“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
~ Orson Welles, American actor, writer, and director
I’ve noticed that maybe the primary physiological effect New York has had on me is my sensitivity to morning light. At home, my bedroom has an east-facing window, skewed very slightly to the north, so I grew up as an early riser. College and my other city apartments have had windows of various sorts, but living in a basement for the last (almost) two years, I’ve noticed a distinct difference in how I deal with the sun when I’m at home. Being okay with waking up to sunlight a 7 am changed to a slight grumpiness when I lived in Philadelphia, and DC; now that I have hardly any sunlight at all in my home, this morning (and other mornings at the old homestead), I just pull the covers further over my head and start weeping. (There was this bird singing right outside the window today, I wanted to just throw the sash open and throttle it. Dammit, bird, I need my sleep!)
(But at least they are better than those city birds that sing at 1 in the morning due to light pollution.)
We’re so close to the end, everyone. I have two more specific prompts in mind for the last two days (which I know I wanted to do from the start: the first may be a tad difficult, but I have confidence in you), so today will be the last one for that “central theme” idea I’ve been touting. Of course, you can keep revolving around one thick theme, but the river is now splitting into its final distributaries and spilling onto the shore. With that metropolis of ideas floating in channeled water and people gathering around to partake sitting on the horizon, at last we begin to taste the brackish water of the sea. Think of the Nile, the Rhine, the Rhône, the Ganges, the Amazon, the Mississippi: too much thought and action to be contained by just one path, in the end.
Not to make it seem like you’re going to undo the last week’s work of gathering a theme together into one firm but flexible cylinder of riverine inspiration, but we are now going to shave down that accumulation of ideas and themes again. Take your theme and separate it into six pieces at least. You may wish to have each of the ideas behind poems you wrote over the last six days make an appearance, but also try to get more abstract, dissecting the Main Idea into several Subordinate Ideas. See which ones have enough life of their own to find their own groove and thalweg down to the bay, or which ones will be devoured by the tide. I’ll take my biological process in the world one (I promise this will be the last time I bring it up) and chop away: evolution, the food chain, humanity as animals, symbiotic relationships (like those figs + wasps), measuring time through life cycle, and the physical sensations of being alive. So, if those are my pieces, what I want to do is devote attention to each, just a little bit: it could be the phrase itself, or it could be an image, but expose it. Make it concrete.
You then want to choose what kind of a delta you’ll have. Will it be a birdfoot like the Mississippi, building new land as it rushes to sea? Will it be massive like the Amazon, with each chunk of theme getting its own stanza? Will it be holy like the Brahmaputra, holy to vacationers like the Rhône, or choked with mangroves like… I don’t know, some other river? Think about the coastline you want to cross at last, and whether it will be straight or wavy, pushing out to sea with sediment or caving in, riddled with tree roots and flamingo legs, or empty except for dunes and beachgrass. Allow your themes to interact with the landscape in the way the delta’s distributaries cross mud flats and bob with fishing boats. Maybe you want to extend a thought the way sediment extends spits of land, or obscure a thought as wetlands muddy the boundary of water and land, or make a thought marvelously clear, as when the river reaches through desert. I leave it to you to interpret how this goes, but in the end, all the delta’s fingers reach the sea. This does not necessarily mean that they are lost — currents are far deeper and stronger than we often suspect — but the ending should perhaps be surrounded on all sides by other, different, saltwater thoughts. Threaten your themes, but don’t let them be interrupted/drowned/vanished completely yet; the reward will be greater.
We still have two more days to go, though. What better way to celebrate than to come back and share?