Sunday, April 27, 2014

obviating paper-cuts

Obviating Paper-Cuts 

4/ 18 / 14

And then suddenly there was no more music only the scratching of the needle on the revolving disc.” Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point

I have reached a significant milestone in my writerly life. I have made my last submission for publication consideration. The process wherein I have tried to discover by research or happenstance a literary journal or arts review that seemed to publish poems and stories with similar styles and sensibilities as my own. That sounds more professional than it really was for me which is not to say I wasn't earnest in my efforts. I wanted to be published. It's thrilling to see my words in print or online--words wrought with the hope of doing them justice, words accompanying my name into the marketplace to be scrutinized.

My name. Jonathan H. Scott. The "H" is for Harold. That's right kindergarten gigglers, junior high smirkers--Harold after my grandfather who died just weeks before I was born. I am proud to have my name out there, just think, my name known briefly and even though in the tiny world where poetry is deemed to still serve purposes, to even still exist in proper terms.

Some writers insist they write solely for its own sake. How else bail-out "the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions" (William Wordsworth) when it sloshes into the hulls of our moody souls? And I trust those people, never mind the tongue in my cheek. How else trust my own motives when I've been so willing to set my writing adrift into the unforgiving sea of jaded editors with languishing graduate degrees.

To get back to it, I have made my last submission. At some sooner or later point, I will receive my last rejection; at some point, sure, an acceptance might roll-in, against all odds, and if posthumously then . . . what a gas!  An acceptance will come, theoretically, which will be my last; if fact, I may well have already received it. certainly the next will be my last. Don't worry, instructions will be left to the executor of my authorial endeavors as to how to gratefully  accept the honor and patiently await the one or two contributors copies in which my work will appear. In my mailbox . . . hint: It opens on hinges, protects bawdy catalogs from the elements.

I am somewhat saddened by this inevitability. I am somewhat relieved by its arrival. But I am in no way overcome by maudlin sentiment. I'm fine, literature will be fine, poetry will survive, as will my name. Fur and far.

Nonetheless, saddened. Because, I am leaving a community of unwitting compatriots, all of us striving to achieve a modicum or more of our dreams to write and call ourselves writers and, having dared as much already, continue to write. Each of us annealed by the vagaries in our tiny worlds of observation and reportage--the poetry and the process.

Nonetheless, relieved. Because the process consumed the poetry. It became a chore: the scouring of my catalog for decent poems, the winnowing of those for good poems, the sieving of which leaves presently personal favorites vulnerable as advance guard for the merely
decent. It's just a whole ordeal, is all I'm saying, a chore of laundry proportions.

Nonetheless, not overcome by sentiment. Because at the end of the day, herecat the end of this authorette era of mine, time is sparse, wearing gossamer, and probably best spent determining its value and determined to spend it accordingly.

This farcical poem that I wrote several years should have given me sooner pause. (It has to have been several years; just look at the nods the USPS and paper products.)

"Submission (submission)"

The tongue that is cut by licking the gummy envelope
Is the one bitten when others speak of credits.

Include a brief biography, awards, previous publications—
No problem, finished, now what?
Self (as opposed to an agent) Addressed (as in to my parent’s house)
Stamped (as in Scarlet Letter) Envelope (the noun, not the verb)

Never the verb in the world of things--
One who stuffs words
Into little spaces like so much
(too little)
cushioning into the throw (as in away)

The tongue that praises the not-the-licky-kind postage stamp
Is the one in the cheek of the aspiring (as in lungs filling with water)
Writer who writes
Thank you for your consideration (deliberation over the extent to which appreciation
Is to be regarded)
I look forward (where else?) to hearing from you soon (before I die).
Sincerely (sincerely),

My name here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

vivid and vague

Novelty Like No Other

3/ 14/ 14 

Here are the first six paragraphs of a novel I started in December of 2009 and finished in January of 2011, inasmuch as I ever feel done with a piece of prose fiction. It is called “The Gist of Elijah” and I think this excerpt belongs here in my journal. But to belong is a feeling, to have belonged is a hope. This might as well belong here.


