Fiction is a Fiction. (or: Fiction is History)

photo credit: Huffington Post


Let’s begin with a limerick, because they’re fun:

There once was a young man from Austin

who wrote stories one could get lost in.

But the actual cost:

‘Twas the plot that got lost

And his readers just wound up exhausted!

I have decided that, at least for now, I’m going to give up on writing fiction. There are a few reasons for this, but the most notable one is that I am really not good at it. This is not to say that I couldn’t be good, if I were to continue practicing, which I might do in my spare time, but I don’t think there will be much posting of fiction, at least on this blog. (Readers rejoice.)

My writing gifts (modest as they are) lie much more in the realms of non-fiction (read: short opinionated essays that require no research) and poetry, so I think for the most part I want to concentrate on these.

Fiction still appeals very strongly to me, but I have to confess a great deal of this appeal comes from the possibility of selling a work of fiction and reaping either financial rewards or notoriety. Neither of these should be goals of mine, at least not if I am writing purely for the sake of writing. If they end up being ancillary advantages, I wouldn’t turn them down, but if they are an objective, if they are an intent, then my work will be tainted, even if it ends up being well-respected. I have talked before about my feelings regarding bandwagon fiction, and though I am hardly alone or revolutionary in this outlook, I nevertheless feel that the perversion of writing (or the co-opting of it, perhaps) simply for the sake of financial gain leads to phenomena like this, and shortly thereafter what would previously have been called “romance” novels completely overwhelm the “Fiction and Literature” section at the bookstore.

I don’t want any part of this, and I do not wish to be a writer who succumbs to any emotionally dishonest trend. But let’s be realistic: I was light-years away from this objective anyway. The first step in making marketable fiction is to write something that interests people, and I haven’t done that yet, at least not in my fiction. But regardless, I want to at least nip in the bud the proclivity for sacrificing art, sacrificing the potential to make something truly meaningful, on the altar of success.

And just as a disclaimer, do not think I am of the opinion that all writers who have achieved a level of financial success or critical acclaim are doing something wrong. I am reminded of this verse, though it is perhaps only loosely applicable:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’”  – Matthew 19:23-24

I think the same is perhaps true of people who are truly following a calling. Perhaps it is not impossible to remain artistically uncompromised following success, but it sure is freaking difficult. That’s why I don’t even want to start down that path at all. Instead, if you want to find me, I’ll be in the (pitifully meager) poetry aisle.


After XIV, 2005


And somehow I wonder how we

ever managed to live before we knew

adenosine and scapula and macrophage

and watched with curious invasions the

mitoses of a million unknown brethren and then

further – as in all things, all thrills, all deep hungers, never

satisfied with the joy already in front of us – as we began with

feverish indignation, with righteous entitlement, to uncode, unfold,

unravel the very letters and words of our

deepest identities –

                                 and yet somehow we

did live. We ate, breathed, slept, and made

love to our wives, who carried for us hundreds and thousands of

children, new lives always springing from old ones, joined to, joyed with

one another –

                        and all this without knowing

how it all worked, was it was all “called.” We did not need to “call” these things

at all. They came to us


in the first place.


Is anyone still there? We shall see. Regardless, I am here. Even if I am the only one. Hope everyone is well.    – R.E.W. 

Stranger, and more beautiful


Fiction has long been a part of my life. There have been books historically which i have read and re-read incessantly throughout my life. When i was a child and a teenager, most of these tales took the form of fantasy or science fiction. Even fancied myself a bit of a fantasy writer at one point, and i still feel as though i could set down a rather rousing epic if i put my mind and (more importantly) my heart to it. Some period of time into my early adulthood i started shifting my reading and writing interest to more “literary” fiction, whatever that nomenclature signifies. i have begun and left unfinished no fewer than five novels, having never caught sufficient steam or momentum, or perhaps having never had the requisite discipline, to see these projects through to completion. My reading in this arena has been, for a time, rather diligent at least, and there is certainly a tremendous and nameless appeal that the fictive voice holds in my heart. It is not out of the realm of possibility that i may at some point dig up from under the earth of time and business these efforts and breathe life into them anew.

