Since beginning this little space for writing, I have realized how much I want to communicate my understanding of a concept which I used as the title of this blog: draft and shadow. I wrote my first piece in a prose-y poem that really is not poetry. But something in me makes me break it into lines that look like a poem. It’s never satisfied me, so I’ve continued to roll it around in my head. Now I’ve written a second draft (draft! there it is again!), and I’m relatively certain that I’ll continue to think and hone and edit it into another form. But isn’t that writing? I don’t want this space to be about an attempt at perfection, but rather a confession of imperfection and an embracing of the process of writing. So here is Draft and Shadow II:
These words are draft and shadow,
only intimations of ideas beyond
and outside of language.
I, too, am draft and shadow:
a breath, a vapor, a transient pilgrim
on her way home.
This world–but draft and shadow–
near riddle, if truth be told.
Nothing imperishable or solid,
all changeable and fleeting.
An exquisite whiff of a greater beauty,
an inkling of mysteries unfathomable.
Imagination beats its tiny fists
trying to open the doors of that reality.
I am drawn by its draft.
I am sheltered in its shadow.
There is goodness in a green morning still holding a velum moon. I am lightened by the sight of bees, tiny aeronauts of wonder, darting. Having a pine stump full of years and years of rings on which to sit solid, my soul settles. I am swept up in the tessellation of shadow as birds fly over, and there’s purpose in black ink on paper, words falling one by one. Each is palpable as a pebble to roll between my fingers and around my palm, testing texture, weighing, before setting it down to stay.
You spoke into the cavernous deep:
Let there be...
And there was.
And now, again,
You speak into me,
into the hollow, brooding
universe of my being:
Let there be…
Will there be?
Can there be newness
after so much wreckage?
I’m not a fresh canvas, white.
There are layers to scrape, peel, sand away
before something lovely could be laid down.
You brush a bloody hand right over,
covering all my ruin.
Let there be.
(What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.)
I held a sleeping baby at church.
Her hands lay quiet on her chest, finger nails
nearly translucent and thin as velum;
she is new and has not yet begun to die.
Grandaddy, who is 99,
whose finger nails are thick and hard as death approaches him,
has hands that are large and heavy boned,
laying quiet like garden tools in winter,
though once he built fences, repaired engines, planted watermelons, tended turkeys and bees, raised houses and children.
Nails are dead cells;
isn’t that what I learned in school?
His cells are dying fast, piling up, and his passing is near
like the kiss I press to his cheek
before I leave his room.
You gather me–
all my errant parts,
my straying strands
and false selves.
You pull me together
with a thread,
I step back
and take a good hard look
at the subtle, strong, hanging on
that binds my heart together.
It’s good work, from sure hands,
even and straight stitches
that have not faltered
or missed a fold.
I try to make sense of things:
Answer the questions. Solve the problems. Work the puzzle. Find the reason behind the rhyme.
I am uncomfortable with anything less or incomplete.
I don’t like loose ends and frayed edges.
But I am all loose ends and frayed edges.
Questions and problems abound.
I am sin-sick and don’t want to admit it, broken, but I patch myself back together with some independence and hard work and I’ll-figure-it-out kind of thinking.
What is this refusal to lie fallow?
I’m hard packed and in need of harrowing,
If I am to bear fruit, I require loosening and then a letting alone.
You tell me: be still, sink down, let yourself collapse.
I’ll catch you and lay you out to be at rest awhile.
You say it loud and clear:
Yield to yield.
Words come quaking
like aspen leaves
from my lips
in a language I do not recognize,
trembling with each small invisible breath.
Silver and green syllables
twirl on their paper thin petioles,
catching every zephyr you send.
These are my little offerings.
It’s precarious, this tilt of earth.
I find balance
leaning up the mountain.
I steady myself against the sky.
I drop lower branches,
to find more light.
It leaves another eye every time.
My many eyes
looking right at You.
My inventive voice was long ago silenced, smothered by required niceties, social acceptability, and good manners. But somewhere buried in me, I know there is a vibrating, caterwauling soul screaming to get out. Why else would unbridled uniqueness and unbound originality bring unwept tears of longing to my eyes? Why else would I feel the compulsion to write poetry in green ink on my perfectly acceptable white walls or yearn to ink dark moonflowers and orange butterflies in flight on my also perfectly acceptable white body? Yet, how do I find that girl who has swallowed her words or spoken them in a cipher of other less potent ones, to disguise them as perfectly acceptable and white? She is wandering in a labyrinth somewhere I have never gone before.