Letter 8 – Some Something

Stephen,

You’re an awful pen pal, you know. I’m just going to write you some things, some nothings.

It’s been an awful week. Everything is fine. I’m feeling defeated. I’m feeling the same as I always do. I’ve been laboring over my dissertation. I’ve been grading piles of papers. Sleeping little, running less. I’m mad. This is my fault. Everything is fine.

I’ve realized that I write long sentences. Academics don’t really care about this. I learned from them, I guess. The more esoteric, the better, I’m told. If people cannot understand you, you’re probably really fucking brilliant. It is challenging, in this way, to switch back and forth between stylistic modes. It is challenging to write lengthy jargon-laden sentences about the social construction and interpretation of everything for days on end and then turn to edit staccato fictional prose.

Here is a poetically inspired something I jotted down during one late night this week. It occurred to me–and maybe it has also occurred to me before–that central pieces of our/my furniture came from my mom. They were centerpieces for homework and early toiling in my childhood kitchen. I can remember being 18 and drinking iced tea all night long after I realized it would keep me awake and alert enough to study. I share this with you not for artistic scrutiny, but to point to the shared experience of the early years of our friendship. <You said the other day that we never reminisce about high school.>  Not that you were doing the same. You were busy presiding over bible club. But I digress:

This oak table

where I sit to grade these papers

These oak chairs

where I sit to labor

over compound sentences

in compound chapters

of dissertated thought

That oak china hutch

against the north wall

They are the same places

I hunched for long nights

eyes wide on stimulants

in our teenage years

before the dawn of sedatives

to solve calculus problems

to study anatomy

to not lose

to think

and not think about how

I was not whole.

 

And am I now?

It’s safe to say that no variant of the word “dissertation” can figure into a legitimate poem. Good thing you already see me without the polish of my makeup on a near daily basis.

 

Cheers,

ash