writing life creative
Check out the latest episode of Book Notes, where we discussed poetry, blogging, writing craft, and arts education. Find the latest episode online here: http://www.OhioChannel.org/MediaLibrary/Media.aspx?fileId=147545
Eight of us, maybe more, if you count the throats and channels our words traveled to be a part of this practice, at the table, circled as humans pushing and pulling from our ribs, experience, pain, hope, wonder. We ate, and then we wrote.
What makes you feel alive?
Love allows me a sense of life. Love gives this total, unconditional, graceful dance, even if it is uncomfortable to receive, to hold on to, accept; it allows me to sink deep into the safe of myself and the safe of other selves. Alive, as in bright, as in conscious of every breath, as in able to open my eyes and see the world for what it is, not for what I want, hope, or wish it to be, seems to teeter on the sheer existence, the audacity, the capability of love, a silvery, precise point, like a hat pin, sharp and able to slide in soft space, hole up incisions, pull together rip and splay.
What breaks your heart?
I suppose the absence of love breaks my heart, as in provides this sense of longing, this rippling of dry soil at the edge of a cliff, bit by bit, a thirsty granule, a piece of the earth falls to the foot of some dark space, some echo unknown. This heart of mine, this muscle, this web of beat and breath, of fear and fight, wonders about the persistence, the threat of a lack of love, the chance that love is somehow out of reach, is balanced at the edge of that cliff on a single blade of grass, where rain might bend that sliver of green, that wisp, under a gust of wet wind, send love tumbling…
If you stand still under full moon, let
light settle on your shoulders, hold
your lovers hand, listen to the crickets,
the tender leaves, the streetlight hum;
you will notice summer turning over, crisp air,
like thread laced between your fingers.
The trees, cut out, stilts and blooming shadows
against the sky, sunset dressed in the thorns
of the day, tangled pale lines, lavender
and gray, dissolve aches and pains, a naked
and bright moon. In this slow and graceful change,
the sky is enough light sliver and blue.
We stand here at this door, old wood, new stain,
shine like eyes, sky, or glass, this frame, a well
worn arch, reveals some kind of wonderful,
rippling inside, along floorboard,
with applause and cheer in crumbs, dust, and small
objects children use to imagine, build,
or chew on. This narrow one way in, door
open and out we spill onto the porch,
into the front yard, where neon chalk lines
map-like messages, remind us to draw,
write, or speak kind words, scribble life beet
and blue, smear and stick, even in the rain.
If not for black coffee,
for perk and boil,
breath the color of guilt,
for long days,
and few words,
I might stay
in this glance,
sun spill and griddle,
and blister, before
their small voices
enter the room.
I walk down this street between the raindrops,
one suitcase drawn along my hem. The last
few years drag as wheels along wet gravel.
Time and space, left at the curb,
masking as puddles, messy pools of us.
This is a familiar tune of unrest, a sprawling ink, extended like arms, like grieving, like these awkward days, like the angry stir of seasons, a broadening toll. Yet another body draped in some bitter fashion, from a tree, along the concrete, face down, forward, or forever still in uncertain circumstances, under certain stance, the unmistakable silence of death.
There are moments when I have to just stop, remember to breathe, sit at the edge of this life, in the blue black dark, lean in to the sliver of gray moon and listen to the pitch of pain boiling over, bursting from the seams of these worn and splitting pavements, these broken walks, these bitter days, and gather up what little bit of rolling light there is colored in the corner of my eyes with the rest of the tears.
Walk upright, leave the heavy lift
for your hands and round shoulders;
they can bear the weight, a callous or two.
Ease into the sunrise, a yellow thread,
a button undone; a mind adrift with bright song.
When in doubt, peel away winter,
that awkward harmony and distance
from the curling world, where days
lack space to tell our truths, dark and gleaming.
By now there are few secrets. Our tongues,
no place for regret or quarrel. Change
finds us turning into sunset,
sheer peach stretched across the sky,
light licking every blue wound.
The sky for days, open with this clear gray cold, an emotional cloak that slides down any gaping snap or sleeve, soft turn or tear, the skin exposed and vulnerable. It reminds me of the headlines that walk and ticker, write worry and wrinkled brow, like the sky unraveling, silver and wind.
I sit at the end of the day, my shoulders slow and sore, resting against the cool pale wall of my room, follow the narrow light along the snow, thin like chalk line, or patience. I reflect on the hate and clutter of the day, the months, the years, watch it pile as these winter storms, white thick and persistent. I sit and wait, with tongue completely still, while words and the world seem restless.
“Mom, I used to be a bird; now I’m a kid.”
