Friday, June 28, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Take Good Care!

Next Monday is July first. “Oh no”, you think, Tobi’s gonna bug us to get our submissions ready for all the windows opening. She’ll remind us to turn the calendar, read the guidelines, reassure us that even if we don’t submit, we are still poets, and remind us to eavesdrop. She’ll remind us of her favorite quote from “Ron Carlson Writes a Story”…”get your butt in the chair”, and on, and on, and on. And that darned Oxford comma!!!

Au Contraire, my friends. You know me well but you don’t know everything. How can you be a good literary citizen if you don’t take care of yourself? How can you stop to watch the sky and write the most gorgeous line of description if you’re worrying about someone else who needs you?

Yes, many windows will be opening. They will not be closing on the second, there’s time. I don’t know what it is about writers, but it seems like either we all have something, or know someone who does. It’s not a competition, it just seems like a fact. If someone needs you, or you need to take care of yourself, the poetry will wait. The flash fiction will wait. The short stories will wait. And your submissions will be all the more sweet because you waited, and graciously helped someone who needed you. And that includes yourself.

I’ve talked before about Kaleidoscope, the Journal of UnitedDisability Services in Akron.  When you can, if you want, send your pieces there. You know I rarely write about my health, but that’s my choice. You may wish to, and beautiful work can come from that. Another place to submit is Pilgrimage. “The magazine is dedicated to exploring story, spirit, witness, and place in and beyond the American Southwest”. They are open for submission year round, so July first doesn’t even matter. 

click here to visit
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned “Mosquito”, the brilliant book by Alex Lemon. His poems lead up to and include his brain surgery.  I met Alex at the Tin House Writer’s Workshop one year. He was a participant; Tin House published him after that. He’s a great guy and a great writer. Bad things happen to all of us. You may not think I know that, but I do.

It’s pretty obvious that I do think about poetry 24/7, but I also think about when I can take my next pain pills, and whether I can go to physical therapy in my pajamas. And I do think about, and worry about, my friends and family too. I just don’t prefer to talk about it, or write about it. But I do know that words that don’t get written today will still hang around. You should know that too.

So yes, I am going to do submissions next Monday. I’m going to see what new vintage car is on our calendar, read all the guidelines, hope the journals that use Submittable remember to turn it on. I just saw on Facebook that Hobo Camp Review is going to open early. I’m going to read their guidelines and submit as soon as I can. 

The Train to Foligno               (deca-syllabic poem)

Tender green and peeling terra cotta
behind the ancient building sits our train
where cargo cars strewn like old pennies
visit with our shiny new Eurostar.
Battered and acrid, they wear their color
like tired-out ponies doing hard time.

Rail workers slip like ghosts through morning.
One ancient man blows the shrill start whistle
before heading home to a bottle of
Chianti in a flat decorated
with his mother's cat pictures and old chairs.
His hours are ended for one more day.

Gentle jostling rocks two old nuns to sleep,
a woman at the back drones to her friend
of love and adventure in the old days
on a dance floor in some oddly-named town.
The wheels squeak, the woman talks, the nuns snore.

Mist hangs between the hills in flat gray light.
Baby sheep stand still like pearl buttons
on the ragged sweater-like landscape of
miles of quiet between dark, dense cities
we arrive in Foligno, impatient...

The train doors open slowly, we are like
beggars, our hands opening to the rain.

Previously published in Hobo Camp Review

I won’t lie. I’ll remind you, and nudge you, and give you gentle kicks on the butt to write—sometimes maybe a little less gentle, but I’ll be the first person to do the Happy Dance when you get an acceptance. It’s okay for us to be good humans first, and good writers second. Believe it or not, that’s what I want to be too. Everyone has something—oh my God, Facebook was horrifying this past week, and I don’t mean politics, so do what you need to do first. Remember beauty and you can never go wrong, even if you need to wait a minute. xoxo

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


  1. Excellent poem, plus wonderful insight. Top this off with English Toffee that arrived today and I am happy!

    1. Ohhhhhhh, I want the intel on the toffee!!!! And thank you xoxo


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