redux

image courtesy UBU

image courtesy UBU

First: I keep working like a maniac, thinking I’m making time to write at week’s end, but that time never happens.  By Friday, my time is stale and moth-eaten and stuffed full of dirty laundry so starting next week, I’m going to do the writing first, then the work. I know, I know, every Successful Person knows this, but I’m just figuring it out now and I must admit, the idea that I get to write first fills me with impish elation. Wheee!  I get to eat my candy first!

Second: I want to take a class. Not that I have any spare time, of course, but I’m going to do it anyway because I want to have some new thoughts and ideas.  At first, I thought what I should do is to sit in a big hall full of quiet people listening to an brilliant, enthusiastic person talk on and on about something they’re passionate about. You know, someone who’s examined this thing, any thing, from every angle and who gets all misty-eyed and wild-handed and spitty when they talk about it. But then I thought maybe I should take a writing class. It couldn’t hurt, right? I could kill two birds (class and writing) with one stone. But then, I wonder I’d get the most bang from my buck: from the passionate lecture or the group experience? Where will I find the most interesting ideas? Do you take classes and, if so, what do you think?

Third (I know, I need to break myself of the habit of the magic three, but I really only have three things to say): Instead of starting new ideas, I’ve been rehashing old ones. I’ve been fooling around with many pieces I’ve “published” here on Girl in the Hat, giving them some elbow grease and a spit shine. It’s funny, but I think for me, I don’t know how a thing should end until it’s been at least six months since I ended it. At that point, I can finally see what I was going for. Endings are so fucking hard. The other night we had dinner with friends and we started talking about movie endings, and I was telling them how I’d participated in a field test for the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley. Mostly, the filmmakers wanted to know if we, the audience, wanted a happy, neat ending or if we could stand a messy, ambiguous one. They spent a truckload of money and let us watch the movie for free just to find out what kind of ending we wanted. Of course, most of the audience members were vociferous about their preference for having everything wrapped in cellophane at the end and I came away feeling acutely aware that what rings true and good and real for me is completely not what does it for most people. But what’s right or best? Who knows. It’s a moot point, really.

So below, I’ve changed this  poem’s ending to have three options, and I’m curious which one you like best. Do you like a, b, c, the poem with three endings, or the one in which I choose the ending without asking for your opinion? Scroll down to answer the poll, if you will.

Fourth (to try to break myself out of the habit of three): Hey! How are you?

*

Brief Vacation

Day 1

I feel funny in a bathing suit.
Like a punctured beach ball
mended with a flimsy band-aid.
But here I am, floating down river,
feet recoiling from slimy
rocks, arms splashing, hatted head bobbing
duck-like around the bend,
where a suntanned woman has unfolded
her chair right at the edge of the water,
and she lounges just ahead, smiling
at the sky. To my right, a large chunk
detaches from a boulder and skitters
forward on wooden legs, pointing a shiny black
nose at my head. “He’s friendly!”
calls the woman while he sniffs
the air muscularly and starts growling, stiff
pacing, back and forth, on the shore.
“He’s just a big baby!” she yells,
her words drowned by snarling,
and while I, soft, pale piece of meat,
bob and splash along, I’m thinking
the only thing to do is offer my hand
and when he bites me, just stick it in
and keep pushing, as far as I can
past the teeth, to wedge tight
between the palate and the tongue.

Day 2

A wasp is buzzing over my sandwich
“Go away,” I hiss, but it doesn’t listen
so I say it again, louder this time and again
each repetition increases the warning
in my tone of voice and my words’ vibration
a promise to smash him with my fist if he doesn’t listen
I’ll take this rock and crush him, but before I do
he zigzags off upriver along the limnal, whetted shore
and after I’m done eating, I lie back on the blanket and wonder,
am I like the dog or the salami
am I a bark or a bite?

