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Last week and during the summer solstice, my co-writers and I opened a second season of The Hayfield Forever with the third poem of the story.

It's called "The Apothecary's Kitchen" and its poet, the character Demod Smith, is writing about his childhood. For the first time, we learn that Demod Smith himself has a brother and that all the oblique references to Greece last year might actually mean something. The poem begins with these five lines:

"Our second summer in Greece
my brother and I were never up
to any good, Yiayia knew, but she
let us into everything,

even other people's houses. . ."

Here's the rest of the poem, along with a cover sheet memo from the local sheriff's office. : )

So the mention of Greece, two brothers, and other people's houses are, right off the bat, re-raising three themes or motifs running throughout  the first season of The Hayfield Forever (THF). 

(I like to use "season" as we like to restart our writing of posts on the first days of winter and summer for the past two years, and it sounds a bit like a TV show that was good enough to be picked up a second time around.)

I also wanted THF to start with a poem, any poem, to get us writers, readers, and characters back to THF's starting and ending points: Mysterious poetry!

So I hope readers enjoy the poem. I wrote it based on memories of my own grandparents' evocative shelves of mason jars in the kitchen or down in the farmhouse cellars of Missouri.
From the get-go, Miguel's been my favorite character.  He's a smart, conflicted troublemaker.  When he was fired during The Hayfield Forever  contract imbroglio, Miguel was the most popular literature professor at UCLA and he had a passion for publishing books that he pursued through New World Press. Stir in his mischievous irreverence and you should have someone akin to Robin Williams's prep school teacher in The Dead Poet's Society.

But Miguel's even a little darker and more selfish than John Keating.   He's going to try to drink your alcohol and seduce your women. His under the table deal with Scattergood is the main reason the scholars are forced to go to the Ozarks.  In the spooky Ozarks themselves, Miguel gets Thomas drunk one evening and then, bored, sends Thomas out into the pitch black hayfield where he gets lost and isn't found until the next morning.  

Miguel's posts are often long as he's not so much annotating lines from The Hayfield poem as he is describing scenes with full-on dialogue.  So I think they provide a nice change of pace to the annotations.

He's also the major connection between the two stories going on in Missouri and Los Angeles.   He's lived in both places and along with Scattergood, he's the only LA resident who has spoke with a member of the Smith family.

Tonight, I felt a real kinship with Miguel.  There wasn't room for him in the farmhouse, so the other characters have forced him to stay about a mile away on the north twenty in a small 400 square foot cabin that overlooks the hayfield.  IOW, my cabin.  So when I read the weather reports tonight, along with Facebook posts from friends in Missouri, and saw that it was snowing I decided to check in with Miguel.

In this post called Snowfall in the Hayfield, written from start to finish tonight, Miguel's watching his first Ozark snowfall, waiting for a woman to come through that snow and drink whiskey with him, and communing with ghost of Robert Frost.  Hard to dislike the ole' cabron tonight!

The Poem

Though we portray litigation and annotation on The Hayfield Forever, along with posting, scamming, drinking, hating and loving among some fifteen characters, the stories get their beginnings, middles, ends and cues from a story told in verse and called The Hayfield.  

I finished the poem's first draft two years ago during a stay at my hay farm and cabin in rural Missouri.  It is, as the character Thomas Pinkhurst and other Hayfield scholars complain, exceedingly long.  Only one-third of it has been posted so far (the next post pending a balloon payment to Scattergood!).  I originally submitted The Hayfield to a few literary magazines whose staffs wrote back saying it was interesting but too long and in bad need of editing.  

So I consulted a professional editor who I will just call Lucifer.  Lucifer was heartless, without vision, and wanted my soul from the moment I paid for the services.  At least that's how it seemed.  Several weeks of offensive editing by Lucifer could have reduced the scope and length of The Hayfield, except that my countermeasures actually increased the poem's length.

But the key thing that occurred during the back and forth with Lucifer was my defensive and personal footnoting of the stanzas and lines.  The footnotes seemed to come from various voices, a creator, an editor, annotators, and some from Arnie himself.   I saw that stories were emerging from the poem and that they could be joined with my other idea of a story unfolding on a scam artist's website, a scam artist who preyed on unpublished poets.  

It has made for a unique narrative frame and as the stories progress I keep checking on the poem itself to see if it should be changed to better reflect what's happening to the characters who are annotating it or litigating over it.  So far I have not had to make any changes.  But since death is such a strong motif in the stories, I do plan to add a line or two to the poem about it.
The Hayfield Forever, The Cartoon Cowgirl, and a Facebook fan page are all part of an experimental literary mystery.  Together, these websites follow the stories surrounding a dead poet's final poem.  

One of the stories is about the cyber-scam artist who took the widow's money promising to publish and annotate the long poem. His name is Dr. Edgar Scattergood and he runs Enterprises from a beach office in Venice.  As the story begins, he's already under investigation by the DA's office and to make matters even worse, for mysterious reasons he's losing control over his websites' content.  Which allows the stories to be told through them.

The idea of letting a story be told over a scam artist's websites came to me as an attorney prosecuting such scams.   I'm a deputy city attorney specializing in consumer protection cases, and have seen that a scam artist like Dr. Scattergood prefers the internet because it's still the Wild West with few sheriffs and few laws.  And he can, with little money up front, create infinite worlds of inter-linking websites to support the fiction that his business is legitimate.

On behalf of four families and my non-profit legal services office in Northern California, I once sued a scam artist who was using websites and fake re-directing phone numbers to trick people into thinking he was a lawyer and part of the legal services community.   In my preparation to take his deposition and later for a two week jury trial, I had to give myself a crash course in websites and especially website fraud.   I found that websites allowed this particular defendant to exercise both his considerable vanity and his cunning.  I put that to use in the creation of The Hayfield Forever.  

My friend Barbara and my youngest brother Alex also write for this project and we hope to finish it by the winter solstice of 2010. I was a creative writing major at the University of Missouri and have been writing stories and poems ever since, and Barbara and Alex have the writing bug, too.  While the tongue-in-cheek jokes about fake identity and metafiction never end in the Hayfield, it will be here on LiveJournal that we try to step out of that mode and chronicle The Making of "The Hayfield Forever".