I know I owe you guys a Refinery post and a Curio post. My schedule is fairly clear this evening (though I am forcing the Fellow to watch Twin Peaks, because honestly, how could I not?, so maybe that will take time), and I am hoping that I can get that done at least. Goodness knows the absolute last thing I’ll want to do is brave the elements, with wind chill reaching negative numbers. Ugh.
I am at work right now, writing poetry. This is a normal and everyday thing when I have downtime, and it doesn’t really impact my job. But, lately I’ve been getting very disenchanted with things around here, which (for a reason I won’t get into) was cemented yesterday. I’ve set a number of plans in motion to go with, and in a few months we’ll see how bad things get with the job. The other thing is, at the Winter Getaway this weekend and at the monthly writer-artists’ salon last night, I had occasion to talk to a number of people about life: bottom line, what good is a little bit more financial security and schedule regularity if you’re miserable? I would rather work three part-time jobs at odd hours and enjoy them, with writing in the free spaces, than struggle through the workday. Especially last night, when I was discussing all the non-text storytelling ideas I’ve had in the arts realm, and receiving enthusiastic support from the group, I felt that urge. So we’ll see how that develops, I suppose.
Swapped chapbooks with another poet, Tara, last night, since we’ve promising to do that for months. And one of the other attendees (who is an author I grew up reading and admiring and get tongue-tied around) took a peek at my book, and said, “These are really good!” Chuffed to bits, I was. That got me thinking about the weekend all over again, and thinking about how to make more room for the creative in 2013. So: there is a weekly workshop by Douglas Goetsch (who I met at the Getaway, and who was way cool), starting next Monday. It is, for me, a pretty penny; but it could be worth the expense? I would rather wait until I have some cash saved up, but I’m not sure if there will be another workshop in the near future which I can attend. Also, it’s five minutes from my apartment, so that’s a nice touch. What do you guys think?
And at last, a poem. Donna‘s prompt to write about a place (but focus on the people) was filed in the back of my head all last week, and I finally finished this beast of a thing about it. Most of you are aware that this name of mine is a pen name, but you might not know that it is an old family name, and there is an island in North Carolina from the same ancestral roots. (The first section is the gospel truth.) I’ve thought about visiting, though I could’ve written more stanzas about how I expect it would be rather different from anything in my experience, and actually I might not get along with the people there. But there is something indescribable about the connection of family, and name, and language, that meshes with the vision of the sea and the land at war like that. It’s a concrete little pebble buried deep inside that isn’t going anywhere.
A Bend in the Sound
My professor says she was enchanted by this
postage stamp of an island, down the Carolina coast
where Back Sound squares its shoulders
against the loom of a hurricane. She says,
it’s the vowels.
The way a long ah will be half-swallowed,
caught under the tongue with pious humility,
while the flimsy ih is given a light shriek,
the long ee of the seashore
and the storm at night.
I’m writing a book on it, she says, and I feel
misplaced pride when I tell her half a lie, saying,
yes, I know, that is my island.
The body is a museum with a hundred wings
devoted to every genetic stitch: and I’d like to think
there is a fingerbone or narrow bile duct
that I could say, here is the part I share with you,
great-grandmother, counting back growth rings,
finding a name and three lines of a story.
I cling to that when the water
rises. And some well-gardened ancestor
split into pieces, one of them carried southward
thanks to longshore drift, to this place
I have never been.
He planted our name in the reeds and marl,
unfurled it to wave in a stranger salt breeze.
Sometimes, a ghost comes to each of us
to whisper heirloom ideas when we do not
expect it. Then, we must decide
which histories matter to us the most.
Somewhere, I have a cousin
who gets up before dawn to smear white paint
across the prow of a splintered boat, dragging
patchwork nets to the beach and stumbling
when the wind kicks down the dune.
I remember reading that we are all related,
if you count back far enough:
aunts and uncles, terribly removed.
But blood-iron is magnetic too, twitching direction
towards its kin. If I stood among the marram grass
watched the lanterns wink on the choppy sound,
I would lean forward, heartfirst.
Somewhere, I have a cousin
with the same right iris, the same tender rib.
She is smoking a cigarette and reading Elijah;
she is cutting up cucumbers for a midday snack;
we put consonants at the ends of our names.
Cape Lookout could be gone in a hundred years.
No predictions: but that wildcat water gets crazy,
drinks deep in the summer.
Then, the dock piles and the church doors
and the stacked creels and the power lines
will know oceanic mercy. I dream of rock people
eroded, resigned, carrying on floating.
But I worry about how maps change at that bend
in the sound. Who will share my named body
when the storms split the living room walls?
At sunset, the wind threatens
an orange light speaking exodus, watermark
change, things that are inescapable.
The only glimmer in my dream is that the past,
having happened, is inescapable, too.
If you stand at the mouth of the inlet
that digs into the southernmost cape, you can
see the barrier shoals, the ocean just beyond.
Hollowed-out vowels and old, old stories
bob in the slosh like big-bellied pottery,
laughing their mouths up just once
before they tip, fill, and hide from view.