Monday, February 13, 2017


2017 AWP: Askew & Akimbo

How to talk, or write about, AWP? 

How to talk about you? 

How to talk about Jesus or the universe, for that matter?

Or the silky violet sunsets that somersault over summer skies, making a fool want to skinny dip in the lake, even at such an old age, even when it’s freezing out? 

Isn’t that a tall task?

Oh boy, it’s not easy, that’s for sure.  Not many things—beyond the mundane-- are.  But I will try.  In a way, I will.

Let’s see… what did we have this time around?

A crush of Convention Center bodies. 

Walls (walls?  really, I’m speaking of walls in this day and age?) of books wherever one looked.

Lots and lots of laughter.  (We’re talking belly laughter, mostly).

And equal parts drinking (if I’m being honest here, which I always am).
A Broken ankle.
Grey's Anatomy come-to-life.

A Nile river of murmuring, a mumbo jumbo chorus, a cacophony of voices, peripheral vision working over-time, having gone bat shit from hour one.

A tick on the skin below the eye, even on the pupil itself, pulsing there, typing out rabid code that no one can decipher.

A sledgehammer to the heart--once or twice or thrice.

An anvil tossed over the side of the boat, hitting the target—Boo-yah!  Got you, Sucker, and you weren’t even looking.

Have you lost weight?  Come on, I know you have.  You look happy.  Ah, but you look well.  Thanks, so do you.  Well, goodbye then.  See you next year.

Do you remember that AWP when we ______________________ and you said _____________________  and I believed you?  I think I replied with something like ________________________ and you grinned a shy smile, saying __________________________.  It was cute, but really fucked up as well.  Well, wasn’t it?  Come on, wasn’t that really messed up?  Tell the truth.

Next time, please don’t ask me about the weather/Seattle rain/Seattle summers/the suicide rate in Seattle/Nordstrom/our President/their President/the President’s daughter’s fashion line that’s been pulled from Nordstrom/if I’m going to the vigil/if I’m writing a novel/if one of my kids is in college now/if I’m having a good AWP...

And please don’t ask me open-ended questions either.  That’s a shit ton of pressure for a twig like me. 

Just talk and I will try very hard to listen.  I will watch your marionette lips move.  You are real, and I will know it’s so because your lanyard will tell me as much, but I am not so real, and that’s the problem right there.  I am that mannequin in the store-front you passed by without noticing how badly her handbag matched her shoes, or didn’t match her shoes—see what I mean?  No?  Well, what I’m getting at is I’m a train wreck around all these people.  I’m that collision right before metal meets metal, just before the ultimate crunch.  Boo-yah! squared.

Next time, let’s just admit that this is bigger than both of us.  But honestly, I mean truly, I am proud of you for having won a Pushcart Prize and for being on ________ Podcast two different times last year.  You made it!  Goddamn it, good for you.  I am happy for your success and I am so sorry for your loss.

I think I saw the real You looking back at the stupefied real Me at some point.  You were shining so very bright, like a radioactive fire fly while texting away on your cell.  Your light burnt back the shrubbery and azaleas.  Right then You were the most beautiful butterfly ever hatched.  All of your fans saw what I saw then, so it must have been real.

We were all there, all 10,000 of us happy campers.  Don’t numbers count for something?

I’ll try not to linger over all that.  I’ll try to remember the people I didn’t see this time around (Sara Lippmann, Meg Tuite, Bud Smith, Ben Loory, Michael Gillian Maxwell, Katherine DiBella Seluja, Shaindel Beers…) and  those I did see but can’t remember all of—Jensen Beach, Windy Lynn Harris, April Bradley, David Atkinson, Michael Seidlinger, Ben Tanzer, Nancy Stohlman, Brandon Hobson, Jan Elman Stout, Gay Degani, Christopher Allen, Grant Faulkner, Christine Texeira, Bill Yarrow, Tammy Sherwood, Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Gloria Mindock, Annie Pluto, Liz Pettie, Jennifer Carr, Joani Reese, Matt Bell, Roxane Gay, Francis Badgett, Ralph Pennel, Dorriane Luax, Molly Peacock, Sherrie Flick, Lori Brody, Anne Elizabeth, Nancy Petersen, Sandy Longhorn, Pamela Painter, Diem Jones, David Galef, Kathy Fish, James Thomas, and of course, Robert Vaughan, Robert P. Kaye and Karen Stefano.   

Next time, I’ll try to keep my chin up and my eyes focused on the carpet.  You can find loose change that way.  It helps defer the cost of all those over-priced drinks.

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