He feels like he’s suffocating in the thickest, sweatiest humidity of his life.  The words from the left page are oozing into the crease of the book’s spine, and the word’s from the right page are dripping over the edge onto the floor.  He wants very badly to finish reading.  The absurd words, leaking and smudging, are fighting his small will, and he knows it’s a waste of what remains in him to fight.  He will never finish.  Three times he has tried.  Three times he has been distracted.  So much time recently and so close to the end.

He keeps his place by draping the book across his chest.  His chest is still rising, if slightly. Half of the ceiling is lit by long fluorescent bulbs.  One is flickering.  He thinks the trouble is with him.  He blinks.  It flickers.  It does not occur to him that the trouble may not be with him.  Because the trouble is always with him these days.  Nothing rings but his ears.  Nothing reverberates but his laboring heart.  He looks to the unlit half of the ceiling and curses his eyes with a small sibilant sigh.   It exhausts him to sigh.

He wants to sleep.  A television is on in another room.  The theme song is just familiar enough to drive him crazy trying to place it.  He can’t so he imagines his own favorite song playing in his head.  After a few measures, the song turns to water and babbles as a brook to something larger than itself.  Two grey clouds settle over each eye.  He thinks of rain, of his row of mint, of a rack of lamb, of Christ the Shepherd, of Psalm 23, of still waters, of rain, of grey clouds.  He lets the shadows lull him to sleep.

That was how Elijah Stenson died, according to Elijah Stenson.  The doctors said he had been dead for three minutes before he bolted upright and yelled, “Leave my liver be!”

Stenson died for good seven months after he died for three minutes.  In the interim, he hired Justin Latterly to write his biography.  Within five minutes of meeting him, the old man had told Justin about the false-alarm demise.  And that was all for the day.  He sent the young man home.

“Write that up and come back Friday,” Stenson said.  “If I croak before we finish this thing, that’s how it ends.”

He croaked before they finished.


This is an excerpt from a query letter in which I have just left off groveling to a prospective publisher and have now moved-on to the synopsis portion—in many ways, harder than writing the novel itself. For context in this entry, in the novel and possible insight into the rest of however much of the rest of my memoir. It certainly belongs here.


An old man dies and lives to tell about it. Unfortunately for Elijah Stenson, he is hounded by a past that he is reluctant to reveal. Desperate for a friend, Stenson hires Justin Latterly to help him tell his story.  Justin is a disillusioned grad student and night-shift grill cook who’s own pile of problems is mounting daily.  In an attempt to escape this reality, Justin accepts the ghostwriting job with high hopes—too high, as it turns out.

The narrative follows a multi-corded braid of interactions with a variety of characters—each with their own crisis to ply. A girlfriend’s betrayal, a sister’s tragedy, a mother’s illness, and a strange woman’s incessant vagaries each threaten to topple Justin into an ever-near despair.  Meanwhile, the writing project is going nowhere. Over the course of six months, the old man’s reticence and penchant for distraction has Justin on the verge of madness.

The story resolves when, for the second time in his life, Elijah Stenson dies.  Although Justin never finishes Elijah’s story, he discovers that it’s in the gist of the story that the moral is learned.


And this here.


I will croak before I finish this thing. A virtual no-brainer by virtue of this thing’s nature—a chronicle of dying until I die or become unable to keep chronicling. So, unlike Elijah Stenson, I won’t really have the luxury of an ambush, unless from a bed frame’s corner or an orb-spider’s web, that is.

I have been feeling pretty crummy lately. Beyond the steady gripes. And I’ve been frequently
returning to old Elijah’s deathbed—the one he gets up from. There is not much to say about the one that pins him down for the count. There rarely is about those kind. And herein flit my thoughts.

Drawing from the experience of near-death at the Bluffs in Arkansas, I have had a sense of what this (Elijah’s) drawn-out version might entail—different circumstances  yet probably approximate sensations, frantic streams of consciousnesses. Moreover, I’ve had a fascination with the scenario; but I’m not interested in resurrection and arising with a tale to tell. I'm lying back and telling mine now.

