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The Poet (a fable)

In Fiction on January 12, 2010 at 10:00 pm

A man sits down and writes a poem. It is not a great poem, he knows, but still, he has written it, and so it makes him feel proud. Everywhere he goes, he recites it in his head.

Then one day the man has a great idea.

I will send my poem off to be published! he says.

And so he goes and buys an envelope and sends it on its way.

Many weeks later, the poem comes back.

It has been rejected.

The man is sad.

I knew it was not a great poem, he thinks to himself. But still, I thought it was pretty good.

A moment later, he becomes very angry.

Who are they to say what’s good and bad? he thinks. They probably never wrote a poem in their life!

And so he decides to send his poem out again.

The man sends the poem out many, many times, and every time it comes back rejected.

This is crazy, the man thinks. This world is insane! There must be something wrong with these people!

The man decides to publish his poem himself. He takes it down to the corner store and makes fourteen thousand copies. Then he wanders all over the city handing them to people and taping them onto signposts and sliding them under doors and folding them into paper airplanes and launching them off buildings. He does this for days and days and days and days and days, until finally all his copies are gone. Then he goes home and collapses on the couch.

I have done everything I can do, he thinks, and turns on the TV.

The TV is full of news about the man. Or, rather, news about his poem. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone– everyone! People on the street are being interviewed.

I think it is pretty good, one person says. I think it is a pretty good poem.

It’s not the best poem I have ever read, says another, but it is free, and that’s good for me.

I didn’t like it, a third person says. But then again, I don’t really like poetry.

Bah, says the man, and turns the TV off.

Just then there is a knock on the door.

The man stands up and walks over and opens the door.

There is a very pretty lady outside.

Are you the man who wrote that poem? the lady says to him.

I am, says the man. Who are you?

I am a writer for a famous magazine, she says. I’d like to interview you about your life and poem. Would that be okay?

The interview lasts for quite some time. The man describes his childhood and his views on life and talks at length about his job and how much he dislikes it.

So what’s next? says the lady, when he’s done with it all.

Next? says the man. What do you mean?

Next, says the lady. Next is what I mean. You know, what are you going to write next?

The man frowns. He hadn’t thought of that. He hadn’t thought about writing more.

I don’t know, he says. I haven’t figured that out.

Well, says the lady, one thing’s for sure: you won’t have to self-publish again!

When the lady is gone, the man sits for a while, thinking. Then he gets out a piece of paper and sharpens his pencil. He sits down and tries to write. He tries and tries and tries.

But every single thing he writes is about the lady reporter.

I’d love to go out with you, the lady says when he calls. When exactly did you have in mind?

The man and the lady go out for drinks that night. The lady tells him all about her childhood and her views on life, and goes on at length about her job and how much she likes it.

Have you decided what you’re going to write next? she says, when they get to the end of the night.

Well, the man says, if you want me to be honest, I don’t think I want to write anymore.

The man and the lady spend lots of time together. The man asks her to marry him and she says yes. They have a nice wedding and buy a little house and settle down in the suburbs and have kids.

Fourteen years later, the man writes another poem. He does it in the TV room while the kids are at school. When the poem is all done, the man reads it over.

Not bad, he says, and smiles.

Then he throws it away.

Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles. He is a screenwriter and a member of the WGAw, and a graduate of Harvard and the American Film Institute. His book ‘Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day’ is currently seeking a home. He can be found on Facebook.

  1. Don’t let Charlie Kaufman see this… unless he hands you a bag full of money.

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