Reduce, Reuse, Rewrite


I love recycling. For me, this is generally restricted to cans of pasta sauce and Dick Cavett jokes, but I came upon another opportunity while editing my novel.

I have spent five years working on the book (on and off, not straight through) and, worried that my periods away might have undercut the integrity of the overall work, I weeded through the manuscript looking for oft-repeated words and phrases. Discovering an add-in for Microsoft Word that scanned a document and produced a report, I found myself looking at the entirety of my novel reduced to an alphabetical list of words accompanied by a number indicating how often it was used; with each new number, the alphabetising started anew. It was a fascinating way of viewing those words I had worked on for so long, re-ordered and shaken free of context. It made my work sharper and forced me to confront why I overuse the word “braying”.

Employing what is, in essence, a cut-up technique, I now provide the following poem culled from the words that didn’t appear all that often. Enjoy! Or don’t. Or, cut it up and make a new one.


From the Department of Irregular Words


The Grotesque spy

Conveniently overhears;

Pushes homicide


Pantomime sparrow

Unleashes culminating verse;

Caucasian counterparts and

women cat-dancing

in the blithe discourtesy of

anemic mysteries.


Mid-argument cross-current rays

on a high-speed wood-panelled tilt-a-whirl

anchored by a sponge



Flinty fraternizing opposing thrill-kill alibis

the fleshy homeowner’s lament.


Writing wasn’t thought

when the late high heart

waited to trip your childhood

And break your goddamn neck.


Yellow cracked sounds

when Father returns for a four ear response

and terrible breath


Rounded plastic hips,

Mother has written beyond suffering men.


She’s calling.

Appeared, sit-kneed to explain,

“Get drunk on the pale palm.

Ever surrounded, seven shoes in the right rubber aisle.

Conversations don’t prove fellowship


The flat twisted phrase

a wild trick of the reflected evening

shuffle-board squeals our struggled solace

when handsome amorous groups

framed romantic menace.


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