We have a wishing well back behind our barn. Toss in a penny and you get to make a one sentence wish. For a dime you can talk as long as you like. You don’t actually get answers from the well, and it sure as hell doesn’t fulfill your requests, but it does listen well—ha-ha. Listen well, get it? Truth is, it works better with abstract ideas than with gross material requests. You want a new bicycle, you’re better off with Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. Want to know why bad things happen to good people, and you might get your answer. We used to say, you can wish for anything you want, just so long as it’s a nice cool drink of water. There used to be a kid that lived next door named Donald McKenzie. One night he fell into the well and broke both his hands trying to stop his fall. Spent all night down there, freezing his butt in the well water. We think he was trying to drown our cat, also named McKenzie. Nasty little boy. ‘You see,’ the joke went. ‘It does answer your wishes.’ McKenzie, the cat, lived to be almost 20. The McKenzie family and their precious little Donald moved back to Wisconsin maybe a year later. Donald became a lawyer—which is why I had to disguise his name. It’s actually MacKenzie.
Tonight, I’m going to go for the full dime. You listen for it to hit the water, and then say, ‘Wish I may, wish I might, make this wish come true tonight.’ Then you lean over as far as you can into the well and make scary sounds. In the echoes you can to say what you want.
What I’m asking about tonight is this. Well, I’d like to know what a prose poem is.
The well is pretty prompt: Why do you care? It asks.
Then: There is an obvious answer.
Yeah, I know. It’s a prose that uses the techniques of poetry. It’s prose that has as its goal the same goal as a poem.
Well, says the Well, you’ve got an efficient cause and a final cause. What move can I do for you? It’s your dime.
Okay, I say. Here’s the thing. I get comfortable. It’s a nice night. This is why I love the well. Look up ‘prose’ and you’re apt to get this sort of definition: Ordinary speech or writing, without metrical structure. Look up ‘poetry’, wow: A piece of literature written in meter; verse. I guess we’d better look up meter too: The measured arrangement of words in poetry, as by accentual rhythm, syllabic quantity, or the number of syllables in a line…
For one, they define themselves against each other. ‘I am what you’re not’ kind of thing…
Well: Let’s not get the Mackenzie thing going again.
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