"The Poet" by Alex Skovron. a novella
Manfred was honest.
He lived in a one-bedroom apartment slotted above a newsagency near the edge of a middle-class beachside suburb on the outskirts of the city. He lived alone, paid his rent once a month - always on time - and travelled, five days a week, to his office in the central business district to pursue, half-heartedly, his vocation of Accounts Clerk with a solid but obscure insurance firm.
For years Manfred's life had been anchored in routine. He had always derived enjoyment from regularity, from a sense of the fixity of things; which partly explained why, despite one overriding talent, he had barely managed, in his thirty-six years on this planet, to carve out more than the most unobtrusive of niches. Manfred's fondness of order and routine had imbued him with a conservative disposition: he simply disliked change. He was content with his lot, and comfortable with his unremarkable existence.
But then, Manfred himself was a less than remarkable individual. Neither tall nor short, stocky nor slim, overly dark nor noticeably fair, he was really quite undistinguished in appearance - except for the eyes: two blue gemstones set in a pallid, almost expressionless face. From close up they lent his features a distinction which, along with his sharp chin, Roman nose and unusual honesty, placed Manfred apart from his distinctly nondescript colleagues, with whom he socialized hardly at all.
To tell the truth. Manfred was something of a loner. Nobody could recall visiting his apartment, nobody knew much about his private life: he preferred such a condition to one in which his precious privacy - including his special pastime - might be constricted in the smallest measure.
This special pastime, Manfred's one overriding talent, was poetry. An ardent reader from his early teens, he had started composing his own poems while still at school, and by his twenties had methodically instructed himself in the poetries of all the great practitioners through the ages. In recent years he had developed the habit of jotting down his thoughts each evening after work, and these he would subsequently shape into lines and stanzas of dexterous, energetic verse, with a felicity that occasionally surprised even him. Six fat folders now overflowed with the thousands of items penned by his hand - three thousand and twelve, to be precise.
The subjects he ranged among included - well, everything: nature, myth, music and art, history, personality, desire, faith, destiny, death ... a universe of concerns that encompassed the gamut of human experience, but with one crucial exception. Love. Manfred hade never been "in love". He had indulged in no more than a handful of liaisons, mostly brief, cumbersome and superficial; he had certainly never met anyone he wanted to marry. Being too honest to write about something that had played no direct part in his life, he shunned the subject, or would allude to it obliquely, in impressionistic poems about dreams, misty aspirations, unfulfilled ideals. Deep down, Manfred was an incorrigible idealist.
Very few people had been granted the privilege of inspecting Manfred's poetical outpourings. He had once shown some of his works to his parents (who had died, within months of each other, a dozen years ago, and in his midtwenties, to a young teacher of literature named Hugo with whom he had forged a tentative friendship, who had since vanished from his life and was living overseas. That was all. Nobody else knew, because in truth the poet was unaffectedly modest about his "scribblings", regarding them as mere playthings of his imagination. How could these spontaneous studies in self-indulgence, these arbitrary private diversions (however cherished), be of any interest to others, let alone represent a serious or lasting contribution to literature?
His parents had reacted with predictable admiration, even amazement, at these secret labours of their diffident only child. But, Hugo, who was shown a smaller selection, read quietly for a while, stopped, took a deep breath, and proceeded to shower the poems with so many superlatives that Manfred felt compelled to reread some of the pieces over his friend's shoulder - and was a little distressed to detect tremors of pride, even vanity, asserting themselves almost imperceptibly, as he acknowledged the force of an image, the cleverness of a rhyme, the aptness of a rhythm or trope.
Flattering as such approval might be, Manfred persisted in the belief that his poetry was of no great consequence. Although, he continued to write in his considerable spare time, he had no interest in seeking to publish any of his poems, and never even bothered to make copies. He was content with the private sense of order and structure that the writing lent to his daily life. He knew nothing about poetry-publishing, never saw the literary journals, and wouldn't have had a clue how to get about submitting his work. He was convinced that he was writing only for himself.
Until he caught sight of Hugo's slim volume.
Alex Skovron: The Poet. a novella
Published by Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne Victoria Australia
ISBN 1 876462 31 0
Cover design by Sarn Potter - Cover painting by Alex Skovron
About Alex Skovron: http://www.jewishaustralia.com/authoralexskovron.htm
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