Poetry (Story by Risa Peris)

Dying is being born. My benefactor was worried about me. 

“Good Lord, Michael. You’re thirty but look forty. And you have so much gray in your hair. The booze is aging you and killing you.”

I laughed and moved some books from a chair. My benefactor seated himself. He owned the building, paid my utilities, and gave me an allowance. He believed I was a talented poet. 

“You will be a famous poet,” he said last week. I found that hard to believe. The blank page was crippling me and I drank gin instead. From morning to night, I drank gin. 

“Do you have any pages I can read?” Mr. Beemer looked eager. 

“Not yet ready for human consumption.”

“What’s the subject?” Mr. Beemer sat forward in his chair.

“The Brooklyn Bridge.” It was true. I wanted to write about the bridge but words were stuck in my neural pathways. Maybe electro shock therapy would reset my brain and the words would flow again. Would Mr. Beemer pay for that?

“Hey, I was thinking about a trip to Key West to visit the Hemingway House. I think it would be helpful. I could probably finish the poem there.”

“Why not a trip to the Brooklyn Bridge?”

“I need open spaces. New York City is cramping me. It’s destroying me.”

“I suppose you’re expecting me to fund this trip.”

I nodded. 

“I see. I guess I could do that. However, the poem must be finished when you come back or I’m afraid I will no longer be your patron.”

“Yeah, yeah. Okay. Sounds good. The poem’s going real well.”

“Pulitzer?”

I laughed. “Maybe.” Mr. Beemer was obsessed with the Pulitzer. He was obsessed with the arts. It was because he lacked creativity and had only been schooled in finance and real estate. He collected artists like exotic orchids. ]

A week later I was standing on the deck of a boat with a sheaf of blank papers in my hand. I scattered them into the sea flowing into Key West. On my last page I wrote – BROOKLYN BRIDGE. And then I jumped. I didn’t know how to swim. I flailed and then sank. Gulps of salty water filled my lungs. 

I never really was an artist, I just had that burning passion to be one. 

THE CLOWNS EXIT, THE POET ENTERS, THE CROWD LAUGHS, I FALL BACK AND AM PELTED BY WORDS. THE CROWD KEEPS LAUGHING. THAT’S WHAT CROWDS DUE TO ARTISTS. THEY LAUGH. THAT’S NOT ART THEY YELL. YOU’RE INCOMPETENT. YOU HAVE NOTHING MEANINGFUL TO SAY. DIE, ARTIST, DIE. FINE. I WILL BE REBORN A CLAIMS ADJUSTER. 

Dying is being born and I could feel my soul transforming. Please let me strive for something other than art.

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