THINGS THAT HUNCH, PART III
By Zachary Lutz
In this ongoing piece, the self-appointed writer's narc, Stephen Blaine, studies the effectiveness of workshopping. Starting a poetry workshop in the fall of his low spirits, as a way to boomerang and prove his creative worth, Stephen will attempt to describe the intricacies of process, peer review, and imagination. It is his personal hope to unearth the assumptions of a good writing critique, and stage a revolution based on a new hypothesis. This revolution will begin, however, in his notebook.
No one said anything for quite some time. It was as if a spirit had entered the room and simultaneously paralyzed every individual from control over their own selves. Such was the nature of presentation, Stephen thought. He plodded through the murk of the silence and tried to focus on something tangible, looking at Dog again in his puce cardigan and whimpering a little, audibly. Nathan's stomach growled. Everyone in the room seemed to respond to the growl, and there was even a unanimous feeling that someone had started to speak; the group became conscious then, in effect attempting to subdue the anxiety of sound by turning their ears backwards to listen to the passing cars, which gave out that common flat drag of tire. A bus was realized in the bellowing of an engine, and the pregnancy of the pause became unbearable.
"I have something to share," said Martha.
Martha had a bonnet of yellow hair and looked like someone's grandmother, maybe Nathan's. Stephen thought how strange it would be if Martha was Nathan's grandmother, and that the two had enrolled in the poetry workshop together. Perhaps not even together, that Nathan and Martha had enrolled separately and now Martha was invigorated by the solidarity of kinship to begin speaking. It was the only fathomable reason Stephen could figure for the sudden speech. And there was something about the way Martha had smiled at Nathan's growling stomach, as though she knew his dietary habits and was tickled at the chance to see her constant chiding of his teenage-starving phase in reinforced example. Or, Stephen thought, maybe Martha and Nathan were not associates from the same family.
Web: "We'd like to hear it," a glint of reassurance.
Martha straightened and grabbed at the collar of her navy-blue windbreaker that she had still not decided to take off; nearly half of the classroom was still in their coats. Martha began to muse.
To grow grass beneath one's feet,
I thought it silly, or the guise of a
more youthful you. For standing
there in the gummy air, it would
worry my most inner things; Can
it ever be that we have grown or
will grow? I am younger now that
I am older. Or I am younger now
that I am younger. Grow with me,
then? Or grow beneath me? My
feet are yearning for a soft place.
Martha's voice was tired and entrancing, the tone and pacing of which was like toothpaste being squeezed slowly from the tube. Stephen Blaine could not make sense of what he was hearing, and without moving, felt as though someone had inserted a girth-y iron bar through the side of his skull. He could not focus, and needed to hear the piece read again right away. But Stephen could not say this aloud. He looked at Nathan, who was picking at the sunken chest of his t-shirt, indifferent. He looked at Mira, who had lulled into a dreamy kneading of her body, a real rocking back-and-forth, such that it had disrupted the once organized pile of filler paper into a jagged stack of white. Everyone in the room seemed a little different, and Stephen thought maybe he should have closed his eyes. He thought, yes, this may be the problem. That to observe the locus of a room and be obliterated by the image of the poet him or herself is to be stuck through the temple with the image of a skewer, and that if Stephen could close his eyes and focus on the words in their own associations, his head would be less heavy. Yes, the solution seemed, at the least, possible. He would have to work on the details.
"Age as grass," Web pronounced.
Dog snickered. Stephen was exhausted and felt a little intimidated by three-letter names. Courtney shot up her hand – something was burning in her face.
"I think it's like a...I don't know, uh, good image," she said, with a stutter.
"Yes," Web said, encouraging a more educated exploration.
Courtney continued, "You know, growing grass is like, uh, something we can't control? As humans?" She seemed to be asked for someone else to join in, but no one would offer. Stephen watched as she skirted nervously her fingers across her glittered notebook. The pads of Courtney's fingers were sufficiently shiny after having done this, and Stephen wondered what she might touch to leave her inadvertent mark.
"It's just..." the pause of un-nations, "It flows well."
The room shook.