writing life creative
Myth watched over this river.
She heard the stars saved
troubled souls from drowning.
She tries her hand at crossing.
Her bare heels stir a blur
of sea and sky. Along the bank
waves rush the backs of stones,
leave them as bruised eyes.
The water, like death, cold and still.
Do not mistake the space between our voices for listening. Do not interrupt or ask questions until the single sound in this room is wide and full and pressed against eardrum and eyelid. Pay no attention to objects cluttered in the corner of the room, time spent collecting things that web, settle with dust.
…and in the hearing too. These words, these truths, will ride on air like a ragged scrap of song.” -Tayari Jones, The Untelling
What is this pouring fire, spewing rounds of spark and metal like confetti, riddling bodies like hard rain? When will we see ourselves as human, our bodies as full with blood and organ and heartbeat? We rip and tear inside of fire as paper. This world wants us to raise ourselves as machines, as if we drill our way through life without cause or regard, without wind gust and tear. We are pain and injury and trauma and death. What will we do with all of this death?
Daybreak brings about joy and still breath as often as birdsong and speckle of light. What is this hole we leave for ourselves, a gaping depth of wind and echo, a massive thorn? What is this numb pattern rippling through us? What is this fire bursting with names, where even in silence, sits full on our tongues, heavy in our hands? Who are the blind who blame or hate, mask as shadows, cloud and cover?
The work of our breath is in every word and interaction, every human space we reside. Fire and ash, this gold and glaze fill the air with deafening sound, a hardened slate with all of our names. Somewhere blood traces concrete, cotton, polyester, skin, where a new wound bursts open for all of us to grieve. How many more wounds before we recognize ourselves as rivers, as rhythms of flesh and beat and blood.
Somewhere between the grocery store and gunfire, injustice, news of another mother who must bury her son. I keep my own sons in perspective; gather their temporary small, humor, and smiles in my pocket. I stand in the checkout line, buying a half-gallon of milk, thinking about wounds. What does it matter if we run out of milk? What do we tell the mother who runs out of time?
Near the register, the few of us wait patient. The headlines align our waists like woven belts, fine mists of ink spray small versions of truth and speculation. So much is lost in the theater of imagination, in the hazy gaze, just a few people before me, behind me. We are all waiting and shifting.
I keep my sunglasses on between walking from the car and waiting in line. I usually take them off while at the register. I like greetings: to look the clerk in the eye, smile, and say thank you. Today I cover my eyes as if the small plastic frames, tortoise-shell, might swallow me whole; hide me from radiant summer and another blue spot of gunshot.
The thought of wounds grow louder, my mind grips at composure. I swallow hard, hold my breath, and wait. The fine lines beneath my eyes twitch, the weight of trauma fills my lower lids with wet and grief. Every word of each news report, each question, the sight and sound of death and assumption, heavy on my cheeks.
I swipe and bag and breathe, feel some sort of relief and guilt, buying this expensive milk, raising bits of complicated sweet and wonder, while our world, our streets, our lives, gather a tangle of welts and fear and rage. What do I say to these boys; don’t worry, we have more time? Their bright brown eyes say show me the light. And while I know I can not promise them the sun, today I can offer love and this half-gallon of milk.
Here, gathered in the final days,
four of us at the dining room table,
you at your desk, the workload
in three piles, two parking lots,
inside short commute
between first and second shift.
The slow and watery dusk,
rust and blue, fill in the stretch of time.
We wait, mark the days with laughter
and tears and long pause. Listen for the phone
to ring, for foot and air clearing the front door.
Turn over in this dry light, a brittle thicket, congested and full of nonsense. The days are full of nonsense. The papers, thin with run-on lines of battle, bruise, battery and bright sky. This life is full of nonsense. The back and forth of rubber on road, of door to door to desk to door to dream. What if dream drew out the nonsense, peeled skin and noisy flesh to reveal some sort of golden? What if the crowd of blood and vein of breath the color of change, stood still, to inhabit the nonsense, break up the gutter trouble and set the days on fire.
If you smile, the young woman
behind the counter, surprised
you looked up at her from lowered gaze,
took the time to bend the creases of your eyes,
greet her before listing your wish,
before money changes hands,
will return the gesture.
Turn stiff lip into full round mouth,
squint her brown eyes.
You will both walk away and remember.
The stuffed animal is face down on the floor; my eyes are wide and red. The still and thick of this moment is screaming.
…simply getting through their lives…birth, taxes, and death. They do not do this with all the wisdom, foresight, or charity one might wish; nevertheless, this is what they are always doing, and it is what the writer is always describing. There is literally nothing else to describe. –James Baldwin
After reading chapters and stanzas, splendid sorts, that conjure up plain and just and magic; the work of writing seems even more difficult, to search my pocket for speckles and crumbs, the most worthy sentences spun out of this messy life.
There is no sight of that dispute over words, that battle over versions of stories that marks the creative inner life of a society. Where are the contradictory voices? -Teju Cole, Everyday is for the Thief
The tear in the wallpaper grew wider, exposed plaster and problems, cracks in the sky.
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.