Meeting Dylan

Meeting Dylan

To begin at the beginning.

No – let’s go back, back to before then.

It is an apricot day in the big whirly world, spring-sprung and parchment-pink. Dylan fills the doorway of his china-tiny writing room, buffalo-tired, refusing to budge to the write or the left, because the effort needed to activate motion in the huge steaming hulk of his frame is too much, too much to ask of a poet on an apple-dappled morning when the fags and potted-Scotch Bell’s ‘n Walker breathe (tell-tale talkers of last night’s lurid hours with who-knows-whose-whore or wife) still dulls the medulla-dogged dourness of our Dylan.

Now me. Standing blunted before him. Virginal in my poetry. The gigolo of juxtapositions, the seducer of sounds – Dylan, ‘Mr Thomas’ to him, drunkardly-dirty, hung over in the small doorway, is now looking at me.

His ugliness strikes me as hilarious, for a moment, like the sober regrets of the morning after. Unprepared I came for the confrontation with the physical form through which the beauty of all things is magically wrought into webs of wordy wonder. I am stunned by the size of his nose, which, if it had not been for this thing, might have left a gap for Nature to try again – this time, more lovingly. But he is unaware of my observations, and I am grateful, for I have not come here to find fault.

Now I am conscious of my mirror-studied assemblage, the mascara-ed lilt of my lashes, the dusky damasked shimmer highlighting reticent cheekbones. I feel heat bellowing from my bust. I should have worn pants, I think. I crush the iron-pressed fringe of my skirt. This is no way to meet Dylan after all this time.

‘When the October wind blows…’ I thought would be his first words, when those piggy eyes fall to the crabbed hand that clutches my skirt tight. I had hoped for such a beginning so that I might memorize, not fictionalize.

Dylan: ‘Yes?’

I reserve my wishes, in case they are numbered by the parsimony of genies, but I hope that wasn’t irritation in his voice.

Me: ’Remember, Mr Thomas? I’m the girl who wrote to you about writing…. You said I could….’

Dylan (interrupting): ‘Oh yes.’

The morning yawns in a wide-mouthed gape. Dylan moves into the small room, breaking the silence of the sunlight which fills up the spaces like the liquidity of a bath freshly-plugged. In that room, the morning is already stale, and longs to be allowed out to frolic in the October air. There are rumors in the scattering of shriveled paper wastes, of a strewn-strenuous frustrated night before.

Time passes.

Dylan has already shrunk into his writing chair, without inviting me in. His fat fingers drum lightly on its arms. The rhythm of Morning Mass. I notice, though wish I hadn’t, that his fingernails are dirty.

‘Come closer now….’ I thought he’d say. But instead, from the grave of his ashtray, he lifts the still burning stub of an already-the-eighth-today cigarette and eases it in between two huge liver-spotted lips. Its mouth-piece disappears like a suppository up a rectum.

I step inside the milkwood of his window-silled cabin. From where I am, I can smell the sweat of a poet’s craft and sullen art. He coughs like an orchestra tuning up and spits out his tobaccoed phlegm into a handkerchief with his initials DT embroidered on the corner in the periwinklest-blue cotton by a loving hand. No doubt Catlain’s in better days.

The day sidles into the room, and once-blue shadows blush at my gaze, seeping into pink and scuttle around the room like a mouse pursued. He motions to the only other chair. I am grateful for its hospitality and sit quickly.

Me: ‘Mr Thomas, I….’

He looks at me pityingly.

Dylan (interrupting): ‘Please call me Dylan…’

Me (embarrassed): ‘Dylan….. I have wanted to meet you for as long as I can remember. And that is from when I was old enough to read your poems. You have been a great inspiration to me.’

My own gushing has left me feeling naked.

Dylan: ‘Would you like some tea?’

My verbal offering so carefully rehearsed shakes the foundations of this god less than the juices of Earl Grey’s leaves.

