He arose early, the morning tinged with excitement,
eager to be at his desk. He had toast and eggs, cigarettes
and coffee, musing all the while on the work ahead, the hard
path through the forest. The wind blew clouds across
the sky, rattling the leaves that remained on the branches
outside his window. Another few days for them and they'd
be gone, those leaves. There was a poem there, maybe;
he'd have to give it some thought. He went to
his desk, hesitated for a long moment, and then made
what proved to be the most important decision
he'd make all day, something his entire flawed life
had prepared him for. He pushed aside the folder of poems-
one poem in particular still held him in its grip after
a restless night's sleep. (But, really, what's one more, or
less? So what? The work would keep for a while yet,
wouldn't it?) He had the whole wide day opening before him.
Better to clear his decks first. He'd deal with a few items
of business, even some family matters he'd let go far
too long. So he got cracking. He worked hard all day-love
and hate getting into it, a little compassion (very little), some
fellow-feeling, even despair and joy.
There were occasional flashes of anger rising, then
subsiding, as he wrote letters, saying "yes" or "no" or "it
depends" -explaining why, or why not, to people out there
at the margin of his life or people he'd never seen and never
would see. Did they matter? Did they give a damn?
Some did. He took some calls too, and made some others, which
in turn created the need to make a few more. So-and-so, being
unable to talk now, promised to call back next day.
Toward evening, worn out and clearly (but mistakenly, of course)
feeling he'd done something resembling an honest day's work,
he stopped to take inventory and note the couple of
phone calls he'd have to make next morning if
he wanted to stay abreast of things, if he didn't want to
write still more letters, which he didn't. By now,
it occurred to him, he was sick of all business, but he went on
in this fashion, finishing one last letter that should have been
answered weeks ago. Then he looked up. It was nearly dark outside.
The wind had laid. And the trees-they were still now, nearly
stripped of their leaves. But, finally, his desk was clear,
if he didn't count that folder of poems he was
uneasy to look at. He put the folder in a drawer, out
of sight. That was a good place for it, it was safe there and
he'd know just where to go lay his hands on it when he
felt like it. Tomorrow! He'd done everything he could do
today. There were still those few calls he'd have to make,
and he forgot who was supposed to call him, and there were a
few notes he was required to send due to a few of the calls,
but he had it made now, didn't he? He was out of the woods.
He could call today a day. He'd done what he had to do.
What his duty told him he should do. He'd fulfilled his sense of
obligation and hadn't disappointed anybody.
But at that moment, sitting there in front of his tidy desk,
he was vaguely nagged by the memory of a poem he'd wanted
to write that morning, and there was that other poem
he hadn't gotten back to either.
So there it is. Nothing much else needs be said, really. What
can be said for a man who chooses to blab on the phone
all day, or else write stupid letters
while he lets his poems go unattended and uncared for, abandoned-
or worse, unattempted. This man doesn't deserve poems
and they shouldn't be given to him in any form.
His poems, should he ever produce any more,
ought to be eaten by mice.