New Yorker fiction -- August 8 & 15, 2005 issue
There's been some sort of error. This story was supposed to be a poem, see. It wants to be a poem so bad that I actually feel sorry for it. It's like a kid squirming in a stiff, ill-fitting suit.
The speaker of the would-be poem has something in his past, some menacing trouble with the law, perhaps. He is vague and edgy. He can't sleep. That's all he'll tell us. He has problems connecting not just with the reader, but with the students in his poetry workshop: He can't even muster an answer to a student's question about why he writes poetry and how long he plans to write it.
Recapping where we are with the would-be poem: An emotionally dead narrator who doesn't communicate. And what else -- oh, he gets rides to work from the director of the workshop, who lets him drive even though he can't drive, and they listen to her best friend singing rancheras on the tape player, and after his last day as a teacher she takes him to some ridge in the desert where they watch distant car headlights make mysterious green lights. And then ... then he gets on a bus for Mexico City. The end.
We learn virtually nothing about the speaker of the would-be poem from his own thoughts, and virtually nothing about him through dialogue with the director, and virtually nothing about him through dramatic action. There is no build-up of tension, no crisis, no resolution of tension. No story. There's only one thing here: imagery. Which is fine -- in a poem.