R. McTodd, Poet

Anthony Rubino

One cold spring evening, Ralston McTodd was sitting at his desk, it was 2 AM, and he was trying to write a poem. He was also trying to forget that the landlord had stopped sending up heat because it was spring, although it was still cold. His roommates Gus and Maria didn’t seem to mind, but they were from Minnesota, and would walk around the apartment wearing thick knitted sweaters. But Ralston was a native New Yorker; he wanted heat coming out of those radiators when it was cold. But to be honest, the lack of heat wasn’t really what was bothering Ralston. He was worried, and more than a little concerned that his next book of poetry was due at the publishers, and the sad truth was, he hadn’t written one poem. Of course he had soothed his agent Lisa with tales of how well things were going, but it was all B.S. He couldn’t seem to knock out that first one, which always led to more. He was worried that his imaginary muse, whom he called “Adrianna”, had deserted him.

“Where the hell is she when I need her?” Ralston grumbled. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, Adrianna was standing right there beside him, in that elevated realm that sits right next to ours. And her name was Adrianna, he had intuited that correctly. That was how the muse spoke to the young poet, through his intuition.              

Sitting at his desk, Ralston had just been reading Julia Burgos’s, Song of Simple Truth, and perhaps reading her poems had put him in a soulful mood. This increased his sensitivity to the wavelengths of the finer realm. Adrianna saw an opening, and quickly pinched him; Ralston felt a slight nip on his shoulder and turned in his chair. As he turned, he accidentally swept his arm across his desk knocking his pen, pencil, and a big bag of peanuts to the floor. When he went to pick them up, his talent for association was triggered; he realized the names of all three items began with the letter P. “Hmmm”, he thought, “The letter “P”… Then he wondered aloud, “What if I were to compose a poem where the words began with the letter P?”              

“Eureka!” His muse thought, she had been trying to lead him to this “ah ha” moment all evening. Adrianna had a lively personality and enjoyed a bit of fun. She liked joking with her fellow muses and said that she hadn’t chosen Ralston McTodd because of his quick wit. In fact, she felt that he was a little thick at times. But he was a loveable sort, and she enjoyed watching him hang out with his friends, and would listen in on their deep discussions of poetry, which they all held in high esteem.                

Usually Ralston tended to write poems that were filled with emotion, which was one reason he adored Julia De Burgos’s work. “But it’s important to have some fun too”, Ralston reflected. Like a bird following a trail of breadcrumbs, he was unknowingly intuiting his muse’s train of thought. His reverie continued, “Composing a few poems where the words begin with P seems like a silly idea, but it would be a challenge.” And he knew he needed a challenge, something to break the ice, and get his poetry motor humming. After a month of prolonged struggle, Ralston finally relaxed; he was on to something.      Meanwhile, standing beside him, Adrianna breathe a sigh of relief; “He’s a little dense”, she thought, “but he surprises me too”. With her work for the evening completed, Ralston’s muse headed back to her home in the transcendental realm.            

McTodd felt that composing poetry was a noble pursuit. And he believed, as most poets do, that love, sweet love would carry him, as Bukowski wrote, “Past the memories of pain, and defeat, and unhappiness.” Although it was late, he decided to do a little work and begin his series of variations on a theme, poems containing words that began with the letter P. A conversation he had had with his friend Bill sprung to mind. Bill was a portrait painter, and he had been complaining that although he loved painting, there wasn’t much money in it. A light went on, and Ralston wrote;
     Painterly Predicament  

Portrait Painters
Persistently Perceive
Puny Profits
For Portraying Profiles

“ Not bad”, he thought. He put his pen down and grinned. And if it wasn’t a home run of a poem, at least it was a base hit. It was 4AM, time for bed.  

Before going to sleep, Ralston felt lighthearted for the first time in weeks. “I’ll title my book Pixie Poetics he thought. The Pixies were little creatures who, like gnomes, or forest spites, went around creating mischief and magic. In the other realm, Adrianna heard all of Ralston’s thoughts; she nodded with satisfaction, and beamed her protégée a warm goodnight.                

The next day Ralston woke to the sound of his roommates Gus and Maria rushing out the door to their job at the Rectangular Bookstore; “Don’t forget to feed the cat Ralston”, they called before closing the door. “Who could forget to feed Macy? He thought, “If I don’t feed her she’ll be up on the breakfast table trying to take a bite of my toast.”            

Now that the work was flowing again, he remembered his favorite muse, Adrianna; “She never let’s me down”, he thought. That unvoiced compliment stirred an idea. He recalled his college philology professor who was piqued by pronouns. Ralston wrote the sassy, Panning Pronouns;    

    Panning Pronouns  

Pouring pontifications like Pellegrino      
Prominent philology professors
Preside on preeminent panels 
Prodding productive poets to resist
Populating poems, with a “Plethora of Pronouns”                

“Wait until Gus and Maria and the gang at Rectangular Books reads this one”, he thought, smiling. After that, Ralston got out of bed, fed Macy, put on the coffee, and popped in some toast; it was going to be a good day.                         

Anthony Rubino is a writer and an artist. His humorous memoir piece, My ThurberEsquecapade appears in the spring issue of Michigan State University’s print journal, The Offbeat Magazine. His travel story, When Serendipity Touches A Journey is in the March issue of The Moon Magazine. His essay, Crystalline Thinking is in the current issue of the Young Ravens Literary Review. Anthony is an avid terrace gardener. He lives in New York City with his wife, and his trusty research assistants, their dogs.

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