October 18, 2013

When Old Men Speak…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:45 pm


It seemed to him that if he would only speak, the living past,
the voices of lost men, the pain, the pride, the madness and
despair, the million scenes and faces of the buried life…all
that the old man had seen, would be revealed to him, would be
delivered to him like a priceless treasure…

“It was so long ago,” the old man said.

—Thomas Wolfe

I didn’t think much of it, one way or the other, when my friend “David” called me one day a few weeks back. He was wondering, he said. Could I pick him up next Saturday and take him over to some friends that needed to sign and notarize some documents? Not unusual from him, such a request. David prepares tax returns, and I’ve taken him on many little trips like that over the years. Including my very first excursion to the deep south end of the county a few years ago. Besides being a licensed attorney, I’m a notary, too. So I come in pretty handy now and then, when such a thing is needed. Sure, I told him when he called. Next Saturday afternoon will work for me. I’ll stop in for coffee around 2:30 or so. And we’ll go from there.

And that’s what we did. I stopped by around my usual time, and we just sat around and talked about things. It’s a comfortable and welcoming place, David’s house. I’ve been going there for years. He got his papers around, then, the ones that needed signing. And off we went, down the road. It wasn’t that far, and soon we pulled into the little Amish farm that was our destination. An older couple lived there, along with one of their unmarried daughters. And today, another daughter would be there, too, a married daughter from out of the area. We stepped out and approached the house. Beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon, is what it was. A gaggle of small children played in the front yard and on the porch. “Is your grandpa home?” David asked. The children turned and looked out across the road, to a rather dilapidated old barn sitting there. And I saw him coming, the patriarch of the place. Large straw hat, galluses, long beard, and gloriously barefoot. Totally comfortable with himself. And we stepped into the house, and were welcomed into the kitchen by the matriarch and her two daughters.

We were seated at the table, and we spread out the papers that needed signing. I got my notary stamps from my briefcase, and we waited. Where was the old man? “Well, maybe we should send someone out to find him,” the goodwife fussed. No, no, I said. I saw him walking in. He’ll be here shortly. And a minute or so later, he stepped into the kitchen. Hatless now, but still barefoot. He’d been around, looked like. Tough and hard nosed with a full head of unruly reddish gray hair and a long gray beard. You could see he’d been knocked around good a good deal, that he’d seen things. And you could see all that knocking around never fazed him one bit, too. He joined us at the table and took a chair. He hardly glanced at me, an English intruder. They signed the papers, then, and I got busy with my stamp and signature. The old man leaned back and he and David visited. Well, mostly David listened while the old man talked. I have no idea how the subject came up, but he just went off all of a sudden, talking about butchering. And the stories rolled right out of him.

“Yep, the most I ever got done was four steers in one afternoon,” he said. “I butchered them by myself. Skinned them out, dressed and cut them up. That was a lot to get done, in one afternoon like that.” Well, he didn’t exactly use those last words. But that’s what he was telling us. And I was impressed. Talk about a hard day’s work, in half a day.

“Well, didn’t you use to work in a butcher shop?” David prompted the man. “You probably learned some tricks about how to do it, there.”

“Yes, yes I did.” The old man replied. “Back in such and such a year (I can’t remember when, but it happened when he was young), I worked at (I forget the name) Butcher Shop.” And that set him off down another little trail. “You know, back then, we ate the whole hog. The best meat is in the head. We’d throw the whole head into a pot of hot water and let it cook. When it was done, we took it out, and knocked it on the counter, and all this good meat just fell out. It was all was ready to eat, right there. And it was all good eating. I always say, they throw the best parts of the hog away, these days, because they don’t want to take the time to get it out. It’s the best part of any hog, what’s in the head.”

And I couldn’t contain myself. He was talking to David, not me. But I interrupted. That all sounds absolutely delicious, I said. He glanced my way. “And the very best piece of meat in the head, it’s just a little chunk, stuck way up in there, in a little hollow place in the skull,” he said. “Most people don’t even know it’s there. You have to knock the skull just right, to get it loose. Sometimes you have to reach up in there and feel for it, to find it. And that little round piece (he held up his thumb and forefinger, a few inches apart), that little round piece of meat is the tastiest part of the whole hog.” When someone like that is telling you something like that, you don’t doubt it. You listen, and you hear. And maybe, just maybe, you speak. It sounds absolutely delicious, I said again.

