Art loved to write. He loved words. There were certain words like, ‘aesthetic’ and ‘breath’ and even, ‘the’ that he loved more than any one he’d ever met. He loved having the power to control words and to give birth or kill whatever happened on the page. Art was a control freak with no friends.
Art lived for his writing and his writing lived for him. He could create stories about brave heroes slaying dragons, saving entire villages. He would write these stories alone on his bed in his tiny apartment, papers propped up on his knees. Art wrote his days and nights away, lost in worlds only he discovered. He had no intention to share anything, especially his writing. No one would understand and if they did, they’d hate it. He knew it. He wrote simply to indulge himself. He mocked the label, ‘self indulgent.’
“Of course I’m self indulgent, you idiots! You sadists all want your artists to suffer! I’m not suffering for any of you!” Art shouted at the chair. The chair kept its opinions to itself. “And if I’m so self indulgent, why do I hate everything I do!” He threw his favorite quill pen at the wall, shattering it. “I’m in a rut! These are the same tired words over and over, only in different order! I suck cause I’m stuck!”
Art looked at the black ink stain the slain pen had left on the wall like blood splatter. It resembled the shape of Africa.
“I will go to Africa and rejuvenate my imagination!” he proclaimed to his fridge. His fridge hummed approval. He packed his bags, loaded with pens and paper, and booked a flight to Kenya.
He smiled the smile of a thousand secrets, when writing, ‘writer’ next to the word, ‘profession’ on the immigration card. It was the first time he’d been in print outside his own apartment.
Not knowing what to do, he hopped into the first taxi he saw, and told the driver, “Take me to your favorite place in Kenya!” Exhausted from the twenty hour flight, he immediately fell asleep. He awoke in a strange bed, in a strange room, surrounded by strange children who were yelling at each other to be quiet so the strange man can sleep. The taxi driver walked into the room, smiling and asked how Art had slept.
“How long’ve I been sleeping?”
The driver looked at his watch, scratched his nose and answered, “Two and a half days.”
Art shot up in bed. “My God! The fare!”
The driver, Ojami, laughed, waving him off. “Meter’s off, meter’s off. Sit, sit, would you like something to eat?”
Art was starving. “No, I should go.”
“No, no, sit, I will bring food. Stay, stay as long as you wish. No rush,” Ojami smiled. His children circled him in silence, slightly afraid, and equally in awe of this strange white man chewing on the sheet of their father’s bed.
Art was hungriest most of all to get writing. “No, thanks. I’ve gotta get going. I’ve got things to do!” Though he had no idea of what to do, or where to go. He got out of bed, fingered through his bag, seeing nothing was missing, hoisted it over his shoulder and walked to the door.
“My eldest son will be home soon from safari. I’m sure he’ll have many intersting stories to tell.”
“Don’t have time. Thank you. Gotta go see Africa. I came all this way, gotta get out and see Africa.” And he left, closing the door. An hour later the son, Mitjuju, came home to tell his spellbound family the story of discovering a root that could cure all cuts and bruises with a single touch, only to have it taken from him, along with his left leg by a tribe of pygmy cannibals, a tribe he’d only managed to escape after his Justin Bieber ring tone frightened the entire tribe literally to death. It was all just a tale, of course, both Mitjuju’s legs were accounted for on his person, but it was still a hell of a great story.
The mention of safari inspired Art to go on one of his own. He rented a guide named Tsbootoo. He told Tsbootoo, “Show me a lion! I want to shoot a lion like Hemingway!”
Tsbootoo drove into the heart of the jungle, passing by nature rich with life, flora, animals, rivers, none of which were seen by Art, as he had his head buried in his notebook writing a story about a writer writing about a writer on safari.
They made camp at dusk, Tsbootoo happily chattering away about the history of his country, his adventures as a guide, including a heartbreaking story of how his brother had been trampled while rescuing his son from a crash of rhinoceroses. Art tuned it all out, concentrating on the title of his next poem. He was stuck on, ‘Soft Mellons’, a title that made him blush. He feared his creative juices had run dry. He fell asleep beside the fire and dreamt of his empty apartment back home.
The next morning, Tsbootoo awoke Art, motioning for him to keep quiet.
“A lion, a lion,” Tsbootoo whispered.
Art shook his head. “Not now. Get it to come back later.” Art closed his eyes and tried to fall back asleep. He found sleeping impossible due to the screams of the guide being eaten by the lion. Art opened his eyes, saw the terror he thought he’d been dreaming. He ran to the jeep. The doors were locked. The keys were in Tsbootoo’s pocket, which were now safely in the lion’s stomach.
Art climbed to the roof of the jeep and watched in awe as the lion chewed his guide to shreds. Never had he been so inspired and literally ached to transcribe the sanguinary sight into poetry.
When the lion had finished with the guide, it circled the jeep like a shark, blood dripping from its fur. Eventually it grew bored with the game and trotted off into the grass. Art scrambled down from the jeep and dug into his bag for pen and paper. Pocketing them and nothing else, he ventured into the grass, in the opposite direction of the lion, in hopes of finding the road that would lead back to civilization. He had no idea which way that could be, seeing as he had seen nothing but his notebook the entire ride in.
Weeks later his badly decomposed body was found, his eyes were missing, plucked out by vultures. The vultures, having no taste for poetry, had left behind an unfinished verse, found in Art’s remaining pocket.
A Poem In Celebration of the Food Chain.
They say the pen is mightier than the sword,
but have you ever tried to slay a lion with a felt-tipped sword?
And what was I thinking trying to shoot a lion without a gun or camera?
And art, the life-blood of any culture, as essential as the aquaducts,
but, good God, you can’t drink ink, trust me, I just tried.
And after three days in the jungle, you’d eat a Picasso.
I wish I’d been more interested in the culinary arts than the arts arts.
Cooking steak tastes better, more fulfilling than writing, ‘cooking steak.’
I hope I’m as fulfilling for the next lion that comes along.
These words would eventually reach his older brother’s hands. His brother, after reading, could only sigh, “He never did know the damn difference between poetry and prose.”