A Borrowed Copy of Ben Fountain’s Brief Encounters

The Pianist by Xavier Ceccaldi
The Pianist by Xavier Ceccaldi

A flutter in the governing hand, and an eleventh finger
extending from the other, uncovering

an upper register, automatic and after, apex plus, A flat, A flat, E.
Fountain’s Fantasy. Uncanny temperament a la

minor arcana. Criticized offhandedly as merely voyeuristic
embellishment. Polydactyly doesn’t happen every. . . et cetera.

The pianist in transit, pianist in a train, practicing the 19th century
on a crude keypad, Schumann, etude, alien organa.

Perfectly wooing, yes, but it’s the chicken scratch that taps
into fantastic mess, marginalia moving me to refuse to return

this collection to whoever:
Lucy writing Timothy, circa 2008,

Keep the commuter pass, the envelope of notes, receipts, leave me
out of any emails, posts, keep Fantasy, keep Faith, and my flaky
tartlets on your tongue, I’ve taped the extra apartment key behind
Ben’s bio.


Click here to read Eric Anderson on the origin of the poem.

Photo:  “The Pianist” by Xavier Ceccaldi; licensed under CC BY 2.0

Eric Anderson:
“A Borrowed Copy of Ben Fountain’s Brief Encounters” was originally composed solely of found text, text I pulled, cut, mangled and misread from Ben Fountain’s short story, “Fantasy for Eleven Fingers.” I often use found text as a prompt to start new poems, looking for accidents between various sentences, sometimes removing the identifying markers of the source texts to free the new fragments from the limitations of original utterance. Ben’s story posed an interesting problem; I loved the story. I read it as an undergrad, hoping to find some secret sauce to dip my short stories into (Fiction, why did you leave me?) and I have returned to “Fantasy for Eleven Fingers” for pleasure multiple times over the years. Nostalgia is a buzz kill. Nostalgia makes you leave the bedroom door open when your girlfriend comes over to help with Spanish homework. Nostalgia knows what’s best, and that’s no fun. Nostalgia, I know that’s Ben’s and I need to put it back. But what if there was something else in the book, someone else’s note, a receipt, parking pass, maybe, a letter? How do you say finder’s keepers in Spanish? My parents are away for the weekend and I have Nevermind on vinyl.