Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 2

Day two of my Pushkin experiment puts me ahead of schedule.

Instead of writing one stanza this morning, I wrote two, and finished, what I take to be the Introduction to the piece in hand. Introductions are easy, of course, and the hard part of actually finding a story to tell begins tomorrow. Although, I have one or two topics in mind I plan on mulling over on the train tonight back to Connecticut.

Anyway, here is the first, unrevised draft of the beginning. I hope it sounds okay.


Today, while I was clipping my toenails,
I had a startling poetic thought:
Since I have started fabricating tales,
Once I am finished with my toes, I ought
To write a story totally in verse,
Like Alexander Pushkin. What’s the worst
Thing which could happen to me, if I do?
I waste a month, while trying to pursue
A dream. Not much of a sacrifice to make.
So, digging deeper, under my big toe,
To get a stubborn piece of crud, I go
And stab a capillary by mistake:
Administering a pedicure is not
The time to be developing your plot.

Although a pint of blood, I'm sure, will prove
Indispensable to me later on—
Blood being second only to true love
As an essential element of fiction;
Beyond the story of Philoctetes,
Penned by the playwright Sophocles,
Western literature is rather weak
When it comes to treating injured feet.
There is Achilles, yes, and Oedipus
Translates from Ancient Greek as ‘swollen foot’—
But is my toe the basis for a book,
Except for a specialist, like my podiatrist,
Dr. Silverman? I cannot say.
He may hate poetry. Well, anyway,

I mention my podiatrist because—
As you have no doubt noticed here so far—
Underneath the sterile square of gauze
Stuck here to stop my bleeding toe—there are—
I hesitate to call them ‘flaws’—a few—
Let’s try the phrase—‘slight changes’—that will do—
Which I have made to Pushkin’s sonnet scheme
Less fatal to the work than they might seem
At first. I add an extra beat per line,
And I may sometimes skip a syllable
Or substitute a trochee, where it will
Break up monotonous and lousy rhymes.
But these are minor variations which,
In my opinion, function to enrich

The reading experience. While it is true,
If Puskhin’s relatives should get wind
Of what I’ve done to him, they’ll either sue
My ass off, or they’ll hire an assassin
To slit my throat when I’m at home in bed.
I can live with the idea of being dead,
As long as a few of the words I wrote
Continue to live and breathe. My throat
Will not so easily be silenced. But
If anyone comes squeezing me for cash
Before a judge, I’ll offer him my ass
To kiss—for free. Having my throat cut
By former agents of the KGB
Scares me less than the huge legal fee

I might incur. So, I propose a truce,
To Pushkin and his secret allies in
The Russian mob. I’ll borrow—not abuse—
Those sparkling patterns that your old paysan
Bequeathed to me—to poets everywhere.
I know a well-cut diamond might compare
In brilliance to an isolated word
Of Alexander Pushkin—it’s absurd
To carry the comparison further than
A single word. My metaphors break down
Into atomic particles of sound
That do not look like diamonds, or stand
For much of anything, beyond noise.
Toe-clippings more than stardust, that’s my voice.

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