Rules for the Mystical Poetry Contest
Michael Ruby and I spent a Sunday afternoon in late April talking poetry at his farmhouse. We took a long walk in the woods and heard birdsong and worried about ticks in the grass. After a while we got hungry and decided to drive over to the general store at Bash Bish Falls. There are closer places around Michael’s farmhouse to get a sandwich but none with a beer selection as generous as this. We placed our sandwich orders at the counter and perused the vintage beer cooler. It was almost as much fun as browsing an antiquarian book shop.
Michael then remembered he forgot to say hold the mayo. He called into the kitchen: “I don’t like mayonnaise.” No problem, said the woman making his sandwich. Soon our order was ready. We took it outside to a picnic table and resumed our talk about poetry. I wish I could report that other people around us joined in the conversation or were looking on if we were crazy, but they just ignored us. We finished our lunch and continued talking poetry on the drive back to Michael’s farmhouse.
At one point we passed an old graveyard and stopped in to see what it was all about. The inscriptions on the markers were hard to make out. One read “At Rest.” Another was engraved with a weeping willow. The saddest held just one word: “Infant.” We got back into the car and left. Not long after that we passed an old house where a huge pine had crashed down on the roof. Michael remembered that an elderly woman used to live there, but she hadn’t been seen in a long time. Word was that she had been taken away to a home or maybe died. In any case, it was a mournful scene but we got past that and arrived back at Michael’s still talking poetry.
Inside his farmhouse I noticed a big stack of books on the floor with Trout Fishing in America on top. Near the end of that book, Richard Brautigan writes: “I always wanted to write a book that ended with the word Mayonnaise.” I asked Michael if he liked this book. He does. So do I. We talked some more about poetry. Then it was time for me to go.
What does any of this have to with the Mystical Poetry Contest and its rules? A fair question. In 1980 I was living in Maine and came across an announcement for the Mystical Poetry Contest. It included a list of the rules. I thought that was very funny because mysticism doesn’t have any rules. It made me want to write a poem called “Rules for the Mystical Poetry Contest” but I never got past the title and have been brooding over it ever since.
Thank goodness for Michael Ruby, he doesn’t like mayonnaise. So even though this ain’t a poem, I’m done with it.