What else could a writer want
but pencils made from ashes of the greats?
A Tolkien pencil, a Joyce pencil,
a Shakespeare pencil, one for every favorite.
I’d find the locations of those hiding in their urns –
a great-great-granddaughter’s house
or a museum – and steal a bit of time alone
to scoop some out, perhaps with a spoon
or a coffee measure.
But some of the greats weren’t cremated
so I’d go grave digging and saw off a limb or two,
clip a few fingers and toes, a tongue, a nose;
or if they’ve decomposed, I’d gather dirt
from around their skull and bones.
What of the greats that are still alive?
They’d probably notice if a chunk of skin
went missing. And I don’t want to murder anyone,
but my pencil collection won’t be complete
without the contemporaries I need.
I cannot emphasize the dire
circumstances here. I cannot write
without the greats condensed between
fingertip and thumb. I need them
for one day I’ll be sitting hard at work
in a Parisian café and an old
professor would amble in for a perk.
What a reunion it would be! “I’m told,
Michele, that you’re writing sonnets of gold!”
“Yes,” I’d say, “I am.” And the professor
would remark on the pencil I hold
so prompting me to confess to her
the truth about my pencils. “The lesser
writing utensils which everyone
uses, I discarded.” And to impress her
I hold the pencil in a strip of sun:
“You see, this is a Spenserian framed
sonnet, so I write with Spenser’s remains!”