Monday, June 22, 2020

compartmentalizing

I am nothing if not a supreme organizer, from my unending list-making to an unnatural love for bullet points. I like to think it's a simple sign of intelligence & efficiency but if I'm being honest, I'm pretty sure it comes from my desperate need to [pretend to] Control Things. At first glance over my life, it doesn't look like much was out of control - I only have 1 point for ACEs - but I've come to realize that even a single event in childhood can color the world going forward, and I have long had a stay-in-the-lines attitude that ended up being a hindrance, frankly; when getting hung up on How Things Look and How Things Should Be more than What Things Could Be, we miss a lot of exquisite little details. I still get hung up sometimes but I work harder at looking around corners and in the cracks, too. I'm working on crying out loud more, too, but in a controlled cute Rachel McAdams way as much as possible (it's never possible)

On that note, here's a thing I wrote from a series of observations I was making when trying not to directly look an uncontrollable thing in the eyes. 
_________________________________________________________

I Practice Believing My Son Has Cancer


I sit in the hospital room on a dumbly comfortable recliner,

consolation gift for the parent who finds herself

in a foul game of fighting

disease by picking poisons that might or might not make him sicker today or later, really

nobody knows.


Don’t worry.


I’m offered a discounted lunch delivered with his free meal,
cheer the salad with salmon and blackberries, as if I’ve won a significant award.

My boy pores over his two-page paper menu with excited eyes vowing to try everything by the time he is done

in the fall, as if
that will be the bigger prize than
life past 19.


Don’t worry.


There is so much sun streaming onto my exposed neck, 

wrapping itself first around idiot yellow flowers staring over my shoulder at the magazine I took from the absurdly welcoming waiting room.

Everything a flavorless joke
reminding us that life goes fucking on outside of here.


Don’t worry.


I brought a book I will neglect in a bag full of other website-suggested things,

because mothering instincts say that if I have 

everything we need we will not need anything:

Not the extra soft socks or the unscented lotions or powerful sunscreens 

or ginger-infused organic candies meant to quell
toxic nausea. We are 

prepared and prepared and prepared
and...


Don’t worry.


Monday, June 15, 2020

redefining failure

When I supposedly quit teaching last Spring, one of the things I looked forward to doing more intentionally was write poetry. During my sabbatical, I had planned a similar thing but was open to trying a variety of styles: I took a 1-day play-writing workshop at Portland Center Stage (wherein I had a minor anxiety attack on my walk from parking garage to classroom but overall had a useful and not-mortifying experience, plus made a Facebook friend in the delightful + highly accomplished teacher/playwright [namedrop ahead] Adam Szymkowicz, though I have still created nothing remotely like a play); went to two meetings of PDX Playwrights and participated in a table reading, which was extremely gratifying at the time but otherwise did not inspire a masterpiece; watched rehearsal for a staged reading production that was immensely interesting though again, didn't result in me developing a thing; and I entered a mentally exhausting short story contest through NYC Midnight that somehow earned me an Honorable Mention, which I will forever hold in irrationally high esteem. Poetry has always been an occasional exorcising exercise for me, and sometimes I revise it for other people to read. This year I decided to explore the world of Deliberately Writing Poems And Maybe Getting Paid For It.

First though, I paid someone to be my guide into the publishing world because I thought it would be good for advice + accountability. Yet, after 50+ years of being me, I'm finally admitting that I usually do/don't do what I want regardless of whether it's good for me or an egregious waste of money. My writing workshop leader is wonderful and I do not begrudge her in any way the fee or cost of her book - I have found a lot of the planning tips & goal setting worksheets useful, and checking in on the web forum every week [or three] with her and other writers also helps me to put my thoughts & ideas in order. But it has also made me realize, after a few months of frenzied and slightly distressing submissions to poetry journals, that Being A Writer is not really what I want to do; I just want to write.

The first two places I sent poems this year both accepted my work right away; at the time this certainly meant I was a Capital P Poet at long last, so I set up a daily writing & revising schedule then chose ridiculously esoteric places to submit. But when the rejection emails began to arrive, mercifully staggered and gentle yet still disheartening I, in dismal role model fashion, abandoned my routine and went back to simply writing every few days while eating breakfast on my porch, revising occasionally because something lodges in my brain for hours, only considering submission to small obscure journals craving content.

I like writing. I sometimes savor revision. And of course I appreciate recognition, but that isn't the goal.

Just like when I was teaching. So there I am again, gladly.
______________________________________________

Stopping Time, featured in the Poetry Moves program through Artstra & C-Tran