Fascination? A haunting, recurring, daydream, now vivid now vague. At the risk sounding more macabre than intended, I’m curious about the vaporous zone between slipping-in and slipping-out. What wild ideas without conscious pinpoint, what unprecedented rows of mint, what words  I would use to describe them but pass with me into which element—my first guess is carbon but I suppose hydrogen has dibs. To me, it’s the outer limits of my cherished imagination either drawing its most ignominious blank or conjuring its most sublime vision.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

tomorrow or tomorrow or tomorrow

Dignity Preferred, Alas Deferred

3/ 10/ 14

Avastin Day:

Wake at first alarms. The wife's bedside table intoning some preliminary o'clock, clearing its throat for the official wake-up call due not even she knows when. The son's rapid fire crickets silenced with a swat--snooze once, he'll be fine, twice, he'll be frantic in the shower, three times, he'll miss breakfast and start the day frustrated.

Rise when the alarums subside and the excursions begin: school, work, activity. Now available, I know, for I have been counting flushes and footsteps, I use the toilet with an urgency which woke with me back around Preliminary o’clock, AM. On any other day, I walk crookedly and arrive eventually at the Kuerig, make (read: wearily push a button hoping to have wearily put down a mug at some point prior) cup of medium roast. I detach a banana, pocket a cereal bar, and walk shakily back down the hall, past the bathroom, and get situated in front of the “news”—involving sports, involving terror, involving sparsely-concealed inventiveness. Of course there are more morning details but not to follow here.

Because this is Avastin day. I seem to recall. My short term memory capacity is on the decline, most noticeably in cases of the next day’s plans for school, work, activity . . . for whom those plans apply is rarely me; but just in case I’m be in charge of oven preheating, casserole inserting, cooking time inputting, I like to apprised, if only to forget forthwith. Forgotten plans for tomorrow—classic cases of memory escape. Of others, more in upcoming entries because they have become more salient in relation to the progression of my condition. So, as only crossword puzzles and I say, “Anon (with ‘more’).”

One morning detail on Avastin day has already been taken care of. Partially. It occurs to me with a sigh and eye-roll. Once again I have thoughtlessly emptied my bladder without a urine sample cup. I will pee again before 2:00 PM. Surely. It’s only 7:30 AM. There’s coffee in the queue, juice to join in an hour or so, water and/ or tea at some point. I will pee again and then I’ll fill my cup.

But this is Avastin day. When I ask her, my wife confirms the date; when I ask her after another sigh, she affirms that she’s in charge of dinner. Under Avastin day sort of pressure, I very well may not pee again. And if I don’t before I get to the clinic, all those preloaded beverages will not be well enough primed by 2:00 PM to serve the purpose. In fact, cannot be well enough primed.

To explain, here’s a grim tale.

There once was a man whose color was peach. He knew of blues and browns and yellows and many more, he had even met a silver and was jealous. On peach days, his day, he was driven to a squat building on wheels. There was a time when he would have proudly driven himself to the squat building
on wheels but after a series of debatable events, he relied on graces for a time. Until a time when he’d no longer be peach.

Every morning, the man had an important yet simple message waiting for him. Was today a blue day, a brown day, a yellow day or one of the others' days? Silver’s day? He hoped not—such was the man whose color was peach’s admiration for the man whose color was silver. Or was it peach day? As it had been on that very first day.

On that very first day of being driven to the squat building on wheels, the man discovered a simple yet important detail waiting for him. Even though it was just the first day, the man already knew why he had come. He had come to pee in a cup.

Inside the squat building on wheels, the man whose color was peach was greeted by a fellow whose torso was huge and whose smile seemed inappropriate, quite frankly, all things considered, given the circumstances of the hour.

Anon, the fellow whose torso was huge and whose smile seemed inappropriate, quite frankly, all things considered, given the circumstances, of the hour opened a door for the man whose color was peach.  The man entered. The fellow followed . . . and watched.

Ever after, there was a man whose color was blush.

Every other week there was a day whose name was Avastin. On days whose name was Avastin, the man whose color was now and ever after blush knew what he had to do. He had to pee in a cup. And on most days whose name was Avastin, he remembered. He remembered, quite frankly because his color was, after all, blush. But on some of those days, he forgot to pee in a cup beforehand and the man whose color was blush became the man who, quite mildly, was just oatmeal out of luck.

