i know i’ve written before about the way writing is reassuring to me, but it’s a subject i come back to time and again. people tend to ask: “when did you know you were a writer?” or “when did you know you wanted to be a writer?” and i always feel a bit like a fraud because i don’t know the answer to that. and as trite as it sounds, it was just always something i did. in grade 1, i wrote poems about snow (not much has changed there). when i was a few years older, my mum discovered the word “fuck” written in cursive on a piece of paper on my desk because i had just heard that word a few days earlier and wanted to see what it looked like written out. so there was always writing, or the idea of writing. (though funnily enough, i’ve never kept a journal.)
the end of 2016 was tough. there has been some stuff going on; most of it i can’t talk about, or don’t want to talk about, which i know is the equivalent of someone asking me how im doing and me saying “im fine” and not meaning it, but there you have it. there was a confluence of shit going on. and part of it was heartbreak.
most everybody experiences a broken heart. there is nothing unique about the sadness i feel; i am no more special than anyone else who has cried themselves to sleep, or who feels as though it’s a struggle to get out of bed sometimes. someone i trusted deeply – who had to that moment proven himself to me as good, and kind, and true, and deep – flipped the script on me and left me scooped out and stupid, ringing like a dumb bell from how empty i became. now, i feel sad on a day to day basis. not all day every day, and maybe not every day in general, but most days of the week, i get a flash forward of how differently i expected my personal life to look in 2017.
this is not to say “look at me look at me look at me!” we’re more than two months into the new year and it’s not as raw as it was and things take time. but the point of this is: during the past 12 weeks, writing has kept me sane. it’s been the one thing that doesn’t change when i reopen the word doc or when i try to line edit the poem, or when i do revisions of my nonfic ms. it’s not so much about control, because i’m not interesting in controlling something, and i’ve also never quite felt that i’m in “control” of my writing, really, more that it’s something that we work on in tandem, as a team, me and my impulses. it’s about constancy – the documents aren’t going anywhere; the words are still on the page; the characters are still frozen in time from when i last met with them. and when i’m writing or editing something that is truly fun – like my nonfic piece – i’m reliving some great, great memories and it doesn’t feel like a chore.
so. i’ve been working on something great, really great, and there’s going to be some fab news coming soon. and three of my poems – poems that i seriously struggled with, with placing them in lit mags in canada – are being published this year in u.s. lit mags in kansas, utah, and alabama. and it’s also probably time to start looking at my fiction thesis again. when one part of your life changes, or falls apart, it’s reassuring to have another part to focus on.
We crawl through dust towards a waning moon,
squat under redwoods that care to know our names,
what the cards said, or who fucked in the forest.
If the mountain broke today
you’d rebuild it with sea glass.
– From “San Bernardino Welcomes You” (If I Were in a Cage, I’d Reach Out for You.)
The men in the forest they once asked of me
‘How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?’
I ask them right back with a tear in my eye
‘How many dark ships sail the forest?’
If it came about you died
it might be said I loved you:
love is an absolute as death is,
and neither bears false witness to the other —
But you remain alive.
No, I do not love you
hate the word,
that private tyranny inside a public sound,
your freedom’s yours and not my own:
but hold my separate madness like a sword,
and plunge it in your body all night long.
If death shall strip our bones of all but bones,
then here’s the flesh and flesh that’s drunken-sweet
as wine cups in deceptive lunar light:
reach up your hand and turn the moonlight off,
and maybe it was never there at all,
so never promise anything to me:
but reach across the darkness with your hand,
reach across the distance of tonight,
and touch the moving moment once again
before you fall asleep —
– Necropsy of Love
leaving is not enough; you must
stay gone. train your heart
like a dog. change the locks
even on the house he’s never
visited. you lucky, lucky girl.
you have an apartment
just your size. a bathtub
full of tea. a heart the size
of Arizona, but not nearly
To my daughter I will say,
‘when the men come, set yourself on fire.’
– In Love and In War
you were one of the
best female poets and I told the publishers,
editors, “her, print her, she’s mad but she’s
magic. there’s no lie in her fire.” I loved you
like a man loves a woman he never touches, only
writes to, keeps little photographs of. I would have
loved you more if I had sat in a small room rolling a
cigarette and listened to you piss in the bathroom,
but that didn’t happen. your letters got sadder.
your lovers betrayed you. kid, I wrote back, all
lovers betray. it didn’t help. you said
you had a crying bench and it was by a bridge and
the bridge was over a river and you sat on the crying
bench every night and wept for the lovers who had
hurt and forgotten you. I wrote back but never
heard again. a friend wrote me of your suicide
3 or 4 months after it happened. if I had met you
I would probably have been unfair to you or you
to me. it was best like this.
– An Almost Made Up Poem