Way back in February I tackled fear #40, and submitted my poems to The New Yorker. I told everyone about it here on this blog and on Facebook. After months of not hearing back, I joked about it here on Facebook.
But today I finally have an update…
Last night I reached into my mailbox and found an envelope bursting at the gaskets. It had torn open at the top and I could feel a paperclip attempting escape at the center. The weird thing was, my name and address was in my own handwriting. My mind raced. When would I have sent something to myself? Was this some sort of time capsule from the past? I honestly had no idea what this was.
But when I opened it, I realized it was a sheaf of poems I’d submitted to The New Yorker, with this note attached on cardstock letterhead:
Dear Mary, We regret that we are unable to use the enclosed material. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider it. THE EDITORS
It should not be a surprise that The New Yorker, publisher of poet laureates did not want my scrubby little poems. But getting the letter made me sad, and full of shame. I’m aware that some of these rejection letters have a note of encouragement in them; often hand-printed on the bottom. Not mine. This crisp little missive had all the encouragement of somebody waving a gnat away on a summer night.
I didn’t go inside my house. I fled. I drove to the QFC, ostensibly to return Red Box DVD’s and buy milk. Boring stuff of an unglamorous, non-poetic life. I kept trying to calm myself down with the mantra: “what did you expect?” but there was this thought-worm: “this is why people don’t take chances. Because it really feels awful to have the outside world confirm what you’ve known all along: that you are no artist. That you are not creative or gifted or genius”.
The moon was full and bright last night. It’s loveliness was like an obnoxious puppy, insisting that I notice it’s cuteness. Go away beautiful moon. When I got home, Rod and I went down to the lake and jumped in. Night swimming always makes me feel better. As I swam, I summoned my Dad to give me some words of encouragement but what I heard him say was that I could do anything I wanted to, I just needed to work harder. Ugh. Really? Not now, Dad.
I slopped out of the water and looked at Rod, the man who buys lottery tickets but doesn’t find out if he’s won because, he says, “they’re better when they still might be winners”. Tonight he’d have to know that I was no winner.
“I’m a bona-fide writer who has been rejected by The New Yorker” I said, my voice cracking.
“Congratulations. The New Yorker is a tough gig.” He was vigorously towelling off. Refreshed. Energized.
And just like that, I started to feel better. Writing is a tough gig. It isn’t for sissies. Writing is for gladiators. Yes, you can get your guts mauled out by the lions. But if fear of lion-mauling keeps you out of the coliseum, you don’t get to be a gladiator.
I looked up at the moon, giving it the attention it demanded. I watched the teenagers wrestling each other off a pier, splashing into the water below. I had been mauled, but the claw marks weren’t deadly. Which could only mean one thing…
I’m a fucking gladiator.
I jammed my sandy feet into my flip-flops and swaggered home, feeling more like a writer than I have in a long time.
P.S. You can find me, Facing 50 Fears on Facebook
© Mary Elder, 2015. All Rights Reserved.