In its simplest form, it's the pleasure of holding a pen and moving its tip across the paper. It's seeing what makes it onto the paper, the joy of finding tiny surprises, words or lines that strike me or tickle me. It's reading and rereading books about writing. I love Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. It's reading authors and poets for inspiration. There are too many to name, but I've always felt deep connections to Sandra Cisneros, Mary Oliver, and Joy Harjo. It's becoming present and enhancing my senses so I can begin to see the nuances in ordinary things. It's the detective work, from choosing the right word to the missing piece of a distant memory. It's being vulnerable to the emotions that surface in certain writing moments. It's even the defeat I feel when I struggle with every word on the page. It's finding a sudden spark of something like hope and curiosity to go back to the page and try again. It's the promise of connecting with a reader, that your reader will find a small token in your writing that speaks to them. What about you? Why do you write?
No matter the urge to undance this song, no matter the fraying seams, there is little not worth trying to understand. Just this morning, the sky was an electric blue, I leaned into the window, celebrating its bold canvas; how I'd never be able to imagine it. Then, just one warm enough sweater for every cold morning. And finding momentum to text you, the words perhaps simple. Think of the crab apple tree preparing her spring bouquet, the new neighbors playing in their driveway. At the end of our street is the lake. The sun rises there. I remember. My direction is east. inspired by poet Ross Gay
Gussie: Mom, I can’t even pronounce the scientific names for walrus or elephant seal. Can you say them for me?
Me: (hesitates. reads slowly.) Odobenus rosmarus? Mirounga angustirostris?
Me: Are you remembering to eat while looking at your book? Your plate is far away from you.
chair shifts. plate scoots. pages rustle.
chewing. smacking. swallowing.
Gussie: Ahem! Come here, I want to show you something.
chair squeaks. traipsing footsteps
Gussie: (fingers tracing.) Look, Europe touches Africa!
traipsing footsteps. chair sighs.
sniffling, slurping, gulping.
pen scratches. murmurs.
Gussie: The walrus’ scientific name means tooth-walking seahorse.
more pen scratches and murmurs.
Gussie: Mom, are you writing a story about me?
Me: Sort of. I’m jotting down all the sounds I’m hearing.
Gussie: Like “crash!”
Gussie: Mom, what about laughing?
Gussie: And uh-huhing?
Gussie: And chewing?
Me: What’s the sound for chewing?
Gussie: Nom! nom! nom!
This is the poem that definitely didn't write itself. This is the poem that leaves words out. This poem will tell you it doesn't want to be read, but wants you to ask. This poem wakes up at night to search for what got lost. This poem likes to hold hands. This poem forgets the lyrics to the song it was singing. The poem stumbled out of place before it was rewritten. This poem will ask you for forgiveness but can't apologize. This poem wants to say and do more before it ends. inspired by poet Vona Groarke
“Did you wash your hands?” I begin, looking inquisitively at Gussie resting in his bed. He smiles. His body wriggles under the blankets with excitement. He knows what comes next. He raises his hand to me. I grab it with both hands, not without recognizing its smallness in my own, and snuggle it against my nose. I close my eyes, scrunch up my face, and make several exaggerated sniffs.
“Well,” I say. I pause and take in the precious look of wonder on his face. “This one is a little bit handy!”
Gussie erupts in squeals of laughter. His blankets shift as his body gives into the joy of simple giddiness.
“What about this one?” he sighs with continuous laughter. “Is it handy?” I squish his hand against my nose. I sniff in all the nooks and crannies, tickling him. More laughter leaves his body and infuses the small space around us. Gussie can’t wait, “Mommy! Which one is handier?”
I tilt my head to the side, furrow my brow, and give him a discerning look. I wait.
“Mommy! Which one?”
“Hmmm… this one is handy, but the other one is much handier.”
“Are you sure?” his eyes widen.
“Do it again!” he squeals.
You are a mighty shadow perched in the Elm tree overwhelmed by leaves from summer past. The afternoon sky, crowded with storm clouds, invites night too early. We take turns peeking at you through binoculars. I'm amazed I can make out your owl face, your narrow, exquisite beak, your layers of delicate feathers. Windy gusts send the branches into a fury, but you stay lockstep with the wind, you know this dance by heart.
Many times I’ve been to the creek
that follows the railroad tracks.
I remember summer’s end,
my feet dangling in the water
my reluctant goodbye to childhood.
I’ve traveled long periods alone,
with friends, some more than friends, and a loyal dog.
I’ve been to a tiny pastry shop
where we pressed our faces so close
exchanging visions of what came next,
our paths merging in the distance.
Inside the word “polaroid” is falling in love
and inside of “falling in love” are currents flaming bright
and inside of “bright” is where our questions begin
and inside of “begin” is our individual journey
and inside of “journey” are pieces whole and severed
and inside of “severed” is a misplaced regret
and inside of “regret” is a familiar silence
and inside of “silence” are words we can make famous.
*I chose 5 words randomly from a book. My words were polaroid, bright, severed, regret, famous. Here’s the link to the prompt.
The picture book Gussie asked Josh to read him remains on the table across from the chairs where they sat together last night. A small silver spoon from Gussie’s apple sauce glints under the light. The drawing game we gave Gussie for Christmas and played together Sunday afternoon relaxes with its lid off. A handful of playful drawings we created spill out onto the table. A single blue post-it note clings to the corner, scrawled on with one of Josh’s to-do lists. A tower of paperback books, including a storytelling book and a poetry guide dwell next to the spot where I work every morning and sometimes try to write.