The poem is not happy.
It glares up at me, its eyes spitting fury.
‘How dare you take me in that direction?’ it says. ‘Can’t you see this is not about your childhood? Who gave you permission to do that? Who?’
‘I was only doing my best,’ I reply.
‘That is precisely my point,’ the poem says. ‘How many times do I need to remind you that you are not the one who is in charge here?’
I sigh. I put down my pen. I close my folder of poems.
I can still hear the poem nagging me, even as I slide the folder back into the drawer.
‘How long have you been doing this? Have you learnt nothing? What was it Roethke said, you remember, that line you are always quoting, about not having any rights in this matter? You could do worse than listen to your own advice sometimes. And that part, eight lines in (it is always eight lines in), where you start erecting signposting behind my back, nudging the reader with a nod and a wink what I am really supposed to be about! It’s childish, amateurish. You should know better by now, a man of your age. What you need to learn is that I do not mind being treated badly. Those last six lines? Ditch them. They are commentary. They make me look weak, like a piece of journalism. And the first four. Ditto. You were just warming up. Now, take off those kid gloves and get back to work.’