Friday, November 18, 2016

Jonathan Penton

How to Recover from Writer’s Block

1.    Join a high-pressure writing organization that expects a significant level of output.

2.    Buy a Rider-Waite tarot deck. Shuffle it. While shuffling the cards, notice that it’s no longer called the Rider-Waite tarot deck, but “The Rider Tarot Deck®, Known also as the Waite® Tarot and The Rider-Waite Tarot®.” Remember an old book, Women of the Golden Dawn, which asserted that Waite, a man, gave vague sketch ideas for this most famous of modern tarot decks, but a woman artist realized all the ideas, and that the deck was properly considered a woman’s creation, but a man got all the credit because it was a Golden Dawn and also Victorian and also English and also an everybody thing. Look more closely at the box while you shuffle the cards. The box says, “The original and only authorized edition of the 78-card Tarot Deck designed by Pamela Colman Smith™ under the direction of ARTHUR EDWARD WAITE.” Why is Pamela Colman Smith™ trademarked? Is Rider the real name of Smith? Why would the deck be under her real name rather than her pseudonym?

3.    Draw a card. It’s “Wheel of Fortune,” which is a fine card. You don’t know what it means but it’s clearly got hell of symbols all over it and it’s covered in Hebrew letters, which you can read. Your ignorance is by design. This is a perfect writing prompt.

4.    Write about your dead cat instead. Consider the way you eulogized her on Facebook. Consider the Creative Writing professor who, rather than offering sympathy, told you that you could get a poem out of your eulogy. Consider the utilitarian aspects of dead cats in the furtherance of literary careers.

5.    Acquire a new cat. Acquire a kitten who is too young to be weaned, but whose mother has been cut in half by a car. Give her cow’s milk, then wet food, then wet-and-dry food. Live with her in places like Texas and California and Georgia and New Mexico and Louisiana. Take care of her litters until giving in and having her spayed. Wait for her to develop mammary cancer. Wait for her to lose interest in peeing on all your stuff. Wait for her shits to slowly shrink and harden. Wait for the cancer to spread to her lungs and for her breathing to become labored. Wash her tumor while you wait. Wash her tumor in sterilized water, then hydrogen peroxide, then Neosporin, but not the kind with painkiller. This is because cats lick Neosporin off their wounds, which is good, unless it has the painkiller, which is highly toxic to cats. Watch her lick the Neosporin off her wounds, until her breathing is such that she doesn’t feel up to doing so any more. Discuss her with the doctor. When the doctor offers steroid shots, take them, once, because she is still eating and still has her personality. Watch her appetite sharply decline in a week. Comfort her as she wakes up, short of breath and afraid in the middle of the night. Spend the night in the kitchen with her, whispering promises that you’ll never, ever leave her and she’ll never be alone. Call the vet when they open, 11am because it’s Sunday. Make your 1:30 appointment, then wait for the Sunday doctor because her last patient bit her and she’s gone home to clean up with sterilized water, hydrogen peroxide, and Neosporin. Soothe the cat’s anger after she is injected with sedative. Hold the cat’s head, rubbing her ear the way she likes, while she receives her lethal injection, whispering those same promises until the light leaves her eyes in an instant. When asked about cremation, accept the service and reject the ashes, tell them to discard the ashes wherever because cats are people but corpses aren’t and you just saw your cat leave, you know she’s not there. When you sign the bill, you are either clearheaded or impoverished enough to notice that you were not charged for the cremation.

6.    Repeat Step 5. Write one dead cat poem every thirteen years. This general avoidance of poetry will help you live a long time, enabling your heirs to release a single slim volume immediately upon your own death, from breast cancer maybe or according to your specific needs. If you lack heirs, employ a Twitterbot.

7.    The cats must be always, invariably, female. You are writing poems about them, nu? Let them be Smith poems, not Waite poems. Who the hell was Rider?

Oh mornin’ cracklin
Children dancing
In summer camps to 90s beats
Oh Texas swing
Oh German squeezebox
Oh rallies for our virgins lost

Oh King of Cookouts, lord of Hennessey,
bless us with the magic of your fantastic Cadillac
Oh Queen of Daiquiris, dressed in emerald,
your ass a shelf on which two beer cans can stand
Oh Master of Festivals, older than Paul,
teach us humanity, prince of the power of the air
Oh Mistress of Burials

And we who see no difference between vengeance and escape
We who have challenged Ozymandias to a footrace
We who seek the feminine in necklaces of pearls
We who seek the masculine in Christmas-ornament beards

Oh float that honors Han Solo’s passing
Oh float that mocks a lynching victim
Oh theatre marathon for Amy and Charles Schumer
Oh six-hundredth ride for bicyclists’ respect

We whose hotel skyscrapers reach from cliff to swamp
We who feel unsettled if we aren’t building on the sand

Oh fais do do
Oh second line
Oh gentle command in the cry room
May our every wound become radiant in your Dionysian heat

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