the word herder

it’s another tough day on the range
the bright light of a monitor blasts my face
while the harsh glare of fluorescent bulbs
beats down on my unkempt hair
i strain my eyes and crane my neck
trying to spot my quarry
amid a dense thicket of display text
i’m after a stray comma —
a wary beast all too common
in this particular writer’s territory
(he never was one to patch up his style)
aha! i’ve spotted it a paragraph ahead
but to get there i must pick my way
along a ridge of broken syntax
i advance gingerly, placing my weight
on a proper noun here, shoring up
a subject/verb agreement there
the comma’s close enough to catch now
just one step nearer — when suddenly
the ground beneath my feet gives way
and i go sliding down the hillside
on a loose sequence of tenses
i backspace slowly, slowly, slowly
up the sentence, rewriting as i go
when i finally reach the top again
i pause to survey my surroundings
and then chuckle wryly …
in my tumble through the tenses
i had inadvertantly taken the comma
down with me

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Written for Writer’s Digest’s November PAD Chapbook Challenge. Day Seven: A poem with an occupation title