Dear Editors of Esteemed and tiny journals,
I know how hard you work for nothing but the love of the art, and how underappreciated you often are, so I have attached no poems for submission, thereby saving you the time of reading them, time that could be better spent reading the better poems of others, or spending time with your lover or your children, or simply sitting in the sun and maybe even writing a poem of your own, one I hope will not receive the sadness of the consequent form rejection that you would have sent if I had included my poems, poems that would have kept you from that party you were going to blow off in order to catch up on the hundreds of submissions clogging your In-Box. Now you can take that subway ride, where you can nod your head with your eyes closed and your ear plugs on, listening to that obscure composer you love of sonatas for cello and sousaphone. For the world is rather like the bell of a sousaphone, or is it love that is the bell? The one ringing now in the high cathedral on the far side of town, where there had only been funerals for the last decade. Where the coffins are cloaked with sunflowers. The old Bulgarian women are donning their black netting. Oh Editor, where are the weddings? Who is writing, as Lorca asks, the Baptism of the new? No, my poems are not, they are old as dust, or dirt, or a broom. Too many of us are bothering you. Turn off your computer, dear editor. There is honey waiting to be spooned in your tea. There is poppyseed cake. Look out the window. There is wild thyme and fennel.
Dear Editor of Esteemed Midwestern Journal,
I am sorry to bother you again. No, I have not attached poems for submission. Instead I wanted to tell you about the smell of beer and fried food at Wrigley field when my friend Michael was a boy, and the scent of pierogi his mother baked, and the South Side blues that rang from the high window of a girl in her room reciting to herself, who would grow up to blow the mic off every stiff podium. I wanted to remind you of Lake Michigan frozen, and the ice fishers huddled over their chain-sawed holes, and the razored wind that rips into the aluminum walls of freight cars that men are loading with gloved hands. I am writing to tell you that last night I worked the night shift and I stood over an old man I take care of praying, I was praying he was breathing. He was. But every night I ask you how many of us are praying to simply breathe?
Dear Editor Sipping Wine the Color of Posh,
I’ve been worrying about you because I read on your guidelines that you receive over 10,000 submissions. Just reading that made me want to pop a handful of Tylenol PM and then sit in a chair and stare at the light on the wall. It is oddly warm today, is it warm where you are over in the Midwest? I checked the weather channel and I hope you are not in the rain from the leftover hurricane, as if the hurricane is something we could eat with a giant spoon, not the little spoons too many of my dead used to burn with their lighter and keep in a kit they’d hide in a hole in the wall. Oh editor, I sometimes wonder if not all what we write are elegies. The lost psalms I carry inside me. No, but don’t worry about that. Let’s talk instead about this new bird I heard this morning. It too is another leftover from the October weather who has not flown south yet. I saw it high up in the tree, this small black and red bird who was signing the air with its voice. It rewrote the whole morning into mourning, its light notes so mapped with grief I looked around to see if its mate had fallen
prey to some night time tom cat. Let’s us pray I say, I say it all the time, these days it seems it is all we have left. I look at the empty air between my two hands and can’t seem to push them together. The other day my wife saw a white owl fly over her head, it hesitated in the air like a giant moth, before rising with one big flap and disappearing over the power station. She said she couldn’t press the gas pedal to go she was so startled. But she did, she drove away. What I am trying to say is the miraculous is like that everywhere, but we cannot keep it, we must leave. There are children waiting to be fed. We have a pork roast to buy, some potatoes. Our bosses are waiting for us to punch in. But editor, dear editor that great owl is still out there. He is still eyeing the ball field and the grass on the side of the ravines. He is dipping and swooping at night between the power lines of our backyards to eat the rodents. Can you hear the black bird’s grieving psalms? Have you turned away from the blue light of your screen? Have you left your office to breathe in the scent of your sleeping child’s hair?
Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 16 books including The Second O of Sorrow published in 2018 by BOA Editions, and Alongside We Travel: Contemporary Poets on Autism (2019 NYQ Books). Recent work in Brevity, the North American Review and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He works as a care giver and Med Tech for people recovering from traumatic brain injuries. More info on Sean can be found at seanthomasdoughertypoet.com