Repetition …a poet must be torn in two in such a way as to close the way to all deceptions. —Soren Kierkegaard Journals. 1850 The ghost arrives. He sits and starts to write. His sharp eyes staring from an unlined face, he speaks low while scribbling into the night. “You think,” he says, “that you leap towards light— you’re nimble, jumping over a candle’s small flame. You watch for the coming of words to write. You start. You stop. You see her face, her bright deep eyes.” You let him talk on while you place, without speaking, a glass, darker than night, of wine before him. You’re framing a fight you won’t have. You’d like to be sure to say something he’d like, something he’d want to write. “You don’t understand,” he keeps on, “this rite we repeat is a game you made up. A play. It’s you who speaks while I scribble all night. This balances your left hand and your right eye. You let me appear to bear the blame for disturbing all these words you won’t write.” Flame blows out. A scribbled page lights the night.
Mark J. Mitchell’s latest full-length poetry collection is Roshi, San Francisco (Norfolk Press). A novel, The Magic War is available from Loose Leaves Publishing. He studied at Santa Cruz under Raymond Carver and George Hitchcock. His work appeared in several anthologies and hundreds of periodicals. He lives with his wife, Joan Juster, where he made his living pointing out pretty things in San Francisco. Now, like many others, he’s unemployed.