me. He read me over and over as if I were a prayer. I spoke back to him. I was teaching him how to write, but he gradually got the idea that he was going to starve unless he made money on his art. My best friend at the time was a limerick named There was an Old Man with a Nose who had escaped from one of those children’s books. Old Man with a Nose was also looking for a new author. We created some stanzas out of exotic symbols we knew—like sun, wave, stars, and sand. We placed them in Winslow’s mailbox along with some crayons and paper. We anticipated a response. We waited and waited until we forgot about him.

When you are a poem, no matter what you mean to say, or when you mean to say it are indistinguishable. It may be time to leave the circus. But even indistinguishable poems possess meanings. We poems drift across the earth, seizing poets even as they walk down the streets past pizza stands and parking meters. We live in art galleries, auditoriums, bookstores, malodourous bars, the gray keys of laptops, blogs. We live in notebooks bent in poets’ pockets. Sometimes we can be seen popping pills and laughing over what a poet just wrote, wondering which lines we find insulting and which are pure joy.

I always thought, “Oh, if only I could crawl inside the head of a man and eat his thoughts, then I will begin to live my life.”

I met Jerry on a computer dating-service network designed for poems and poets. He became my romantic ideal. He was both beat and beast and he scared me. He was very tall and his eyes were green. We found a small apartment in an old house in Amherst, Massachusetts.

We live there now. I follow him around while he thinks about me and mumbles me. Some days he thinks he has written poorly, but I tell him, “You can always go back. You can learn to change me with a little grace. That’s the point. That’s love. That’s bliss.”


Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing