Poetry Thursday

Good enough, Day 19: Prodigal Writer

I was going to return

with wisdom and grace,
the knowledge of lifetimes lived in our mutual absence.

Or, at the very least,
with my best Saturday-night smile,
and a dozen coral roses from the farmers market,
wrapped in a little extra flash and dazzle,
just in case.

Instead, there is this.
It is not exactly right,
and 17 miles from the morning shadow of perfect,
but it is true in the places that count,
and that, my friends,
is good enough.

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

two statues of humans having a staring contest

Good enough, Day 5: A poem

You know that thing where, completely by accident,
you run into an old friend you haven’t seen for seven years
at a place neither of you would expect
because how the hell would they know Terry and Rich?, 
they moved away SEVEN years ago—
at least two before Terry and Rich even got to L.A.,
much less met each other
,
and you’re both so excited
you shriek and hug each other
and maybe even cry a little
and then, embarrassed,
motion to your respective, politely bored companions
that you haven’t seen this person for SEVEN YEARS
and exclaim over how great it is to see them
(because really, it is)
and how each of you looks exactly like you did fifteen years ago
(because, well—ballpark)
and then, before you realize what you have unleashed,
you ask them what they’ve been up to
and they catch their breath and say, “Omigod…!”
because of the enormity of it,
but then, in a steady stream,
release things like “MFA” and “…Seattle, for Greg’s residency”
and the names of two things you’re pretty sure are children
and one you really hope is an animal
but honestly,
you’re having trouble concentrating
because you already know
what
comes
next.

And when it does, as it always does,
you think about
the various men who have come and gone
and the one husband who was gone
but came back as a friend
and the several careers you’ve tried on
like costumes sewn for someone else—
beautiful, but tight around the shoulders—
and even the one time you wound up in the emergency room
and thought you saw Jesus
but it was only dehydration
and a trick of the light

And you consider telling them all of this
but you are bored of it already
and why get into
what’s really going on,
or even the simple, crazy story
of how it was all set in motion
on that early Thursday evening
when you walked out of a Ross Dress for Less
and the sun hit the palm trees in a particular way
and how, for one nanosecond, maybe two,
you finally knew that someday,
you could feel all right
even if you didn’t know how
just yet.

No one talks about
the long climb back to okay
at a cocktail party,
even one with dear, old friends.

So instead, you say,
nothing! nothing at all!
and you both laugh
and ask how the other
knows Terry and Rich
and you all friend each other on Facebook—
right there, on your phones,
like the Jetsons!—
and promise to meet for coffee
which you just might do
in another 40 years
when the witnesses
are gone.

The skinny on, plus all previous 21-Day Salutes™.

Embracing the tiny, Day 17: Getting over yourself

the kroger building in cincinnati, from Over the Rhine

It is not,
as it turns out,
that hard to take a half-decent picture.

What’s hard
is taking 4,000 horrible pictures
first. What’s hard is
standing in the middle of the street
like a stupid tourist hick
taking two, three, seventeen horrible pictures
while people stare at you
with your doofus camera
and your zero credentials
acting (as if)
this is something
you do every day
because it is so much fun.

What’s hard
is going home
and sifting through
the ten, twelve, ninety horrible shots,
and trying to suss out which are really horrible
and which are just bad
and which are…okay?
and which are slightly better than okay
and which of those remaining two
is better because they look exactly the same
almost.

And what’s really really hard,
as it turns out,
is not taking the picture
at all
but putting it out there
for people to see
and judge
and form assumptions
about your talent
and your character
and your level of denial
and to not just do it once
but to do it the four thousand times
(at least)
that you have to be bad
before you can start
being halfway decent.

But taking a half-decent picture?
Is not that hard
as it turns out.

xxx
c

This is Day 17 of a 21-day series. For more scoop on the who/what/why, go here.

Poetry Thursday: Focus

christina katz quote illustrated by alissa walker

This post is #25 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

One foot
in front of
the other.

This is how everything moves
from one place
to the next.

From chaos to clarity.
From fear to love. (And back. And back.)
From nothing to something. (And back. And back.)
From empty to full,
from birth to death,
from blank to fin,
from impossible to done.

And the doubt
that pools around you
as you pause
to catch your breath

And the voices
that whisper
of hazards ahead

And the fear
that seems to color
the air
a sickly shade of gray

All vanish
when you focus
on putting
one foot,
in front of the other.

xxx
c

Image inside the frame by Alissa Walker, from a photograph she took on one of the many trips she’s taken doing just that. You can get it in a luxurious, desktop-sized image of inspiration with a $15 contribution to the 50-for-50 project on IndieGoGo, through September 13, 2011.

Poetry Thursday: the spaces in between

THIS big

This post is #18 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

Are you still worried
about that participle
you left dangling?

That inelegant phrase,
that wobbly metaphor,
that questionably situated adverb?

Never fear,
fellow traveler.

There is no “done”
when it comes to ideas
on a page
and not even “almost”
will work better
than “awful
with a beating heart.”

Besides,
nobody loves
your beautiful words.

They love
the way they feel
in
the
spaces
between them.

xxx
c

Image by Leszek.Leszczynski via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Keep writing

field notes book with "KEEP WRITING" on cover

This post is #11 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

When what you write
makes you cry,
keep writing.

When the words
are coming slowly,
or too quickly,
or not at all,
keep writing.

When the stories
won’t tell themselves
the way they showed up
in your head,
dammit,
keep writing.

When you are tired
or bored
or sad
or angry

when you are freshly dumped
when you are floating on air

when you are wicked
when you are good
when you are stuffed
when you are starving
when you are sure
there is not one more thing in the world
to say,
keep writing.

You are not here
to be significant
or meaningful
or even great,
you are here
because the pen
cannot do it
without you.

So pick it up
and park your ass
and write
and write
and write.

xxx
c

Poetry Thursday: Finding your voice

art by nikki mcclure

This post is #4 in a series of 50 dedicated to the art and life of writing, in support of the 50 for 50 Project to benefit WriteGirl. If you like it, or if you think it could have been improved by a better writing education for its author, please give generously. And pass it on.

You begin
by following
the ones who went
before.

Step by step
you walk,
straining to find
the right set of footprints,
for the trails lead everywhere,
everywhere.
Up mountains,
through thickets,
into caves
and crevasses,
clearly the work of those
crazy, spelunking limericists,
marveling at the wonders
the giants have left
in their wake,
carved into trees
chipped into stones
blooming in rows
or artfully planted
to look random.

The maps,
they never seem to work
quite
right.

Is this the lake?
Was I supposed to turn there?
This road seems so much narrower
than the one in the picture,
than the one in the song,
than the one in my head.

I must be lost,
you think.
I will wander this land
for all eternity,
traveling in circles,
looping back on myself,
around and around.

I will never get There.

And then one day,
the light slants down
at a particular angle
which you both notice
and do not
and the air feels familiar
but completely different
and there are no other footsteps
but yours
and you are walking,
no, you are walking,
blazing a trail
for the next intrepid soul,
scattering your own seeds
and songs
and fairy messages
along the way.

xxx
c

Image inside the frame by Nikki McClure, one of a series of pieces from her beautiful yearly calendars. You can get it in a luxurious, desktop-sized image of inspiration with a $15 contribution to the 50-for-50 project on IndieGoGo, through September 13, 2011. After that, no dice, Bryce.