Old Letter

It’s funny how much difference having a good pen makes.

I don’t like writing directly onto the computer. This is mostly because my computer is full of so many wonderful distractions that I have to be in the exact right frame of mind before I can do it. Often this comes when I have a time limit – “I’m going out in an hour, so I can do a quick bit of writing before that.” If I have all day, I’ll watch bad (or good) American TV over the internet, and play games.

I tend to put a lot of effort into buying a nice notebook, one I think I’ll use. Sometimes I go through it and meticulously number the pages, so if I leave a subject and weeks later I have more ideas on it, I can write “continued on page 48” in my own notebook. One of my last ones had a contents page to try and bring order to disorder. A section could be “comedy ideas – 7-9, 23, 74” for the pages where I decided I was being funny.

But while I don’t seem to put much effort into finding the right pen, using a pen that just slides across the page, or even makes forming the letters clearer and more stylish – this makes me write more. The last time I came to Japan, I had these beautiful black artist pens. I was teaching English on a campus that also taught architecture, and that’s a subject for pen-lovers. My pens had two different nibs, one at either end. One for thick dark strokes, the other for finesse. I loved them, and I wrote a lot of notes.

Trouble is, you never know if the pen’s going to be good until you’ve started writing with it. As a gaijin (foreigner) in Japan, everything is trial and error – what does that taste like, does this path take me to the right train line, does this bar charge extortionate table charges? A lot of this is fun, and it’s definitely part of the spirit of adventure. Clearly, I need to go to a store, buy a whole load of pens, and then give the ones I don’t like to the other English teachers on my campus.

Related to pens and ink, here’s an old poem that’s knocked around for a bit. I know that a few of you readers are not big poetry critics, but I’d still appreciate any help on this, as parts of it feel way off what they can be:

Old Letter


There’s nothing like a letter
for saying something over
and forever. It lasts;
your voice preserved
in the rush of the ink,
your pauses and stresses
echoed in dashes on the page.
Years from now,
You will say this to me again,
from a dusty filed-away drawer,
and though nothing will be same,
for a minute, it will,


and that forgotten clutch
can gasp from my lungs
like that first breath out of water
though I sank long before.
A glimpse of what we had.
An old present stuck to a page:
and when I look, I can see that
hesistant plotch of black
that never stopped you.
I know it’s foolish to critique my own work before you’ve really had a chance to appreciate it – which is why I usually try to avoid saying specifically negative stuff about my own work on the blog – but I’m not happy with the third stanza, and I can’t find the right verbs or nouns or adjectives to express rediscovering an old memory that makes you inhale sharply…. any ideas appreciated.

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