Tag Archives: writing

Birds & Broken Hearts, Pelicans & Productivity

(Top left clockwise: Least Bittern, Barn Owl, Starling nestling, Second year, Brown pelican, Ruddy duck female)

“Here I am. Here I am. Here I am. Here!” a Scarlet tanager announces every few seconds, yet remains hidden in the trees despite his blood-red body and coal-black wings.

I’ve strained my eyes for ten minutes trying to locate him in the dense oak, maple, and tulip trees to only catch the briefest flash of red as he dives deeper into the treetops.

Water thrushes pipe along the river and robins sing from low bushes. Red-eyed and Black-whiskered vireos chip and chirp their distinctive calls, little gray-green bundles of feathers forever in motion in the bright green leaves.

There are catbirds here also, yet another bird to add to my life list. I feel some guilt for calling one out of dense brush with a recording on my phone. He approaches in the open, echoing my phone repeatedly, concerned, it seems, as if answering a mate. I end the charade and seconds later, he dips back into cover.

Birds, not boys, were my first love. I wrote silly little poems about them as soon as I could string words together but before I knew or had seen their variety.

When I left Surfside Beach, I left my “puppy birds,” my beloved Brown pelicans. Probably the greatest joy of my life other than my child and grandchildren, was rescuing pelicans. I went to lengths most would not, stripping off shoes and socks and submerging myself into murky ponds or the wind-blown “old Brazos river.”

My first solo rescue. She was very hungry & very flea & mite infested. And I had no crate. She sat quietly while I drove her 20 miles. The fleas & mites were not so obliging.

Of all the things I left behind—a man, a job, beautiful sunrises, and amazing storms—the pelicans were my greatest loss. Some days I’m convinced it wasn’t the man that broke my heart, but these flying dinosaurs with their sweet demeanors and often desperate need for help. The man didn’t need me; the birds did.

Maybe that’s what it comes down to—my being needed.

I tried telling a friend, as I have tried telling many people in my life, I must have purpose and without it, I am flotsam. He said, “Purpose isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” (Paraphrasing because — crummy memory)

My ex would say my purpose was to take care of him and his house.

My family would say they need me so that’s purpose enough.

My writer friends say my purpose is to put my art out into the void.

They’re all wrong and all speaking from places of value in this world. They have people and things for whom and which to care. My friend has family and a job that expect his care and effort. My ex has a job to which he endlessly tends. My daughter has her job and kids that need her. My writer friends have established writing careers and other jobs.

When I worked full time, I felt whole. I felt needed. I was rewarded for my efforts.

This society rewards “work” but it doesn’t reward saving birds. Two Surfsiders were kind enough to help me with a little money when I was spending hundreds on gas every quarter to save birds.

Society rewards only what it sees as “product,” some outward and obvious expression of usefulness. A bird, healed from a shark bite or parasitic infestation and released back into the wild is, “nice,” even admirable, but not a product. It doesn’t warrant pay and barely warrants praise.

Yet, all these songbirds I have been listening to and recording for the past two weeks as they fly through or settle in the mountains, are crucial to the workings of this planet. Diversity in animals is as important as diversity in humans. We let these things fall apart because of selfishness, greed, “capitalism,” and the mistaken belief that the more money we make, the more value we have. Pretty, wild things have no transferable value.

In my heart, I know that what I did for the birds of Surfside was of value. What I did deserved more than pats on the back and a few dollars in Venmo.

But my rational mind knows that the rest of the world will never understand that until it’s too late, if it isn’t already too late.

My rational mind still says, in order to be of value to this world, I must find my way to a “good paying job” that everyone else deems acceptable and productive. My rational mind knows that I can’t bear to live out my life not being “acceptable and productive,” because society has taught me without that, I am worthless.

But my heart is so tired.

In this valley off the grid with just the birds to entertain me, it’s easy to let my rational mind slip forever into nothing but bird song and isolation. It’s easy to be the catbird, realizing another bird isn’t there and in need, and dive into the safety of the brush and never come out again.

