I submitted my third piece to Chihuahua Connection magazine back in October. It was a prose poem that I consider to be my finest work yet. The editor also liked the piece and she said she would publish it in the January/February issue. But she was lying. A few weeks later she wrote me an email saying a couple of things needed to be changed before she could publish it. It needed to be “a little less personal,” she wrote, and she pointed out a few problem areas which I needed to rewrite.
A little less personal? A LITTLE LESS PERSONAL? What sort of editor tells a poet his work needs to be a little less personal?
Like Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton and John Berryman, I’m a confessional poet, OK. Confessional poets write about their demons, OK. Doing so releases their demons, and that shit’s therapeutic. Those famous guys wrote poems about love and madness; I write poems about love and chihuahuas. We’re not too different. But I doubt any of their editors refused to publish a piece because it was too personal. Poets had it easier back then.
At first I wasn’t going to play ball. If Chihuahua Connection didn’t want the piece, fine. I would just publish it on my website. Or, better yet, I’d hide it in a drawer for a relative to discover after I die. But once again, I fell victim to my own vanity. I enjoy few things more than seeing my name printed on glossy paper. Having another byline in print (print!) would surely make up for any lost integrity.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I gave in and submitted a new version. If you want to waste your time, you can read it below. But first, please enjoy the original piece. (Hey you folks at Norton and any other poetry-anthologizing outfits, please use the original version if you ever want to anthologize this puppy.)
Will I be submitting to Chihuahua Connection in the future? No. Another shame this heavy would be too much to bear.
The Original Version
Chihuahua Sign Language
by Ryan Grim
Like most Chihuahuas, my Cody can’t talk. But he does communicate with me. Over the years he’s created his own language. It’s like sign language, but he uses his whole body, not just his paws. Here are some of the ways he tells me what he’s thinking and feeling:
What he does: Rolls around on the floor.
What it means: He wants to me to roll on the floor with him and act like I’m a huge Chihuahua.
What he does: Extends his paw like he wants to shake hands.
What it means: He’s saying, Cheer up, Ryan. Touch my paw. It’s warm. You’re not alone in this world. I’m here for you to love. Touch my paw.
What he does: Wags his tiny tail.
What it means: He’s saying, Today is gonna be a happy day. We’re not going to lie on the floor and think about the things we’d like to say to Dana. We’re not going to call the retirement home where Dana’s dad lives and tell the manager there that Dana’s dad has figured out how to steal quarters from the soda machine. If they knew that he’s the one who’s been doing that, he would surely be kicked out. He’d have to move in with Dana and that would be a colossal hassle for her. It’s fun to think about the havoc you could wreak on her life. But when I wag my tail it means that we’re not gonna think about that today.
What he does: Sticks out his tongue.
What it means: He’s saying, I’m thirsty. Give me water. And I’ll accept tap water. I’m sorry for being a pill and refusing to drink tap water that one time. It was because last New Year’s Eve you spoiled me with Perrier and since then I’ve been longing to feel those sweet bubbles on my tongue. But I’m trying to get over it. I’ll gladly drink tap water now. Heck, I’ll even drink from the hose if you want to teach me a lesson about being grateful for things.
What he does: Blinks eight times.
What it means: The first blink means: Dana. The second blink means: doesn’t. The third blink means: love. The fourth blink means: you. The fifth blink means: but. The sixth blink means: I. The seventh blink means: always. The eighth blink means: will. So, when Cody blinks eight times he’s saying this: Dana doesn’t love you but I always will.
What he does: Scratches page 35 of the March/April 2010 issue of his favorite magazine, Chihuahua Connection. (His picture was published on that page.)
What it means: He’s saying, What’s going on here? How am I in this magazine and in Ryan’s apartment at the same time? Which Cody is the real Cody, me or the one in the magazine? Am I a real thing?
What he does: Hops up and down.
What it means: He’s saying, Put on my leash and let’s go for a walk in the park and look for women aged 35 to 50 who are also walking a Chihuahua. Once we find one, I’ll sniff her Chihuahua’s genitals and you’ll apologize on my behalf and then you’ll ask the woman if she wants to get coffee sometime. It worked on Dana. It has to work again.
The Bastardized Version That Was Published in the March 2011 Issue
[Back in March 2010, I was annoyed that one of Ross Bunch's comics was published on a better page than my poem. It's a year later now and look, we're on the same page. I like to think it's because my work has improved since March 2010. As for the quality of Bunch's work? Well, I'm not going to outright slam a fellow contributor to Chihuahua Connection, but I will offer this critique: Bunch's comic in the March 2011 issue makes no sense and neither do any of his other comics.]