Me: ‘Yes, thank you. That would be nice.’

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

He motions to the tray on a sideboard confettied with papers. ‘Help yourself.’

Dutifully, I get up from my chair and approach the collection of dirty teacups, some with flotsam of cigarette ash scumming the rims. I feel nausea rise in me. I suppress it and pour myself some lukewarm tea from the pot. There is no milk. I spoon in some sugar. There is no teaspoon to stir with. I watch the crystals cluster at the bottom of my cup and pretend it does not matter. I have, after all, not come here to drink tea.

I return with a handful of warm china to my seat.

Me: ‘Mr….. Dylan, thank you so much for your time. I have written a play. It’s just an idea….’

I watch for his reaction. To no avail. I continue.

Me: ‘It’s a play….. for voices…’

He unravels his expression, a flasher unbuttoning, enjoying my unease. His tongue protrudes to lick his lips in collaboration.

Dylan: ‘So you think you’re a playwrite?’

I do not know the answer to that question. I nod.

Me: ‘I’d like to be…’

Dylan: ‘And what do you think I can do for you?’

He winks at me. A pig with conjunctivitis. His breathlessness unnerves me. I laugh predictably. I regret it as soon as I let it go. I long to take it back, to Jack-in-the-box it down again. Dylan does it for me.

Dylan: ‘What’s it about?’

Me: ‘It’s about you and I…. and our first meeting….’

He laughs, bemused. But he does not correct me. He does not say, ‘you and me,’ not ‘you and I.’

My gratitude betrays me in a smile that does not mean ‘Put your hand on my thigh,’ but he does anyway.

The corpulence of his yellowed fingers thumbs my flesh. Dismay rises in me. My teacup rattles in its saucer even though I am holding it tight. I want to say, ‘Take your filthy hands off me.’ I don’t say it. ‘Filthy’ has six letters, just like ‘poetry.’ And the force that moves the hand to the thigh, too moves the hand to the fountain pen. And I am dumb to mouth ‘filthy’, when ‘poetry’ fits just as well.

Dylan: ‘Our first meeting…?’ His interest is kindled by the bareness of young limbs. ‘Well, let’s see what you’ve got.’

He holds out his hand for my manuscript. I become afraid. It is too soon. What if he laughs? What if he says ‘Unless you’ve got talent – Mozart had it, Salieri didn’t, then don’t waste my time or yours. Anyway, what’s a pretty girl like you doing writing plays, when she should be out finding out about what life’s really about?’

I know not what to do. My courage fails me.

Dylan is not a patient man.

He snatches the papers from my hand. And I am all a-tremble. The terror of my poetic innocence gurgles from my guts to my groin. I shiver with expectancy.

Dylan moves to the light as if he cares.

The sunlight lingers longer than his attention. He flicks through the leaves of my document as if he were in the counting house counting out the money. He strokes his chin.

My belly turns and burns in kinks and curls. When will Dylan speak?

I notice the cat. She winks at me, and puts her paw to her lips as if to say, ‘Shhh, I won’t tell…’ She licks her furry fingertips and yawns to show me the pale peach ridges of her kitty throat.

I reach out in sympathy to stroke this discreet feline. She moves to avoid my touch.

I look at Dylan’s feet. His shoes are old. His socks are older. I wonder if he has ingrown toenails.

My mouth is agape, as if trying to catch the sounds that ought to scramble from his lips. Dylan looks up at last. The burning bush in his trousers is risen from the dead.

‘Drink your tea,’ Dylan says, ‘It will get cold.’

I sip my tea. It is just right, so I drink it all up.

‘Go back to the beginning,’ he says. ‘Make each word count.’ That is all he says.

My cup is empty and Dylan is dismissing me.

‘Unless you want something else….’ He smiles. The heaps of my papers scuttle untidily on his lap, rising with the tide. The billow of his bullying art, elevates my work.

