BY ZACHARY LUTZ
The sketch for “The Bone Transfer” was written in a subway car. Probably the B or the Q, headed to Manhattan. I keep a smaller notebook, pocket-sized, with a white cover. It helps that the surface area is more compact, as well the writing is compacted to fit. Tempts less spectators. In this particular type of free-writing, being surrounded by people comes in handy: there’s no contract for details on the subway. I’ll start with some image that’s been consistent and strange, some reoccurring thought. I’m generally writing narrative work, think non-autobiographical, so I’m not always drawing from experience. Easy to steal from something happening next to me on the train and makeup the rest.
The day I’m taking notes that will eventually turn into “The Bone Transfer,” I’m thinking about cartoon physics, TV tropes. For a few days, I’d been scanning this website/catalog of TV tropes, stumbling through entries. ‘Toon physics got me hooked. The page for the trope made note of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” as being a good example of the crossover between the “natural laws” of the human world versus that of the cartoon, and thus a good reference point for demarcation. I wanted to write something where character(s) experienced cartoon physics in the human world, but maintained their very human portentousness. I had been thinking for some time about how cartoons experience electrocution.
In addition, I’d received a phone call from a BBQ restaurant earlier that day assuring me that if I were to return to the location any time in the near future, I’d have a free meal voucher waiting for me. It was a wrong number call, but stuck with me. The writing I’m doing in my notebook is really just a way to process details. I try work with specificity as often as possible, and to link those details that might at the start appear un-linkable. (A rerun of an episode of “Shark Tank” introduced me to the Uro Club, which is referenced here alongside another sex organ-themed gift. It all returns to the body.)
When I transpose from my notebook to my computer, I’ll edit as I go. I’ll cut whole sections out, rearrange syntax. I change names or pump up the ambiguity. I want always for the mood of the piece to overshadow the context. Writing or thinking through a piece by hand provides me a necessary freedom which I make freer by movement—a faulty retractable leash that keeps threading out, a series of handkerchiefs from the sleeve of an encouraging magician. I recognize themes in handwriting, leave structure for the word processor. The shearing that results from the unmerciful typing-up of handwritten notes helps manage a pace, become more economical, say more heavily.
Zachary Lutz is a handwriter in Brooklyn. He holds an MFA in poetry from The New School and received an honorable mention for the Paul Violi Poetry Prize. His work has appeared in Luna Negra Magazine. To the left is his handprint.