Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020


Photograph via Flickr by Pierre Metivier

The truth is: Word is not writing. Word is not working.

My story is about: no, not. Word is not processing. Word is not progressing. Delete. Restart.

Say something more thoughtful. More artful. Help.

What about a story with suspense, maybe criminals? Somewhere with bougainvillea. Bullets and Numbering. Borders and Shading. Think of the Text Direction. How do you want this to end?

Switch to canary legal pad paper. Is that any better? Hurry up. The attention span is short. Plus, it’s getting dark out. A sense of noir. In the middle of New York. Is it too late to get out? To go out? To travel abroad?

The journey begins/began.

Forget the yellow paper. Too hard to see at this hour. Tear it up. Page Break.

Clip Art. There is a painting somewhere with a little patch of yellow wall. There is a painting somewhere in Proust. Edit Preferences.

I think I would rather be reading a novel. What about a poem?

“I think I would rather be / a painter, but I am not.” That’s what Frank O’Hara wrote.

I’ve stopped to look it up. New Window. Split.

Sort. Focus. Stop to smell the lilies. Bought earlier today, at the bodega. Or was it a deli?

Read advice online for writers: Avoid using second-person point of view if you want to be taken seriously! What about talking to yourself? Don’t ask questions. Avoid a confusion of voices! Avoid exclamation points. Visit Japan for inspiration. Try to write haiku. Everyone can do it. Try a different format. Expand your horizons. Increase your opportunities.

Open another window, a real one, with a view of the river. Can you smell the coffee? That deli on the corner is open all night. Their lilies are called Stargazer. They have other things, too. Try to remember what they are. Arrange All.

You might need to go back out there and get something else, later. Because you have to keep going. You have to arrive somewhere. You have to say something. Says who?

You have to say something better.

What am I going to do? The night is August, with drizzle. Flowers in buckets. Puddles. Plus a sliver of moon, which is not enough. My screen is still blue. Adjust brightness. The Buddhists say the mind is a clear blue background and thoughts are just passing clouds. Don’t write that down. I am not an authority. Hardly even an author. Who knows what’s true?

You are as good as your Word.

What if your Word is good for nothing?



The Buddhists say: don’t confuse nothingness with emptiness. Also: Your happiness is not dependent on circumstances. Or was that the Existentialists? How much have you read? How much have you had? A wave of seasickness while watching the water. Open another window. How many windows are there? Look at the horizon. It looks like a line in a painting. Like a line in a book.

Cruise ships on the river slip between skyscrapers.

Photo Browser.

What about a Scrapbook, some Citations? Why not talk about your real life now, how you got here, what forms of transportation/transmutation, what you are doing (what are you doing?), why you are writing at all, what you are writing, whatever you want to call it, whatever you like.

Born in Georgia, etc. Cross-Reference. New Blank Document.

But I’ve already passed up the class in memoir writing, even though the email said everyone has a story and I should sign up as soon as possible.

I didn’t think a memoir would be appropriate. I still don’t. I preferred a Landscape Orientation. That’s why I came to New York.

New Comment. Albino pythons in a box in front of Federal Hall. (To entertain the tourists.) Birds of paradise at the deli. Flowers, feathers, serifs. Change Fonts.

Geneva, Monaco, Beirut. What about a travelogue?

Because I’ve already traveled, somewhat, somewhere. To Japan, for example.

I’ve had itineraries.

Did they add up to something greater? Did you ever make it all the way to Crete? Did something happen in Greece? On an island. Who doesn’t love the idea of an island? That is, I always did. The water was so blue there/then. (Remember: Manhattan is an island, too.)

Insert Hyperlink. Insert Photo. Is there any evidence? That this text is correct?

Where else have you been?

It might have been Brussels, at the flea market, where I bought an old book about caring for your canary. On the first page, it said (I paraphrase): There are no photographs of canaries in this book. You know what canaries look like.

If only that were true.



I have received an offer via email to purchase a package tour to the Canary Islands.

But I have been to plenty of other islands already. Try to remember them. Where/when. Find Previous. Find Next.

Where should I write about? Where should I write? It would be better if I had a proper studio, like a painter. In order to write something beautiful. Magenta and maroon.

Flag for Follow Up.

Insert Date and Time. Venice, springtime, evening. That should do the trick.

But what if everyone knows what Venice looks like already? Pink light, green water. Glass rings the size of hockey pucks on fingers. Masks for tourists. Espresso cups clinking. People drinking coffee in squares. Draw Table. But I can’t do that. I can’t draw anything.

Mary McCarthy wrote, “Many great men have come to Venice and found it wanting—or worse, disgusting.”

Undo Typing.

