Bowl

All I have is this day
And no bowl to put it in.
Not even a camera or
Pencil.
And I am definitely not good enough
At origami. Not even close.
Sculpting is out too.
The earth has just the right amount
Of dirt,
But only because the thing
I want to sculpt is the world
Today,
And I’m fairly certain sculpting everything the way it already is
Is redundant.
Face paint would help,
Though.
No way
You could ever interpret my dance
As I go hopscotching down the sidewalk
Like someone with nothing to lose. But
For now
This tablespoon
Will have to do.

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Dear Caleb: Letter One

(Here are the links to two letters that a friend of mine wrote: the first to someone else and the second to me. http://iholdtheline.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/1-monday-epistle-morgan/
http://iholdtheline.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/1-tuesday-epistle-carson/

I commented on his FB link to the first letter: “Do you always post your private life?” He responded with the second letter, and this is my response to a portion of his second letter.)

Dear Caleb, and whoever else happens to read this letter:
First of all, thank you for the invitation to exchange letters. I love an opportunity to have good dialogue and discussion. I hope that our readers and friends find this beneficial, or illuminating, or at least amusing. If not, oh well. At least I practiced letter-writing.

The first thing I noticed about your letter to Morgan (and the one to me) was that they both started by being addressed to a singular person. And yet, oddly, they were on a blog and on Facebook, open to the world. So, either you addressed your letter wrongly, and accidentally forgot to include your public, or you intended for the public to read a personal letter. Your approach was one of a writer who wants to let his audience in on his inner thoughts, to make them a fly on the wall of your relationships and a microbe inside your brain. Nothing exactly wrong with bringing your readers into your mind, but it does seem a little odd to pretend that you aren’t, by addressing your letters in the singular.

My main response to your dictum that there should be no divide between your personal and public life, that the private and public person should be one and the same, is that you are fudging terms and categories badly. A person can avoid being a hypocrite without making their whole lives public. There are certain things that are not for the public eye, and have a naturally limited audience. Example A, marriage. Marriage is a private endeavor, particularly marital relations, because they are sacred. Have you noticed this anywhere else? The sacred is the holy, the separate. You may return with the answer that the veil on the temple was torn down. True, but all that does is open the master bedroom door. We can enter into the presence of our Father and our Lord, but it’s still a private affair. The unbelievers are left outside, wondering what’s going on. Private and public are natural and good boundaries. Crossing them leaves your readers confused, and also possibly the recipient of the letter.

Now, do things those boundaries not matter to things as small as your letters? Perhaps: they are nothing near so glorious as a marriage. But you will recall that you were making rather extended analogies to marriage, and using rather personal language in the letter to Morgan. No doubt you showed her the letter before you posted it, and she gave you permission: my point is not that you betrayed a trust. My point is that you subverted the format of the letter itself by its public presentation. If your point was communication with Morgan, then why air it publicly? If your point was public communication, then why address it to Morgan? It simply comes off as you trying to posture. Speaking of theatrics…

So, check your desires. Why do you want to be seen saying these sorts of things? For the good of the community? Perhaps.

As a matter of style, it usually doesn’t help to undercut your ethos at the beginning of a letter. “Dear Morgan, I’ve known you for a very short time. Here’s an analogy as to how our friendship is like marriage.” Funny, kinda. Weird, definitely. Effective? No.
As a second point of style, pontification, particularly from a freshman, doesn’t wear well. It tires quickly. I’ve been there too, brother.

I guess this response can be summed up in the colloquial understanding of the single word: overshare.

As to the rest, brevity is the soul of wit. I will respond to one thing at a time.

Yours,
Carson

P.S. – A quote by yourself, ironically, becomes relevant at this point. “If you are a teenager and you really want to be a writer, shut up and write only for yourself. At least you’ll have an interested audience. What I’m trying to say is this; you will not, cannot, should not, get published as a teenager. You have no insights for the world.” Harsh, but perhaps partially applicable, don’t you think?

Palouse

I

On a dry road,
Moving between beauty and beauty,
The road itself beautiful in the light of the near and better things.
My journey is named by the name of Home,
And yet this road is homeward, to, from, away, and nowhere
To many people.
The pages of my story unscroll between Heaven,
And Heaven-yearning hills, and the ancient, secret earth,
Immovable under our light and mortal touch.

 

II

How can my soul wrestle the beauty of truth onto a page?
I see, after all, with only my eyes:
Vision intermediaried by nerve, retina, pupil,
And my own clouded perception.
I cannot write what I know, for I only see what I do not know,
Not knowing what my sight sees:
Least of all known things my reflected self, pensive and silent between nature and story.
Perhaps it is better silent.
Perhaps I will learn to hear as well.

Scriptorium Trials

The scriptorium* was white with the noise of monk-powered quills scratching over yellow-white sheets of vellum.

“Put those books – gently – on that table there” whispered Bertram. “And don’t – I SAID DON’T – I mean I said don’t you dare bang them down, those are works of ART I mean art, you witless clods.”

The novices scurried away, leaving Bertram smiling apologetically at the frowning copyists. He turned to the stacks of books facing him and pulled up one of the nearby stools. He began to read, determining both the quality and content of the books. Muttering under his breath, he slowly worked his way through the stacks, sorting them into two piles. One of the piles he would take with him as Alnwick’s contribution to the book-circulation enterprise, and the others would be filed away again. Into the books in the first pile he placed small scraps of cloth, all of various colors. Each color represented a particular abbey, who had specifically requested certain books for copying. He checked these books against a sheet of paper that he kept carefully folded up in water-proof leather pouch, that detailed the requests from various abbeys. Once he gave them their books, he would take what he could from their libraries and bring them to the next abbey, and so on throughout England.

He felt a light, hesitant tap on his shoulder. He turned and saw a small, aging monk standing behind him, nervously stepping from foot to foot.

“I beg your pardon,” he breathed pianissimo, “but you’ve got my stool.”

Bertram quickly stood up, pushed the stool towards the monk, and took another from a nearby desk. He hated interruptions.

The tap revisited his shoulder, even lighter than before. He turned irritably.

“I’m so sorry,” exhaled the old brother, “but you’ve got my pen.”

Muttering, he handed over the pen, and sharpened up another from a pot on the next desk.

The monk’s finger tapped his shoulder again, so softly that it was barely discernible through his tunic. He spun around, eyes blazing, grimly silent. This had better be good.

“I do apologize,” the relic whispered as quiet as a moth, “but you’ve got my desk.”

It was a credit to Bertram’s self-control that he did not explode, but the quiet of the scriptorium was too sacred to disturb. He forced a smile and began carrying his stacks of books over to the nearest desk. It took a while. Finally, he went to sit down. There wasn’t any stool or pen.

Several birds perched on the roof flew off in terror as a long-suppressed yell worked its way out. A few seconds later, Bertram came stalking out of the scriptorium. Let the monks rebuild their shattered quietude with more book-copying: he, on the other hand, was going for a walk.

 

*A Scriptorium was a place in an abbey where monks copied and illuminated manuscripts.