I wrote a poem yesterday. It came to me at night, right before I fell asleep. I’m glad it didn’t “disappear”. Generally, I get up and write down what comes to me during the night, otherwise, by morning I won’t remember it. I wonder if they ever come back eventually anyway? I mean, if a poem wants to be, needs to be, born, a poem will be born. That’s what I believe, anyway. Writing poetry feels like writing what the Spirits dictate to me. Or you can call them Muses. I am simply an instrument. Learning to write, is learning to hear what the Spirits say.
It isn’t often I write a poem in just a few minutes. It’s rare. Very rare. More often, it’s like pulling a tooth with deep roots, without anesthesia. I struggle and sweat and hurt. This one came rather quickly. It didn’t just pop out, but it eased out, and it didn’t hurt much.
I’m a poet.
In my room,
An anonymous woman.
Business bores me.
Art thrills me,
especially when it makes my blood
when I feel my head
All I do
All I want
All I need
is my books
I got it in my head that I’d like to get into grad school. I’d like to get an M.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing. I’ve thought this before, then decided it’s impossible, or too late. Now it comes back. Part of me thinks I’m too old. Another part says, one is never too old to teach.
I got married at sixteen and dropped out of high school, in 1967. Six years later, I got my diploma because my ex enrolled me in a vocational school and they required my having a h.s. diploma. I went to night school, an adult high school, aka, continuation school. I wanted to work, and my ex decided I would be a keypunch operator. I wanted to be a computer programmer, but he didn’t let me. It was that kind of marriage: I had no say.
Seven years later, I enrolled in a community college. I had no idea what I wanted, other than to be educated. I was trained and taught about data processing, and I was a piece of that process, the piece I found least interesting. But I was not educated. I hate to hear people use the term “educated” when they mean “teach and train”. They are not synonymous terms. They only mean the same on the surface. Anyway, my attending this community college didn’t suit my ex. He’d kick the books out of my hands. So, I ran away and hid in a shelter. I contacted a lawyer and filed for divorce. She got me a restraining order and told me to go home and tell him to get out. “He won’t leave,” I told her. She said, “He has to. You have a restraining order. You tell him if he doesn’t leave, he will be arrested.” “But he doesn’t have any place to go,” I told her. “That’s not your problem. That’s his,” she said. I had left on a Monday, and returned on a Friday. I was terrified, but I acted all brave and tough. I said, “I filed for divorce and I have a restraining order. You need to get out. I’m going to Lizzie’s (my sister) for the weekend. You be gone when I get back.”
Wow. I had never talked to him like that. He was stunned. I was amazed. Amazed that he was stunned. Amazed that I had the courage to say that. Amazed that I had the courage to have courage. I was afraid he would beat the shit out of me again, or try to kill me again. But he didn’t. “I can’t leave,” he said, “Where do you expect me to go?” I said, “I don’t know; I don’t care. That’s your problem. You have to get out or I’ll have you arrested.”
I went into the house and packed a bag, and had my three children pack a bag. “Hurry,” I told them. Poor things. They were seven, eleven, and thirteen. He was sitting outside on the lawn, all casual-like, one leg straight out, the other bent at the knee with his arms wrapped around it, rocking back and forth a little, a slight smile on his face, as if he were amused, as if he thought any minute I’d return to my senses. I got my kids into the back seat of the car, put my bag in, and went around to the driver’s side. I opened the door, then turned around to look at him. “You be gone when I get back,” I said. He just goes, “Tsk,” with a look of disbelief, but I could see it was sinking in that I meant it. I was asserting myself, and I was stepping out into the world on my own for the first time in my life.
When I got back on Sunday, he wasn’t there. But he came back to see if I had changed my mind. “No,” I said. So, he packed some clothes and left. He was staying with a co-worker, a divorced guy raising a son. I’m sure he thought, “A few days, a week, maybe a couple.” He was acquiescent, calm, and tried to convince me to give it up. When he realized I was not going to change my mind, he got a lawyer, and turned mean and nasty again. I held my ground. He stayed with the co-worker a couple weeks, then got his own apartment, realizing I was really was serious.
Three months later, he was seeing someone. He married her a month after the final decree of divorce. He’s still married to her. She’s more mousey than I ever was. Or more desperate, maybe. Or maybe that is what love is for her. Thirty years old and he was her first boyfriend. Poor homely thing.
When he told me he met someone, he said, “It took me a long time to get over you.” Three months. After a thirteen and a half year marriage? That’s funny. People assumed I’d be jealous. Are you kidding me? I was relieved. “Why?” my cousin asked me. “Because, he’ll be focused on her, and leave me alone.” “Come on,” she insisted, “you must be a little jealous.” “No, I’m not. I want him out of my life.” She didn’t seem to understand what hell I’d been through all those years. But then, this cousin has been married multiple times. I don’t remember, four, five, six? About seven years ago, I heard she remarried her second husband, the one she had told me had threatened to kill her. I no longer keep in touch. They (persons I’m related to) are in a different reality, one I refuse to share or partake in. It’s sad, really, but c’est la vie.
I never remarried. I never lived with a guy, or had someone live with me. With the exception of Freddie the Freeloader, six years later. He would hang around, and come and go as he pleased. I didn’t invite him to stay, nor did he ask permission. He just did, and I was still too much a weenie to assert myself. It didn’t last long. Less than a year. I made sure he didn’t come back, but that’s another story. Fucking freeloading arrogant asshole.
I like my life of poetry and literature, of reading and writing. No, I love my life of poetry and literature. But there are other aspects of my life that interfere, and I want to shrink those, and increase my life of poetry and literature, of reading and writing. I want to add teaching.
I’ve been writing short stories. This makes me happy, makes me feel good. I am re-reading Big Sur by Jack Kerouac, which I read almost thirty years ago. I recently read Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose by Raymond Carver. It was a delight to read posthumously published new stories, and re-read others. He writes about taking a creative writing course from John Gardner, an essay I read thirty years ago. I was so green then. I knew nothing. I had a long way to go. Carver writes about the process of becoming a writer, and the process of writing. “Keep the story moving forward,” he says. I think those words when I’m writing my stories.
Thirty years ago, I could not imagine what I wanted to do with my life, except be educated and learn to write. I knew I had a long way to go. It took a lot of years of therapy as well. I haven’t told anyone, but in October I started seeing a therapist again. But I’m feeling good, and hopeful. Thirty years ago, it didn’t occur to me to become a creative writing teacher, because I didn’t have the capacity then to imagine that I could do that.
When I write, I feel good. When I read, I feel good. It would feel so good to be a creative writing teacher.