Poetry is the closest thing one has to understanding the soul. It has the ability to be personal and distant at the same time. The topics can be as varied as the colors of the rainbow, but, as any writer would agree, one thing remains constant, it takes a lot of guts to write one and share it.
These are some of mine…
A Copyeditor’s Job
A copyeditor’s job is broken
Down into four little C’s
Simple C’s, elegant C’s
It’s distillation, clarification
It’s subjective… sometimes
But the typos, the grammar mistakes
The reading every single word
And asking every single comma,
Period, semicolon, and dash—
Whether it’s hyphen, en, or em—
What the fuck are you doing there and
Asking the almost existential question
We humans, with our huge souls and tiny homes
Are afraid to answer
Do you even belong?
These are not subjective
It’s 50-60 percent technical
40-50 percent creative
See it’s not all red, blue, or purple pen
Strokes on a keyboard
Bubbles in the margins
Not all judgments or
Or slicing your work—or your heart—to bits
We don’t want to ruin your voice or
Ruin your story or
Ruin your life
We fix the stuff that matters
Two passes are usually fine
And if we fix something and
Don’t like it
Feel free to query
We will back our edits, our suggestions, our marks
With orange and blue facts
From the big book of CMS
We do make style sheets
For random things like
Your slang words
So on page 305
We don’t need to remember
If you decided to spell a character’s name oddly
Incorrectly even on page 5
For a character not seen again for 300 pages
We’ll just look at our style sheet
And go from there
Be warned though
We will kill little words
Words that do nothing
And in a medium to heavy edit
Our pens or keyboards will want to run the show
Your edited manuscript might look
By the time we’re finished
But please know
We mean you no harm
It’s not a personal attack
On your sanity
On your life
We want to make your work better
Polished. Refined, even
And if we need to research if
Buttfucked is one word or
Butt plug should be hyphenated
We’ll do just that
We will also call out at least three times
The repeated actions your characters do like
Looked, pointed, smiled
Flipped off, rolled his/her eyes,
And ask you to vary it a bit, use
The full range of motions
If you will
Trust us, doing so will make your characters more believable
Like any profession
We have rules and guidelines to follow
Or we, too, will be called out
But we don’t remember everything
For example, I will never remember
Numbers or numerals so that section
In The Copyeditors Handbook will always
Remain open in my lap but
Never in my mind
I’m the same with hyphenation so
I have that section flagged in CMS
We are not perfect
We just want your writing to be
But we do it for you and your work
After it’s through our hands
Full-length manuscript will be
All that’s left to say on your part
Is “Thank you.”
I saw a cutie today.
No, not the orange,
The weird tiny fruit made only for children
That are actually kind of good
This cutie walked past my car.
No, rushed really
Unaware of my staring
Not creepy or weird
In my mind I saw things.
Don’t go in the gutter, I say.
I saw pixie wings and horns
Dragons and beasts and creatures all tamed
The little five-year-old
In a green shirt, dark pants
Skipping by her father’s side.
A sweet cutie and
The Makings of a Chocolate Cake Celebration
Step One: Utensils
Set up the conference room,
Grab forks, plates, and napkins.
The big serrated knife we always use.
Step Two: Chairs
Did I grab enough?
Count the bubbles to be sure.
Two people signed as “out” are actually “in”
Hunt down more chairs.
Step Three: People
Co-workers come early, shoo them away.
Call them back a minute later.
Step Four: Cake
The cake’s been out for twenty minutes.
Yes, of course it’s defrosted.
It’s not. Use boss’s hunting knife instead.
(A first for everything.)
Step Five: Enjoy
Everyone gets a slice,
The Red (and Blue and Green) Pen
I use colors to make the ripping
of your story a little more bearable,
The deletions of sections a little less blue, and
reduce the blood-shed tears over my insertion ideas.
(Because I know you could’ve thought of what I suggested,
If you had more time.)
Those lime-green comments are supposed to catch your eye,
make you rethink that one line,
whole entire chapter or even
I wear many hats.
I am a character analyzer,
a plotline fixer,
a finder of holes,
of stray commas,
of the incorrect usage of there, their, and they’re.
I don’t mean to hurt your feelings,
slicing up your work
throwing out your baby.
But the way the character is acting is out
of tune with the way you wrote her.
So don’t be sad when I ax
that section out.
It’s for the best.
My suggestions will make your manuscript better,
the descriptions tighter,
characters more powerful,
and plotlines solid.
You’re the reason I have a job at all.
After all, you wrote the story,
racked up the agonizing hours staring at a computer,
lost time wandering about your world,
and did a damn good job, too.
Trust my multicolored pen,
and we’ll make your work shine.
I don’t like it.
I don’t like being in limbo.
It’s a dark, scary void that
glasses everything over with grey and black,
fogging up my path,
suffocating my dreams.
I don’t like it.
I don’t like not learning anything,
not furthering my career,
not following my passion,
not doing anything worth my while,
I don’t like it.
Even though I am
editing the scraps that come my way
the blue moon books and once-in-a-while
the ones that show me who I am
what I do
and how the damn well I do it.
But I still don’t like it.
I want more.
