1. What’s left to say? Here I am, dismal and dissatisfied for no good reason, prowling old notebooks, ready to plagiarize myself or anybody. Yesterday I boasted of my skill at breaking down cardboard boxes, at knocking things down, sending them off and believing them gone.
2. Don’t lose hope, Jeffrey, says the message from the former president.
3. The beauty of windmills, an awkward and pragmatic beauty, like the heron’s or the stork’s. Years in the making, expensive and complicated, engineered and calculated, requiring access roads and giant cranes, buried cables and many tons of concrete poured and then hidden. They seem lonesome even in their togetherness, blades thrumming their monotonous notes, cupping the invisible wind, sifting for power, changing one energy into another.
4. All this while I’m waiting for B. who’s seven minutes late, who asked me to read her summer chapters which are full of typos, dull description, and tedious adjectives. What will I tell her anyway? What harm will another humdrum, self-published novel do to the world?
5. All this in the prison of privilege, one modestly tedious day after another. Every day I hear of a new poem, a new book, by somebody diverse in one of six or seven ways that I am not. I read some of these, and love some of them. What’s left to say?
6. This spring for once I put the cages on the tomatoes right when I planted them. The next day I found three of them bent, twisted, scattered, and when I told M. she remembered some young guy walking through the back yard the night before, he must have stumbled into them in the dusk, got mad enough to fling them around. I found one in the snow peas and two others crumpled as if it were their fault for being in his way through my garden in our backyard when he passed through on his way God knows where, drunk or high or love-blind or full of hormones and conviction, did he scratch a hand, a knee, bruise a shin, swear, commit the unpardonable sin, tell his beloved when he reached her at last?
7. The world is smarter than we are, my friend Erin told the students. No, she said the workis smarter than we are. It must be true, though I’ve spent my life thinking I’m smarter than most people. Yet I’ve also known I lack the greed and meanness of the truly great, the magnitudeI mean, not the qualities themselves. My emotions, like my trials, are petty and minor and Midwestern. So be it.
8. But then. I could have a swollen testicle and have to skip the big bike ride on Sunday. I could have five adjunct sections of freshman comp at three different schools. I could be trying to convince myself to stay with a guy who’s beating me up, or leave a guy who’s beating me up. I could have to walk three miles for water. I could live in a country ruled by a mean, bitter, ignorant, self-absorbed would-be tyrant.
9. B. showed up just before lunchtime, apologetic. She went to work out and just forgot, can we still meet, when. We toss some times around. She’s busy. I hate giving up my lunch hour, but we agree, lunch on Monday. She tells me then that she wrote the terrible first chapter, the pages of tedious and adjective-soggy description, three years ago. She knew it was lame but couldn’t bring herself to edit it, she forgot to tell me, she was embarrassed. The pools of pink liquid still have to go. The boy can’t be homeless and living in a shack at the same time. Still, the girl and her sister are both pretty good, the underground cavern, the village full of crystals. And the windy mayor, we agree, must disappear, but the snails on the windowsills have to stay.
Jeff Gundy’s seven books of poems include Abandoned Homeland (Bottom Dog, 2015) and Somewhere Near Defiance(Anhinga, 2014), for which he was named Ohio Poet of the Year. His most recent prose book is Songs from an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace (Cascadia, 2013). His essays and poems appear in The Sun, Kenyon Review, Forklift, Ohio, Christian Century, Image, Cincinnati Review, Terrain, and many other journals. A 2008 Fulbright lecturer at the University of Salzburg, he teaches at Bluffton University in Ohio.