Poetry has also competed for dominance in my aesthetic sensibilities, and though i have not quite had the patience to study it as thoroughly as i ought, there are still times when it seems that the only mechanism which will do a subject justice is the poem, thus as you can see i have written my fair share of them. Most of them are at the very least elementary, and some even go so far as to be downright terrible and asinine.

Recently, however, despite my traditional attachment to these slightly more artistic forms of communication, i have begun to suspect that perhaps my gift really lies in the area of non-fiction. i have never written very much of it, save on this particular blog, and even though the bulk of my posts here can be classified as non-fiction, they still feel fictitious, at least in the sense that they are driven by narrative rather than by research. i must confess i owe at least a portion of this suspicion to my wife, who first pointed out that she found my non-fiction to be my best work. Lately i have toyed with idea of working more exclusively in this domain, and it is starting to gain sway for me. i suppose what always steered me away from writing non-fiction was a lack of qualification. i am an expert in precisely zero subjects, save perhaps the subject of myself. But perhaps this is enough. Perhaps there is enough of a story in my life – and i suspect there is, not because i have lived a particularly adventurous or meaningful life, but because i have lived a particularly rebellious one – to merit its writing. After all, God has written a rather amazing story already, having provided for me time and time again despite my unwillingness to receive that provision. i think perhaps i will stay away from fiction, at least for the time being – God is, after all, a better story-teller than i will ever be – and stick strictly to writing about my experiences with Him and the recovery He has seen fit to mercifully bring into my life. Maybe in this, at last, after a year of dabbling in essentially every variety of writing and succeeding at none, i have found my calling. Time however, will tell.

The well-known adage “truth is stranger than fiction” has a less-familiar second clause, which i find even more profound than the first. “It is because,” Twain says, “fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” If you had asked me 30 months ago what i dreamed would be “possible” for the coming years, for my personal and spiritual life, for my career, and for my marriage, i would not have been able to even begin to guess at the current shape each of those elements has in my life. i believe that the purpose of writing is to provide insight and wisdom into the life of another, and by doing so, be a force for peace, for reparation, for reconciliation. Fiction gives us a certain view of truth through its exploration of possibilities, and poetry another through its propensity for ambitious metaphor, and both can provide some measure of universality, and thus each may, in part, accomplish the objective of establishing commonality. But God has written a truth, full and glorious, that no human word can sufficiently capture, and in my case, as it is for many of us, that truth is more compelling and more exhilarating, and thus ultimately vastly more unifying, than any story or device which we have ever conceived of or read. These stories, our stories, with all of their ugly and rambunctious and supercilious components, are the stories which people most need to hear. These are the stories that will heal, because ultimately they are not about us at all. Tell yours, and i will do mine.


Love Letter to an Unnamed Poet



You are a cable,

singing alive with

Electric hum, home to an

endless Flock of perching

soontoscatter crows—


(Standing coldly on

pavement, built atop

Bones of greenest memories:

I alone, shivering;

ready to be home

as night falls.)


Birds spring ghostly up,

disintegrate like

Chimney smoke, specters, into

purple prose of sky and

I touched none of them,

none of You—





On cold worn pavement my

clumsy foot stumbles on

a crack, whose line and spintering path

You stretched out with careful thumb and forefinger

from end to end, whose jagged rambles are the

slashes of Your furious joyful pen.

You have named each pebble packed like

closely knitted stitches into the sunbaked slab;

You know from which ancient mountain it was

hewn, and in which field, fertile or

fallow, it will rest as dust.


Things the ocean taught me




back to land, to

numbers, screens, digits, dials,

quotas, schedules,

alarms. my heart recalls well

days at sea, but already forgets

the lessons learned there. i am in

need of some words, some mantra, some

prayer perhaps, to remember these things–




what i do not know is

vaster by far than the

rolling wave of what i do.

what is great and greatly

unkown can be either

feared and shunned or

wondered at, praised,

beloved. i have seen many things.

there are many more i will

never see–

yet all things, whether

teariest pleasure, creeping weeping joy, or

darkest, deepest terror, all will

someday end–

the edge of one ocean is

too, the border of another, newer one,

not yet traversed,

holding more wonders,

more joys, more fears,

and yet more lessons to learn

and recall when needed most.


deer, near a stream, panting


This knuckle’s calloused groove has

not forgot (though mostly now i type)

the pen’s round burning embrace. Bumps and buds of

tongue remember well the taste of

bread, the sting of mustard, the crisp cold bite of

the pickle; even they cling to the flavor of

bologna or marshmallow cereals, which they have not

seen since youth.