I want to become that colored-pen editor
that writer who everyone has read
that worker-bee who gets stuff done.
And I will.
But in the meantime
in the waiting time
I’ll take what I can get.
In the void, it’s better than nothing.
I would really like it if
People would stop leaving coffee grounds in the kitchen
On the counter
On the table
On the freakin’ floor
Haven’t you learned to clear up after yourself?
I would really like it if
People would change the toilet paper rolls
When they know it needs to be changed
Because it needs to be changed
Because we’re civil like that
And who wants to be sitting on the throne without a tissue?
And I would especially like it if
People wouldn’t wait until the last possible second to get stuff done
And then want to change things in the midst of it all
And then change it back
And then add more text into the already massive document
Didn’t you just say no one would read it that carefully anyway?
I would also like it if
People would stop messing with things that are already finished
Or harping about things that are done but are ‘handled’
No one will see that tiny fingerprint on the corner of the presentation cover
Or honestly mind that it’s there
Are you afraid they’ll disqualify you over a smudge (or your work)?
But mostly, honestly, truly,
I would really like it if
We all just celebrated the fact that today is Friday
And we’re done with the draft
And it snowed outside
And I plan on going sledding this weekend
Among other (exciting) things
Can’t we all just have some fun?
Shards of Blue
Tumble, the shards, they tumble
down down down
into the black abyss they fall,
pooling at the base of darkness.
Never stopping, never ceasing,
those empty shades of blue hide a truth
none can comprehend
but all know.
The undeniable truth of fear and pain.
A darkened night only satiated
by the heavens crying.
Tiny droplets of tears are caught
in place by a single chalice.
A hand reaching out
in the midst of a hurricane.
That crystal cup amidst the darkening shards
is not half-empty nor half-full.
That is a cup brimming,
holding those minuscule droplets
as they dwell and merge as one.
Never letting them go.
But in that glass there are shards as well,
shades of dark blue against a shimmering crystal.
For even as beautiful the rose
one should never ignore its thorns.
You can peruse it on the Tool Box as well: Of Shards and Snowflakes.
I Am From
I am from Edward and Deborah,
Beatrice and William,
Francis and Elisabeth.
From Staten Island, New York
where pollution litters the air.
I am from pile high plates of food
because there’s no second chances
and veal cutlet parmesan with spaghetti
I am from wing-nuts, teachers,
soldiers, accountants, and bosses.
From humor, diligence, arguments, and happiness.
I am from, “I am learning and I will make
and “one for the bucket, one for me.”
I am from Roman Catholics,
Latin masses, small churches,
and two Fathers, both named Leo.
I am from camp-outs, RV trips,
Disney World, Orange Lake, and cruises.
From board games on Thursday,
pizza night on Friday,
and cartoons on Saturday.
From Mom’s spaghetti house,
Ah Sa Won Dad,
and s’more bars made by Jessie.
I am from seizures and colds,
Alzheimer’s and heart problems,
hospitals, prematurity, and C-sections.
I am from optimism and sarcasm
fun and laughter,
from fights and tears and apologies.
And one day I will use these things in my past
to create a future all my own.
The wind wakes to find herself shivering
her wispy clothes no longer heavy enough
Fire’s light is quickly receding
his flames no more than just enough
The moon’s eye is wide with fright
her shining surface isn’t reflective enough
The earth’s daughter no longer puts up a fight
curling up in a bed of green moss instead.
Glacier melts when no one is watching
retracing the steps he once has led.
The ocean’s speech, slow and silent,
no longer is able to crash up ahead.
Togowoods: An Alaska Cabin
I decided to go to Togowoods today.
The cabin is still simple and old,
there are no heaters, just a fireplace without any wood.
I walk outside to the only restroom for miles around,
an outhouse, and not a very good one at that.
As I open the door, it creaks, the sound is
similar to the one I remember all those nights ago.
The outhouse was scary back then
a long walk down a steep hill, icy from snow,
and dark from the absence of any electricity.
It was the 3 o’clock-in-the-morning-bathroom-runs
that showed who your true friends really were,
the outings where we swore monsters would get us
or at the very least a moose would charge.
Where the round seats were bigger than necessary,
and had a thin sheet of stick-to-your-ass frost
we always forgot about until it was painful to get back up.
Where the spider-webs and icicles melted together,
gossamer strands, unable to decipher the difference
until an angry arachnid suddenly appeared on your shoulder.
Where, when finished, I would shut the door
on the frozen hole they called “the outhouse”
and look up into the night sky, the stars glittering like jewels,
and feel the infinite emptiness
of that vast space pushing down on us
until we were ants on a blacktop,
crawling helplessly over pieces of sand
that were really mountains.
Where I first realized we were merely specs in space,
that earth, which seemed so big to my ten-year-old self,
was just one tiny planet compared to the millions of others.
Where the sun, our sun, the life-giving force
that brings us heat and energy,
the center of our solar system,
could be just another star to somebody else.
Now, ten years later, I am taller and wiser,
I know there is nothing scary about an outhouse.
Yet, the fact still remains; I am no larger than I felt
that one moment so many years ago.
A tiny speck on our edge of the universe.