Ether Or: Dark to Light Ruminating

Once more in electronic darkness and I am thinking of capricious time. How quickly the last six months have passed and how little I have accomplished. How slowly these seven days to come will pass as I contend with a silent ether and my loud and persistent demons.

The drive into this valley (oh, had I known, I would never have come here) was frustrating and hard on Blanche, Betty, me, and Sam. Signal loss resulting in wrong turns. Cars behind me too impatient to allow me to get a map and sort out my route. Dead ends with difficult turn-arounds and deep mud. (Yay for 4-wheel drive!) I will escape into town mid-week to get my bearings, but I dread it. The road is treacherous even with a small truck.

And now I know why the spaces were readily available on such short notice. There is only one other trailer here plus the host. My assigned site was flooded, so the host said I could have one of several others.

I’m also out of porter. Probably, given my mood, that’s a good thing.

On my drive here, through Appalachian towns and highway construction, I was optimistic. The hills seemed manageable, then I turned toward this place about twenty miles out and my heart sank. Yes, another deep river valley, threatening rock falls on either side of the road, and shadows, shadows, shadows.

The gate attendant, a young mother, and her waif-like daughters are light — bright in their shining honey manes. The littles are energy and cheer as they pedal their bikes in circles and esses.

I think again of time.

Of a tiny, thin, tow-headed, green-eyed girl, all legs and arms and sunshine, grown now to honey-haired beauty; those eyes like a wild cat’s, large, intense, and mesmerizing. She is a mother herself now, and it is difficult at times for me not to cling to the little girl I remember. I still have dreams of her — small, vulnerable, and sometimes challenging, but always full of love. She is still bright, as if she carries her own light source in her chest. I’ve known few people like her in this world: my mother, my sister-in-law, a friend I lost in the divorce.

Sunshine.

And I think of how she and these little ones on their bikes, thus far, have the luxury of time while other children have not.

How time and cruelty take parents, lovers, friends, and children from us.

I am certain, most days, that I have time. That I will find my way before the geographical journey is done and “stay put” somewhere that makes me feel I am at home. That I will find my way on the emotional journey and stay put in a life that makes me feel whole again.

Other days, I wonder if I will simply wander until I can’t anymore.

Damn these mountains and the pits of despair they inflict on me.

Damn my memory.

Damn time.

Intermission

Last night, as I lay in bed, having driven a single-car road into these shadows, I had an intense, brief pain in my head. I’ve had them for years and am told they are akin to migraine or cluster headache but likely brought on by stress.

For a moment I considered it could be something more ominous and the sudden image of a quick and unexpected death here actually frightened me.

I discounted sheer self-preservation. I thought of people I love and miss so much when I am disconnected. I thought of how much those connections mean to me, even those that are merely electronic. What struck me, selfishly enough, was not how they will feel if I pass now (I can always minimize that in my depression), but how I will miss out on time with them. How I will miss out on a chance to get where I truly want to be.

It’s easy for me to think I am too old to ever be anywhere or anything, to feel productive and safe in a country of such division, to ever have a loving relationship again, etc.

I’ve been conditioned for forty years and two husbands to believe I am unlovable. One told me no one would ever love me like he did. (Well, thank the Universe for that!) The other, through implication not words, told me no one would ever really love me at all. I was just an object to “all men except him.” The Wrong Man, though caring and gentle and a good listener, rarely spoke of the non-corporeal things about me that he liked, and certainly never claimed love for me.

Going down that line of reasoning is what gets me into the wrong headspace. It makes it too easy to believe there are no men out there that would find me a good match. I’ve developed an almost pathological hatred for the institution of marriage (for me) and the smallest whiff of possessiveness or jealousy. That doesn’t fit well with my demographic (Xoomer/Boomer). I am quickly losing my appeal to the Xillenials and that’s probably for the best. 😄

So when night fell and I was alone and had gotten through my nightly cry, and had the realization that my life was, in fact, finite without my intervention, I “came to” for a moment.