John Ruskin, in The Stones of Venice: “Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peacocks and lilies, for instance.”

Symbols and Shapes. Watermark. Templates. Object.



I drink coffee from a celadon teacup from Thailand.

Zoom Window. It doesn’t matter if that cup is celadon or chartreuse, does it?

The cup is fragile. Don’t break it. I have only one. Only one left.



What have you done? Not enough. How much more is necessary? How much? Word Count.

I need more than that, more than this. Customize Keyboard. Compatibility Report.

Life might be better in the islands. There are daily flights from New York City. Think of the coffee, the orchids, the beach.

There’s a storm on the horizon: one long purple line. Close the windows and stay inside. Read a book. Write.

Unblock All My Blocked Areas.

I organize my mementos and souvenirs, my particles, my articles. Select All.

Japanese incense. Copper earrings from India. Small gods made of aluminum. Ceramic bowls. Conchs.

I break things (not on purpose), then read about kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by filling the cracks with lacquer and gold. Which makes the new thing even more precious than it was before.

Reveal Formatting. Track Changes. What happened? What hasn’t? Already and before.

On a Greek island there was a path that curved around the mountain until it found that white church with a blue dome perched on a promontory. What everyone had been looking for all morning. I took a picture. To show people later. To make them see: the destination is nonfiction.

Is that what you believe?

Convert Document.



I make mistakes. No one wants to read about success. That’s what I read in a guidebook about how to write a memoir. Unfortunately, I don’t have a guidebook for how to write a travelogue. See something, say something. That’s what it says on the subway.

But I keep going and try to learn the difference. Between success and failure. And what about the space in between?

I live somewhere in the space between the Stock Exchange and Pearl Street, so named by the Dutch because this part of Manhattan was once littered with oysters.

What happened to the pearls?

Maybe I need to go somewhere else in order to write something better.

I read about other people’s problems:

The document I opened contains unexpected symbols.

I am unable to compare two versions.

How do you flow text from one area to another?

How do you turn on the Japanese language features?

How do you overwrite?



There are some tricks. I compose tiny travelogues for Twitter. I write micro memoirs about living in Manhattan. I have several screens going. Repeat Typing. I create haiku from phrases found in travel magazines. Try again. I create haiku using only email messages. Paradise cruises. Gold lotus express special. Such crystal chicken. I try a little bit of everything. The next word might be the right one, even if it’s fiction.

Remember vetiver. Some chandelier. Something could have happened in Paris, but it was in Tokyo, one August evening, with thunder, when:

            An American ducked into a restaurant. The waitress invited him to choose a sake cup from a bowl of ice. While the tempura chef worked over his wok. A woman in a pearl-colored kimono slipped in beside the American and put her legs into the hole beneath the bar. He wanted to speak. He had memorized some things, phrases and questions. He would like to communicate, in Japanese, ideally. See something, say something. There were pieces of haiku here, if only he could arrange them. Something bubbled up. The waitress returned to wipe up the splashes and the special paste. Paste Special. Change Case. He had thought it would be easier to be a poet in Tokyo than in Hoboken. The waitress removed more obstacles. He asked for eel, the specialty. An indulgence, if you want to know the truth. The waitress smiled. Her eyes changed color. Good choice. That is: good luck.



The truth is: Word is not writing the whole story. Just a fragment (a figment). It’s not even about Japan. Japan is something else. I mean elsewhere. Where else is there? Where is the Dictionary? Even a Thesaurus. That is, an atlas.

There’s always Paris. Think of that. Or rather, Henry Miller in Paris, on the first page of Tropic of Cancer: “I no longer think I’m an artist; I am one.” What was his Formula? Such Language. Henry Miller also painted thousands of watercolors and later died in California.

But the student must learn not to imitate the master, not to trace his line. That’s what I read. I am reading about Japanese calligraphy now. Which I have wanted to study for a long time, but so far, I haven’t.

Footnote: Japanese calligraphy is called shodo. There is a studio in New York. The class description says the word shodo can be translated as “the way of writing.” It is a philosophical pursuit as well as an art form. Shodo can also be translated as “the way of the brush.”

Writing as painting. Maybe. Almost. Bring All to Front.

Coffee break. Section Break. AutoCorrect.

Consider the Zen Buddhist practice of drawing an open-ended circle, the enso, a symbol of infinity, tranquility, and the possibility of perfection, among other things. That’s what I read. It might be the moon. It is not a scribble. It is not nothing. The end does not meet the beginning. It doesn’t have to. There are no Gridlines. No grid. No city like New York. Nowhere. That bodega on the corner is open all night, and they have everything. Their everything bagel glows under neon, and it has saved me, more than once. You can see the sign if you. Look out. Is it still raining? Was it ever?

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