Dylan sits lower in his chair. My papers subside to the ground, drizzling a papery silence. I shake my head. Gather my discarded efforts. As I bend down to collect them, he sneeks a peek up my raised skirt.

But I am out the door, breathless in my shame, before he has a chance to say a word, make absurd my pantiless crotch.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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The Stories Our Wardrobes Tell

The Stories Our Wardrobes Tell

‘Can I wear this?’ my teenage daughter asked, holding up a black silk shirt from my wardrobe. ‘I need a black top for drama and I don’t have one.’

‘Ummmm….’ I paused, remembering that the last time I wore that shirt, it was ripped off me in a moment of passion by a man (not her dad) back in the days when I had that kind of power over men. Look, it was a long long time ago. Which begs the question why I still have it in my wardrobe when a) I haven’t worn it in sixteen years and b) it’s unlikely I’m ever going to wear it again. It seems it has survived the bi-annual spring and autumn wardrobe cleans, not for its wearability, nor its timelessness as a fashion item, but simply because it holds the memory of a hot and lustful night. And let’s face it, who couldn’t do with the harmless thrill of opening one’s matronly wardrobe and catching a glimpse of that memory nestled between the daggy old sundresses and bath robes?

My wardrobe is divided into two clear halves. The half I wear and the half I hoard driven by the same sentimentality that keeps me holding onto my late granny’s pill box and my grandfather’s tie pin: they link me viscerally to times and places and people-gone-by in textures of silk and satin and chiffon and lace. And when it comes to memories, I’m an antique collector.

Take for example, the long tie-died navy dress I wore the day I find out I was pregnant with my son. I had bought it at some festive little flea-market I was wandering through with my daughter. I then wore it at her second birthday party because she was enchanted by the butterflies on it, her miniature fingers tracing them on the material over my newly pregnant belly. I haven’t been into long dresses, tie die or butterflies for at least a decade. But nostalgia and superstition prevent me from giving it to St Vinnies for fear that I might throw away some of that joy with the dress. With its ties at the back that could be loosened, I wore it right up until I gave birth, and I feel a certain loyalty to such a giving and forgiving dress that, with almost Buddhist kindness never (unlike the bitchy bikini, the haughty halterneck and the mocking mini-skirt) made me feel huge or claustrophobic.

Then there’s my wedding dress, a plum satin slip with a pink netted overlay with embroidered flowers and an even pinker chiffon jacket which now reminds me of a dressing gown I imagine one might wear in a brothel. Back then, I dismissed white as conventional and regarded pink as radical. I must have been having a Laura Ashley moment, common in even the most tomboyish of brides. I now look at that dress and feel the way I do about ex-boyfriends whom I loved once upon a time, but have no desire to ever run into again. But getting rid of it feels adulterous.

Cluttering up my shelves, is a medley of scarves and shawls, and sari-inspired items when I fancied myself as a bohemian gypsy; long flowing colourful pieces that can be worn in layers, and did a fabulous job of hiding the flab for years after my children were born.

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

Then there’s the collection of t-shirts with political slogans: IAMAZON, ‘What part of No don’t Men Understand?’ ‘Love See No Colour,’ and ‘Peace on Earth,’ which I wore during political protests and activist feminist years, making up my collection of androgynous apparel. And though I’m nowhere near fired up anymore to wear them in public and risk confrontation with misogynists, sexists, racists and polluting capitalists, they sometimes come out when I’m cleaning and I need to access some hard-core muscle memory.

Hanging despondently at the back of my cupboard are a few vintage pieces I purchased when second-hand was hip and was all I could afford as a uni student. And then there’s that range of blouses and baggy pants in soft pastels made from organic cotton that cost a small fortune for extremely large women who want to inhabit their clothing like a small and airy marquee, which apparently I must have wanted to do at a particularly unflattering stage in my life.