Day 3

The cicadas’ siren song finally sinks in and I’m just getting used to the shape of my
own thighs and the smell of myself pooling in every crevice as I loll atop a slab of hot
granite and even the shock of water has grown familiar, even the way minnows trail
behind me like hungry acolytes, and I’m sliding dizzy over sunken furry boulders in
the glittering river, knowing nothing but cold on skin and sun in face when it strikes
from behind, clamps tight on my Achilles tendon, and I’m flapping my hands and howling
at the long black snake shooting back under a rock, turning to stumble back towards…

final ending ha

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About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.

29 comments

  1. Bacon wasn’t a choice…but if it had been a choice the poem wouldn’t get an end…So you picked well.
    Time for “deeper water…sink under and wait ..”

  2. michellemorouse

    I love this poem. I voted for “a” because it’s an ending that’s not an ending.

  3. I love your Day 2 snippet. Story of my life!

  4. I liked “c” best, and then “b,” but only because I felt like “c” was in keeping with the rhythm of the rest of your poem. But I also really like having three endings… but, because I couldn’t choose more than one option on the poll (at least, I don’t think, I didn’t try) I chose the “my opinion doesn’t matter” answer… because it doesn’t. 🙂

  5. momentary forgetful seconds, where to… Leave fate to days slipping below a cold deep refracted blue, where swifter channels steal stories waiting from their destinations, down stream to places where games change and Foxtail Palms… They just wait to listen.

    Really, no idea, none at all, just left it to a river.

  6. Good post! I don’t remember the ending of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but I’m totally with you on the endings bit. When I was younger, I enjoyed neat endings, craved them really for my own sanity. As I’ve gotten older, many of them just don’t work for me anymore. They don’t click. I need that ambiguousness. I need that unknown. But you’re right: it is a bit of a moot point, because it’s all subjective, people are gonna need different things out of their endings. And, really, who am I to say one is right and another is wrong?

  7. No lines about the slaughter of insects? In that case, I’m going for “C”, as I really like ‘still as bait’.

  8. Hi Anna. To tackle your question in “Second,” I’d recommend the class over the lecturer. The group experience has the camaraderie and the motivation the lecture lacks, and the discussion often leads to ideas and approaches you can actually use in your writing. And who says teachers in those classes can’t be as passionate as a lecturer? I just got back from alumni reunion at my MFA (now I can drive there instead of fly!), and was re-inspired by the sessions I attended.

    • I was hoping an MFA would chime in. I think you may be right, Joe. Besides, the class would be like putting all my eggs in one basket. I’m going to try to find a good group class. And it must be so good to be so close to your MFA people, too? (I romantically hope that if nothing else, an MFA gives a person an excellent peer group for mutual inspiration?)

  9. I want to know what you think. Don’t give me options – I’m already optioned frenzied out! Having said that, ambiguity is way more interesting 🙂

  10. Take the class…if it’s a reputable one…If it’s the right fit it will do wonders to reset your reflexes. I took a photography class last spring and have loved the results.

    • The “reputable” part is the question, Linda. Being an outsider, I have no way of knowing, but I’m going to give it a shot. And now you’re making me consider a photography class, too. That would be so fun. (What did you learn?)

      • I follow Otto von Muechow’s blog, In Flow. He offered an online class on Finding your photographic voice. It was not a technical class, although he was very helpful in solving specific technical problems, but he tries to lead students to narrow their focus, to think FIRST, snap consciously and with purpose. I got a lot out of the glass, not just from actually doing the exercises and reading the lessons, but from seeing other students’ work and reading his analysis of those images.

  11. See I like cheerful poetry, and it wasn’t, but I liked it anyway.
    Why a snake?

    Also – I would see if you could find a writing conference. I have not been to many, but they are teeming with ideas, exercises, and passionate people. In a class, you’ll have peer reviews and some of the peers won’t care much about writing. Just my two cents. 🙂

  12. I was thinking of piranhas or those little fish that clean people’s feet at spas, maybe a honey badger gets the snake. So many endings and so few poems.

  13. I like C because it sounds nice on the tongue to say but I’m unhappy it is actually a grimmer ending. Hmmm…
    Zadie Smith really recommends leaving a work for 6 months before revisiting it. The distance is key to being your own worse critic (which she also recommends).

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