Monday Flash Fics had a gorgeous inspirational picture this week, and it reminded me of a character I wanted to write for ages, but hadn’t figured out a way to put it all together. I had this notion of a New Orleans filled with people on the edge of a reality fraying a bit, and it began with a man with a voice capable of magic, or at least something like it, when he encountered poetry.
He stared at the ceiling for a long time before taking a deep breath, pulling his hat off just enough to see, and held up the piece of paper.
They’d all started calling him Poet. That’s what Hope said. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, though it was fitting enough. He didn’t write, but he read, and if he spoke…
“Okay.” The word was meant to force him into action. It worked well enough. He held the paper just far enough away to read it.
I guess I’m reaping what I’ve sown,
I dropped the seed and watched it grow,
And now I’ll eat my cake alone.
He didn’t know the poet. Copeland, it was signed. But it was hand-written. That mattered. It didn’t work from books, though sometimes it worked when it was typewritten. And that one time, a tagged poem on the side of a building on Chartres.
Another deep breath. “Okay.” Maybe if he said it again.
Through the closed door of his bedroom, he heard Hope coming home. That meant it was after midnight at least. He listened while she quietly moved, while she showered, while she went into her own bedroom and the silence—or what passed for it in New Orleans—surrounded him again.
If he hadn’t had Hope, he’d have gone mental by now. He knew that. She’d seen it happen, the first time. When it hadn’t been just Hope and Poet, but Hope and Raj and whoever he’d been before Poet.
If he’d ever been someone else. Had the words, the speaking, been there all along?
Third time was the charm. Poet sat up, rubbed his face, and took another breath.
“I guess I’m reaping what I’ve sown.” Each word made every cell in his body shake, like he was invoking a spell, or willing the universe in some way. Hell. Maybe he was.
“I dropped the seed and watched it grow.”
Speaking the words on the paper, the poem from some poet he’d never even met, was doing its thing for him. The way poems did when he spoke them. His vision got blurry, things shifted…
“And now I’ll eat my cake alone.”
Poet lifted from the bed, hovering while the speaking worked itself out of him. Syllables grabbed hold of him, words turning him slightly. His eyelids flickered. His hat fell free.
He landed, dropping onto the bed unceremoniously. It squeaked, and he waited, wondering if he’d woken Hope.
“Okay.” He sat up, breathed, and looked around his room.
No sign of Raj. Everything that had been theirs, or specifically Raj’s, was still gone. But there’d been changes. The poem had done its thing.
For one? Different books on his bookcase. He’d never read half those folk. And he’d lost his shirt again—why did poems always take his shirt?—but gained a new pair of sweats.
There was a pinging sound, and he picked up a phone. New case.
On my way home. A text from Hope. So he’d gained a few hours, maybe, or lost a day.
But no Raj. He was still gone. Still taken with that first damn poem.
A path diverged…
Poet got off the bed and walked his room. He added the poem to the pile of papers on his desk, now used of its potential, and noticed a set of artist pencils. Without touching them, he knew he could draw now. A whole history fell into place in his mind, memories of a life he never led—but now knew.
He could trade them for poems, he thought. It’d probably be easier than playing his guitar and singing. Or he could do both.
The phone pinged again. Any luck?
Hope knew. She’d been there. She was the only other person who remembered Raj, though sometimes, she admitted, she didn’t remember all the things Poet did. They’d all been there, in the museum, when he’d read aloud from the paper hidden behind glass.
A poem took Raj.
A poem had to be the way to get him back. Or at least let Poet find him.
Either would do.
3 thoughts on “Monday Flash Fics — Poet”
Wow! (What happens if he reads Shel Silverstein? 🙂 )
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I imagine hand-written Silverstein would be expensive. 😉
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‘Path diverged’ invokes Frost, but that’s not quite his poem, is it? Wonder if “Road not taken” would be better or worse for what Poet is hoping to do… Just don’t let him read ‘Stopping by Woods.’ Doesn’t need the miles under his belt, heh.
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