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The Inner Critic Returns from the Dead

By David J. Bookbinder

PROMPT — Despite ...

Foolish, foolish boy! she cackled. You may hope and dream and even pray for all you're worth — not that your worth is much, don't get a swelled head — but I will see to it that all will come to naught, as it always has and always will. The stories you envision coming to you from thin air are exactly that, thin air, and everyone knows that nothing comes from thin air except gamma rays, dust mites, and, if you climb too close to the stars, certain death. I would accuse you of arrogance if I didn't know already that you are merely stupid. I would deem you pompous if I didn't know for sure — as you, in the deepest parts of your heart, have always known — that you are pathetic.

Foolish, foolish boy! So you hope to populate your moldering, empty pages — haven't you said already that they were twenty years old? and of the cheapest sort of paper, prone to cracking, staining, decay? — the characters that inhabit your dreams? Dream on! I am the anti-dreamer, and I am in control. I will see to it, as you have always so generously helped me to see to it, that your dreams are forever locked inside your head, tantalizing you with their colors and horrors and delights, only to be forgotten, irretrievably, the instant you awaken to your miserable day-to-day existence, leaving you only with the empty sense — it is you, too, who are empty, not only your pages — that you could have amounted to something, leaving you to clutch at a treasure whose jewels are made of ice, whose riches melt at your touch.

Foolish boy, foolish boy, foolish boy, why do you torment yourself with ambition when you know as I have always known that you will never carry out anything you've planned, that you will abandon anything that might bring you joy, that your imagination has been dead and buried for many more years than I have, that it can never be revived. No, what energy you can spare from your meager existence you must give to me, for I am a hungry demon and I need, always, to be fed. I am a coal stove that always needs stoking. I am an itch that must forever be scratched. I am the song you cannot get out of your head, the weeds in your garden, the moths in your pantry, the sound of an old man snoring in the next room, the smell of old cigars and urine that nothing will get clean, the rust that is eating away your automobile, the anguish that has eaten out your heart, the vultures that have pecked out your eyes, the exorcist who has chased away your soul. Abandon yourself to me, foolish boy, and stop this stupid, pointless struggle. Resistance is futile. Away!


David J. Bookbinder is a writer, photographer, and life coach. He is the author of Street People: Invisible New York Made Visible, Street People Portfolio: Invisible New York Made Visual, The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World, Paths to Wholeness: Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas, What Folk Music is All About, two coloring books for adults, and three books about computer software. He is the recipient of teaching fellowships from Boston University and the University at Albany, and of writing residencies from the Millay Colony for the Arts and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. His Flower Mandala images were awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant in photography. David recently retired from a long career as a psychotherapist. He lives and writes north of Boston and is a native of Buffalo, New York.


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