STAR POems: The Plot

By Helen Salsbury

I went in search of the plot,
in the metaphorical forest,
where all the trees looked the same.

I went with an older, American Writer,
who’d seen it all before.
‘The story,’ he said, ‘happens in the gaps.’

Oh, yes, those gaps:
those left-over bomb craters,
from a never-forgotten war.
Those gaps:
yawning between my hopes
and my goals.

I threw a rope, and dangled,
white knuckled and swaying,
as I hauled my way across.

‘You see,’ he said, ‘already the audience is
behind you,
rooting more for the adversity.’

But the forest grew thicker:
the spiky agent trees,
and the slopes of disappointment,
and the bonfires of first drafts.

The American writer held a sausage
over one such fire,
reached for a hot-dog bun,
chewed with an open mouth.

‘Specific, sensuous detail,’ he said,
when I averted my gaze from that churning pit.

He led me up a twisted, staircase of a tree,
until we stood, swaying, side by side,
at its flimsy top.

He pointed at the distant Peaks of Publication –
their slopes swathed in swirling banks of mist –
and bade me fly.

To trust, or not to trust,
That is the question.
It’s where the plot diverges.
It’s where the story gets complex.

I demanded props:
a witch’s hat, a cloak, a slinking cat,
teeth bared in a hiss.

I demanded a Nimbus 2,000.

He told me that JK Rowling lacked the literary merit
for such an assault on the heights.

‘But people read her,’ I said.

He rolled his eyes,
and handed me a rectangular bottomed broom–
left over from an off-off-Broadway production of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
its short bristles wefted with cobwebs and dead flies.

To fly or not to fly,
that is the question.
Do I trust him?

‘There’s a limited number of plots.’
He sounded impatient.
‘How else do you think you can get there?’

‘What about the sudden twist?’ I said,
‘The revolution? The betrayal?’

‘Humh.’ His laugh stuck in his throat,
trapped by grease.

And I sensed the feline slink of a black cat,
wandering quivering branches towards me.

‘Murder your darlings,’ I pointed out,
as he hawked to clear his throat.

‘I must admit,’ I said, ‘you have a certain grotesque fascination,
but you’re not essential to the plot.’

He fell, like an upturned beetle,
landed in a clump.
The sound,
that of a distant explosion in a cellar –
the sort of explosion that could bring down a government.

Metaphorical leaves rose in a cloud of smoke,
then settled back to cover him.

I reshaped the broom
to a more pleasing shape –
long insect-free bristles, sweeping the air –
svelte and potent.
The black cat leapt and landed,
as a cloak of winter black,
with luminous-moon lining,
wrapped around my shoulders.
And –
with cat’s tail purring behind –
I flew.

Image ‘Derivative of File:Salvatore Postiglione Motiv aus dem Decamerone.jpg‘ by MCruz (WMF) reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.