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i don’t know if this will mean anything to you

September 12, 2010

This new draft is so full of “stuff” for me and at the same time, it is a massive void. I am tempted to tell you how it came about before you read it (as I too often do). However, it is so different from my other poems I am curious if it means anything at all to you without my endearing excessive process talk setting it up.




So this piece is a stretch for me because it seems colorless. I was going to say image-less, but there are a couple in there. Nonetheless, it’s sparse on the odd, vivid stuff I usually attempt. As a visual person, it leaves me a bit empty.

But it’s kind of the point of the poem. Coming up a bit empty.

I had a conversation with my husband earlier in the week about writing. He was baffled by how creative people “do it” — mix reality and fiction and choose the details they choose and arrange the words as they do. I’m no authority, but I am the creative person in his life and it was nice he was curious. We took a couple of my recent poems, and I told him about the disparate sources for some of the lines (dreams, journals, notes, memories, etc.) and about how putting those bits together makes new things happen.

And here’s what I’d tell him about this one:

In writing this poem, I started by imagining a relationship. It begins with intimacy (my other, my someone). It begins with how people complement one another. I was writing pairs of opposites to do this but I wanted to avoid the simplicity/redundancy of “opposites attract” (because that’s far from what this poem is about) and so I had to escape the black and white worlds of the opposites and bring in questions of “are we really so different?” and “how do we become adversaries?”

He hates when I say this, but I wouldn’t have known at the beginning that I was going to write a piece “about that.” It shaped up like that when I would choose a word and realize it was the wrong one and I would replace it. Choose and replace and replace and replace until the replacements (the words I was happy with) showed me the path I was on. Not all of this is conscious.

Two other factors worked their way into this.

1 / I quoted “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in a comment I left for Dale yesterday (“If one, settling a pillow by her head,/ Should say: `That is not what I meant at all./ That is not it, at all.’ ”)

I think of Prufrock too much these days. He’s part of a project I’m working on (so, so slowly). And so the end of this echoes Dale’s post about words failing — or people failing words — and it reveals my possibly fatal case of Prufrock-on-the-brain.

The title is a line from Prufrock, as well, taken very out of context. It’s part of the project, though I am not sure it’s the right fit for this one. It is exactly the right thing sometimes when I read it and so very out of place other times. I do know it beats the title I started with: “My Other.” Eesh. I like how “corners” is a visual sort of opposite (while being part of the same) and I like how “evening” assigns a place or time, one of the only specifics in the poem, albeit still very symbolic. But then again, “corners of the evening” has absolutely nothing to do with the poem. Ah. I dunno. We’ll see.

and 2 / Yesterday was September 11 and I didn’t write a post as a reflection and I didn’t join in the Facebook notes about remembering or about conspiracies or illegal wars or any of it. I spent lots of time in my head thinking about it, though. And I realized that what 9/11 did for me was point out our extreme vulnerability, not as citizens, but as humans. We share this with our counterparts all over the world. Our lives are vulnerable. Our emotions are vulnerable to fear and violence. And our spirits are vulnerable to the temptation of revenge (which is always blind). Take all countries and religions out of our lives (Imagine!) and those things are true. And it’s good to take some time to cry about it. We’re all so precious.

I think it first leaked into the poem when my brain leaped from “opposite” to “enemy.” I almost took it out because even though we use “enemy” to describe the dynamics in personal relationships sometimes, I wasn’t sure I wanted the implied political meaning. (You know how I avoid political poems!) But in the end, I opted to leave it in and even took it further using “wars” to emphasize it.

So while it is still a self-reflection (much like my most recent crow poem) and a relationship poem (much like the other 99 percent of my work), it is something else, as well. I think the political meaning gives the ending some weight (evolution of man from non-verbal to verbal an verbal to disagreeable — that’s the direct lineage, you know) where if it were strictly relationship-based it may seem too trite (as in, woe is us, we just don’t understand).

It still may not be entirely successful, but I think it’s onto something. And I think my explanation of my process has pretty much destroyed my initial attraction to the piece. That’s unusual for me. Usually talking about them makes me love them more. 🙂

  1. September 12, 2010 1:40 pm

    I like it. It feels very accurate, very close to that line walked during the rough spots. So the mirror is even more interesting to me, and brings up tactile images.

  2. September 12, 2010 11:01 pm

    Corners brought to my mind fighting “corners” and so it fit a relationship poem, for me.

    It’s not concrete or filled with the imagery you usually write to, true. But I like the last (two) stanza(s) a lot. And that tone seems to need the austere (image-less) introduction, or maybe it doesn’t.

    I didn’t feel the global political references. But then, I think home life can be a global political battlefield.

  3. September 14, 2010 6:40 am

    For me, that last stanza says everything about relationships that reach a certain stage. Of course, that could happen several times a week but not so in this instance.

    “How once
    we never had to say anything
    to be understood, how now
    there is nothing

    without the right words.”

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