Monthly archives: December, 2015

Ask The Pessimist

[Misinspired by George Saunders’ “Ask the Optimist!“, which has also been turned into a puppet show [!!] that you can read about here and view here.]

Dear Dr. Pessimist,
Don’t you find pessimism “negative”?!
–Just Sayin! in Cincinnati

Dear Just,
Just think of me as helping you obey the first and second laws of thermodynamics. In the real world, not only is energy always conserved (as it can never be created or destroyed), but also: all natural systems (and hey check it out! you are one, too!) tend to go south as it were, towards maximum entropy, towards irreversible disorganization. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold (you know the rest).

So as I see it, my job is to cancel you and your optimism out, so that nothing of you or of what you say remains, just a perfect, eternal nullity. No loss, no gain, nothing, nothing contained in nothing—just nothing, nothing at all.

Zilch, nada, nichts. Rien, niente, nanimo. Nothing.
–Just sayin!

*     *     *

Dear Dr. Pessimist,
Whenever I’m not distracted (which is not very often if I can possibly help it, and I always find Tumblr and its ilk quite useful in that regard) I sometimes catch my self almost admitting to myself (if not to others, since that would be social, not to mention career, suicide) that, yikes! I might, perhaps, be a pessimist too(?) But really: UGH! That’s a downer, verging on an outright bummer. Which is depressing, in-and-of-itself, if you think about it. Which I don’t like to, can you help? Help!
–Fretfully-On-The-Fence in Fresno

Dear Fenced-In,
Don’t fret, friend: it gets better, truly it does–by which I mean worse, of course! But I suspect that you already understand that, at some level. So pay no heed to the bleatings of what you call your “self”, and go on, get out there, get real, and get over it. And then get on with it: because it’s all you can do, and it won’t be for all that much longer, in the grand scheme of things.

*     *     *

Dear Dr. Pessimist,
Are you for real? How do you get through your day? [Continue reading “Ask the Pessimist” on my longform site!]



Life North of 60 (poem)

This poem was featured in The Guardian’s poetry workshop back in 2007, and I thought I would include it here in case their page went dark.

Life North of 60 Poem

Here is the workshop leader’s (poet John Hartley Williams) comment:

Bleak yet cheerful. I especially enjoyed the opening two lines. It’s not at all certain whether mother is committing suicide or rashly checking on dinner and the fact that father’s ghost is “entombed in broadsheets” unleashes a satirical donkey-kick at domestic arrangements. The poem lost momentum a bit in the last stanza – a phrase like “penultimate stage of life” needs a steam-winch to heave it into position, and the mere swirl of alcohol seemed too easy a conclusion; I’d have preferred something more explosive.

Yet I still like what “penultimate stage of life” is doing in this poem: for me, the shuddering but momentary halt to the rhythm (before father downs the last gulp of the highball) that those seven syllables force upon the reader leave me wondering, even now, about what the spectral father would (or could) do next.

To see other poems in the same workshop (which, among other things, required you to “mess with” a proverb, click here.

The Guardian’s Poetry Workshop series ended its run in 2011. I still miss it.


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