A Sestina

Publishing is the Auctioning of the Mind, Says Emily Dickinson

A Sestina

by Darcy Pattison
(c. 2011. Please do not reprint without permission.)

A woman sits before a computer.
Her writing time drags by. Idle stories
clog the screen with black and white squiggles.
The woman’s mind is bare.  She’s kept nothing
	The auctioneer’s voice stirs the woman:
         “Here’s a mind for sale.  Who will start the bidding?”

Rebel words refuse to do her bidding,
so, she sits and composes computer
		The voice rouses the woman,
crying, “It’s time to bid.  Stories!  Stories
for sale.”  
		She looks up. Her mind holds nothing,
but fear.  Today, they auction her squiggles.

Black gibberish scrolls down in strange squiggles.
She tap, tap, taps.  The task is forbidding.
Buyers want stories; instead there’s nothing
but a blank mind facing a computer,
spewing words that fail to become stories.
Before the screen, sits an broken woman.

She’s a good writer, this empty woman.
On other days, she wrote cursive squiggles
in blank notebooks.  The surprise was stories
that left her laughing or crying, bidding
her to share them.  She bought a computer.
Tap, tap, tapping.  Words were a joy; nothing

could stop her, decorum be damned, nothing
stopped the words coursing through the young woman;
power and beauty filled the computer
till compromise. Then all was dim squiggles. 
	The auctioneer thought to start the bidding:
	“Where’ve you put your words?  They want your stories?”

“I assure you, the woman writes stories
that will keep you awake. You’ll do nothing
else until you finish reading.”  
the auction of her mind, leaves the woman
in tears.  Stubborn, she stands.  She prints squiggles
stored for such a day on a computer.

		The woman flings precious squiggles,
gleaned from computer files.  
				          “Stories!  Stories!” 
And nothing stems the frenzy of bidding.