LETTERS TO WALT WHITMAN

CURIOUS ABRUPT QUESTIONINGS, PRESENTED TO THE POET

by Ben Turner

Dear Walt,

Why am I such an asshole? Last night, I peed on a large stuffed dog and threw it at my girlfriend’s roommate. Five minutes later, as we were getting into a car service, I got into an argument with a man whose shirt was unbuttoned to reveal a large hairy swath. What can I say, Walt? As you can imagine, this led to a fight of sorts, whereupon I threw many punches, exuberant and inaccurate. Suffice it to say, they all missed. The offending man with hairy swath proceeded to snort in disgust and leave. My jovial answer to this was to take several running steps then stop and reverse direction, only to begin again. Silly shit really, Walt. His friend began shouting at me over and over, “Why are you such an asshole?” I really didn’t know what to say. How far back should I go? Could it be the lack of a father figure? Could it be the only gun that’s been shoved in my mouth is the one that belonged to me? Could it be the summation of every atrocity I’ve ever felt, both real and imagined? Maybe it’s just the labors amidst the ditch with the other wholesome hulks of manhood. Pink and toothsome, I know you might fancy that. In any case, please help as I would like to have an answer prepared by the time I see these men again.

Sincerely,
Bored and Alone

*

Dear Walt,

I haven’t been writing lately. I’ve got a good project going but it’s pretty labor-intensive, so much time at sweet-talking the crap librarian into something a bit more silky and soft. So much time slapping the dirt off my pants before I enter the cathedral. While initially I made a lot of progress, in the process feeling pretty good about myself (i.e., smart, valuable, worthwhile, good at fucking that special someone), I cannot seem to get started on the rest of it. Assailed by facts, it seems that I would rather think about the fantasy end-result (i.e., I can quit working construction, I can be financially responsible to my girlfriend, we can move to Hanoi) than actually get the work done. This has in turn proved to be disruptive in every area of my life. If I even bother to show up at the job site it’s always late. When I try to write I end up dissecting how every move I’ve ever made has been somehow wrong, how every reference book seems to weigh a ton. When I make a saving gesture toward my lover, it comes off as self-congratulatory. How can I calm down, treat others better, and get back to work?

Sincerely,
I’m in Love with the Future Self

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Ben Turner was born and raised in California. He now lives and works in New York City where he is completing his first novel. He has a forthcoming poetry chapbook from New School University Press entitled The Death of Good Sailor Bob.

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