We wrapped it up, then, and David and I took off for the next stop. And I got to thinking about what the old man had told us. We never ate the whole hog’s head, back when I was a child. But we ate a lot of parts of an animal that most people wouldn’t think were fit to eat today.

I remember way back, before I even started school, when I was three or four years old. And how we’d have a butchering day every fall, sometime in November, I think it was. Could have been late October, too, maybe. The neighbors came by early that morning, after the chores were done. And Dad had fetched the old scalding tank that everyone in the community used. A homemade scalding tank, half round, made of heavy galvanized steel. And both half round ends were made of wood. Dad set the tank up and filled it with water and lit the fire a long time before anyone came. And then after breakfast, the water was pretty much boiling. After breakfast was right at daybreak, cloudy, usually, at that time of year. And cold, too. I never remember this scene in any sunlight. The men all gathered around, outside. And then the victim, a fatted hog, was released from the barn and nudged over to the general area of the tank. Someone stood there with a .22 rifle. Stepped up right close, and took careful aim. A spiteful crack, and the pig just rolled over like it had been pole-axed. And then things got real busy, real quick. I stood off to the side and just watched.

The men dragged the carcass up to the tank, where the water was boiling. Two chains had been strung through the tank, down on the rounded floor and out both sides. They then grabbed the carcass by all four legs and heaved it in, careful not to splash too much. Two men then stood on each side of the tank and grabbed the chains the hog was now resting on. And back and forth they pulled, rolling the hog in the boiling water. Back and forth and back and forth. All the hair and bristle had to come off. After the hog’s skin was smooth and soft and clean as a baby’s, then they lifted it out. Then it was hung up and scraped with sharp knives. And only then was it gutted and dressed out. That’s how you scald a hog carcass. At least that’s how I saw them doing it.

Children will always play at what they see, and we did. I remember one day we devised the game of “Butchering” in the living room. I can’t remember who all was involved, my siblings or friends. Probably both. Anyway, one of us was the “pig,” down on all fours, grunting and snorting along, head to the floor. A few others hovered off to the side, tending to the boiling water in the imaginary scalding tank. And one person stood in front of the pig, pointing a little stick as a gun. The pig snuffled along, completely oblivious, until the person with the gun took careful aim, as we’d seen it done, then shouted, “Bang!” And the pig rolled over, instantly lifeless. Everyone swarmed in and dragged the “carcass” over to the spot where the “tank” was. They then rolled the pig around on the floor, as in scalding. It was all quite merry and exciting, until Mom happened to walk by and saw us playing. She seemed rather horrified.

“Oh, my. No, no. You can’t play that you’re shooting someone,” she chided. But it’s OK, Mom, I said. I’m a pig. Sadly, she did not seem to grasp the concept, and so the butchering game was shut down. And we didn’t play it again, because we were told not to.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I actually remember the tastes and smells of butchering day. After I started school. And things were bustling, when we left on such a morning. The neighbors came. But off we went, to school. That’s where we had to go that day, so we went. And all day, our thoughts drifted back to home, where we knew exciting things were going on. School let out at three. And we rushed home, to see what all had happened.

By then, things were winding down. The meat had been cut up in the washhouse. And Mom and my sisters and the neighbor women had stuffed much of it in glass jars. The pressure cooker sat humming on the kitchen stove, sealing glass jars packed with meat. The guts of the hog had been scraped and cleaned, and they were stuffing sausages and coiling them in large stainless steel mixing bowls. Dad would smoke those with hickory wood, later. There never was any better smoked sausage anywhere than that. And Mom’s large cast iron skillet sat on the hot stove, too, fresh sausage patties simmering in their own juices. I can still see it, and I can still smell it. I can taste it, too. We made sandwiches with slabs of homemade bread and wolfed them down. The best after-school snack there ever was. Then we headed out to the barn to do our chores. And after those chores were done, we went right back in and feasted on more of that fresh meat for supper. It was a beautiful thing, butchering day.

Mom never did cook up a whole hog’s head, though. Somehow that little practice got lost along the way, if it ever was there in the lineage of my ancestors. Which I’m sure it was somewhere back there, because it was food that you could eat. Here, now, we never saw or heard of such a thing. But I look back on it now, too, and see that Mom came pretty close to doing that. Hog’s head or cow’s head, it didn’t matter. She got some good stuff from it. Brains, is what I remember, mostly. Fried up nice and brown. You put a little mayonnaise on bread, load it with fried brains, and that there is just flat out delicious. I’d eat that any day. My friend Dave Hurst at work gets cow brains from a local organic farmer. And once a year or so, he’ll invite me to stop in on the way home from the gym. And I always do. His wife, Ruth, fries them up, just exactly like Mom did. It always takes me back to those days at home, the taste of that.