In an odd way, it was a relief to be scared of my own mortality again. As anxious as those moments were, they were useful. I still feel like little more than an object. I still have little hope for anything resembling partnership. I’m still dismayed by American exceptionalism. However, I do want to see my loved ones again. I do want to try to make something of these last, potential years.

I don’t know what the next seven days will bring. Weather permitting, I’ll escape into a satellite-lit land for a small period of time to make further reservations and check on the signal at the upcoming reservations. To reach out and let my loved ones know I’m safe.

I may have to alter my path. I have let import things slide as I puttered through Appalachia, certain life was of little value.

It’s time to come out of the shadows.

Beauty in the shadow & light: Bigleaf Magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla)

Craving: Reassembling in Fog

Bear with me. It has been a rough couple of weeks but there is light at the end of this blogging tunnel.

April 2022. South Carolina.

The sky poured onto the forest last night.

Now, in the midday slivers of sun, the duff warms and its sweet musk rises to mingle with the tang of pine & hickory perfume.

The scents smother my thoughts. Dog bounces and tugs happily at my side and I wonder how can his nose, so much more sensitive than mine, not be overwhelmed by this fog of tree.

My head is full—of memory, rage, exhaustion, anxiety, of a lingering love I just can’t kill—yet all this swims in the fog of tree and I can only walk and react to Dog’s alerts, lunges, and pauses.

The fog never lifts as the day wears on. As evening comes, dampness coating Blanche’s innards and exterior, I stare at my phone to try to find words, to try to string ideas and emotions together to form not just coherent work, but a plan.

Nothing coalesces.

For some reason, (the smells and tall trees, perhaps) an image from a nightmare I had years ago comes to mind as fitting of my thoughts: I was a solitary traveler walking an abandoned railroad and came upon a massive pile of rotting, human body parts leftover from some apocalyptic event.

(Yes, I have horrendous nightmares sometimes)

To be fair, it is apt; my plan for the future, my concept of where my work is going, my thoughts on how to recover from my past and move on, my ability to partner ever again, all look like random, damaged, mismatched, and hideous pieces of dead beings.

I struggle to assemble something human from the pieces, something recognizable as complete and functional.

The pieces simply don’t fit.

Sitting at my tiny dinette, I turn on my Bluetooth speaker and look through my music library on my phone. Times like this, I seek something that hits the core of my current mood and existence. I launch K. D. Lang’s “Constant Craving,” her silken voice flowing around me like dozens of warm rivulets.

When I heard the song decades ago, I didn’t examine the lyrics but assumed it was a love song. Now, of course, I know better and appreciate it even more than I did in its early days.

Several people (all women) have called me brave of late. Some, I feel sure, have sat back and thought me quite the opposite as they watch and wait (seemingly indefinitely) for me to succeed or fail.

I feel neither brave nor afraid. I feel disconnected; as far from my future and any certainty as that character in my nightmare who stumbled upon the mountain of human offal and stood in disbelief.

In my dream, I merely walked on, trying to shake off the horror of what I’d witnessed.

For now, I can only sit still and examine these pieces again and again. Hope that something knits them together.

I’ve found no answers in this particular rumination.

I wrote. That’s all I can do sometimes. One word followed by another, like footsteps on a journey.

I suppose, in that, I’ve assembled at least some small figure from the pile of parts.

It’s something.

The Unsubscribe Button is a Delusion: Survival & Concession as a Single Woman of a Certain Age

I’ve been contained in a valley of Wi-Fi, 5G, and visible spectrum shadows for five days. I can walk a few blocks to get a signal and walking is good for me, but I decided walking for that purpose was less beneficial. I’ve checked in with my brother and my daughter a few times, checked email, made additional arrangements for post-PA campgrounds, but largely avoided social media.

Sitting quietly this morning awaiting my Moka Pot coffee, I looked through downloaded email.

I thought I unsubscribed from this company.

Yes. Yes I did. And I have been patiently unsubscribing from email ads for weeks. Sometimes repeatedly. I have determined it is a lost cause. That effort is a scam; a method by which to inform the company that I am still here and still seeing their annoying emails despite my desire otherwise.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing something over and over despite getting the same result?

