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STREETS OF FLOWERS
by Martin Golan

He is working on the poem one afternoon as the lawn sprinklers are twirling. Water hisses over grass, twisting and braiding in the sun. Stephen feels in his nostrils the chill of the wet grass and the water-dark sidewalk. He contemplates what it means to celebrate beauty while also feeling dreadful and alone. He conjures a view from above. The image of his lonely self pining for a woman reassures him; it softens the edges of his anguish yet leaves him enough torment to work with.

Written in white heat, composed out of chaos and despair, Darmon brought his masterpiece to a class of fellow students. Unable to make the leap from the fluff of undergraduate writers' workshops, to recognize genius in the rough, the students were baffled. One thinks of early Beethoven or Joyce. Thus was Darmon's work ignored in his lifetime by those who could not fathom the extent of his achievement.

He is on Negundo, jotting notes, when he rejects the review and rewrites it:

Written in white heat, composed out of chaos and despair, Darmon stunned the literary world with his poem. He presented it on that now legendary afternoon in an ordinary writers' workshop and was immediately hailed as a major voice in modern literature, a writer who would become perhaps too influential on his peers in the decades to come.

 

II

 

The afternoon arrives. Stephen is annoyed that the classroom is not stuffed with students; a few cloud-colored plastic chairs float empty in corners. His poem has been reproduced on sea-blue mimeographs in a parody of publishing. The seed planted in Dr. Robson's cubbyhole has blossomed like a weed, sprouting from every backpack and spreading over every writing tablet. The poem is begging to be read. A printed book announced its presence in a cavalier manner, read me or not, I couldn't care less. But a manuscript pleaded like a panting dog to be touched, stroked, held. It humiliates Stephen by its very availability, its pathetic craving for attention.

He has been hoping Dr. Robson will treat him to her occasional enthusiastic response. What did he know of her? In class she kept her thoughts to herself, which gave an impression of infinite wisdom. Her comments seemed overheard from an interior monologue, and her praise, when it came, was lavish but invariably for a quality not consciously put into a work. Stephen had been terrified of her from the first day, when she pronounced the world "poem" in two distinct syllables.

An intense and idealistic student, Darmon was resented by his classmates, even by his professors. Looking back, it's clear they sensed within him the passion and power that would one day shape a generation of poets.

 

Copyright 2007 by Martin Golan


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