Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I know I have faded into the wallpaper lately, but I want to assure you that even in illness I remain incensed at the actions and reactions of our goon-in-chief . . . or perhaps I should say "lack of reaction," as in WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN A PRESIDENT STAYS SILENT AFTER A WHITE RACIST SHOOTS TWO INDIAN-AMERICANS BECAUSE "HE THOUGHT THEY WERE IRANIAN"?

Pardon the screaming capital letters, but really. [List of expletives deleted.]

Here we slump in America, languishing under the thumb of bullies and hypocrites. Whitman's poem is breaking my heart.

Walt Whitman 
Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,
All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,
Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,
Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,
A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,
Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Monday, February 27, 2017

I spent my Sunday walking to the bakery for baguettes and vacuuming the living room and reading War and Peace and falling headfirst into one of those giant rabbit-hole naps that feels like a two-day coma. I hope it will all be salutary.

This morning the big sky is brilliantly clear. The sun is glittering off the few remaining snow patches, and a small wind is kicking up ripples on the bay.

I'd like to do some writing today, if I can get a good chunk of editing done first. I'd like to play the violin. I'd like to walk in the wind. I'd like to stop thinking about my teeth. Maybe it will all come true.

In the meantime, War and Peace has turned out to be exactly the book I need.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I'm sure you're tired of hearing that I'm still sick, so I won't perseverate on that issue, except to shout that progress is being made and my sinuses are a fine-tuned machine.

Yesterday Tom and I went shopping for a futon sofa for his study, so now we have a place to house any friend who cares to contract this virus and/or entertain the cat at 4:30 a.m. If that's you, please don't hesitate to visit. I have plenty of kleenex.

We also took a walk to the fish market and bought the ingredients for the Portuguese seafood stew I raved about here a few weeks ago. I'm happy to say that it was just as delicious this time. Afterward we took a short stroll in the rain, and then we sat on the couch and ate cannoli and watched two episodes of Arrested Development and went to bed before 10 because that's what people do on Saturday night when they're lame.

Today, I suppose I will do housework. Probably I will go for a walk. I will read War and Peace and congratulate myself on reducing my ibuprofen consumption by half. Tooth nerve-pain management is hell. But then again, George Eliot wrote all of her novels with her teeth rotting out of her head. Maybe the next Middlemarch is in my future.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dense fog this morning. No sign of a sea or a park. The houses on the street are draped in veils. Sky and air are indistinguishable.

I am sitting on the couch drinking black coffee and wondering if I am feeling better.

Last night I made braised farmers'-market duck legs with red wine and prunes, served on a bed of wild rice and brown rice. It was a lovely meal, and not even difficult to produce in the doll kitchen . . . unlike bread, which is just unpleasant. It makes me sad to have lost my bread rhythm.

When I was visiting my parents earlier this week, I found myself wandering around the house, amazed at the roominess. Look at this counter space! Look at this bathroom with a window!

But of course I do have an ocean. And shops with excellent bread. And really good water pressure in the shower.

I never did get started on War and Peace yesterday. Instead, I forced myself to read some political articles in the New Yorker. Maybe today I will be smarter and stick with Napoleonic chaos instead of our own.

I keep meaning to mention that I'll be teaching two workshops this spring. The first will be a half-day session here in Portland, on March 25 . . . a reprise of the essay-writing class I led in Rockland last fall. The second will be an all day poetry-writing and -revision class up north in Trescott, on May 6. I think the Portland class is almost full, but there might be a space or two left in it.

My band is also playing two gigs this month: March 10 at the Squaw Mountain Music Festival in Greenville (with the Mallett Brothers) and March 17 at Pat's in Dover-Foxcroft.

Surely I will not be sick for any of these events. [Sigh.]

Surely Donald Trump will not be elected president. [Wishful revisionist sigh.]

Friday, February 24, 2017

I'm still striving to quell my whatever-it-is virus, but I did manage to edit all day yesterday, deal with a whiny cat, muddle through a non-draining-washing-machine problem, prepare a palatable meal, and go out to a basement bar hidden behind a secret door to watch my friend's daughter's boyfriend do a standup act. So that's something, I guess.

Here in Portland, the temperature is 45 degrees above zero, with a rainstorm in the offing. The sidewalk conditions are sloppy/icy/muddy/thawing. The bay is pale blue. The sunrise is fading into pearl. Two dogs are quarreling over a frisbee.

