Over 20 years ago, I said to a poet friend, “I don’t know how to be.”
I didn’t. Still really don’t. But I know, to be, I have to write. When I read, I become the work, the poem.
When I write a poem, or a story, that I’m pleased with, I feel happy. I feel proud, like a cat who caught a mouse, or a dog that caught a gopher.
To be published, would be like being petted. “Good girl. Look what you did.”
Emily Dickinson says, “Publication — is the Auction
Of the Mind of Man –”
She might’ve had an aversion to publishing, but surely she felt ambivalent. After her death, some 1800 of her poems were found bundled into hand-sewn books. I think creating her art, writing poetry, was primary. It mattered more than being published. Her writing defined her, who she was, what she was about, her purpose: Emily Dickinson, poet.
I attended a poetry reading last Thursday. It was Dec. 10, on the day Emily Dickinson was born, 185 years ago. Hadn’t planned on going up to the mic, but I was asked to. Too few signed up to read, for a change. “You’re a strong poet,” M. said to me. She really wanted me to read. I was happy to. It was a good day for poetry.
This time of year is generally difficult for me. Doesn’t seem too bad this year. Maybe healing has gone deeper, I don’t know. Or maybe because we’re getting a little dog. We’ll most likely get a Chihuahua mix or terrier from SPCA.
I haven’t had a pet since my little Romie got sick and died almost five years ago. I loved her so much. She was the sweetest thing, with a hell of an attitude. She’d stamp her little foot, shake her head, and squawk at me. It amused me that she called the shots. She made me smile, she made me laugh. She was a joy. This little piece of pure poetry.
It hasn’t been a bad year. I featured three times. I met A. D. Winans. I open mic twice a month. It’s been a good year.
But it’s been a sad year too. My son’s best friend died of cancer. He passed away only two months after we learned he was ill. Last week we learned that a professor/poet we know was taken to the emergency. A couple days later, we learned it is stomach cancer. A couple days after that, another woman my son and I knew died of cancer. She was in her forties. And Sunday morning, we learned about a woman from this community, who was a performance artist, passed away. We were shocked. I think only her family knew she was ill. Again, cancer. Not to mention, John Trudell, a man I so much admired. Fucking cancer. “It’s too much,” I said to my son, “It’s just too much.”
This makes me want to live more than ever. I mean, to be. I want to be. No Plathian erasure. Courage and adamant insistence, persistence, like Dickinson. I want to be poet and storyteller. I hope some magazines will accept my work.
About thirteen years ago, I woke up one morning and heard a voice. It came from inside my head. It was so loud, I could almost hear it with my ears, as if someone were in the room with me. It said, “You have no reason to live.” I believed it. That terrified me. I heard a disembodied voice. That shocked me. It was as if a ghoul had crept inside me during the night, maybe slipped in through my mouth, and parked itself in my brain. “You have no reason to live,” it kept saying.
“I know,” I told it, “But there might be something better up the road.” I decided I needed to just make it to the end of the day. That’s all.
For months, I rose with the sun, burned sage, said a prayer, every morning. The voice was persistent, “You have no reason to live.” I kept busy. Just get to the end of the day, I told myself. My little Romie was with me. She helped me get through it. It took about eight months, before I noticed the voice was gone. Now and then, I think, “I have no reason to live.” But writing gives me a reason.
I’m so looking forward to having a puppy.