I have spent every evening since I got here attempting to write both poetry and blog entries.

Insanity.

I’ve written some truly awful poems.

I’ve written some fairly tight blog posts; posts that were well-framed, clear, concise, and led to a meaningful and valid conclusion.

Unfortunately, each post was a deep dive into the loneliness and anxiety that this valley has exacerbated. I had hoped this time away from social media would be healing. I had hoped freeing my mind of the outside world’s concerns would allow me to address my own. The latter is true. The former is not.

Stuck in my own thoughts, without the words, images, and outright agony and stupidity of the outside world, all I could see was everything I have ever done wrong and the end of my road coming sooner rather than later.

Each post morbidly reflected this. I was, in a word, done.

For the first time since my marriage, I was thinking of a way out. Not just passively wondering if I wouldn’t awaken but actively writing goodbyes.

People in my life do not, cannot, grasp the tenuous hold I have on sanity and self-esteem as a result of being told, both in word and deed, for thirty years that my only real value was in being half of another person.*

They do not, cannot grasp how this impacts everything I do or don’t do. That to say, “I won’t feel insecure about my talent or intellect,” is as pointless as repeatedly hitting that unsubscribe button. My history is as tenacious as those repeated emails, bashing me daily with reminders of what I should want and do with my life and what I gave up.

I do not have an answer. Hiding in a connectivity desert is, apparently, life threatening. That much I have determined. Trying to unsubscribe from my thoughts and history is a waste of effort.

The pat answer is “get out there and grab what you want.” When your hands have been tied with worthlessness for twenty-three of thirty years and with training against and emotional beating for being independent the entire thirty years, how do you just magically slip those bindings and grab?

So, here I am, yet again, struggling with purpose, pointlessness, and isolation. Hitting “unsubscribe from this insecurity?” like a lab rat hitting a reward button.

Insanity.

* To be fair, to ask people to understand this when I do not reveal details of my relationship is probably a bit much. It doesn’t sound like a big deal. Lots of people believe “two become one.” How is that so bad? I will not detail that here, however. This blog isn’t about him.

Obligation: Buzzing around Blanche

This second week of March, 2022, marks two years since I moved out of the beach house my ex-husband and I shared on the Upper Texas coast.

The coming days will bring rain and cold. They have been sunny and beautiful all week. In the warmth and sun, the Alabama wetlands have released mosquitoes, tiny and quiet compared to the Gulf Coast marsh mosquitoes with which I am all too familiar. They are no less effectual, however. I never feel their nibbles, but my ankles and some fleshy parts are rather spotty now.

Along with those almost gnat-sized biters are the plump carpenter bees, zipping, hovering, ascending, and fighting all other flies, bees, and wasps. Sammy, who had mostly only watched until today, has since made several growling lunges at the male bee hovering a few inches from his nose. Thankfully the dog is at the end of his tether. Carpenter bees are not much of a threat; males have no stinger and females are fairly docile. However, I don’t wish to see my dog take out a harmless bee.

This bee’s game seems pointless from my vantage. Best guess is that he, hover-parked between me and the picnic table some fifteen feet away, is tirelessly defending the holes (the “gallery”) in the table seats drilled perhaps last year (they look old/dark but recognizably bee-made). He goes so far as to defend them from a Cloudless Sulphur flitting by. I have yet to see the missus.

Sammy requests air conditioning, so I let him inside Blanche and Sir Buzzalot vanishes. Apparently only the dog represents a threat in the moment. A few minutes later I test my theory and I stand and pace near the table. Sir B does indeed return to monitor me, as well, charging at my phone as I try to capture video.

Sir Buzzalot in SLO-Mo

Apart from the obvious, appearance and size, I am not unlike the carpenter bee. There are two things motivating me to exist right now: 1) obligation and 2) protecting my home. Perhaps that’s one thing; I’m not sure I can tease the two apart.

I am obligated, with regard to my survival, to certain people. Family, that is.