Today I am going to begin rereading War and Peace for the thirtieth time (or the twentieth? the fortieth? who knows?).

And you might like to read this brief essay, "Artists Dying," by my friend Tom Rayfiel. As I told him, reading it pushed me to recall my own artists-dying experiences, one of which involved the country singer Porter Wagoner inside a white leather suit that seemed to be his only link to life. And of course there was my best friend from college, the actor Jilline Ringle, who, as she was dying of cancer, physically morphed from a glamorous chanteuse into the body of a woman who seemed to be a man dressed up as a glamorous chanteuse . . . a sort of artificial drag queen. Anyway, read Tom's essay and I have no doubt you'll begin to remember your own artists-dying vignettes.

Bargain Shopper

Dawn Potter

I miss you, Jilline, though stuck in this frozen so-called spring
I don’t picture you regretting my grim haunts; you, the girl
Who adored high summer, sporting your cheap slinky cling-
Tight blouses, those cat-eye shades propped in your dyed curls,
Your pink-flowered skirts, and a pair of flapping tacky lamé slides
On your big sore feet. Your beau-idée of taste was a dollar sale
At Marshall’s, the two of us name-dropping Ruskin and Gide,
Stage-whispering, “There’s your boyfriend,” across the gaudy aisles
At first sight of every funny-looker we met: those goat-
Faced circus clowns, those clad-entirely-in-blue albinos—
What freaks wandered this earth! . . . and you, decked out
Like a discount drag queen, lovingly deriding my beige vinyl
Sandals half-mended with bread ties.  Only your puff of frail hair
Mentioned you were dying. The freaks pretended not to stare.

[from Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I have returned from my Vermont ordeal, which was an ordeal only because I had a relapse and spent the entire trip on ibuprofen life support. I drove hours and hours, and ate meals, and chatted like a dutiful zombie, but of course everyone could tell I was really the pathetic facsimile of a dutiful zombie. I went to the doctor as soon as I got home, and this morning I am, once again, beginning to rise from the ashes. But geez . . . common cold cannot be the correct term for this viral quicksand. Plus, look at my metaphorical drip: zombies, a phoenix, quicksand. That is surely a sign of serious illness.

Anyway, onward. Perhaps I will be more Hemingway-esque tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Whatever you do, avoid catching this so-called cold. I came back from band practice feeling worse, and now this morning I can't tell how I feel . . . maybe the same, maybe better. If I had a doctor in this town and if it weren't Sunday and if I didn't have to drive to Vermont tomorrow to bring the boy back to college, I'd probably call her up and ask for antibiotics. As it stands, however, my choices are hot beverages and positive thinking. So I will declare, "I feel great!" and blame the New York Times for false reporting. That should work.

I've been rereading Aracelis Girmay's stunning poetry collection the black maria, and now I'm about to start Jacques Rancourt's Novena. Jacques was an intern at the Beloit Poetry Journal when I was working there, and I'm so excited about his book. It makes me happy to know he's doing so well, writing so well, getting the attention his work deserves. Sometimes things work out the way they should.

I also want to recommend another book, one that everyone in our doll-house has become enamored with: Ancient Land, Sacred Whale: The Inuit Hunt and Its Rituals by Tom Lowenstein. Last week Paul bought it on a whim at the used book store. He knew nothing about it but wanted to learn more about the Inuit. Turns out that the book is a strange and magical amalgam of poetry and ethnography: a mixture of translations and commentaries centering around the myth and the actualities of the Tikigaq people's annual spring bowhead hunt. The prose is beautiful and evocative and instructional, and it's no wonder that Ted Hughes, of all people, refers to Lowenstein's Tikigaq translations as "works at once of detailed scholarship and high poetic achievement." Reading it is kind of like reading Moby Dick and kind of like reading The Golden Bough and kind of like reading Njal Saga. It's enchanting.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Last night: a giant water main break and a sinkhole downtown "big enough to fit an SUV," according to the local paper. This morning: a boil-water order for our entire neighborhood. Plus, all of our local streets have been marked "Emergency No Parking." City living is so relaxing.

