Sunday, August 29, 2010

Like Some Runner in a Suicide Squeeze

Sometimes lately, well for the past several years, my life seems to be nothing about writing. Doing writing, fixing/trying to fix/improve my writing and others’ writing, reading everything I can of classics and good contemporary work, figuring out how different writing communities work, what makes them tick and how they’re different or like the work I’m doing or trying to do, corresponding with writers and friends who are writers. I don't really like the term "networking." It seems too business-y and weird. I am more likely to disregard an "in" I have than to capitalize on it. Maybe this comes from always having a job/paying my way, even as a child. From not having things "given." I always want to believe it's on the quality of my work and not that someone knows me. So I stay mostly unknown. I mean, other than people reading my work. Nothing delights me more than some stranger saying they like something I've written. All the better that I usually have nothing concrete to offer them. I am not a good contact. No affiliation with a journal or press. I just like reading, being immersed, sometimes writing. I just like words.

Sometimes I feel like all that defines me anymore is this one thing. My relationship to language.

I am not a good conversationalist, but I love to listen. I also like sitting quietly. A perfect evening for me would be sitting on a couch or bench with a book with someone who also has a book. To be together and in separate worlds. There is something inherently sexy about this. Comforting. I think a life best spent would be mostly spent in this way.

And while I said my recent travel was vaguely tangential to writing, what with setting up a few readings for MFS along the way, it was more about getting outside this rabid focus for a little while. I took the train. For a long time. I think I figured the total hours added up to six days. The total trip time was 17 days, with stops in Flagstaff, Wichita (Augusta, actually), and Los Angeles. In Flagstaff, a good friend and her beautiful baby, also a reading.

This is Kate and Max. Two people I love very much.

In Kansas: Grandpa. The impetus for the whole trip. I don't see him enough. He's been good to me, and is the only grandparent I have left.

Handsome devil, isn't he?

I also made the mistake of having to return the rental car in a tiny town in Kansas (Newton: where the train comes and goes at 2:51am and 3:25am... and so it will be forever referred to by me as "the 3am train station) the afternoon before getting on the train in the middle of the night. I felt seriously a bit homeless to have to find a place to be from 5pm until the train station opened at 1am (thank goodness for libraries, bars and my good legs that like to walk). I literally broke into the train station to leave my luggage in a locker. I found a loose side door and worked it, using my grandmother's Saint Christopher key to jimmy it open. Then got walked out/removed by someone working on the building, but not before I'd stowed my bag.

Then there was the reading in Riverside, and spending time with Kathryn and Lola.

Lola is one of the coolest kids around.

LA was mostly about forcing an old friend to reconnect with me. That went well. I mean, we're both awkward human beings. I think it went okay. I actually have little idea how she feels about the whole episode, but one must be content with the mysteries.

Inside The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

I’m actually finding some effort/trouble in realigning back to regular life, reassessing some things I had taken for fact that now seem shaken. It felt nice for a little while just to be on the move, focusing on family, friends, kids, hanging out. Spending time. Rather than being focused inward all the time. Though there's always that inward thrust towards whatever project I'm working on (or the anxiety of what I'm not working on). The whole time, for the month of August I've been in a poem-a-day writing group. Though I didn't always have access to the internet to post every day I did write a poem (or at least averaged one poem) a day. 21 poems, in fact. About half of which I'm quite pleased with.

Like this:


I did that thing where I wouldn’t put anything in my mouth for the longest time. So I wouldn’t lose what was left of you. Even after taste fades, and the feeling. Even after thirst makes everything dry. I parch, I desiccate, die; you replace me.

I rebuild the house from memory all the way home. The fireplace that holds no fire, the broken TV, that lamp everyone has. Stains on the carpet; stains on linoleum. Terra cotta tiles in the foyer, miniature terra cotta animals hunting pale yellow shelves. Stone walls, orange low sun, and you standing in the yard, red face, flushed and mud on your arms, your worn through shoe with its sliver of duct tape crowning the toe.

You were always outside, said the halls echoed. And then you would scream. “What do you hear?” “My father’s snores.” And what does that feel like? The last gun blast, sore throat of smoke and everything quiet.

The arborist had taken the tops off all the trees in the front yard. So they wouldn’t crowd the wires. But I kept thinking: decapitation. Where my head is. Where is my head? The green, another straight line, another horizon. How to get to you. What I want is messier than fire. What I want is soot-black in the keel, a balance wheel back on its heels. Hairspring and oscillation, a regulating beat.

You said the clothing got lonely, waiting for me. Shirts separated by sheets on the line. Thread counts like miles. Dead weight of my bag in the backseat. I felt imperfect again moving away from you, listening as another bee troubled the window like some runner in a suicide squeeze.