And Mom fixed other things, too, things that are mostly thrown out today. Mostly from cows. Heart, liver, and tongue. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten pickled cow tongue. Served cold, it was bitter and salty and just delicious. And we all ate it. I still would, if I could find someone to make some for me. I’ve never been much of a liver eater, though. Except for chicken liver. From a chicken, the liver is the very best part. Mom always saved the liver for me when she fried up a batch. “This is for Ira,” she’d say. No one else seemed to mind, much. And once in a while, I still get to eat liver over at Steve and Wilma’s house. Wilma fixes chicken liver just like Mom did. I’m always astounded, when I see it there in the pot. And I always load up quite greedily.

We never did cook up a whole hog’s head, back home. A whole hog’s head. I’m fascinated by such an idea, such a lost custom. And I’d sure try it, if someone invited me to, someone who knew what it was to do that. Because from the gleam in that old Amish man’s eyes, it sure would be worth checking out, I think. And see if what he said is true. “They throw out the best parts of the hog, these days. The best parts are in the head.”

The other evening, I got a call from my brother, Titus. He checks in now and then, just to chat. That day, though, we talked a little longer than usual. He had some stories to tell me.

They had attended a wedding in Daviess a few weeks before that, him and Ruth. They didn’t really know the couple that well, but somehow they got an invitation anyway. So they went. Daviess. The land my parents come from. “The food was Daviess food,” Titus said. “It tasted just like Mom’s cooking, like the stuff we grew up on. And they only had spoons to eat with, and no knives on the table,” he chuckled. “When the pie came around, I asked the man next to me to cut me a small piece. He just took the spoon he was eating with and lopped off a chunk and put it on my plate.” I howled. I hope you ate it, I said. “Yes, yes, I ate it,” Titus said. And he told me more. That afternoon, an old man walked up and talked to him. Titus didn’t know him, but the man had a few things to tell my brother.

“Way back, when your parents lived on their farm just north of Montgomery, I was their neighbor,” the man said. “I’m eighty years old, now. I was a teenager then. And when your father got a notion to go check out the new settlement in Piketon, Ohio, me and another neighbor boy did their chores while they were gone. That was the first trip they took to Piketon, just to see if it was what your Dad was looking for.”

Titus locked in. A firsthand account we never knew was out there. “How long were they gone? Was Dad excited when they got back? How many cows were they milking then? What all did he have around the place?”

“They were gone for four days. Oh, yes, he was excited when they got back,” the old man said. “They had seven or eight cows to milk. And a few hogs and a few chickens. Yes, he was excited. I’ll tell you something else that happened, too. Soon after they got back, he came over one day and asked if I had borrowed his bolt cutter. He couldn’t find it. I told him I hadn’t. Then he went over and asked the other neighbor boy who had helped with the chores. Had he borrowed the bolt cutter? And the other boy hadn’t either. And you know what?” The old man leaned in. “The next spring when the snow went off the ground, he found that bolt cutter out by a fence post, right where he’d used it last.”

We laughed together over that, me and my brother. That’s good stuff, I told Titus. That’s real good stuff. I have got to get out there and spend a week sometime. Track down those old people and talk to them. I have got to get that done. I don’t know when, though. I have to work. It’s hard, to take a week off to do something like that.

“Well, if you’re going, you’d better get out there soon,” Titus replied. “Those old people, the ones who remember firsthand, those people aren’t going to be around long anymore.” That’s true, I told him. But that’s the way it’s always been, I think.

And I didn’t think to say this to Titus, right that moment. But I thought about it later. And it makes sense to me. If you can’t go to where you want to go to hear all those old stories told firsthand, you just listen for the stories you can hear right where you are.

October 4, 2013

Finding Bukowski…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:29 pm


if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it…

if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it…

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready…


They trickled in right along for quite a while after the book came out. You could always pretty much tell when they walked through the door at work. Looking a little self-conscious, smiling shyly, usually. Definitely not here looking for a pole building or metal roofing or any such thing. Often it was a couple, and usually it was the woman who clutched a copy of Growing Up Amish in her hands. And Rosita or I always greeted them kindly. Can I help you? “Is Ira here?” Almost always asked with just a shade of disbelief, that they’d actually find the author they were looking for here, working at a building supply business.