Though, in fact, it is relaxing. I mean, the toilet still flushes and the shower still works. We have heat and electricity. And for a change, Tom and I aren't the ones digging up the water lines and fixing the break. In fact, the whole event has put us into a good mood. All we had to do was boil a few kettles' worth of water and pour it into my stash of empty canning jars. Simple.

Today, on this sparkling sunny day,  I'll be walking downtown to get my hair cut. Later I'll be driving north for band practice. I'm feeling almost well again. It's good to be lighthearted.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

It's possible that I might be feeling better this morning, but I don't want to jinx anything by claiming victory too early. I'm supposed to drive north for band practice tomorrow, and singing continues to seem like a bad idea. Still, it's been 20 minutes since I last coughed or blew my nose. That is certainly progress.

I also hope I become less stupid. I kept receiving emails yesterday that assumed I knew how to think or make decisions: "What kind of poetry workshop do you want to teach?" "How do Common Core goals relate to what you do at the Frost Place?" "When will you be ready to take on another editing project?" My brain had no answers for any of these questions. It could barely figure out what I should make for breakfast.

Do you know the Laurie Anderson song "Baby Doll"? Some of its lyrics seem particularly apropos:
Well, I'm sitting around trying to write a letter.
I'm wracking my brains trying to think
Of another word for horse. 
I ask my brain for some assistance.
And he says:
"Huh . . . Let's see . . . How about cow? That's close."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tom got me a sled for Valentine's Day. I got him a dozen oysters at Eventide Oyster Company. However, we were too sick to sled or eat oysters, so instead we spent a slack-jawed evening on the couch drinking tea, blowing our noses, and staring at episodes of Arrested Development. I feel slightly better this morning, but still pretty much like crap. Nonetheless, I am going to rally my inner forces and go for a walk before the snow starts up again. And I am going to sweep the floors. And possibly I am going to edit a manuscript without inserting errors. Tom, who is a mathematically precise carpenter, says that he has been measuring things wrong for days. Likewise, I have been barely able to figure out how to change a sentence from passive to active voice. [Look, a sentence written in passive voice! You fix it, because I can't be bothered.]

On the bright side, however, I have not engaged in any treasonous conversations with Russia . . . or have I? I mean, as Trump's campaign pal Paul Manafort points out, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’” Geez, any one of us could have accidentally discussed dropping sanctions or fixing an election. I'm sure all of the White House officials are as pure and innocent as newborn babes [choke, cough, sneeze].

These past three weeks of governance have felt like a century.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day

Dawn Potter

The plow guy shows up four hours after the snow has stopped
and plows a rosebush.
But in the dark of the year
I don’t care about roses.
What I care about is an emergency exit to the street
so I can escape from my own toils and devices,

a hatch that he carves out for me,
after a fashion,
though it’s littered with cigarette butts
and speckles of hydraulic fluid.
When I trudge out to hand him his cash,
he doesn’t even bother

to transfer the joint to the other hand.
He smiles broadly, like a man should smile
when he’s just finished plowing the driveway
of a woman who’s rumored to write poems,
who’s ten years older than himself,
and whose son plays soccer on his daughter’s team,

where they do real good
because both kids are fast and can score, and once
they even got their names drawn from plastic pickle jars
and had to dance together at the middle-school Snow Ball.
Not that they liked it.
I feel a little sad

when the plow guy doesn’t go so far
as to offer me the joint.
It’s a disappointment,
but, in the long run,
probably for the best
since, if we did smoke a joint together—

his plaid elbow poking out of the pickup window,
me with my bare feet stuck into barn boots
and the zipper half torn out of my coat—
we might have to talk about something
like ice fishing,
or how big our skinny kids are getting,

or what the cold’s supposed to do tomorrow,
instead of just plowing and smiling, and paying,
and turning our backs
in the way citizens do
who’ve modestly eyed each other for a score of years
but won’t believe they have a life in common,

except for snow
and old clothes, and two kids
who chase a ball down a shaggy field.
Though now we share this morning’s dose of loneliness.
God forbid
that we should mention such a thing.

[from Same Old Story (CavanKerry Press, 2014)]

Monday, February 13, 2017

Well, I have no idea how many inches of snow we got. "A Whole Lot" is a pretty accurate estimate. This morning the wind is still howling, though the onslaught has tapered to squalls. Cars are buried in drifts, and parking lots are wastelands. A few foot passengers are walking backward down the hill into the wind. A few depressed shovelers are pecking away at plow piles higher than their heads. Last night revelers were sledding and skiing in the streets, but enthusiasm has waned this morning.

