An Old “Prose” Letter — 32 years ago

After I had to put my blind deaf cat down, I decided I’d better get a rug cleaner in, especially since my sensitive-nosed family were coming to attend the Nelsonville Music Festival next week.  So I had to go through stuff and get other things off the carpet. In doing so, I came across a letter written for me from a co-member of a writing group at the French Art Colony in Gallipolis on August 8, 1982.  Wherever Jena Harper is, I hope she won’t mind my sharing it with you. (I’m stating copyright claims for her).

“It is fitting that my 49th year should begin at a hotel bar in a dingy river town on a hot August midnight. Outside, barges push through Ohio waves, their Cyclops eyes staring straight through up-river mist. The full moon is a pearl wrapped in gauze. A car with its rear end hiked up on oversized tires struts slowly down the street, full of pride and baby faces. Parking meters stand with closed red eyes, not seeing who parks at midnight, not keeping time.

“It is cool at the bar and a sad song slides toward me through the water rings. A revolving Michelob sign glows green on the faces of the musicians, giving them a mystique never seen in sunshine. The drum rims exchange silver glances with the ice in my glass. Steel guitar strings wave in and out of my mood and fringes on a silk shirt, rising and falling with the lyrics, mesmerize me. I am drinking Coke, but I am drunk on memories, staggering over whys and wherefores. Past years lean over my shoulder and whisper obscenities in my ear. Beyond the neon signs in the window, years-to-come beckon and when I leave here, they will be lurking around the corner, staring at me with alley-cat eyes as I disguise myself as a  shadow, slipping from lamppost to lamppost, hoping to pass undetected. But they will overtake me. There is no turning back. The dead-end is out there. Somewhere, just ahead.”

NOTE FROM NAN: I heard that she subsequently got married.


About Nan Mykel

I used to think I would be a child prodigy, but then I got old. Formerly I had fantasies of rubbing elbows with cultural and academic leaders but that did not come to pass because I did not become a cultural or academic leader or any other kind of leader, for that matter. I am not even an "Alpha Dog," a term learned from a friend who had to become "Alpha Dog" in order to influence her own pet. (When gazes lock, she never looks away.) For years I expected to become a published author, but in passing I could not avoid the fact that I had little to contribute to the world's bulging dumpsters. I'm embarrassed to report that I also considered my primary process artistic productions powerful, rather than mildly neurotic. Which is not to say that I disrespect myself, only that I am beginning to doubt my potential for making a mark on the world. If I focus on strict self discipline I may be able to keep my garbage removed on a weekly basis, to keep the kitty box changed, the clothes cleaned, the dog watered, fed and walked, but that just catches me up to the starting mark again. When writing I physically grapple with words, wrestling them from their indifference into attempted chunks of awareness. I sit heavily on my chair; I breathe in artificially cooled air; my ear drums note the tap tap of the keyboard and the steady uninterrupted sound of the air conditioner, What is that sound? The roar of the ocean from 30 yards away...Inside, my thoughts are are balls in an electronic game machine, bouncing hither and yon from lever to lever. I am a little grim and intent until I recall a dream related by a black man in the prison where I once worked. He said that when he was a small boy, back home, he dreamed he was standing on his front porch pissing, and that he suddenly found himself pissing stars...
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