I wrote this story in 2005 or 2006, and had it accepted and published at Lily Lit Review in April 2006 — another of the slew of little lit zines of the early aughts that have sadly disappeared. It was inspired by those modernist poets — particularly Eliot, Williams, and Lowell — who were buttoned-up professionals by day while slinging wild (well, not so wild in Eliot’s case most of the time, I suppose) poetry by night. The modernist and mid-century authors who had a veneer of respectability (I would put Cheever, Updike, and Bellow into this pantheon) fascinated me: they seemed to be a model I might follow, as I worked in the cubicle farms of the 21st century while having big literary dreams.
“Bank Holiday” turns that notion on its head, with a respectable poet who harbors a secret dream of being a banker. I have a longer version of this story that I might put out some time later that gets more into the unnamed poet’s efforts to keep his secret life hidden.
The last line is particular resonant to me now, almost 20 years after I wrote it:
I am naked under my suit and called by my name, and I hide my banker’s face against the cold marble.
At that time, I desperately wanted to be called by my name, to be known and celebrated, if not as one of the great writers of his age, then perhaps as a “writer’s writer,” the sort of minor but revered wordsmith who might get a mention when some bestseller is interviewed and asked whose work she admires. That, of course, didn’t come to pass, and I don’t think it will. The world is very different now than it was two decades ago, and my ambitions have changed. I write without great expectations these days, and without the kind of ambition I used to harbor — I’m not planning to stuff any of these stories into envelopes destined for the New Yorker as I once did. Instead, I’m throwing these little notes in a bottle out onto an unforgiving, tumultuous, and ultimately uncaring sea, hoping that one or two might wash up on a lonely beach where another castaway can uncork them and read them and sigh.