BANNER
koi sidebar

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 3, September 2018
line

Charles D. Tarlton
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

NEGATIVE CAPABILITY

Cinematic Tanka Prose

FADE IN:

EXT. MARKET STREET SAN FRANCISCO – DAY

A POET, early twenties, sits on a low stool on the sidewalk. A small red Hermes portable typewriter rests on his lap.

In his pocket there is a rough-edged packet of typing paper torn into quarters.

The cardboard sign leaning against his stool reads...  

POEMS A DOLLAR EACH

Passersby on the sidewalk veer around him, and a trolley clangs its bell as it lurches along in the background.

ANGELA, about sixty, stops and stands in front of the poet, looking down. The poet looks up and smiles.

                   ANGELA
Can you write a poem that will
bring back the dead?
             POET
I’ve only done that once, but
I can try.

The poet whips out a little page from his stash, rolls it into the platen, and starts typing.

Angela looks away and watches another trolley go clanging by.

The poet is typing furiously. Suddenly, he stops and pulls the page out of the platen. He hands it to Angela.

Angela reads the poem to herself as the crowd slides around her.

She nods to the poet, hands him a dollar bill, and walks off, still reading the poem.

The foot traffic continues to curve around the poet sitting on his stool in the middle of the sidewalk.

(O.S.) A trolley’s bell clangs wildly.

FADE OUT.     

thought can think against
itself, pull rabbits of fact
out of its own hat
why are you holding your breath?
are you waiting for the world?

he stood by the grave
and mumbled words just as if
the dead were speaking
oh, a magic telegraph
wired to the ears of corpses

to give everything
life, to rescind its judgments
reversing Nature
bring the dead back, nicely groomed
on the slightest black cat's paw


Author's Note: Negative Capability is the term by John Keats first used in a letter to his brothers to characterize the capacity "of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." EXT. and O.S. in the text mean, respectively, "exterior" and "off-screen."

line

end

| contents page | next tanka prose |

koi sidebar r
contents