Sunday, August 4, 2019

Tobi Alfier - Back Burner Weeks

How did everyone do last week? You can tell by this post being late…I had a “Back Burner Week”. Do I write and submit work every day? I did write two poems and make two submissions, and I wish I could do it every day, but sometimes other things just come first.  Relatives visiting, birthdays, doctor appointments, reading submissions for SPRR, putting the journal in order…and sheepishly, the finale of The Bachelorette for example.  

I can’t help it. The finale was in Crete, an island I dearly love, and haven’t been to since “Dance Camp” in 1995. I had to watch. That took a big four-hour chunk out of my week, but I admit it, it was worth it. Oh my goodness, the smell of sage, crashing a wedding with lots of ouzo, many gentlemen shooting pistols out the windows, bowls of “fertility” Jordan almonds on the tables… It brought back many memories, but I can’t even say I was watching for “poem triggers” (pun intended). I’ve already written those poems more than once.

He’ll Tell You Once He Knows

He comes in from watching the chiminea,
smells like woodsmoke and olive branches.

Your wandering man—adventure in his mustache
when he kisses you. Could be Puglia, could be Crete,

if next time you smell sage, you’ll know he’s decided.
The orange tree in the background could point him

toward Spain. He’ll tell you once he knows.
There will be laughter, desiccated barns reduced to earth,

trains and sky, that much you know without doubt.
A shy waitress who remembers he loves reds,

a dried horse hoof in a rutted road—the picture
will be worth five thousand miles. For the both of you—

every night you will hear his adventures
and share yours back. While the music in the wind

is your guide for tomorrow. The dawn,
a coffee kiss, you watch as he strides away,

then follow your own song until reunited,

(previously published in Peacock Journal)

Sometimes other commitments, commissions, out-of-town reunions, appointments, etc., come first. And that’s okay.

I only know how to write, edit, publish, and watch TV. Some of you have multiple areas of expertise, which you may love just as much as writing (and maybe which pay better). I have several Facebook friends who are beautiful artists as well as poets. My husband is a gorgeous photographer. Poetry may be on the back burner, but creativity isn’t.  I may get an honorarium for $50. You may sell a gorgeous piece of art for $800. Not that this is a contest, but you win. More fancy coffee drinks for you!

I understand that, but sometimes I forget.  So, if I’m all excited because the new Duotrope is out, and after I finish this post I’m doing at least five submissions…if I’ve found a journal where the publisher answers in one day, if it seems that I’m pushing you in a way that does not work for you…


Be an artist, bake wedding cakes, lampwork glass beads and make chokers on black leather cords, hike to wild and wonderful places to take photographs, go to work (and be sure you’re contributing to your 401(k) plan)…If those, or anything else, cause your poetry/writing to go on the “back burner”, it will seem like I’m kicking you in the butt to do more, and it will always seem that way. Just remember—be better than I was watching that finale. Look around for poem triggers, eavesdrop if you can do it without getting caught, notice the name of your waitress and whether her lipstick matches her nails, whether she calls you “honey” or scowls at you through your whole lunch, listen to what’s on the radio. You know what to do. And when it’s time, you can pull those little slips of memories out of your head, your wallet or purse, and write what’s been running around, just waiting to come out.

Have the best week everyone. Wear sunblock and be creative. I’ll be here writing poems and doing submissions. xo

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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. Love your poetry tips, your poetry and, of course, you!

    1. Thank you so much. If there's ever anything you'd like me to write about, ideas are appreciated and happily accepted. xo


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