Rough and ragged lips cannot misplace

the memory of softest pink your cheek, of

most delicate curve and hunger of your

lovely lonely mouth. The

taxidermied head was not made to be

on display except on

a neck, in the woods, its body

scampering quickly out of sight, leaving only the

vague memory of its presence.

Nothing made was thrown

happenstance together, compacted at the

center of the singularity’s unforgiving suck,

and set alone in empty space.

Rather all things, all matters, and

all molecules were forged in the

bright warm inferno of the stars, baked together in

love like the ingredients of a

birthday cake, made for

a celebrant child.


As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.   – Psalm 42 : 1

labor, groan, birth


to my knowledge i have never

heard (though i do not speak the

language) the woodpecker or the beaver

apologize to the tree, nor the

bovine to the grass, the bear to the fish, nor the

mosquito to me. Perhaps underflesh these souls speak

in gratitude; in tiny, delicate prayers to the

offering sky or moon (as at supper i sometimes whisper

faintly — gently, mouth quavering as just before

a child’s good honest cry — my thanks to Him). If

this were so, i would not,

could not know, but to the naked eye there seems only

usury, advantage, consumption,

blood —

Strange then that i, somehow,

find the nerve, the audacity, the arrogance to

apologize to you, my love — the greenest waving

meadow, noblest catch of the river rapid,

loftiest leafiest oak of the forest.


Variations: Psalm 1


the arborist arrived at noon

smally perspiring in drips and drops from his

forehead, summer already parching, perching like a

laughing parrot. i offered him a glass of water, which he

gulped gluttonously and would have taken

intravenously, had it been an option.

We make our way out to the yard, and even in

the shade the heat lies in wait like a

merciless unseen assassin. He has already seen the

reason i called: the graying bark, no longer rich and

earthy brown, the paper bag leaves rotting like

landfill trash, brittle branches splintering under

no weight but their own. Where years before the ground had been

littered with acorns now there are only sticks, leaves,

kindling. He shakes his head and

frowns sadly. Across the street are

oaks older and wiser, still flourishing flowering even

late into waterless summer. His gaze is

pitiful, intense,

careworn when he looks at me. Unfortunately, he says,

there is nothing to be done. It cannot be saved. Suddenly i am

frowning too, missing its shade now more than ever.

Why then, i say, are those trees across the way still

so vibrant and alive? He pauses, and his response is

measured, precise, and

unfaltering. Water, he says. This tree is dying from

a tainted supply. Whatever source they are tapped into

across the street must be

different, cleaner,


His work done, he is back in his car,

onto his next job, and i retire to my living room,

welcoming the cool of air conditioning.

A week later the oak is chopped down,

rooted up, and ground into

firewood, leaving in its place

a gaping hole in my yard.


Author’s note: Thus begins a series of poems of which i just conceived last night, which simply entails writing variations on existing poetry. i cannot say how long it will be, nor how many variations i intend to make, but if it proves successful then i imagine i will write quite a few. Criticisms, as always, are warranted and appreciated.

coinings I and II




it doesn’t exist

i would have to make it

but i already know

exactly how it would sound


it would have to be guttural

no shortage of x’s and k’s

throw in a few gh’s for good measure

(not whiny like nigh but vicious like rough or ugh)

as few vowels as possible

(for they only sustain

and i want staccato)

seven letters max, six or less preferably

one syllable, necessarily

a good sturdy onomatopoeia would work

like CRACK


it would have to be

a hard word

an unrelenting



facepunch word

with abject finality



because if i use this word

to scream out how i feel

i would want everyone to hear it

but only once

and then for it

to be


as quickly as possible



(i think after that

i’d like to try

)just once have the chance(

to create

some singy songful word

a ringy longful word

with plenty of vowels in it)


(and shout it

in an empty waiting cavern

or to a patient black sky

that had been starving

a long time

for such a word

and when at last it heard it

it would joyfully say it back to me

whispering echoes

while i slept)