We dream a day when he will build his way
out of the blur, hold the words in his hands
and fumble through them like wishes. When the tears
will lessen and carry his song, a bright
buoyant cloud thunder, a bend of color
in the sun. He is singing if you listen.
We slowed down to hear his tune, to fidget
with insecurity, these awkward notes
that sound like waves of purple and gold. We
hold on to ourselves, on to him like calm,
walk like stray footprints, shadow and accord.
There is only so much we can do about the clusters of clouds, the colors of uncertainty, the bare trees in daybreak, crowded swirls of steel gray and blue. We can long for reassurance, the sky peeling open, peach and pale moon. When doubt sounds like winter and wind gust, a moist leaf in mourning lingers in daylight; a reminder faith is not scared of the dark.
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force…” –Martin Luther King Jr.
We are human, vulnerable. Let’s accept, connect with that truth, see it as a gift. Let’s make, do our best work, build whatever we can get our hands, hearts, and minds around.
“In order to add lasting, meaningful value, we must – eventually – find our own voice. We must actively search for our voice, and clear a path for it to emerge. It is uncovered, not manufactured. We may not even like what we discover at first, but by embracing it we will position ourselves to occupy the unique space for which we’re wired.” –Todd Henry, accidentalcreative.com
To stand with you,
at the end of the day,
the air crisp and colored in.
The nest next door,
beyond bare branch
and red berries,
a box of secrets.
covered in sunset,
the flutter of bird wing.
We simmer our worry,
our cold and damp,
a gold and yellow mute,
a rooftop glow,
where the snow
falls early, and sky pills
like raggedy sleeve.
We leave the words undone,
tangled in forgiveness,
sweet remnant sun.
The cloud cover scribbled in the sky, holes
torn like mohair, signs of moths and autumn,
a gathering of the plums, rain, and cool.
The clean light, spare in the spotted window
pane, the sunrise bares routine: lunches, bags,
folded clothes, bright alarm, a kiss. Slow in
the small of morning, a blue gray hush, we
lie facing each other, a sallow moon
turning over inside the haze of day.
When the sun falls, lint, like some strange glitter,
dusts the round of our shoulders, and settles
in the space between us, fills comfortable
silence with shadow, wind, and ginger,
bands our time together an orange ribbon.
You and I, a slow fold, dressed in sunset.
I want words to get into the ordinary, the writer to treat the ordinary with new eyes and wonder. That’s how I see creative writing. No detail is too small for invention. Write and sketch with words in wide open spaces, if you can—everyday. This is how we practice, how we work on our writings, on our books, on our lives.
Examples of word sketches pulled out of ordinary wonder…
I spent time standing in front of the door.
The lock, just beyond me, with marigold
splash, daybreak oozing between the narrow
lip and curve. I could see inside, the bare wood
covered in our years here, shine and scratch,
our comings and goings pressed into each plank.
We could walk away from this place
or stay and fill the bedrooms, listen for laughter,
their young voices along the tree-lined streets.
The eggshell walls temporary, the paintings and furniture
will color and shift. This key, like us, is turning, turning still.
This house, a new beginning, collecting objects and selves.
I originally penned this post in March of 2012. I would like to think that over two years later, these words would have less relevance, less pain, less immediacy. I suppose these words knew better – waited for me to remember, reflect, read them again.
And it seems no matter how much time turns, the fire still shines in all of our eyes. We can close our lids and pretend not to hear the click and pop, but we would be kidding ourselves. The smoke from the barrel, the smell of lifelessness, even from a distance, appears endless or at least the headlines, wail, and tears seem to write, cry themselves restless and closer still.
The black and blurry headlines ache as ink bleeds over our eyes and ears. The latest headlines of injustice and tragedy offer little to grieving parents, family, and friends; but the stir from those printed or spoken words gather a memorial and speak for the silenced. These stories of innocent loss of life remind me that we are human. And as adults we were all once children.
When the headlines ache with the echos of gun shots, children lying still on the other end, I think of mothers and fathers that bleed from those dark holes, those empty black notes where a child once sang. Last week I heard gun shots far away in the deserts of Afghanistan; I heard gun shots silence the early morning in France, I heard gun shots in Florida, just south of my own children’s smiles. That pain both near and far sounded like life…
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On this night I write. It fits between thunder and lightning, between wishful and mourning. The dusty sky has a way of falling into the trees, open branches full of silver and orange. Just before the storm I find words in this muddled space. If I stay still long enough, they will find their way warm in my lap, charming the gray with spit shine and tears.
Last week I spoke with writer Hannah Stephenson about living and working our creative. She crafted our chat into a lovely profile featured in this week’s Columbus Alive.