I still have that sexy nightie I bought from Victoria’s Secret in New York while I was a student in the U.S., imagining the multitudes of sexual encounters in which I’d wear it and is probably the piece of clothing I’d reach for in the unlikely event that I were ever asked to be filmed in a love scene with Colin Firth, even with a stutter. I’ve been unsuccessful at parting with the dress I wore at my sister’s wedding despite the fact that summer colours do nothing for my complexion. There are those outfits I wore at this book launch, then at that one, in colours to match my latest book’s cover. There’s the black silk dress with ancient kimono material across the bodice I will wear only for celebrations (not funerals); shoes I will wear to retrace steps, and some I will willingly endure the discomfort of because they make me feel so foxy.

I have a separate drawer for my black Tai Chi baggy crotch pants and white t-shirt with my sensai’s school logo on it, a yin and yang sign with an I-Ching sign of earth above heaven, in the hope that someday I might feel strong, centred and balanced enough to wear them again.

When I put these clothes on, I step back into my memories. I re-inhabit the incarnations of my life. Opening my wardrobe, my past flashes before my eyes and I remember, ‘I was once a girl in red velvet giving a law dinner speech,’; ‘I was a bridesmaid in peach to my childhood friend,’ ‘I lost a shoe in the mud wearing that skimpy periwinkle blue dress,’ ’he bought me that hand-made waistcoat on the side of the road in Malawi,’ ‘In that pair of satin black pants, I felt like I could conquer the world,’ ‘I found that hat at that little shop in Uluru,’ ‘he fell in love with me in those army pants,’ ‘I wanted to dance all night in that silver dress.’
Our wardrobes hold our stories, tell of where we’ve been, who we’ve loved and how much or little we’ve loved ourselves. What we wear is a message to the world, a code for our sense of self-worth. Our clothes either say, ‘I celebrate,’ or ‘I hide,’ or ‘don’t look at me,’ or ‘I shine,’ or ‘I’m lost,’ or ‘get a load of this!’ It’s a register of our stories, the map of our lives folded on shelves, leaning on hangers.

A wardrobe is a testament to the thousands of ways in which we change in our lives – not only change clothes, but transform as human beings. They are palettes of our kaleidoscopic personalities, closets of our evolution. No matter whether something has been outworn, or outgrown or surpassed by the fickle tap dance of fashion, I cling to it for who it reminds me I once was.
In the end, I let my daughter wear that shirt. Time for it to have new stories to tell.

Published in Prevention Magazine

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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What Makes It Worth It

What Makes It Worth It

‘Is it worth it?’

‘Tell me I can.’

‘Not sure why I’m doing this.’

‘There are so many books out there, why will mine matter?’

As a writing mentor, I field these apprehensions from writers every day. I wish I had a magic pass I could dispense to dissolve these angsts because they get in the way of writing, the way a bouncer does at the entrance to a club.

If it’s any consolation, all of us engaged in a creative pursuit tilt around these anxieties. Some of us manage the wobble better than others. Some of us are more practiced at finding the centre. But trust me, we’re all tuned into the silent whine in our inner ear of: ‘Is it worth it?’

This raises the question, what does ‘worth it’ mean?

 

The 7 Day Writing Challenge

WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit

 

If by ‘worth’ we are asking: will I get published? The answer is, ‘there are no guarantees.’

If we’re asking, ‘will I make money?’ again, no guarantees, and probably not much.

If we mean ‘will people read this?’ again, who knows? We have no control over what happens to our writing when it goes out into the world.

But if by ‘worth it’ we’re asking, ‘Will I learn something valuable about myself? Will I create something beautiful? Will I create something worthy and of value?’

The answers are YES YES and you better believe it, YES.

If ‘is it worth it?’ means ‘is it worth finishing?’ Of course, YES. What the finished manuscript looks like, is up to you. Work hard. Make it beautiful. Let it shine with the time, effort and energy you have invested in it.

That’s what makes it worth it.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

Books That Made a Difference in My Life

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