DEAR ASPIRING POET

by David Arthur Walters

Dear Aspiring Poet, Much has originated from the brief intersection of our lives at the Internet cafe on Kapahulu Boulevard on that sunny Sunday morning in Paradise some time ago. I remember you well. You asked me if I were a writer. I answered affirmatively, and you revealed yourself as the same, in a soft voice barely audible over the clickety-clacking of the surrounding keyboards. I glanced at the sleeping fellow with purple hair on the couch, and wondered what the hourly rack-rate might be for sleeping there. I turned to you and remarked on the "spiritual" quality of our present premises. You returned with, "Yes, and despite the technology too." To which I retorted, "The transmission of truth doesn't require a modem, and is apprehended by sleeping babies in the womb." You said you were not very sure of yourself as a writer, that your critics claim your prose is pretty bad politics. On the other hand, your poetry is evidently genuinely appreciated: you received an invitation to read it again at Barnes & Noble. I was quick to counsel you from my amateur's seat of authority. I asked if poetry is where your Heart is, because that is where you must go to be free. I said I'd received a poem from my father, of merely twelve lines, but it spoke volumes. Your inevitable question followed, "Is he published?" I answered: "Well, a few of his poems have appeared in print and have won prizes, but that's beside the point of his sixty-five years of polishing them, then stuffing them back into the trunk for future perfecting. After all, to begin with, the artist must be free of market demands." My respect for trunked poetry did not seem to impress you with a prospect for your immediate success, so I switched the subject to prose as follows. You said, when I mentioned my father's brevity, that you didn't like wordy poems. I emphatically declared Creation itself to be poetry, and effused: "Good prose is a river singing the same song no matter where one stops by its banks to listen, a song of love that is worthy of infinite repetition." You were quiet then, but from the silence I thought I heard a plaintive, whispered cry, for a bridge to close the heart-rending gap of alienation. I dearly wanted to find the most direct path to communication. Perhaps my thoughts and feelings were not my own, for we have our language in common. Yet you were professedly thinking of something else at the time. You said you thought you were already old at thirty-something. Ah, there it is again, I mused, the overriding fear of time; thirty-something people may still not trust themselves, and do not appreciated how long they still have to go. With that in mind, I wondered what more I could say on the spur of the moment. I presented to your ears a wee monologue on how I write, a subject of small apparent interest to you, but I went on nevertheless.
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"I write free of time constraints because I know I am part of all that came and went and will come. I merely pass on the royal lines of my race," I related. "That alone suffices for me, and if none care to read me, I am contented with writing for my muse alone, for writing is my transcendental meditation." You seemed to have had enough of my outpouring by then, as if in your quest for a personal solution you cared not to hear of mine. I've had the same feeling with advisors who are always eager to tell me how to run my shop. In any event, I liked you. You were obviously quite shy, so to be discreet rather than pushing for your phone number, I presented my card, and I promised that, if you would send me something of yours, then I would mail you something of mine. I should have pressed you for your phone number. I heard nothing from you during yet another silent epoch in my life with strangers in paradise. I have so many words held for such a long time in abeyance that I am moved to jot these down. Perhaps your letter will come after all, and then this reply will be almost completed when it arrives. I continued on my way to the beach on that sunny day of our meeting. As you know, writers often write mentally when not actually writing – blind Milton used to cry out desperately in the night for his faithful wife to come and record his pent-up lines. As I strolled along, strange voices crowded out my own thoughts: "We are the dead alive, the dead seen in your faces, the dead resurrected. We are those who were and who will become. We are history, and to know us is to know who you are. You think you are old, but we say you are much older than you think, for you are ancient. Listen to us. Raise the dead. We know you and are you. You are somebody, the truth that has come true, so call on us, you will never be alone. Do you feel the fires of freedom? Then let your heart flame up to the heavens and cast its liberating light on the worldly signs below so that others can find the way. In the fierce heat you shall always find our voice and it shall be your precious voice of love singing the song that weaves eternity. Welcome the fire coursing in your veins. Be the rhythm of your heart pumping liberty. And let that hand that records your passion be the loving hand that plucked Shelley's heart from the crematory and carried it back to England in its little casket to Mary as she remembered his advice to follow her Heart.” I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Yours Truly

Epilogue: Six months after I drafted this letter, I encountered the young woman at a writer's workshop at the University of Hawaii Manoa. I was delighted to see her, and I wanted to give her my letter, which I had been carrying around in my briefcase. I walked over, sat down by her, and re-introduced myself as the man she had met at the Internet Cafe. She said nothing, got up, walked briskly to the other side of the room, and sat down with her back to me. I supposed she thought I was a lunatic and/or a lecher and wanted nothing to do with me.
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