nothing to share
So David asked, and, grateful to be asked, I said yes but thought immediately that I have nothing to share because I write so little these days. I don’t have any advice except the obvious: keep doing what works. I work in retail now, far from academia, far from colleagues who might drop by to discuss what we’re writing or reading. Has social media become my literary lifeline? A couple of years ago, I wrote 28 poems during April, and almost every poem was started in my car. Three decades ago, I went to my department chair (I was an academic administrator) and asked for writing time; he gave me a key to a windowless office with an electric typewriter, and there I composed poems on my lunch hour. It can be done.
Much of my free time is spent promoting, as much as I’m able, the work of others. Does editing and publishing prevent me from writing? I don’t think of these evenings as lost opportunities—I love working on chapbooks—but I definitely fantasize about a room without internet where I might escape long enough to finish my next book (or maybe just a poem or two).
I’m writing this at my old desk, a work table in the corner of the bedroom, the quietest spot in the apartment. The spider plant I started from two pinched cuttings has just this week sent out its first offshoot, a slender wiry arm with tiny leaves unfolding at the tip. 35 years ago a student intern told me the plant’s Spanish name was mala madre—because they throw away their young—and I grabbed that name to use in a poem. Once a man I dated told me the secret to growing spider plants was to pinch off all those shoots, redirect the energy into the main stalk. But the new plants, if left to develop, are still attached to the mother plant; they’re not so much orphans as literal offshoots. Clones. Am I writing the same poem? Am I too attached to them? Is that why I’ve stopped? If I don’t get the poem out, do I reabsorb its potential?
Hastily assembled a third proof copy for L and shipped it off—express mail, for $23—then treated myself to breakfast. My only day off in a week; the bonus is that I get overtime but the toll is that I was too tired to stay awake after T and I went to bed. He left for work this morning, I think at 6:30 because his shift s 7-3, without waking me to say goodbye. When I finally got up at 10 and checked my phone, there were three text messages from 10:30 last night: (1) I douched and everything; (2) The struggle of dating older men; (3) #myholematters. I texted him an apology.
I misread his texts as a complaint about my falling asleep, but now I realize the time stamp doesn’t make sense: I closed at ten last night and we got out at 10:10, so I was just getting home at 10:30. He’d baked a pizza and we ate while watching an episode of The Boondocks, a show he can’t believe I hadn’t heard of, and we went to bed around 11:30.
God bless the animated old lady two booths away, her quavering lively voice at shouting level as she recounts her travel adventures. And someone please bring her food so she will shut up and eat.
Someone posted on FB a few days back a photo of his new chapbook from _____ Press, and when I clicked the link—interesting cover, hand-tied chap—I thought hmm, why haven’t I bought anything from them before? Then I scrolled through several pages and remembered: their chapbooks look pretty horrible: awful font choices and designs, no consistency. The only other title I want to order is by one of my authors.
The chapbook arrived yesterday and looks good, well-made, but with an odd white border (the cover is not full-bleed), about an eighth-inch wide, that needs to be trimmed off. Otherwise it’s quite nicely made.
Today: dishes, while I put together the Summer Kitchen proofs to mail out tomorrow. And I need to get D’s proof together ASAP. I owe about fifty author copies right now, and maybe 35-40 orders need to be filled. Ack.
First day off in a week: I worked seven days and have another six to go, starting tomorrow, until my schedule returns to a five-day week. So much to do today that my mind is a bit numb: laundry (which T can help with tonight if I wait, but he wants to do something together when he gets home at 3), library, proofreading and making chapbooks and getting them ready to ship—I’m about fifty orders behind right now, plus author copies—and I need to drop S’s car at Marcotte’s and pick up the Saturn, which they’ve had since Saturday.
Mom paid for the towing and repairs, which is why they weren’t calling me with updates. I stopped by the house yesterday after work, around 7:30, and we talked until 10:00. She has a sinus infection but her doc appointment isn’t till a week from tomorrow.
Need to run out and get paper for my printer. Then laundry. Proofing and chapbooking. We’ll do library and car drop/pickup when T gets home.
My day off. I had originally planned to visit Mom so we could try making quilt squares using the new method that LW (David’s sister) posted online, but Mom has a bad sinus infection running into its second week now and was finally able to move her Friday appointment to today. And I am so far behind with the press, I don’t know how to catch up:
- 25 copies for TR
- 23 copies for ES
- 35 copies of L’s new chap, which needs to drop today
- proofs to set for KB and DG
- 15 copies ASAP to AT
- Many, many orders to fill
- finish Ploughshares interview questions
- get EB’s proof out to her (though it may be the wrong version, aargh)
And laundry. And bills. And throwing everything into the crockpot for tonight’s dinner. I slept till 9:30 and went out for a quick breakfast because I need time to think and write, “me” time, if only for an hour, before tackling a mountain of work I can’t possibly finish today.
Here are lines from Christina Hutchins’ chapbook, Radiantly We Inhabit the Air, that I copied today into my journal as part of my ongoing project to write a poem that arises from every 7KP chapbook I’ve published. Several poems from this project appeared in issue 14 of Assaracus (Joy Exhaustible: Assaracus Presents the Publishers). My thanks to Bryan and Seth for reaching out to me for some poems; their encouragement convinced me that this project is worth pursuing.
Language has lingered into slow scents
– “Between Pages of Our Dictionary”
A joyful dog barked the letters of foul words
– “The Music Inside”
Hairs, collected and abandoned, line the inner nests/ of unknown birds
– “The Music Inside”
Before even I was plated with a name
yet I craved the broken levee
I stole a fingernail of brick
– “A Traveler Is Met by Touch”
there is nowhere loss will refuse/ to take us
– “A Way Back to Life”
[“I’ll go order you some food, don’t go anywhere”: woman in BK to elderly mother]
I listened again to the troubles of the creek
The Captain of Amazing Underpants! (thinking about T)
as if on a dare to himself
– “The Divorce Suite: II,” José Angel Araguz
chapbook review: Edie (Whispering): Poems from Grey Gardens, by Sarah Nichols (dancing girl press, 2015). Saddle-stapled, unpaginated.
Transcript excerpts set into brief poems. If you’re a fan of Grey Gardens (any version), you’d likely expect these poems to add some layer, however thin (it is a spare chapbook), to the Big Edie-Little Edie spectacle. I can’t really say that’s true of this collection, though it’s nice to read some of my favorite quotes from the documentary. If you’ve never seen the films or play, this might be a good invitation to do so.
[Rebound with size 10 plum variegated cord.]
on a Dare to Himself
My widowed friend, to whom I can offer
no magic, no succor, has kept continues to post
on social media (what Mother calls That Face Page).
His grief is a filthy rag he slaps against the stove’s
stubborn corners, the baseboards. A sodden banner he holds twists wrings
then holds to his face to inhale: ammonia, grease, blood . . .