Saturday, October 4, 2008


I begin
in blankness
in desire
in the wish to body forth
with which first
to clarify
for myself the nature
of this moment, this gesture,
this need
and, second, to shape
a sequence of sounds, of syllables,
of sentences which might serve
to capture some slight essence
of what it means to be,
to be here, to be here writing,
to be here breathing and thinking
and trying to write:

The sun came up today. The birds
outside my bedroom window
once again rescued me,
as they do on every ordinary morning,
from my fitful dreams, back
into the half-light of another day,
in the face of which I lay
until I found the strength to swing
my legs to the floor, and stand,
and walk half awake into the living room
and begin my morning ritual:
Stretch. Breathe. Center. Wash. Eat. Chant.
Then off to work.

The sun came up today. For me, at least.
For me, again, the chance
to make something, to make something
happen, to be a presence, to be present,
to present myself,
to re-present something, this, something
else, something that will stand for
what I stand for
for as long as I am still standing,
and having begun,
am able
to continue.

Process Reflection: I haven’t been writing as much lately. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it or that I don’t have plenty of things to write about, I just haven’t been making the time. My attention has been elsewhere, but even as I have been consciously choosing to spend my time doing other things, there’s been this voice in the back of my head reminding me, “You need to write.” I do have a physical journal that I keep in addition to the several blogs I try to maintain and the writing I do for work. The most regular writing I do in that journal is on Saturday mornings, because on Saturdays have the time after I wake and before I move into the rest of the day to sit down and write. This morning I found myself thinking and writing about the routine that I have allowed myself to fall into so far this school year, and I decided that today at least I’d make an effort to change it.

The poem above is a product of that decision, facilitated by several stimuli. I’ve been working my way through Best American Poetry 2008, and this morning, after having breakfast and doing the Saturday crossword puzzle (one of my avoidance mechanisms for getting real work done), I picked it up and started reading. The second or third poem I came to was a poem by Susan Mitchell called “Ritual” which begins

as one who casts the word bread upon the word water, testing

as one who not believing something will rise up from
those waters, but not disbelieving either
casts out her voice

as one curious or hungry or filled with longing breaks
off just the crust of a word, throwing
the way she threw as a girl when everyone

told her that was not the way
to throw and expecting little or nothing
looks into the blackness...

I was taken by the poem, by the intentional tentativeness and the patterned repetitions of syntax which give it tonality which is not exactly conversational but explorational, and by its meditative-ness.

So when I sat down to write just now, I did not in fact know what I was going to write, only that I wanted to write, and I had the rhythms of that poem in my head, I knew I was working in territory Susan Mitchell had modeled for me. That led me, in a way I had not planned, to the middle section, which is actually a verbatim transcription of some lines I wrote in my pocket notebook last week in a meditative frame of mind after getting some sobering news about a close friend whose health has taken a turn for the worse.

I wouldn’t put up much of an argument for this poem in terms of its craft. It’s basically a zero draft, and it’s loose and it’s slack in ways that perhaps I will be able to improve over time. But it is at least preliminarily what it set out to be.

I’m very much aware of the speed with which time is passing. I am now, as best I can determine, just slightly older than my father was when he died of his third heart attack. I’m three months into a new job in which it may take five years or more before I am able to have much of an impact. I’m hoping to have that time, but I’m not counting on it. I’m trying to cultivate a frame of mind which is is realistic, optimistic, and grateful. And that’s where I am, today.

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