I’m re-writing a novel. Some days it feels as though I’m un-writing a novel, taking more words away at the end of a day than I leave. 

Still, those words don’t disappear.  They go on the compost pile.


I keep a file on my MacBook titled “compost.”  I throw used words onto it as easily as I throw egg shells and banana peels onto the real compost pile in my back yard. Unto the compost pile I throw apple cores and coffee grounds, bread ends and moldy guacamole–the remnants of quite satisfying meals.  Into the compost file I throw stale descriptions, boring conversations, plot twists that are best left to coil off into the dark.

The compost pile in the yard grows from the top, the weight of newly discarded organic material pressing the older stuff down into the rich dirt underneath. The pile is about two feet high now.  The compost file grows from the top, as well, the weight of newly discarded words pressing older words from older stories down into the depths of my memory.  This file is now almost seventy pages, longer by far than many of the stories that have contributed to it:

            Do you think they’re married?

            Do you see rings?

            She did see a ring—one enormous jewel on the right middle finger of the woman. It matched, of all things, her hair, a shiny blue-black, and her eye shadow.


Or this:

               My favorite 91-year-old Navy dude’s on East Wing.  He’s filled his memory box with his war medals and photographs of him in the South Pacific.  In one, he’s got his arms around these Marilyn Monroe-style babes.  They’re wearing their bikinis.  He’s wearing his sailor hat and it sure looks like nothing else.  I think that man’s mind is still

Or this:

Why do you cheer for both teams? I said.  That’s stupid.


Some compost parts have lost their form and make no sense at all:

no station wagon

cab to the airport

bag in the trunk like a body!!!!

            deep unfairness


Others make me wonder why I discarded them in the first place.

Little Johnnie Blackwood was in demand one night of every year: the first.  It’s true: as the handiest plumber in the neighborhood, the over-full tenements up and down Mary Hill Road, his services were wanted every day of the year, and nearly every hour of the day.  Johnnie, the sink!  Johnnie, these old iron pipes!  Johnnie, our loo at the end of the hall!   Of course, on top of that, Johnnie’s services were wanted daily back in his own home; his wife, Kate—small in stature but mighty in personality, liked to keep an eye on him while he was home and her friends’ eyes—and she had many, (friends, that is; each of them only had two eyes, although with the things they saw you’d think some had more).

I see life in there, fermenting, getting richer with weight and age.