Sir Buzzalot is obligated to whatever female he has or will have and the offspring they will produce, but only in so much as he is obligated to the nest; the nest being critical to his future family.

I’ll leave Motivation Number One at that. I think most people understand the concept of staying alive for people we assume love us and would be hurt if we “left.”

Motivation Number Two: my nest. I spent money on her that would have gone to rent or other belongings. As such, she has value and I feel an obligation to stay and make use of her at least until I have nothing left.

I also feel I have an obligation to protect her. I have named her.  She has been my shelter for several months already and has become more to me than a material possession or shelter. She is indicative of my attempt (perhaps ultimate failure) to recover from the last 40 years of my life.

More than that, I am emotionally attached to her. Blanche isn’t just a trailer any more than Sammy is just a dog. She is home. She is safety. She is comfort.

I can’t entirely qualify this attachment to this “thing.” In contrast, I like Betty (my truck). She is useful and comfortable and works well. I appreciate all Betty has done for me on the job and on this journey. Blanche, however, is something else. It may be as simple as the fact that no one has intruded on her since I took ownership. I’ve had no men in this space (as lovers or love interests) and all my daily tasks take place within: cooking, sleeping, bathing, and most of all, writing.

From the first night in this little, fiberglass bubble, I felt utterly at home. I felt and feel as if I have wanted this all my life—to have my world condensed in this way while at the same time having the world outside completely opened up to me.

I have bored a hole in the universe and it is all mine. I can hover around this little hideaway and scare away interlopers and retreat within with Sammy and feel at peace.

After two years, I am home. After forty years?

Night Shift: the Anxiety of Staying Put

Last night, the world was silent, still, and dark in the state park I camped in with Sammy, Blanche, and Betty.* So dark I couldn’t see the RV parked next to me just fifty feet away.

If I walked to the edge of the lake, lights from small-town enclaves pierced the darkness at the lake’s perimeter and stars punched holes in the sky, but to see the ground in front of me required a bright flashlight beam. Thus far, parks and roadside campgrounds have been blessedly light-free.

Trees in Lake Whitney

Tonight, I am “camped” outside a business in a suburb of Dallas. (Permission of the proprietors) Brilliant security lights make reading possible through Blanche’s largest window and freeway traffic noise is as constant and thunderous as a storm day on the Surfside revetment. But I have power, a full water tank, and safety, and I am only a thirty-minute drive from my grandchildren.

I appreciate this brief way station and the reduction in costs it allows. Dallas isn’t exactly a haven for campers. Campgrounds I might have chosen were either priced higher than I prefer to pay currently or had, shall we say, issues. Add to that the significant distance from my family and the idea of setting up in those places was unappealing at best. Nor would Blanche fit comfortably, even for a short time, in East Dallas neighborhood streets.

So here we are, listening to the traffic storm and looking at the patterns in the ceiling carpet.

Ok, so there’s no pattern. It’s just beige carpet. There’s not much to look at, it turns out. Sleep would probably come if I were actually sleepy.

Sleep might come if I could shut my mind off and stop worrying:

  • About all the things I cannot do and have not done. 
  • About all the people I have disappointed or have disappointed me.
  • About time and the cruel forward motion of it. 
  • About his moss agate eyes.
  • About how none of this really matters. Not him. Not time. Not my failures or that of others. Not traffic noises in a lot behind a business. Not stars nor darkness nor silence. 

None of it matters. When I am dust, I will simply be dust. 

Cheerful meandering, eh?

I awaken to brilliant North Texas sunlight and blue skies, a brisk breeze, and the kind of space within which I can take care of life’s tasks that get set aside on the road: my old phone needs attention, Blanche had an injured turn indicator, I need items from shops not available in tiny rural towns that have only convenience stores and local diners.

My mood shifts slightly if only because to survive, to keep going yet another day, I have these things to do: little errands that hopefully won’t smack my bank account too hard.

