Imagine What They’re Doing Up There

Ed Goldsmith attended our Thursday afternoon workshop at the 14th St. YMCA for over ten years. He almost never missed a workshop, and almost always read his piece first. His regular seat at the corner of our big table was so empty last week,  his death giving way to a host of emotions from his fellow workshop members. His narrator often had a penchant for philosophical quandaries and for getting people angry. “I would have thought such a cranky voice was immortal,” leader Deborah Clearman eloquently said. The excerpt below was written for 2005’s 14th St. Gold. It’s about the act of reading one’s work to audience, and embodies Ed’s voice.

Even hostile writers deserve the chance to be heard, to share their spleen, or whatever else it is they have inside them. I find writing a great cathartic. It liberates the soul, expressing all sorts of feelings. The hassle is the reading of the text [in front of] other people. I am at a relatively anonymous level where I can’t easily have the public take in my stuff without my being physically present at the reading. Why? They don’t know how great I am yet!

The other day, Allan Yashin, who wrote alongside Ed at the 14th St. for years, wrote a piece that perfectly suited the occasion of Ed’s passing. It’s a scene in which Ed becomes a new member in a different sort of workshop. The “Walt” referred to below is Walt Whitman, an excerpt of whose was provided as the Prompt:

 Alright, Arc-Angels, the freewrite is over. Let’s put down our quills. As you can see we have a new member in our writing group. Someone just delivered to us from the bonds of human corporal existence: a seraphim who has much to learn from some of us who have been in our group for lo-on hundreds of years, as time is quaintly measured below. But first, I’d like to ask him to take off his “training-wings” and hang them in the corner. And now would you like to introduce yourself?

  Sure, sure, but I didn’t come here to make friends, I came to write; and I always like to read first.
  There’s no need to rush. We have eons before we take our break.
  A break?   For cookies?
  Cookies? Oh, you are new here! We don’t eat up here. Nutrition is obviously no longer a concern for us. During the break we select a person down below who is in need of some heavenly assistance and we lend a       hand.
  Are you kidding me? Lend a hand? Maybe some necks I’d like to wring! I’m going to talk to my Rabbi about this. And I think I want to transfer to the Monday writing group.
  It’s always a tough adjustment for the newly arrived, so why don’t we just start with the first prompt. Here’s a poem written by one of our workshop members . Walt, why don’t you read it for us. It’s called                “Miracles.”
   Oh, that old thing! I wrote it over a hundred years ago. Why don’t we let our new member make up the prompt as a gesture of welcome to him?
   Okay, don’t mind if I do. So, you have twenty five minutes to write about that damn Obama. I knew I’d never survive his presidency.
Write a scene in which someone you know arrives in the afterlife.  How does it go on their first day? Who else do they meet? Or write anything else this post may have ignited in you.