I’m always surprised by where my inspiration to write comes from. A simple hug…. a flippant answer to a too often asked question….a compound sentence from a book I only read when I’m sitting on the john.
Those are all moments that played the muse with my pen to the point I was consumed and obsessed with that particular piece of writing percolating in my mind’s eye to the point that I could think of nothing else until I unleashed the torrent of words pent up inside of me. Not everything I write comes into existence this way.There are times when I have to sit down and grind it out. Almost physically forcing the ink out of the pen, constructing each sentence and paragraph like a carpenter does the frame of a house. But sometimes….those magical times…..alone at four in the morning with the excited flutters of a roller coaster’s big hill thrumming in my chest…..my ink pen seemingly dances and flits to its own accord inking sentences that flow off the tongue with the percussive peculiarity of a drum roll in a rock-n-roll song.
And that is how my poem ‘The Missing’ came into this world. In a moment so mystical and so mysterious that I sometimes feel guilty when I claim to be its writer. I think this piece chose me. As if I was the nearest, ink pen bearing, being in the nearby-ness of its inception. There I was laid back on the top bunk of my prison cell casually flipping through our meager selection of channels when I stumbled upon a show on our local PBS station that I watch on those days I identify as a writer. Its a show that interviews writers on their way through Columbus, OH. on their book-signing tours. I entered their conversation mid sentence, “…neither of the boys know they’re adopted and both of them receive an ominous letter at the same time,” the author informs us with a gleam in her eyes, “and the letters say: you are one of the missing, and they’re coming hack for you.” I hate not catching these interview from the beginning because I always feel I don’t know something really important, so I hit the channel up button and moved on in my channel surfing. But that phrase kept playing, rewinding and replaying in that place in all of our minds where Taylor Swift songs usually bore in and refuse to leave, “you are one of the missing…”
“you are one of the missing…”
“you are one of the missing…”
“you are one of themissing…”
Over and over again these six words played and replayed until I gave in to the mania that these moments awaken inside me, snatched up my ink pen, my mini-composition notebook and by the sharp blue light of my television I let my pen have its head as it fairly galloped its way, two lines on every line, across the page. I felt the pressure in my chest abating word by word, line by line and stanze by stanza until I was free of the mania that overtook me. I calmly set the pen down and tossed the notebook onto my shelf and returned to channel surfing all nonchalant, as if I hadn’t just written a poem that stands up and represents millions of men and women. A poem that I was requested to perform(via Skype) at Harvard! Duke, Cornell and The Ohio State University. I just watched TV until my insomnia was overcome by boredom and I fell asleep.
That’s how a lot of my stories and poems come into existence; muse, mania and mystical moment or two. Yes, there are revisions….they don’t come into this world perfectly formed. I write and rewrite, perform and remix. I even remix audience specific versions of them….but for the most part if you were to compare the original version to the current version you would see that my muse is a damn fine writer and that as a vessel for their genius I do okay.
I hope you enjoy the poem below and that it says to you exactly what you need in this moment. and without further ado….I present to you…
On the morning of the day that it happened
I had waffles for breakfast
my daughter had cereal with the twins
and my son?
he was sippin’ from the nipple back then.
Not his mother’s mind you,
were finally mine again.
And the look on my face
I mean the size of the grin,
was a pretty good indicator of the mood I was in.
I toked a doob, got dressed for work and
laughed my ass off when my brother Zack
told his twin sister Emily
“It’s gonna be aw wight Emilwee it’s gonna be aw wight!”
He had a speech impediment
and I shouldn’t have been laughing
but it was “Have a nice day.” and
out the door I went.
“GET ON YOUR KNEES!!!”
“HANDS IN THE AIR!!”
“I SAID GET ON THE GROUND!!”
these guys had obviously
not rehearsed their lines
but I was staring down the barrels
of three guns so I
did my best to comply I,
as the handcuffs clicked down
I took one last look around
and there wasn’t much to see.
there was the neighbor lady in her window
that squirrel stealing from the birds,
then there was me,
hoping that Zack knew what he was talking about…
that I would be “aw-wight”
On the day I was taken it
was a non-thing.
no hands outreaching
yearning to clasp.
was a savagely silent nothing.
a violently invisible nothing.
am something I
am someone I
am one of the missing and
they’re not coming back for me.
I am one of the faceless millions
of voiceless Americans
will never grace a
weather beaten flyer,
black and white smiles
nailed to a pockmarked telephone pole.
There’ll be no candlelight night for us.
no friends and family vigilating
who show up for the cameras
and that odd dramatic gesticulating
am one of the missing
and I don’t think
too many people care
and the people I miss the most
don’t even know that I’m missing
they’re just wishing
that I was
Rock on and dance like no one’s watching
Daniel J. Royston