Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Pause in December

December is winding toward its cluttered close, yet suddenly my desk has cleared. Edited manuscripts are winging back to authors; presses are preparing to shut down for the holidays. Despite the looming demands of Christmas, I suddenly feel untethered. What should I do with myself?

Yesterday we had our first real snowfall--an inch of fat sloppy slush that froze overnight into sugary ice. Smoke threads from the chimney, and my boots crunch and squeak as I tramp to the woodshed and the compost pile.

I am imagining this day ahead of me--ticking clocks, a snap of kindling in the stove, the small sounds. I could write down a few words that belong to me. I could puzzle over a difficult book. I could copy out a poem. I could walk in the woods. I could play a Bach partita.

I open Plath's Ariel. "And here you come, with a cup of tea / Wreathed in steam," she writes. I can't tell if she's angry at me for reading these lines. I can't tell if she blames me or is grateful.

"The blood jet is poetry," she declares. "There is no stopping it."

I say She declares but do I mean She fulminates? She crows? How can I know which voice she wants me to hear?

And then: "You hand me two children, two roses."

With that, the poem is finished: she has revealed what she chose to reveal. It's up to me to choose to accept the veneer, the sentimental cloak, or not. Any choice I make will be the wrong one. In this way, Plath is very like Dickinson, very like Frost.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," and both were the wrong road to follow.

This is how I could spend my day--following all of the wrong roads, getting lost, getting nowhere, getting sucked into the bog, never returning, no one finding my bones, my bones becoming swamp . . . and later, under a springtime sun, a red-winged blackbird never lighting upon them, never clutching at them with his frail talons, never swaying back and forth on them as he sings his April song.

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