Not a Poet After All

No Telling
via Little Yellow Birds

I don’t think I’ll write poems anymore. Making poems used to be easy as breathing and just as involuntary, but for the past few years it doesn’t seem to be so urgent. In fact, after spending almost a whole life making poems, deciding to stop doesn’t make me sad at all.

It’s a little like looking at your own baby pictures. Who’s that child? I remember her and I remember being her, but it’s easy to shut the family album and go on about my business. Same thing with the poems.

Maybe I’m just too tired to feel so lovely and terrible and gut-wrenched. Maybe some menopausal mechanism has clicked over to make me scribble stories with voices rather than take word snapshots. Maybe I burst a poetic blood vessel writing 50,000 words in a month and my circulatory system has rerouted around the wound.

It’s possible all that metaphor wafting in the world doesn’t have to be announced by me. I’m fine with that.

I don’t hate poetry. In fact, I’m one of its biggest fans. And those young ones who still understand poetry as the subversive underground and foreground to their life landscapes? I love them even more. Shout the f-bomb into the crowd, I say, raise your articulated fists into the air! The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes! Love hurts!

Nothing wrong with being a spectator. Everyone needs an audience. It’s even better when the audience isn’t (even in secret) competing with the poet on some level. Ask any writing major or MFA candidate, they’ll know exactly what I mean. Teaching public school again has reminded me just how valuable an open audience can be.

While cheerleading those poems, I think I might finally fall in love with The Sentence. If I’m still enough, I can feel Story tattooing itself on my DNA. Double helix typewriter ribbons of text.

Much better.

Kenetic Art as Poetry


This is an example of kinetic art. I found this about an hour ago and have watched it no fewer than nine times. It’s wonderful to have video, but this art piece begs for a live audience. I’m struck by the machinery and the magic of levitation and the wordlessness. It’s technology as patient god.

I believe this is the best wordless poem I’ve ever experienced. Watch it. Tell me what you think.

NaFloScribMo and the Incredible, Levitating Draft


Here’s the problem. I’m writing diligently on Chesaleen and getting into the wicked flow of the moment, angels dancing on heads of pins and the typewriter muse singing to me in Olivetti and such, and I suddenly realize there’s no story. None. The whole thing is going nowhere and seems to be mysteriously levitating, waiting for something to actually happen.

It’s possible to write seven pages of a story and find out it isn’t a story at all. It’s a prose poem or an articulated photograph or something. People talk and there’s insight and self-delusion enough to go around, but the action of getting from Point A to Point B just never materializes.

It’s entirely possible I’m writing outside my genre – not that I chose one in the first place. It chose me when I was a little girl. It’s frustrating to be labeled and even more so when it’s self-labeling, but it appears that at least for tonight, I’m a poet. Or a memoirist. Or a blogger. Dammit. Tonight I wanted to be a novelist.

So I have seven pages of Chesaleen sitting in the dark and listening to trains. I could cheat and call it backstory, but that’s just semantics. I’m going to put these pages away for National Rewrite Month and maybe they’ll look different then, but I doubt it. I like it too much to wad it up, although if I had a fire going I might consider throwing all seven pages into the flames, just for effect.

Maybe I’ll just have Chesaleen set something on fire.

The pearls what were her eyes


Who doesn’t know the brevity of a sparkling thing?
The dustmotes at the window turn stained-glass cracklings
and we breathe them, unfiltered. No apologies.
Who has time to put the post-apocalyptical spin on fleeting prettiness?

Tattoo the Brazilian runway girls with their BMIs,
deny the sylphs access to the dream.
A woman is a thirsty opal glaring from an igneous fist,
an uncut stone, a fallow shard of sea-glass accidental lightning-skip,
a novelty.

The stubby cacti growing misplaced on Petit Jean Mountain are women.
There are warning signs:
Don’t pick native wildflowers.
Wear hard shoes against their low, unexpected prickle.

The mountain is a little woman and the story of a dying woman,
and a ledge women throw their hearts from.
Sometimes the rest follows.
Sometimes in the morning papers there are
stories of wildflower women illegally picked and
left like breadcrumbs on the Seven Hollows Trail for sleepy bears.

Don’t get lost.

(Still working on this one. I think I’m watching too much CNN.)

Mixing metaphors instead of cocktails, or why I’ll never write The Great Novel


I don’t know how to write a book. I’ve read thousands of them and some were quite good, I just don’t know how to write one.

I make poems instead. So many that they’ve become a long string of ribbons tied to my arms and legs and waist to flutter behind me all the way into the needle point of the horizon line, all the way back to my first fat number two pencil. Making poems is the only weapon I ever had against growing up or growing old.

It wasn’t much of a weapon, though, because I’ve done both.

I still have these twisting poem ribbons. That’s a comfort. They tie me to my life like gauzy lifelines. Without them I’m an astronaut unleavened by oxygen strings and invisible radio waves carrying my labored voice. Without poetry I’m a rudderless kite. I’m Major Tom.

I’d really like to write a book, though. I really would, but the world is too viscous and I can’t slog through to the end. Every moment is a handful of soap bubble images, stuck together and popping and wondrous and consuming. I can’t take my eyes off the tiny things long enough to understand the underlying chemistry of soap, so the bubbles open up into singular lenses and I can see perfectly through each one. To write a book takes larger thinking, an ability to truck the lens back and chart the progress of fifty soap-bubbles heading for open air.

I’m always afraid that seeing the Big Picture means eliminating handfuls of exquisite gesture, split-second connections, the texture of the moment. The world is too thick with story. I might miss something important.

I’m a beribboned astronaut paper kite losing soap between my fingers, afflicted with literary pointillism. Maybe that’s why I can’t write a book.