Happy Monday. And apparently we will have Happy Wednesday too. Possibly even Happy Thursday. The snow gods have spoken.

This morning I will edit, and then I will make lasagna and garlic bread for our first little doll-house dinner party . . . fortunately, for friends who can walk here. In the interstices I will read and reread some poetry collections, and watch my large son methodically consume all of the fresh fruit in the house, and cope with the crabbiness of a housebound cat, and wash many loads of dishes. The doll-house kitchen is so cramped that even one dirty mixing bowl clogs the progress of a meal. I'll miss the view when we move, but I will not miss this kitchen.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Here in our headcold-ridden enclave, we are battening down for blizzard winds and a possible 25 inches of snow. At the moment, though, nothing much is going on outside, other than the usual parade of sledders and joggers and dog walkers. I will not be joining them. Earlier this morning, I fell on the ice and yanked my neck and left shoulder, so I imagine that vacuuming under the influence of ibuprofen will be excitement enough.

Otherwise, I'm thinking about dinner (red beans with cornmeal dumplings) and about making sure we'll have enough tea and fruit and Kleenex to get three people with headcolds through a blizzard. I imagine we'll spend our stormy evening sitting on the couch reading books. I imagine we'll play some Otis Redding records. I imagine we'll peer out the window at the driving flakes. I imagine we'll lie in bed under our down comforter and listen to the wind shriek. I love a big snow and I look forward to it all.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tom is sick and I am beginning to catch what he has, and the forecast is for snow and then snow and then a whole lot more snow. Last night Tom was watching Walker, Texas Ranger reruns punctuated by long, repetitive advertisements for knee braces and supplemental Medicare insurance and prostate pills.  Tom hates Walker, Texas Ranger, so my conclusion was that he was feverish. Nonetheless, I felt like I was trapped in a minor circle of hell . . . say, the Understaffed Department of Motor Vehicles circle or the Rash That Spreads circle. Finally my stamina gave way, and I went to bed, where I became entangled in home-repair-in-a-house-I've-never-seen-before/who-is-this-stranger-my-mother-is-marrying?/the-dam's-broken! dreams.

So it is a relief to be awake. Indeed a steady snow is falling, and I ought to be rushing out to cram myself into the grocery stores along with everyone else in Portland, but instead I am sitting here peacefully drinking black coffee and enjoying the experience of no longer dreaming about water damage.

Outside the window, snowflakes are swirling and twisting in the grey air. The city trees, with their broad crowns and bricked-up roots, wear their ice burdens elegantly, but the power lines sag like jump ropes. A pair of crows moseys over the roofs and dormers, heading toward the water treatment plant or the baked-bean factory.

I've been reading Frost's poems and a Murdoch novel. I've been working on poem drafts, and a grant application, and Frost Place materials. On Monday I will start a new editing project. I am hoping not to be sick. I am hoping not to have to watch that Walker, Texas Ranger channel any more. But who know?--illness is a strange taskmaster.

Friday, February 10, 2017

“‘National defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties . . . which makes the Defense of the Nation worthwhile” (U.S. Supreme Court decision, United States v. Robel, cited by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in its ruling yesterday).

* * *

Tweet from Trump regarding yesterday's ruling: "SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!"

Tweeted response from the writer John Green: "Excellent example of a comma splice"

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Like much of the coastal northeast, Portland is battening for a blizzard--my first major snowfall in the city. Here in this tall house overlooking a bare oceanside hill, we have gotten used to being windswept. Even in a cheerful breeze, our sea-facing bedroom can feel like a treehouse. So today will be exciting. I am looking forward to the howl.

Meanwhile, a righteous woman is gagged, our so-called president ignores a tornado in New Orleans in order to whine about a "so unfair" department store, administrative mouthpieces fabricate terrorist threats, military actions are bungled, racist incompetents clot the cabinet, and so on, and so on.

He's been in power for less than a month.

