Rough Drift

"Small" writing challenges for my small writing talent. Hotel note pads are the only space allowed. Let's see if I can strip it down and tighten it up to learn something. Improving my skill of weird fiction.

80.) Ahh, university years; looking inside an old poetry notebook.


Few events in our lives generate more revulsion than discovering one’s old university notebook of angst-ridden poetry boiling over like a garbage-ridden back-alley dumpster-fire. Woe befell the author of the time but may God help it’s assaulted reader today! My pages reflected lonely desires for another. Times I thought I knew the answers to what’s wrong or who’s fault. Seeking an identity with a physical world. It’s all in these few pages with the most brilliant examples of seriously deficient writing. I decided to have fun and look into what the hell was in my head back then.

“As I walked back across the hills, she ran in another direction, towards someone else who was passing on his way towards the plains.”

Oh, hell. Fun? That’s part of a five-page glue factory pulp epic describing a journey with someone who obviously didn’t end up with the protagonist. I do not think there was anything in that story that didn’t have a medieval tar and feathering of metaphor all over the self-deprecating world I built. On and on. One poem after the next. Page after page of bitter stew I apparently brewed.

I thumbed through my little brittle pages, coming across something I had to read several times before deciding it was not deserving a call to the police to turn myself in. I had to consider the frame of mind many of us were dealing with in the middle of our University tour of duty. I’ll have to remember how difficult our emotions were for when my own daughters go off to school.

“Through closed eyes she lies. Unaware of the eyes that are on her.”

Lo and behold, Straight out of a creepy plot machine and into Buffalo Bill’s basement lotion pit. Was I both stalker and grammar assassin? Or, was I a lonely third-year student with a 2.5 GPA sans girlfriend? Turns out, this was a piece about a girl who never noticed (of course!) the obviously better choice and pursued the (of course!) obviously bad choice within the heard. Had I said hi on occasion I’m sure I would not have made this Pulitzer-winning observation. Oh, such tragic events befouling my twenties, uh, of my own doing!

Within this low-quality, hand-held caustic spill lays the occasional nugget of at least fools-gold quality if not something better about which I can feel reasonably proud. Some passages relate to general life and not the specifics in my head so I shouldn’t really look down my nose at these parts.

“So much poetry has been written by the rain,”

Now I’m feeling more refreshed. I may sling some great High-School preposition-style kung-fu, but who can argue with a statement like that? Indeed, rain does captivate through sounds on the roof or sidewalk. Throughout the approaching distant thunders and lightning. Poetic? Sure, why not. I had to plow through more to find this:

“To lose the best chance, you need no special equipment.”

I remember this. I actually remember writing that sentence, but I don’t remember writing what followed, so I caught up with the old scratches. Yes, it devolved into metaphors of being kept down and ending with a confused phrase about others in my same major having better luck. First world problems, you know. “Many others are blemish-free, easily touched by those that need us.”

Where I thought I saw sunny-day pinholes of light inside the picnic basket, I realized I’d keep finding stacks of crapwhiches with extra cheese, and I’m kind to myself. Pages started falling out of the taped binding. My despair, escaping, falling to the basement floor knowing I was soon to sweep up the dirt and trash. I could lighten up this dark room and talk about my inventive comparison on page thirteen concerning Harry Houdini, the early 20th-century escape artist, but it really became a motivational piece for never giving up on escapism. I did achieve a positive response, though; my then manic-depressive roommate really liked it.

I closed the gray assignment notebook and took the time to consider the work as a whole. I should have started a garage band. All songs, using the cuisine in my gray book, would question moods and motivation, whether we should be happy or sad about our world. Everyone on my Midwest campus had adopted the grunge dress-code flannel, and Pearl Jam was still playing major venues. Here’s proof I could have done it. Page ten where I discuss an exhausted candle’s hardening remains,

“. . . Nothing to gain from it but memories of what it was, and how it made you feel.”

Bah! Pearl Jam should be thankful I didn’t have a garage. Yeah, that’s it.

The last parts of this notebook I’ll mention, without example, are the badly misappropriated lyrics sprinkled over some pages. I very nearly ripped out a page, infused with U2 Rattle & Hum lyrics, to mail to a girl named Christi. I am sure she is unknowingly thankful I never followed through. Moving to the end.

Twenty years on, I have a mortgage, a family, and a garage full of junk to play with and none of it represents like laughable crap inside my little five by seven book of one hundred pages – twenty pages used. It was a year of stuff I gotta get out of my head, you know, man? We all had that phase, figuring out who we are or want to be and if we were lucky, we devised a plan to follow through. I get to laugh at this; the amateur created cheeseburger on the way to the learned creation of flavor. I’m glad I didn’t throw out the gray book, but I don’t know what to do with it. Do I throw it away or keep it as the example? Reminders that writing crap helps us learn how to do it the right way next time? Everyone starts out writing scatological drivel. I’m quite a ways away from any publishable masterpiece but knowing I can fearlessly point and laugh at my earlier heart bleedings comforts me. I get to move on without baggage. I get to move on!

(Author’s notes) Yup. These are real quotes from my old stuff. The real deal. Don’t sweat the job ahead. Be free of the previous work. Professionals don’t seem all that proud of their older work (unless it makes them lots of money today) so don’t sweat it. Get on with your work ahead.


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