On a Series of Small and Inconsequential Failures

April 8, 2014

It was the morning of April 8, 2014, when Jakob Rehlinger, 41, antisocially hirsute and slightly overweight, sat at his desk in contemplation of his poetry blog. He decided, without regret nor relief, that yes, once and for all, he’d failed in writing one-hundred short poems within the one-hundred week time frame he’d allotted himself. He didn’t even rouse himself to check the date of that first poem. Even if it’d been written a mere seventy-nine weeks prior, he was unlikely to pick up the metaphoric quill and complete the literary quest.

His muse had abandoned him in a wordless vacuum.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, he admitted to himself as he tapped these very words onto the screen, it’d been he who’d abandoned the muse.

The muse in question had been the early-20th Century Japanese poet, Takuboku Ishikawa, otherwise known as The Woodpecker. Jakob thinks of Takuboku, quite inaccurately in fact, as  a sort of Morrissey of the Haiku (Takuboku wrote in the Tanka form). It was while reading the master’s Sad Toys collection (two different translations, in fact, one held in each hand as he compared them line-by-line) that he felt inspiration strike and wrote the first of his ill-fated one-hundred poems. It was a few months after he’d set Sad Toys down—both copies, on the shelf that holds his sweaters for some reason, and for some other reason never picked them up again— that Jakob lost the thread.

This elusive thread, he admitted to himself with his morning espresso poised midway to his lips, was merely the ability to mimic Takuboku’s twist of language and talent to see past Life’s various facades with superhero-like x-ray vision. Without constant glimpses through The Woodpecker’s wry and cynical lens, his own seemed unable to focus.

Jakob was fully aware that any poetic strength of his own was merely an inability to mimic Takuboku very well. This, he liked to believe, is from where his own “voice” originated; that in all artists, the incapacity to mimic their heroes is from where what is commonly thought of as creative genius stems. This is why he’d always been drawn to musicians who don’t know how to play their instruments properly. What were The Velvet Underground, after all, other than a group of incompetents who aimed for the hallowed moons of Phil Spector, Bob Dylan and The Beatles yet managed to land on a bright star of all their own?

The coffee in Jakob’s small espresso cup was lukewarm and a glance into the pot of his electric Bialetti Easy Caffé revealed a disheartening emptiness. If he made another pot, he would feel both sick and aggresssive later on in the day. Yet he felt he needed more coffee before he could even look at his email inbox. A possible solution occurred to him, though not one without potential pitfalls.

Yesterday, on his way to lunch, a girl who stood outside the newly-opened coffee shop in the building’s lobby handed him a coupon for a free “filter” coffee, supposedly not espresso. The coupon could alternately be used for a $1 muffin, with purchase of a coffee. He wondered which was the better offer. Unaware of the café’s relative prices on coffee and muffins, there was no way to tell. Since he’d just eaten a bowl of dry cereal, he felt a muffin was not in order and the point was, in effect, moot.

Furthermore, earlier that morning, he’d glanced in through the frosted windows of the shop and witness a man who could only be described as a douchebag, clearly the manager, gesticulate with his pudgy hands as he instructed his staff in a very managerial and douchebaggy way. The visage made Jakob queasy and thankful he was not in a position where he’d need to seek work at a coffee shop.

He needed more coffee but the thought of entering that space filled him with a mild dread. It would require personal interaction with one of those staff members and that was unacceptable. He’d use the coupon at some time before it’s due date, July 31st, 2014, but this would not be that day.

This thought of due dates reminded him of the fact he needed to renew his library books, which he promptly did online. He was relieved to discover he was not prompted to go to his branch to renew his library card in person, which he was under the impression he’d been instructed to do the last time he’d visited the website. The thought of dealing with one of the librarians was only slightly less daunting than dealing with a complete stranger in the new coffee shop. He must have already renewed his card, though he had absolutely no recollection of the act.

It was a failure of memory, but what was the failure? Had he never been instructed to renew his card, or had his mind blacked-out the experience of doing so?

The thought of either option left a sinking disquiet in his stomach. Perhaps he did not require more caffeine after all. His attention quietly returned to the problem of his poetry blog. What now? Would he return to writing journal entries under the Mr. Dapper guise? He’d recently read an infographic which illustrated that “successful” people kept a journal and “unsuccessful” people did not. He figured, if there was any truth behind the dubious assertion, it was that most successful people are undoubtedly narcissists and it’s narcissists who feel the need to document their existence, if only for themselves. Reasonable people—the unsuccessful majority—see no value in chronicling their drab and drear existence.

The notion of being unsuccessful naturally landed him at the feet of his neglected music blog, Bone Rolling ReviewsApril would be the fourth month in a row he’d ignored it. Since no one had asked him if he was going to update the blog, that was surely a sign no one had noticed and that, as ever, no one cared. He’d let it slide a little longer.

Jakob leaned back in his chair and let out a resigned sigh as he rubbed the dry skin off his bottom lip with his forefinger. He was vaguely aware of a quiet and unassuming sense of dread hovering in the corner, but he was used to that wallflower loitering on the periphery of his life and ignored it as usual.



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