* * *
Your dream:
                    His name was Hitler and he lived over
The yelping forest where wolves run bearing the bones
Of Tristan back and forth forever.
In a castle, in firelit rooms,
His shadow passes, enigma of the gothic tower
Become the home of horror. See there, a sword
Hopping on a hare's foot, or a disembodied
Arm that floats stiff in a bloodied
Sleeve, or maybe a boot slopping with hot liquid
That you know is not what it seems;
And there, that indeflatable phallus disguised in a hood
With one hole for the hangman's eye. Screams
You cannot hear issue from mouths you cannot mistake
Inside each stone of the walls. So you make your dreams
Of Hitler, you also screaming, knowing you cannot wake. 
--from Hayden Carruth, "The Sleeping Beauty"

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rise Up: On Education, Activism, and Hope

Betsy's DeVos's confirmation as secretary of education hits hard. Every teacher I know--every single teacher, regardless of political party or religious belief--is aghast. DeVos's rise contradicts everything they stand for, everything they strive for. They, who have dedicated their lives to gaining knowledge, gaining skills, gaining competency--both within themselves and for their students--will now be ruled by a woman who has no knowledge, no skills, no competency. The moment is surreal.

Yesterday, after Pence broke the Senate tie and DeVos was confirmed, I posted this on my Facebook page:
We, at the Frost Place Conference for Poetry and Teaching, pledge to uphold the honor of teachers and students from all walks of life, from all regions of our nation, from all developmental backgrounds. We pledge to use poetry as a portal into intellectual, emotional, moral, creative, collegial, and community achievement. Not only do we understand the difference between growth and proficiency, but we've also spent our entire careers as guerilla art warriors. Plus, we know how to chase a bear out of a classroom. DeVos doesn't have a chance against us.
I stand by those words. Because poetry has long been marginalized in the curriculum, poet-teachers know all about resistance. We slip poems into places where no one expects them. We quietly give students the skills to think for themselves. We model the value of humane letters, of civil engagement, of intelligence as a version of altruism, of precision and focus. We get this done behind the principal's back and in front of the principal's face. We do it without a budget and without fanfare. We do it with trumpets and drums. We cannot be silenced.

This will be an activist summer at the Frost Place. How could it be otherwise? I am always looking to draw many people, from many disciplines, to the Conference on Poetry and Teaching, but the need is urgent this year. Yes, come if you are a teacher. But, yes, also come if you are a rogue civil servant. Come if you are a school board member. Come if you are a writer who needs to find a way to speak with the friends and strangers around you. Come if you are a liberal who works in a conservative community. Come if you are a conservative who cares deeply about the poor and the marginalized. Come if you work in a hospital, in a homeless shelter, in an elite graduate program, in a law office. We must find each other. Community and conversation reinforce hope, and hope is essential to our common mission. This nation cannot devolve into a land of oligarchs and the oppressed. We will not leave our youth in despair.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I spent much of yesterday walking back and forth to various obligations in the city, and apparently, according to the distance measurements on Google Maps, all that trudging added up to 8 miles in a single day. No wonder I'm sleeping well at night.

The funny thing is that the trudging was all literary: meeting a friend to talk about a manuscript, going to the used bookstore with my son, meeting a poet for dinner, going to her poetry reading afterward. . . . Who knew that books involved so much exercise?

Today, wind and icy snow are scouring the streets. Waves are splashing over the jetty. My hike up the hill to the corner market will probably be my only outing. I need to buy potatoes for a gratin and bread and fruit for the Young Bread n' Fruit Monster who is currently comatose in the back room.

But mostly I hope to be reading and writing. Svetlana Alexievich's The Last of the Soviets is stunning and strange and complicated, and also a library book with a looming due date. I have four new books of poetry to read. I bought a first edition of Iris Murdoch's An Unofficial Rose and a first edition of John Updike's The Music School. And when I opened the Updike in the bookstore, I read the following handwritten note on the flyleaf . . . a window into 1960s sex mores and academia and literary posturing and also real feeling and the ambiguities of time and attachment--plus, it was written in, of all things, an Updike story collection, which makes the tone and subject matter even more tragicomic:

Christmas 1966
May 1967 
It seems a trifle amusing to be writing now in May what I should have written last December. But, that's more or less the way the whole thing has been from start to the many finishes. It is most fitting that this is a book of lovers and students. I hope that one can be both. 
À Demain, 

Monday, February 6, 2017

My weekend up north was beautiful, busy, restful, hilarious, restorative, ghostly, tearful, puzzling, elegiac. Just before I left, we went on a long walk through the woods . . . and what a relief and a joy it was to stand under the hemlocks as sunlight filtered onto the packed snow, as the half-frozen stream pulsed among the snow-masked stones.

