Rough Drafts | The Luckiest Man Alive

I’ve now written just over 50 percent of my novel. I’ve renamed it North of Autumn. I’ve fallen behind the last few days, around a thousand words short of where I should be. This is partly because the novel is transitioning and I haven’t fully worked out what should happen or how. Also, the short little fable that follows got me all snarled up. Not often I throw a fit when writing, but after the sixth revision I was losing patience. Part of the challenge is not just writing a fable, but a fable that makes sense within the context of the narrative. I didn’t set out to write a novel full of smaller tales, fables and short stories, but writing the novel at speed makes the writing spontaneous—as though the whole novel is more of an improvisation. The novel reminds me a little of a musical. Instead of the characters bursting into song, they burst into stories. Readers are either going to love it or hate it but then, given all the magical realism, one won’t be reading this book for its gritty authenticity.

Sean dangled the phone over his forehead. “I’m in Vermont.”
“Well,” said Louis, with a light French accent, “the house will be okay until you are there. Do you know when you will arrive?”
Sean exhaled. “Zoē is fighting me every step of the way.”
“Ah, I see.”
“And I may have been a guest at a house where I may have caused the catastrophic collapse of a floor and I may have promised to fix it.”
“I see. Then it is a good thing you are an engineer, Sean.”
This was followed by a momentary silence, and Sean added, “I don’t know when we’ll be getting there.”
“I’m sure you have heard the joke. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
“I can tell you,” Louis’ voice continued, “where I am now is never where I expected to be. One makes plans and to what effect? My father loved to tell me a story when I was little. I think it must be a common story.
“A poor farmer considers himself the unluckiest man alive.
“A cohort of soldiers with oxcarts has come to his fields. They bring the stones of a bridge, its viossuers and keystones, the stones of its spandrel and parapet, and the cobblestones that paved it. They strew his fields with these stones and the farmer can no longer plow.
“Years go by and the farmer is very poor. Then one day the mayor of a nearby town announces that a new bridge must be built before the arrival of the King. Seeing that the farmer has all the stones he needs, the mayor orders that the stones be collected and the farmer rewarded. This makes the farmer rich beyond his wildest dreams.
“Meanwhile, the bridge is built and the King arrives. He walks across the bridge. He gives a sharp cry of recognition and, in the very next moment, he drops dead. Many years before, you see, he had been told that so long as he never crossed the bridge, death would never find him; and so he ordered that the bridge be dismantled and all its stones scattered.
“The King, you know, considered himself the luckiest man alive.”

upinVermont | May 31st 2022

Rough Drafts | Broken

  • As I wrote before, while describing my new novel, Stopping by Autumn, the deceased mother of the main character left behind some sketchbooks and loved Emily Dickinson’s poetry—and wrote poems in Dickinson’s style. To that effect, each chapter is headed with a poem like Dickinson’s—the Ballad Meter, the off-rhymes, the flexible meter.
          Each element best mends itself
          When human beings have erred—
          Metal is with metal welded
          And clay with clay repaired

          But tell me when the last word's spoken—
          If this is how we end it—
          Tell me when the heart is broken
          What element will mend it?

upinVermont | March 5th 2022

three haiku for the start of December

        winter's moonlight—the bones

    94 November 25th 

        in the sidewalk's ice—walking

    95 November 29th 2021 

        crow after another and another—night

    96 December 2nd 2021 | bottlecap

And a little something for a moment’s meditation:

For blockprints:

And for more reels:

four haiku for late November…

        falls whispering into the whispering

    90 November 11th

        her umbrella—evening folds into 

    91 November 15th
        wanted—her doll's button-eyes still

    92 November 18th

        leaning sunward—the withered wild-

    93 November 22nd 2021 | bottlecap

haiku for the close of October

        gone to bed—a jack-o-lantern's grin flickers

    86: October 28th

As I was walking along minding my own business, a couple neighbors startled me. They’d snuck under the electric fence (which, to folk like them, is a mere formality).

        rotting under the tree—for two pigs?

    87: November 1st 2021 | bottlecap

a little journey to the north & four haiku

We went up to Burlington over the week-end. The city was beautiful, as always. We visited our daughter at UVM and hiked along the bike trail skirting Lake Champlain. We also visited an outdoor market in the South End.

        the pumpkin's and the little girl's bottom—

    82: October 14th

There’s been a good deal of work done on Burlington’s waterfront during the last thirty years. I remember it’s being scruffy and overgrown but now there’s a waterfront park, museum, a rail trial that can be walked, biked or run with a beach and a skate park along the way. The trail goes to the north. To the south, warehouses have turned into antique stores, bookstores, cafés and restaurants without seeming gentrified. Many of the old railroad tracks are still around, embedded in the roads, yards and parking lots—reminding me of Berlin. A little closer to the lake, the trains still keep busy.

        at midnight—the moth's colorless

    83: October 18th

We visited Rockpoint, an outcropping of cliffs and rocky beaches and sand. Just a small walk to the north. Whereas the rest of Vermont has surrendered its green to the pines and firs of the mountains, Rock Point still keeps its summer—warmed by the lake’s waters and long sunsets. The Adirondacks are the saw-tooth ridge across the waters.

The walk back took us along the beach. A handful of seagulls, having nothing much to say, paid no mind.

        October—each day the scarecrow's shadow

    84: October 21st


        with the weather-vane—the Milky

    85: October 25th 2021 | bottlecap

4 haiku for the first week of October

  • A few images from New England this weekend. The last is from Katahdin.

        the tree's unleafing, the wide-eyed

    78 September

        a pumpkin in her shirt's belly—fall

    79: October 4th

        far as October's winds—the owl's 

    80 October 7th


        in a yellow field—the tractor at mid-

    81 October 11th | by bottlecap

Haiku for the end of September…

A devil's paintbrush come very late to the party.

I've been awfully busy with carpentry since returning 
from Halifax, replacing windows, doors and rotten sills. 
My back has been in bad shape but hasn't prevented me from 
working—if I'm careful. Still no frost in Vermont. By this 
time last year we'd had three or four killing frosts.

        rainfall—her toes among bobbing crab-

    75 September 2oth

The rains have been warm. The crab apples 
took to floating in the puddles after a good and 
drenching shower.

        from the paper, a cricket's exclamation

    76 September 23rd

The best September days have only just now shown up. 
The breezes are cool and the sun is warm, but not hot. The
humidity has gone out of the air. The hillsides are still green
but the sap is going out of the leaves. They rattle and fall
with each gust.

        and windows closed before nightfall—

77 September 27th ~ Bottlecap

A freshly baked loaf of bread for the evening's meal.