By Dave Macpherson
A prose poem walked into a flash fiction bar and ordered a Vodka Gimlet. The bartender, a Faulkner-esque run-on sentence, didn’t even twitch a comma; he just got out the booze and started making the magic. The regulars, down on their luck rejection magnets of various genres, were past annoyed at this guy coming in and drinking their liquor.
A six hundred word crime story, with a gin blossom nose and an obvious plot twist, sniffed, “Whatcha doing here with your fancified aires and inconclusive endings, like I want to wind up in an unread academic journal or in some entry level college anthology. No sir, not us.”
A four hundred word modern fable sipping at his Guinness said, “Actually, I wouldn’t mind showing up in one of those kinds of books. My kids wouldn’t be ashamed of me if I was included in a course syllabus. Maybe I could see my grandkids with my head up high. They’re just drabble fiction now, but you know kids, they grow fast and before I know it, they’ll be as large as fantasy trilogies.”
The crime story shouted at his compatriot, “No you don’t. Don’t say such rot. We ain’t no puzzler that no can understand if they’re honest with themselves. No. We are working class, hard-living populist gold. We are the backbone of literature. We got beginning, middle and ends. We got character development. We got punctuation where it’s supposed to be. We ain’t no ne’er do well with semi-colon piercings all over our body of text. When people are asked what they want to read, they might say poetry, but you know what they read when the browser is turned away is a good old fashioned flash fiction.”
A nine hundred word family tragedy tilted back a shot of Jameson’s and said, “And this guy ain’t even a real poem. A real poem I can almost get behind. Especially the rhymers, they’re good folk, but this guy is a prose poem. Not a story, not a poem. He’s nomad writing. His passport is forged. Prose poem is the bastard child of classification. Me, I’m a slice of realism and that’s the way it should be. The editors haven’t figured me out, but a good publication will pick me soon and all those rejection jockies will just have to suck it.”
The crime story said, “Yeah, and he’s going to impress our women, and make them feel all arty. Leaving us here alone to sit, like we can’t be attractive and desirable to a nice paranormal romance story.”
The fable whispered, “But they ain’t no women here. It’s just us.”
The prose poem got his drink and started going at it. “For work a thousand words or less, you guys sure natter on like a New Yorker article, never finished. Can you blame women for being more into me than you sad sack word jumbles? I have mystery, and I smell better.”
The bartender mumbled, “Hey buddy, cool it with that kind of grammar. Maybe you be happier at the Haiku bar down the street, its a short joint, but they don’t judge.”
The prose poem took a drink of the gimlet, “Nah, I’m fine right here with all these beginnings, middles and endings. They got nothing for me to worry about.”
The crime story pushed back from the stool. “That’s where you’re wrong you self-congratulatory paragraph!” Though drunk, he smoothly took out a sawed-off elliptical clause and pointed it at the prose poem.
The prose poem stood up and laughed. His smile shone like beams. He found strength in him like the tides. “Isn’t that just like a flashie, bringing a clause to a metaphor fight.” Like a waxing phase, the prose poem pulled out a sharp moon, one of the most deadly metaphors around. It was full like a belly, bright as a penny and mean as a hack writer having difficulty finding good similes. The bartender ducked behind the bar.
The crime story and the prose poem circled around each other, feinting and diving. All of a sudden, in walked a deus ex machina who looked at the ruckus and settled everything right. He revealed that the crime story and the prose poem were actually brothers, separated at birth by a follower of the William Burroughs cut-up technique. The two works embraced and swore fealty to each other. And soon, everyone in the joint was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Dave Macpherson is a writer who lives with his wife, Heather, near Worcester, Mass.