And I have always received them cheerfully. Thanked them for taking the time, for driving the extra miles and making the effort to actually stop in. And I stood there, leaning on my side of the counter, and we’d talk. Chat about this and that, the book, mostly. I always asked them where they came from, and they came from all over. From the south. The west. Canada. All over. So far, a guy from Ireland holds the record for the greatest distance traveled. And I always gave them what time I had, at least five minutes, sometimes more if things were slow. And then I’d sign their copy and maybe sell them another one from my box right by my desk, the latest edition with “New York Times Bestseller” across the top. You need this one, I’d tell them, pointing that out. Sometimes they fell for it, sometimes not. And soon, off they’d go, on down the road. I hope I created some memories for some of them. I couldn’t imagine driving much out of the way and stopping in somewhere to see me, but that’s just me. I try to be accessible. I mean, it always was astonishing to me, to see someone walk in to see me just because of the book. It still is.

Lately, though, that little flow of fan traffic has slowed to almost nothing. Sure, maybe once every couple of weeks, someone will still pop in. But I think there were a few stretches of at least a month or so when no one did. All right, it’s getting close to over, I told Rosita. People have pretty much stopped stopping in. And that’s the way it was, the last while.

Until last week. I sold a few books over the counter, all of a sudden. To customers, standing there. Most of them never even notice my little book sign stuck to the back of the computer screen with tape. And I never mention anything, if they don’t. Now, all of a sudden, they seemed to be seeing that sign. And asking about it, then looking real astonished, then buying a copy right on the spot. This is pretty wild, I thought, selling books over the counter like that. And it was, until the door opened, oh, fairly early in the week, and a couple walked in. You could see they weren’t there to buy a pole barn. And they asked for me. Rosita smiled and pointed to my desk behind the counter. They walked up, and it was like it always was. I stood, and we talked across the counter. I thanked them for stopping by. And we chatted about what they wanted to talk about, mostly the book and my writing. And then they left. I didn’t think much of it. A sporadic thing, that kind of thing was these days. But it wasn’t, last week. Another couple walked in the next day. And another the day after that. I took time with them all. And the talk always turned one way, eventually. When am I coming out with the next book?

Well, I told them, some in more detail than others. It was all one big blessing, what the book has been so far. And whatever it is in the future will be, too. And I’m sure there would be a market for a sequel. But right now, I’m just writing and posting on my blog. That’s the only place it’s coming out. The only place I can speak, so that’s where I’m speaking. What you see there is where I am. A second book will come when it does. And if it doesn’t, it just won’t. I’ll write where I can write. And I won’t, where I can’t. And they all seemed to hear what I was saying. Not sure if it made much sense to them, but they heard me saying it.

The week slipped by toward the weekend. I was looking forward to it. My brother Jesse and his wife Lynda and two of their younger daughters were stopping in at Steve’s on Friday night. They’d be around a day or two. We’d all hang out, mostly at Steve’s place. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Jesse. After work, I headed over and we waited until they pulled in around seven in a very cool little rented SUV. A long day of fighting traffic, that’s what they’d been through. We greeted each other boisterously and milled about, talking. Then inside, where Wilma had fixed a delicious supper. Afterward, I asked about their plans for the next day. “Oh,” Steve said. “We’re just taking them around.” Well, stop by my place when you can, I said. I don’t know if I’ll invite you in, but I want to show Jesse what I did to my place outside. And we figured it would be sometime in the early afternoon, when they’d stop by. I’ll look for you, I said, and left for home.

And Saturday morning came. Beautiful and cloudless. My cell phone rang right at eight, which is an unearthly hour for me on Saturdays, unless I’m working. I sleep in, usually. But not this morning. Comcast was stopping by. My land line didn’t work. Quit cold about two months ago. I ignored it, because I don’t use it much. But still, if it’s there, and included in the package I’m paying for, I might as well get it fixed. I had called tech support earlier. A guy from India, clearly, by his accent. Friendly enough, though. He guided me through his little list of quick fixes. Nope. The line’s still dead, I told him. And he got me scheduled for that Saturday, to have a tech stop by. The guy arrived in a van, and I let him in. He scanned things with his iPhone and found the problem in about two seconds. And he handed me my cordless land line phone, dial tone buzzing. Well, that was simple, I said. “Yep,” he answered. “Do you have your voicemail set up?” Voicemail? What’s that? “Well, this is how you set it up,” he said, and showed me. I was pretty astounded.

