Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Published a Book - Now What?

I was reading this essay by a novelist who got really depressed when she finished her novel because she had expected that it would have given her a sense of happiness, a sense of freedom and completion. But no.  Instead she felt empty and burst into tears driving down the highway.

I felt something like that after publishing "The Silver Reindeer."  I didn't get that writer's high I was expecting. Not even when I finished the final draft and put the last touch on the painting for the cover.

Huge breakthrough.  

Achievement is not happiness.

There is no end to the string.  It's a continuous thread that may or may not meet itself somewhere on the other side of the universe and form a circle.  And even if it does, I may not be around to see it.

I tell myself (and you, dear reader), if you want to paint a painting, there is no goal.  There is no end point to be achieved.  It's an experience, something to enjoy deeply in the moment, an experimental effort that may or may not find a pleasing place to stop.  You might say, okay, let me stop here before I screw it up.  Or you might say, hold on - I think I'm going to start over.  Or you might just say, "Cool."  Stop and have a drink, and admire it where it is, in all its unfinished glory.

As for the books, the poems, the stories, instead of seeing each one like a little mountain of endless tasks, why not enjoy the process again?  Read them over again just for fun, and not pick away at every phrase and paragraph?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I'm Tough

I’m really tough
I’ve been hurt
I’ve been destroyed before
I know how to do it
I know how to curl up in a ball
I know how to cry with desperation
Until my body is empty
The first thing to understand about me is
I’m not
I’m not one
I’m not consistent
My history doesn’t belong to me
I have no claws clasped around a jar of identity
I’m a tunnel
All are welcome
They flock through
Like cars jostling for position
You will never catch me
Because I’m not there

We all are.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being an Artist

I dreamed of a man who was hoeing the ground and working the fields.  He had two artificial legs that were thin iron rods, and you could see his pant legs flapping around them.  He also had two prosthetic arms that were more normal looking.  We were standing outside of the barn, talking.  I noticed he was working those arms with a lot of effort.  I asked him if he had to do a lot to make them work, and he said, yes, it’s really hard.  And I asked him what about his legs?  He said when the surgeons offered him prosthetic legs, he told them to just put in the two iron rods, and be done with it.  

I had written a poem about him – only a couple of stanzas, and everybody thought it was really beautiful.  He said he had known it was about him.  I could tell he wanted more intimacy, and I explained the thing about artists.  That I was able to go way deep into people – I had this gift of extreme empathy, and it made people think I wanted to be close to them all the time, but it was only a temporary thing. It didn’t last long at all, and it was exhausting.  And he really understood that, what it meant for me to be an artist, and it was amazing because I finally understood it myself.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Musings a Few Years Post India

Came back and got caught right back in the trap

All those juicy things are on the board, but I can't get to any of them

Squeezing out of a corner of the cardboard house

To run along the sidewalk in the dusk dark

While the rising moon watches with ghostly eyes 

The cicadas just about to burst into song

Dogs barking in the distance

You can tell it's a conversation

How we love summer

That free touch of evening air on your skin

Before the crisp white edges of the moon

Even knowing it's not flat

It lays against the blue-black sky

And now what's on the board

Doesn't seem so far away at all.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's All Karma

Do you feel like an endangered species –

Or like a predator?

When the inevitable happens

Will you go under water

Or wait in your bunker

To make an art form of denial?
Each day we see the fruits of karma
The smiling faces gratefully aware
The shoulders pressed by heavy burdens
Some are graceful
Some are awkward with pain
But we're all in this together
Like the penguins and the crocodiles
The jellyfish and the swans
The honeybees and cockroaches
Noah is an embryo
In a young mother's womb
And we are not ready

Monday, March 4, 2013

For the Somali Warrior

A woman rises from her pallet

Sky still charcoal, the air chill

In her cloth too thin for warmth

She takes a calabash

And straps it to her forehead

Makes her way in the gray morning

To the high hill and beyond

To the waterhole where lions come

At dusk, now quiet

She fills the vessel

And strides carefully

Back to her house made of twigs

The house she made herself

Next she starts the fire

Rolls the meal into a flat round

And adds it to the pan

Never taking off the ropes of beads

Around her neck and wrists

Never growing out her black curls

More than an inch

Her man gets up now

Enticed by the smell of food

Lifts his head from the wooden pillow

Pats his elaborate headdress

Wraps his cloth around him

Stands and reaches behind her

Kisses her neck where no bead impedes him

Slaps her bottom where she has not been cut

And where she still feels something

And the woman grabs the hot bread

By the edges with her fingers

Tossing it into the center of a plate

She hands it to her husband

And looks out the door

At the rays of new morning

Dancing on the dusty earth.

* * *
This poem will appear in Veils, Halos and Shackles:  International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women.