newleaf 27 cover

The twenty-seven elements

‘You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.’
(Casey Stengel)

‘You’re getting coffee rings on the manuscripts again.’ ‘Darjeeling, darling. Tea’s the thing to drink; and then, so what, these haikus really stink. My coffee rings are all the life they’ll have. I have another grumble anyways; we don’t do plays, you know; we don’t do plays.’ ‘That’, said his colleague, ‘is yet another iambic pentameter; and we don’t do them in editorials either.’

‘But now we do, apparently, so there,’ rejoindered the first. ‘I think therefore iamb.’

‘Hey guys,’ intervened the third, sharpening his blood-red editing pencil on a pair of barber’s scissors, ‘Why do you two always have to sound like you’re in a Pinter play? And, anyway, what does rejoindered mean?’

‘At least,’ she replied, ‘Harold Pinter wrote prose, not blank verse; Lytton Strachey here thinks he’s living in Murder in the Cathedral. And, in any case, Pinter would have been proud of this particular little play.’

Looking up from his vitriolic letter to an aspiring haiku contributor in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, the first editor sighed avuncularly, ‘All right, then, so why don’t we just do plays?’

We now do plays. In prose. We don’t do haikus any more, though, as one of us has developed an allergy. Even the three-line stanzas in Shelley bring her out in a rash, and seventeen-syllable sentences in short stories get her rushing for her Kleenex.

‘And another thing; I thought we didn’t do eggs.’

‘We don’t do eggs.’

‘Well, there’s half a dozen have sneaked in this time.’

‘Scrambled? Poached?’

‘No: some painted, some pickled, actually.’

‘So what do you want me to do about it – organise a readers’ competition to see who can find them all?’

‘Right. Now. Back to work. Let’s see: “Dear Mr Mc—, Thank you so much for your collection of 154 haikus on the theme of overfishing on the Great Lakes.” So far, so good; um, how shall I put this? “While we fully appreciate the general importance of raising awareness for man's estranged relationship to the planet …” Should that be a capital M? “If you have actually read our magazine, you’ll have noticed that we don’t do overfishing, nor indeed do we do the Great Lakes. In the meantime, the poetic form of your poems has also become somewhat of an internal editorial problem: we no longer do haikus. Apart from that we feel that there is a certain overindulgence in pedestrian Waldenesque imagery, at times reaching insufferable levels of lachrymose self-adulation …” Tell me, shouldn’t you be writing this?’

‘No, I have to do the editorial. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.’

As is to be expected, we’re well up on vegetation again: leaves, gardens, fields, flowers. Always one of our strengths. There’s even a lettuce somewhere, we think. Oh, and birds, as ever – four different kinds this time, including one who’s actually a bloke. Dead animals and sex again too, though not together, obviously. What there’s not a lot of this time is fiction. It’s nearly all poetry, including some of the editorial. Our sales manager Cora Buhlert has chosen one of her favourite poems to open the magazine. Any readers’ suggestions for newleaf 28? The Adi Granth, the holy book of Sikhism, claims, ‘Bring the twenty-seven elements of the body under your control, and throughout the three stages of life, remember death.’ Death is never far away for shoe-string magazines. However, as ‘the skin of our teeth’ is a cliché which should not find its way into our pages, we will swiftly change the subject, for, as our mascot, baseball manager Casey Stengel always said, ‘Never make predictions – especially about the future.’

Julia Boll, Simon Makhali and Ian Watson, December 2010