After he left, I dug into the voicemail instructions, and set it up with my password. And dialed it in. A very nice lady’s voice then cheerfully informed me that there were exactly fifty messages waiting, from all the way back to last October. Good grief, I thought. I hope it was nothing important. Couldn’t have been, because you can find me if you’re looking for me. But still. Good grief. Fifty messages.

And I went through all fifty of them. Some were sales calls, but a good many were messages from friends and acquaintances, too. Hey, Ira, can you give me a call? From all the way back to last fall, some of them. Oh, well. No sense calling back now, and trying to explain. They’ll just have to think I’m rude, I figured. And I deleted every one. If by any chance you were one of those who left me a message, that’s what happened. And that’s why I never got back to you. I never knew you called. It is what it is, I guess.

Awake now, early because of the Comcast man, I stirred about. Got my coffee, ran some errands here and there. And sometime that morning, I saw the email coming in. From my friend, Patrick Miller. I checked the message on my phone, on the road. It was pretty short, with a link. “Poem about whiskey and writing – thought of you.” Patrick doesn’t send me a lot of links. Actually, he rarely sends me any. So if he sends one, I always check it out. It would have to wait, though, until I got back home.

And I got back home, and it was close to midday. Company was coming soon. Steves and Jesses. The outside looked fine. I quickly stacked stuff around, to make the inside at least half presentable. And around one, my cell phone rang. Steve. They were on the way over, they’d be here soon. Come on, I said. I’m home. And soon enough, his van pulled in. I walked out. Steve and Wilma and Jesse and Lynda stepped out to greet me. Welcome, I said. This is my home. And I showed them the angel first, standing under the shrub tree. Told them, here it is. And we walked around the house, as I pointed out all the improvements. Jesse seemed impressed. A real nice job of repointing those bricks, he thought. I invited them inside then, and the women didn’t seem too horrified. We made room on the couch and on the easy chair, and I sat by my desk. It all fit. I showed Jesse some of the book paraphernalia, the honorary doctorate and framed posters and such. Each with its own embellished tale, of course. It was a good time, and a comfortable one.

And they left, then. “Come on over for sausages tonight,” Wilma told me. “Around five. We’re grilling them over the fire ring, and we want to get it done before it gets dark.” I’ll be there, I said. The van pulled out. I went back to my desk. Time to check out that link Patrick sent me. A poem about whiskey and writing. I like scotch, as Patrick knows. I wondered if the poem was about that, drinking scotch while writing. I’ve certainly been known to do that.

I clicked on the link. It was an ad for Dewar’s scotch whiskey. Some poem, professionally narrated. The theme of the ad was about getting up each day, and doing what you do. But the poem was about writing. They tried to make it about just going to work every day, and did a pretty good job. But the author’s voice came through. Clear as a bell on a foggy morning. He was writing about writing. And I just sat there, almost mesmerized, and listened. It was truth, pouring out of those speakers. Raw, real truth. Not since the first time I picked up and read Thomas Wolfe has something so real hit me so hard in a way that only great writing can hit you.

And Wolfe had told what it was, to write. In pages and pages of soaring, sweeping prose. This guy, who wrote this poem, got it all told in a few hundred words. I’ve never been much of a poetry fan. It’s a condensed play on words, poetry. And most of the stuff out there is hardly worth glancing at, or hearing. “Fudge and taffy, slop and goo,” as Wolfe wrote. But this, this poem was gold. Just solid and brutal truth, told in a raspy narrator’s voice. I sat back and drank it in, absorbed it. And then again. And again. It was so raw, so real, and so true that I felt it all the way down, deep inside. This, this is how it is. How it always was. I just never could find the words to describe it. This guy, this Charles Bukowski, could and did.

The ad was about getting up and going to work, though, not about writing. And I googled the poem. “So You Want to be a Writer.” Pulled it right up. And read what the narrator had left out. It all fit. It all made so much sense. Because that’s where I’ve always been, the place Bukowski speaks of.

