There was a prompt in front of me and the prompt said “write the saddest poem ever.” I read words three and four as “saddest porn.” Cue fourteen explicit pages with a subplot of dying puppies. It cost me some friends. Maybe more than some.
Before that, there might have been some good news.
There was the Dixieland jazz band that became a grindcore band. Elderly avant-jazz heads told me I was the fastest clarinetist they’d seen. I basked in this, believe you me.
Also noted: the faun I nursed back to health. He lay beside the highway one night when I drove by. Feeding him wasn’t so hard; house-training was harder. Harder still was hiding him from the hunters: that sound of hounds barking outside, the sequential knocks skipping from door to door, the horns in the hallway.
I latched on.
There had been a relationship before that. There had been a we. Then, for a month, all my pillow talk involved mascots. Then there was no we.
Contingent with the clarinet, I gave juggling a try. The band began touring. Bassist Alexi was driving when one sphere grazed his eye. My juggling gear was jettisoned on I-80. There were stern warnings given.
We would hit the road for long weekends: Chicago, Boston, Richmond. Once we linked up with a subway grindcore band called We Stop At Five Dollars. The open road and rest stops. Moonlight clarinet and exhortations to violence. Speedy exits.
The sound of a banjo gone supersonic? You could build a religion around it. Last I heard, bassist Alexi was trying exactly that.
Airfare was booked. The Czech Republic beckoned. The festival circuit loomed. We had an audience there, we were told. An eager one at that.
Three days before we were set to fly, I got a call. I’d been replaced. Someone better. Someone fitter. Someone who could also play the oboe. Someone who didn’t juggle; someone who, at least, didn’t juggle hazardously.
Six days before we were set to fly, I saw the writing prompt. I went to it. Something saddest, I read. I thought: I can manage that. I thought: there are brilliant fragments still to make.
I follow my former band’s itinerary. I feed the faun his oats; we watch the stars. The hunters haven’t shown in weeks. Cue the sound of cicadas; cue all the damage you can muster.