I am sitting in bed one night around 9 PM watching reruns of The Mindy Project on Netflix while also scrolling through tattoo artists and memes on instagram when I realize I am in danger of thinking too much about where my life is going. Confronted with unwanted introspection, my strategy is to add another branch of stimulation to whatever I am doing. This usually helps me from taking an ill-equipped journey into my brain for short spurts. I decide that as I am already on my laptop, the simplest thing to do would be to check my e-mail. That will keep me busy from anywhere from 30 seconds to 3.5 minutes.
I'm expecting to find a request to sign a petition (sign one and somehow they multiply like hydra heads and you receive 18 requests to throw your name behind something a day) or a forward from my grandmother (Esther, hello.) but what I find is something significantly more interesting (sorry!) and distracting.
[WRITING ACCEPTANCE 3/?]
Dear Erin Kirsh,
Thank you for sending us your submission of poems. We would very much like to publish "Father's Day" on our website within the next few months! Please advise if it's still available.
Yay! Super exciting! Just one, small problem.
I haven't written a poem called Father's Day.
Just to be safe, I go back through my submission. I check all of the poems to make sure I haven't sleep-typed a title or written a poem I've completely forgotten about. I check all of the first lines. I read through to see if any poem could possibly be construed as being about Fathers or Holidays or Days in general.
Nothing. So now it's likely that one of two things has happened: the first possibility is that when sending out the acceptance form, the editor forgot to change the title of the poem and does in fact want one of the poems I've submitted to this journal only a short while ago. The second possibility is that this e-mail was meant for some other poet, some maestro who wrote a tender and bittersweet poem about father-child relationships that makes the reader really reflect on what it means to live a life separate and independent from somebody who provided you with 50% of your DNA and to be inextricably tied to that person.
At this point needless to say, little cartoon birds are circling my head like I've just run headfirst into a telephone pole and I'm voiced by Mel Blanc. I would desperately like to appear in this journal. This journal is provocative and compelling and visually pleasing and I want to be in it as much as I wanted every Kitty in my Pocket toy when I was in the first grade. There's a reason all of the imagery in this paragraph is a throwback to being a kid. It's because I felt a level of confusion and low level panic that I associate with being a child and not understanding what the hell is going on, like that time my third grade teacher introduced long division.
Though I've frantically scanned through my poems and thought about a million things, I check the time stamp and discover only a few minutes have passed since I received the e-mail. I hit reply and begin to compose a letter.
Hi, I write. I delete it.
Hello. Too formal, delete that too.
Greetings. Gah, what?!
Hi, I write, laughing that slightly unnerving laugh that slips out when I'm writing stressful grants.
Thank you for contacting me. Perfect, professional.
I would love to be published with your magazine - pause.
I would love to be published with your magazine if I am the intended candidate for this e-mail, - sure, probably not going to come up with anything better -
however, I have not written a piece called "Father's Day". If you are interested in any of my poems, I would be delighted to have them published with you and they are all still available and if not, no hard feelings. Fuck, fuck, fuck. No hard feelings? What am I, a cowboy? A smoothie sipping beach bunny? Some other thing that is not a professional writer with all of the correct words immediately at my disposal?
If this e-mail is intended for someone, the author of a poem called "Father's Day", I thought it would be best to let you know.
I stare at it for a few minutes, knowing it's not going to get any better, and that the longer it takes me to send it, the less likely someone is to still be sitting at the computer sending out responses. I hit send.
And I wait. The Mindy Project becomes another episode, becomes another episode, becomes a new season. Nothing. Radio silence. I take this as a bad sign. I imagine calls from one editor to another, "Hi, Randolph? We've got a situation." I picture strategies sessions about politely rejecting me unfolding via text.
I text a fellow poet friend and loosely let her know the situation. She tells me not to worry, to give it a couple of days. She gives me reasons they may not have responded right away that are soothing. I nod, hitting command + r over and over again. The only e-mail I get is a petition about proportional representation.
One day goes by, nothing. Then two. Then five. I'm irritating three of my friends with my constant bemoaning, while of course respecting the journal's privacy. (It is, after all, a simple error.) I am like the trope of the sad girl in old movies waiting for her boyfriend to call, except my boyfriend is a lit journal and there is no outcome in which I get laid. I make an agreement with myself that I will not follow up with them until the two week mark. Editors are busy. They will get back to me.
On the thirteenth day, I got this:
[WRITING ACCEPTANCE 3/?]
at the beginning of March, we accepted one of your poems via Submittable. The acceptance letter is copied below; please let us know if you've received it, and are OK with us publishing the poem!
Did I send the follow up? Did I send it to the wrong person? Maybe to my grandmother? I don't think so? Oh god. There's only one move forward here. I have to construct another awkward e-mail.
Hello. Delete. Oh god. Keep going. Stick and move!
I'm honoured to be considered, and would love to be published with you! There was a slight issue with the initial acceptance which I replied to on [x date] that I have been hoping for some clarification on.
And here's where I copy and paste the first e-mail.
Okay thank you so much! Sorry! Kindest regards!
And I sent it, possibly sounding like an asshole.
And then I get this, immediately: whoops, forgot to change the title, yeah, we definitely want one of yours!
Until next time!
- E.B. Kirsh