THIS SMALL PRESS LIFE by James Mitchell
for Paul Mariah
It was to have been different. There were to have been beautiful editions, a photograph of the author on the inside cover, elegant printing on cream‐colored paper, and copies to sign and give away at crowded readings; I thought I would be always on tour, stopping occasionally in New York to consult with my publishers; Iʹd spend a year in the Caucasus on some strange fellowship, and when the Guggenheim finally arrived, Iʹd be at the mouth of the Amazon, discovering new botanical specimens, or in the Himalayas, exploring ascetic alternatives, or Iʹd be busy defining novel patterns of human sexuality
while screwing sheep on a windy cliff in Ethiopia. At a noisy literary party on Long Island Iʹd gain notoriety by dumping Norman Mailer on his ass. Then Iʹd marry my 22‐year‐old secretary, gaining further notoriety by speaking to no one for seventeen years. In extreme old age I would read projective verse at a Presidential inauguration. And at my death the I.R.S., Random House, and Harvard Library would pick my white bones clean. But no. Instead my life stutters along a crazy assembly line of shamelessly incomprehensible manuscripts which generate drunken typesetting,
messy artwork, capricious binding, ephemeral distribution, and negligible sales. Correction fluids of obscure manufacture have yielded ineradicable stains on my pants. Each time I edit proofs it occurs to me that my eye‐sight is finally deteriorating. I am victimized by the continuing fear that the postal rates will increase next month. Gary Snyder says of professions, ʺthere is no other life,ʺ which I think is correct. On the other hand, if alternate proposals are solicited, you can bet I shall not be found speechless. On a starry night I stare upwards in mute amazement and wonder where the big rubber band which holds all this together is?
But when the fog comes in, I am a champion race‐car driver, assigned to remain forever a passenger on an electric overhead Muni bus.
Published on Sep 13, 2010