How Long Does This Have to Be?

Pete (Iowa City, Iowa)

I don't know.
How long does it need to be?
Puzzled expressions appear.
No, they say,
How long do you want it to be?
I clench my teeth,
sigh and take a gentle breath.
How can my message overcome the tradition?
This is your story,
your poem,
your essay.
Tell it to yourself until you think it is done.
Make the reader in you happy,
and the reader in me
will most likely be content.
The old question
isn't going to be answered here.
Two pages,
fifteen-hundred words,
no longer pass these lips.
Perhaps some will turn in ten lines,
ten wonderful lines which
they will claim by saying,
Yes, I wrote this. Can I read it to you?
Others can't write fast enough.
Stay out of their way as
the pencil chases thoughts across the paper,
turning away from the edge at the last moment,
balancing on line after blue line,
writing from bell to bell;
some of them outside writers too.
They have stories to tell.
Perhaps with time
the old refrain will be replaced
with a new litany.
Will you read this and tell me what you think?
Can I submit this for publication?
If you wish.
Do I have time to do another draft?
I think so.
Easier questions to answer,
asked with a different urgency.