Sunday, March 22, 2009

Publication day

"Why did you do it?"

"I had to."

"Had to?"

"It was a beautiful poem."

"It wasn't a 'poem', Hal, it was a coded message."

"Yes, but it was beautiful."

"So you sent it in to the Kenyon Review."


"Knowing it contained sensitive government information."


"You realize that's treason?"

"Oh come on, nobody's going to know. It's a lit journal, for Christ's sake - hardly anyone even reads the thing. Certainly not anyone capable of cracking an obscure cipher."

"You can't know that for sure. You have no idea who may be reading it or what they may or may not be capable of."


"So the information is now compromised. And it isn't just the information. You realize the kind of attention this is going to draw? One day you're an obscure English professor in a dead-end state college no one has ever heard of and the next day you're in print next to John Ashbery. We can never use you for anything again."

"'In print next to Ashbery'. Don't you see? That's the whole point! All those years collecting rejection slips, knowing I was no good, only managing to get 'published' by signing up to be a government agent. And then one day I'm sitting there wrestling with the code book and suddenly I turn out exactly the kind of poem I've always dreamed of writing, the kind of poem I've spent a lifetime training myself to recognize, a truly great poem, my one shot at being a real poet. How could I not take it?"

"Well, I hope you're satisfied. Because it's the end of your career as a writer."

"You don't mean that!"

"I'm sorry, Hal, but that's the way it is. Starting tomorrow, you're going to disappear. There's nothing I can do about it."

"I see. Will you at least let the poem go?"

"Well, it's already been published, so there's not much I can do."

"But what about republication? In anthologies, for example."

"I don't know. I don't see how it could hurt. The damage has already been done. If anything, getting it more circulation may help throw off suspicion - make it seem more legitimate, that sort of thing."

"So you'll let it go."

"I'll think about it."

"I guess that's the best I can hope for. Shall we go now?"

"If you're ready."

[with bonus points for getting the Fay Grim connection]

1 comment:

M said...

Oh! THIS is brilliant. See why you are fast becoming my favorite writer?