You write when it comes, and you write from where you are. It makes no difference where that might be. I remember telling the Tyndale people. It seems strange, to get paid to do this. Seems almost wrong, somehow. Not that I don’t like the money. I do. And I’ll take what the market gives me, and I’ll be grateful for every penny. And enjoy it. But still, I’d throw it all out on the blog, too, for free. Just like I would have thrown out the story of Growing Up Amish. It wouldn’t have been so concise, so connected, and definitely not edited by a true editor who got my voice, like it is in the book. But the essence of the story would have been written, anyway. You would have had to wade through a lot more words, sure. But it would have been told. Because I would have told it.

And that’s why I always talk about the journey of the book like I do. I’m grateful for everything it was and is. It was a wild adventure that came out of nowhere. And took me to some wild places. And it all went the way it did, because I wasn’t looking for it. How many writers and academics would give their left arm to have “New York Times Bestseller” on the cover of their book? A lot, I think. Most of them will never see it because they want it so badly. And don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of that distinction. It’s an honor I will always treasure. But it’s not why I wrote the book. Or anything else I write. It never was a reason to write, to reach bestseller status. And it never will be.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.

You write because you have to, you write when it comes out. It really doesn’t matter where that is. In your diary, in your journal, and in today’s wired world, on your blog, if you have the nerve to throw your stuff out there. The whole wide world is open to what you have to say, if you want to speak it. And if you have to speak it, you will. Doesn’t matter if you have half a dozen readers. Or thousands. Writing is not a formula. It comes as it will, as the winds that sweep the earth. You speak it, when it comes. And you respect the silence, when it doesn’t.

And why didn’t I know who this Bukowski guy was? One might ask. You might indeed. I do remember the name, and I’m sure I read some of his short stuff in college. But I don’t remember this poem. Never heard of it. Maybe that’s because I don’t hang around people who talk about writers much, I don’t know. I don’t subscribe to any writer’s blog. Except one. Fred Reed, the Curmudgeon. I want to know what he says when he says it. Otherwise, I just go to the sites I want to read. And most of those are about freedom.

And I wonder. Do they tell of this poem at Writer’s Conferences? Which I abhor, because they try to tell you how to write. If those conferences don’t teach this stuff, (and how can you ever teach such a thing?), I think I’d ask for my money back. You can’t “teach” anyone how to write. It either comes on its own, or it doesn’t.

And yeah, yeah, I know how it is, often, when Christians are confronted with truth that great writers speak. I remember talking to Dad back when I was in college. Somehow Ernest Hemingway came up. I’m not a big fan, but the man was a literary giant. Dad wasn’t impressed at all. “Didn’t he commit suicide?” he asked. Well, yeah, I said. What does that have to do with whether or not he could write? “Well, I don’t know that I’d want to read anything from a man who did that,” Dad replied. And I could only shake my head. There wasn’t a whole lot more to say, in that conversation. But I’ve thought about it since, now and then. Who can speak truth? Only people in your social or religious circles? Only people you agree with? Only people that supposedly aren’t flawed, somehow? And it’s the same thing, with Bukowski. He lived a hard life, much of it. And many “Christians” will recoil from the details. It doesn’t matter to me at all. Who and what he was is between him and God. Why should I get bogged down in judging that? What matters to me today is what he wrote.

And what he wrote is truth, when it comes to what writing is. It’s that simple. I will take and absorb what he said for a long time. Because you can be flawed to the core and speak truth all day long, when you speak it like that.

Had I known this poem and its message, I never would have tried to write anything for a sequel, back when that happened and it all went like it did. Because I would have known better. But I didn’t know better. And I was a little intimidated by it all, anyway. That was pretty much the accepted formula of going about it, so I certainly can’t fault anyone for suggesting it. You wrote a book that sold decently. Now write another before everyone forgets you. So you can slip in a few more sales, quick. I shiver now, just thinking about it. And I recoil from that mindset. But I wasn’t strong enough to say what I really felt back then. Plus, I was too freaked out to really know what I felt, anyway. And that’s just the way it went. Part of walking through this crazy world of writing and publishing. And there was something powerful, something cleansing, something freeing, about writing and crashing like that. If you try to go where you can’t force yourself to go, you’ll never get there. You’ll never see the place that is impossible to enter until it comes on its own and opens the door and invites you in. And tells you to speak.

There is no other way than to let it come when it does. And if it never does come, I’ll do something else. Because there is no other way. And there never was. But I’m just repeating what a wise man and master writer once said.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Charles Bukowski