So, here we are at the almost-third anniversary of Abbreviated, and everything seems so different. The blog became a manuscript, the poems before the blog became a book. I’ve read. I’ve taught. I’ve moved. I’ve fallen out of and in love. I’m well, or am my version of it, most of the time.
This week, I’m reading from my first book for the first time at July’s First Friday in Lincoln. It seems a fitting place for this first kind of reading—I read in Lincoln for the first time ever when I was 19. It’s where I learned to read poems, and then write them.
I’ve been trying to decide what to read; I’m having trouble making a suitable pile. I think it’ll be partly poems from my chapbook—which, by the by, you can find here—and new things. But I also want to toss in a few old things—bits I haven’t read for a while, or ever. Today I thought I might read the one funny poem I have in my arsenal, written after a party where I met the poet who would become my second mentor, but when I found it and read it again, it seemed so…far away. Funny, still, but for different reasons now, perhaps. I was 23 at the time, after all.
I found some other oldies in the file, too, and I still feel compelled to share them. So instead of reading them, I’m posting a few here.
It’s a funny thing to want to write a book and to have done it—and then to have published it. For a long time, I never thought I would. For now, I’m doubtful I’ll publish again (call it the writer’s obligatory cynicism). But when you get to where you wanted to go, even in small scale and only for a minute, it seems important to remember where you started. Because of course, we’re always starting.
Here’s to year four of this tiny blog, to year 21 of writing my little poems and to 2005, when these poems were my whole unbruised heart.
—on writer’s block, for David Helm
He won’t accept my protest—No
camping is the cure for what you have—
against grass and cans of beans.
He promises a camper,
the illusion of a bed
and rooms not unlike rooms
I’ve moved in and through
for temporary years.
I should be used to bears
by now, threat or theft—
And bees as well; snakes and spiders all
small necessary bothers
we just won’t feed.
But such a tried endeavor,
hills and trees—O wild
in spite of Lowell’s skunks
(my weakness, writing inspired
the way I’m not),
sure I’ll win with this excuse
(the last, I don’t want to go)—
I’ll write inside, inside
at home on writer’s block—
They all say that. You won’t.
Even Thoreau was an indoor girl.
I’ve been sleeping with the receiver, a man
I imagine, mouth wide on the pillow
til morning—He might turn,
sloped nose fit to my jaw, tell me
you can’t shake the sand from your lashes:
sound, almost enough
to replace your elbows and knees,
until California—Sea’s Attila
with a belly full of light—swallows you
whole. I’ll wait for the text.
While you disconnect,
I keep ringing and ringing and ringing.
Before you left, I asked you to swallow
the universe; I wanted every color
and shape planted in your throat.
I have only recently learned
the living are not privy to gardens—
Our throats, for all their soft pink
furrows, are too full of cancer.
My grandmother is blooming
(lesions, swollen white, red-veined
petals under her tongue, laid
into her cheeks).
An acrid hothouse now,
her breath is hot against my ear
when she softly says
You must not be afraid to fly.
I cannot tell her it is others’ flights
I fear; I am not well or wiser
for so many holes in the earth,
so many roots pulled out clean.
I will not look for any garden in you
now—it is not the time.
Our lives do not breed sweetness.
When we finally take seed in the soil,
all our parted lips will give way
to wild snapdragons:
heart-shaped leaves, so many
new and tiny yellow mouths.