Now, in Portland, a steady wind blisters the bay, the ripples all riding east, the clouds casting navy-blue shadows, the brown park grass ridged with strips of ice and melted chunks of ex-snowmen.

I would like to write today. I feel it burgeoning. On the other hand, I have many obligations. Anything could happen.

On Saturday afternoon I watched a shrike pluck a chickadee off the side of a house and impale it. Anything will happen.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Just a quick post to say I'm up north . . . with the dark night skies, and the deep snow, and the late nights with friends, and the music. It is so good to be back.

Friday, February 3, 2017

And I think over again,
my small adventures,
when with a shore wind I drifted out
in my canoe,
and thought I was in danger--
my fears,
those I thought so big,
for all the vital things
I had to get to and reach.

And yet, there is only one thing,
one great thing--
to live to see in huts and on journeys
the great day that dawns,
and the light that fills the world.

* * *

This is an Inuit poem, which I first read yesterday, on the back of a memorial card for the Passamaquoddy canoe maker David Moses Bridges, who died of cancer on inauguration day. My dear friends Angela and Steve were also his dear friends; Steve, in fact, was his teacher--the person who helped Moses bring canoe making back to the Passamaquoddy people. So he and I shared the same orbit, aware of one another though not intersecting much.

I did not know until yesterday how much he loved poetry. The poem above is not an exact translation: Moses changed bits of it to suit himself . . . adding the canoe line, for instance, which as my son Paul pointed out, must have been a kayak in the original version.

I showed the poem to Paul because he, too, shares a deep devotion to the river-wild. I offer it to you because it cuts to the heart of our human terrors and desires . . . and the knowledge that comes upon us, only occasionally, of the "only one thing, / one great thing." Let us try to hold it in our hearts.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Creation As Mirror

Within the past few days, I've finished four new poems. All are tiny . . . and that makes me worry about falling into the old bad habits of my apprenticeship, when I would use a fluent, almost flippant, brevity to avoid facing up to the problems I needed to plumb. On the other hand, I recognize that, in my current incarnation as a writer/human being, brevity has allowed me to zero in on white space, the shape of individual words and letters, the precise placement of dependent clauses, the repetitions of sound within so-called minor words, the pitch-shifts of punctuation. It's not that I ignore these elements in larger poems: by no means. But in tiny works they become the narrative; they become the lyric.

This fall and winter I moved from copying out Rilke's poems to copying out Clifton's, and I know this shift in study has been helpful to me. I have a quicker affinity with Rilke's version of music, but Clifton's visual power has been tonic. The poems I am writing now do not imitate either poet, but nonetheless I am feeling their lessons in my writing.

The shock of our political nightmare, the shock of losing my homeland, the shock of family change: I know these backstories have jolted my imagination, wrenched my voice. I have needed to make poems that talk less. I have needed to find a way to circle the silence that exists within language and within history.

For me, writing has never been a form of therapy. I usually feel worse after I finish. Writing flays me, and the scars don't disappear. But when I try to understand what drives me forward into creation, I come back, again and again, to the fact that poetry forces me to face up to the world. It doesn't solve my terror, but it also doesn't allow me to turn away from it. And the greatest poems demand that I walk inside that terror  . . . naked, with torn feet, across the stones, through the fire.

To be a poet is to be both a participant and a guide in suffering. So it's no wonder I feel ill after I finish a poem. It's no wonder that most poems, even finished ones, are flawed. The task is nearly impossible. Yet the poets keep writing.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Time lingers. Thoughts reduce to scent, to syllable. There is a continuity to quiet.

A thin snow sifts over the bay, obscuring the far shore. I can find no color break between sky and sea. The only variance is an undulation, like a curtain's, within a pewter mist.

The little cat perches on the window seat and stares at a wheeling gull. Behind me, an odor of toast floats from the kitchen. From her frame over my desk, an ancestor, frozen in Sunday silks and lace, smiles her Mona Lisa smile.

I wonder how it would feel, to be forever snared in that moment.