02 03 Stop Loving Everything: The Patron Saint of Failed Writers 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

The Patron Saint of Failed Writers

34

At the recovered poets’ meeting

we discovered one in our midst

who’d continued writing

and tossed him out the door.

I secretly met him later, in the street,

his face obscured by raindrops

weeping from his hat brim,

and asked him what he would choose

for his life: Say my poems are a poet’s

and they are poetry. Can I wish for something more?

Say my work is lost in mold-corrupted boxes

in my mother’s basement, comic books

covering like a grave’s leaf blanket;

Say my poems are a universe

built inside my own. Say anything you want

about me, and still I’ll drown

in my cracked windbreaker, in the $200 bucks

to my name. His mother dies

and the house goes to the IRS

and the rest he gambles away in AC

at the thousand-per-hand poker tables.

With what little he has he buys

a tent, and pitches it in the woods

off Route 18. Begins to write

poems by night, a flashlight

in his teeth, drool smearing the ink.

One moonless night, the autumn earth

still leaking the sun’s warmth,

six bum-hunting teens arrive from town.

They collapse his tent

and beat him with pipes and pillowcases

stuffed with unopened soup cans.

After his screams devolve to grunts,

they string gasoline across his body,

flick a match, and stroll home,

pipes on their shoulders, their hands red

in the chill, while behind them, his poems swirl

like bats above a burning heart

bursting from the forest in a bruising dawn;

in nothing like words; above words; words.

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