The Word Arc Welder… The Poet.

The story about messing up a birthday gift, and the importance of enjoying life’s surprises.

On one of my brother’s birthdays, I decided to take him on a trip to a writers workshop somewhere east of Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. He told me he was working on a novel, and I thought it would be good for him to meet like-minded people.

I failed to consider how difficult it is to navigate Vermont’s roads at night. There are practically no street lights. After picking up dinner at a drive-up Arby’s (yes, drive-up still exists) and listening to the audio from the Matrix (the first one) as background music, I knew I was on the right road, but I couldn’t see any street signs. I drove back and forth a few times, but gave up as both my brother and I were exhausted. We backed into a vacant opening in the forest, locked our doors, and got some sleep somewhere between Means Woods and Battell Woods.

I woke up feeling like a rusty hinge after sleeping in a partially reclined drivers seat, but marveled at how pleasant it was to wake up under the tree-shaded oxygen laden outdoors. The road we were on lead straight to Middlebury, VT where we enjoyed the morsels left at a farmer’s market that was about to close. After we filled up, we stepped into a second hand bookshop and noted the distinct smell of aged pages. I stopped at a bookshelf full of slim poetry journals and began scanning for the shortest poems I could find.

“Life is just a series
of incurable miracles
Love is just a series
of curable follies…” — Biotechnology by Diana Der-Hovanessian

“Music moves us through time
my sister says, and not the other way around…” — The Opera House by Alexander Thorburn

Part of the pleasure of this trip came from the simplicity of planning for the writer’s workshop, failing to be at the right place, then getting blindsided by the words of the clever folks who shared their work.

The truth, however, was much more grim. I didn’t like every poem, but only connected with a small handful of poems. And within those some changed how I viewed the world and other poems helped me laugh away the tension that reality inevitably builds up within. I subscribed to a few of the journals I saw at the bookstore.

Over the course of a few years, I received 10–20 journals in the mail, but the situation remained the same. I didn’t connect with most poems, but what kept me reading was finding the rare gems that literally make my perspective melt away.

Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal:
a tiny but powerful
kit for adapting it
to the unimaginable.” — In Case of Complete Reversal by Kay Ryan

“In this short life
that lasts only/merely an hour
How much — how little — is
within our
power” — A252 by Emily Dickinson

“…For many people, admitting to a fondness for poetry is like admitting to a fondness for a mechanized floral armchair: it’s too pretty, and, anyway, they don’t get how it works…” — A review of In The Penile Colony by Abagail Deutsch

As we went back home we came across another more quaint set of literature that some Vermont owners left on their front porch tucked in a couple bookshelves. The house was vacant, and the only message was written on a box where customers were instructed to leave payments based on an honor system.

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