Footnote: Years later, I've gone back to relying on the graces of others to tote me to and fro. I have not driven a car in over 3 years. It is illegal to drive in Alabama until 6 months after the driver's last seizure; beyond that, in my tenuous condition, it's plain ill-advised, regardless.

Final note: I've been told that my color is blue.

Monday, April 7, 2014



3/ 7/ 14

Nausea, headache, dizziness—they are the celebrity brain cancer complaints, the who's who on the multiform red carpet; for me, currently and thankfully, those are infrequent. Fatigue: that's my pet complaint these days. And I can't help but feel a little chippy like my lay-about fatigue might be perceived as a snub to their preeminence.

Then again, they are not so special really--nothing nearly so special as human celebrities (and here I'm
thinking, say, Kirk Cameron . . . uh . . . Shannon Doherty and uh  . . . now I'm drawing a blank) --it's not as if these symptoms are exclusive to the tumorous; anyone can wake-up on any given day (as long as one has five or eleven items on ones to-do list critical to the successful completion of the whole week ahead) feeling yucksome on some level.

So I am tired all the time. Tired like I've been looking at this pulsing cursor for 30 seconds with only just now something to show for it, tired. Tired like I can nod off over a meal like a suckling infant, tired. Tired like I would get out of bed to relieve myself of this impending cataclysm of bladder eruption but it's cold and everyone knows that cold air is denser than warm air which means a veritable wall of carob syrup to push through on my way so I'll just wait until noon, tired.

Nausea, headache, dizziness. I get those too. In fact, I have one of my most faithful headaches right now; it begins in the afternoons behind my right eye until joined in a neighborly fashion behind my right temple; its a weak not even cursor pulsing headache, but it's my headache and I'll complain if I want to. Ditto my other Lesser Maladies. If not debilitating, they are certainly foreboding.

For now, I am tired all the time. You may not know it to look at me unless you saw me doze off to my son's electronic compositions set at 11 a-la Spinal Tap on a just underway "trip" to the Publix down a pot-holey, neglected state highway. Unless you catch a glimpse of me chin to chest in the bread aisle. Or espy me here in bed propped against my armchair pillow slipping just-a-quick-nap-ward, about to stymie this hypnotic cursor. Good afternoon. Sweet dreams. See you at bedtime.


3/ 8/ 14

If gambling on baseball park concessions, would the following Texas Hold 'em/ suspect ingestion scenario be considered cheating?

You contribute an ante of a Coke, fizzy if over-iced but you think "I shouldn't even be here, I've been off syrupy soda and midday caffeine for months, why risk it?"

Too late now. The flop. Your son (because, unlike you in your wheelchair, he can see over the counter) is ordering a bag of popcorn. Ugh. You've played this hand before, before it played you, that is. You've already decided to muck when the action comes around but when all that comes is the concessionaire  announcing a temporary outage of this selection. "But, if you'll wait," she says to my son with a wink. A tell?  "Fresh corn is popping." A promising turn. The stakes are a little high but the others in line have checked around to you. And what about that wink? You raise. Some call. The pot is chopped.

No blood.

But sometime during the chute-and-bag and the butter-drizzle and the concession lady's hand-off to
your son, the popcorn goes stale. You'll need your soda to hold up but your soda has flattened while you were away. Nonetheless, you feel committed by virtue of the brash popcorn contribution. You wisely check around until you feel it’s time to pull the trigger. You came to play, you came to win. You knew all along what you were willing to lose; you know every time brimming with perverse anticipation. Come what may.

But first you sneak a peek at your pocketed pair of chemo-strength anti-nausea pills. You swallow one. Your son might have seen you but the river comes in the top of the eighth. You stretch nonchalantly, sorely regretting  having forgotten all about both peanuts and cracker jacks, you push all in . . . first inning’s hot dog, last week’s bun, last year’s mustard. You came to win. Come what may. But the question remains did you cheat? And will it be worth it, that asterisk blighting your son's memory?