It isn’t being alone that strains me or even lost relationships or love. Those are the rocks and potholes on the road. It is the inevitability of failure drummed into me since I was a child: “Come on, baby. You’re smarter than that.” “You’re intelligent. You just have no common sense.” “Darling, you forgot x again.” “You’re so intelligent. Why aren’t you more motivated?” That last while putting constraints on how I could use my education.

It isn’t the road I’m on that beats me down. It’s the road that came before.

I’m exhausted from the voices of my past. The voices of my future don’t stand a chance.

Unlike all the people around me lecturing me on how to move forward and how to find strength, I can’t quiet those voices. I try every day with new efforts and goals, but every night the darkness (no matter how well lit by security lights or stars) reminds me I am still me and I have only come so far and have so far to go with yet so little time left ahead.

I want to end this entry on some pithy, upbeat note. Some motivational preciousness that will redeem my mood for those of you who will tell me to put on a smile or “let go and let God.” Compartments, again.

I am, perhaps, a writer for the very reason that I can’t do those things. I can’t pretend I have no discernible income. I can’t pretend my heart isn’t scarred. I can’t pretend I believe I will survive despite staring down the barrel of 60 and having nothing to show for it save a higher education and a dog companion.

So I wrote this and y’all just have to take the agonizing posts with the pithy and hopeful.

*I’ve finally named my bicycle: JT (based on the brand and model). Now all pets and vehicles are officially named and as such are dependents that require I keep going.

Capturing Eruptions: Examining Catharsis Again

My poetry was recently described by a friend as “[capturing] the moment feelings erupt.”

That striking (and much appreciated) description must have become imbedded in some bit of my cerebral cortex or drowned in neurotransmitter soup, for as I’ve continued to throw those feelings onto my phone and create still more poetry, I’ve also become acutely aware of the process again.

Her statement made me question why both the intensity of the writing and the recollection of its inspiration don’t leave me in tears in these moments of creation.

Writing drafts has never done so. Going as far back as childhood when I wrote about the deaths of pets and fears of nuclear war, there was no sobbing, raging, or even quiet despair as I composed.

The reason, I determined in the last few days, is two-fold:

One, the words themselves are the grief, the anger, the healing, not just symbols or metaphors for these emotions. As I place these expressions on the screen, I am literally doing just that. I am not just representing those feelings, but allowing my thumbs to transfer “here is my anger/hurt/pleasure” to a screen. It is the electronic equivalent of hitting the person I’m angry with, hugging the person I ache for, reveling in the presence of beauty. It is just as real and tangible to me as those physical actions.

Two, when I am creating something, a poem or a blog entry (which can often be as emotive as a poem), I am focused on the process. It is somewhat akin to how we say we get our best ideas in the shower, while driving, or taking walks. The focus on the screen, on the words, on finding the precise word that best expresses something, is meditative. It is the honing of a fine blade or the counting of cross-stitches. The mind is working a task, but the form is not yet whole.

Surely, some writers experience this process a la Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give: blubbering and raging while they scribble or type. There is no one-size-fits-all for creators and no right or wrong way. I am simply observing that for me, the outward physical expression only comes when I survey the entire work. I have assembled the puzzle and in seeing the complete image, can step back and realize, oh yes, this is what that experience did to me.

Once the entire work lies before me, my feelings can erupt, and often do, in response to those words, just as they did at some point during the actual events.

Care to share your emotional response with regard to your process?

Writing in a Mobile Age: A Dinosaur Learns a New Trick

I am fifty-seven. I grew up in a time of pencils, ballpoints, fountain pens, and typewriters.

I have, in the past, used (preferred) pencil or pen on legal pads to compose stories or poems. I felt that push and pull of the writing instrument on the page to be inspiring and rewarding.

In recent years, I would hear about young people composing entire chapters of novels on their phones and think they were absolutely insane. How can you track, mentally and mechanically, your ideas on a tiny screen? How can you be connected to your words and their taste, smell, texture, when you are clicking on glass that has almost no tactile feedback at all?

Then, in 2019, I had a crisis in my twenty-nine year marriage and couldn’t sit still. Couldn’t watch tv. Couldn’t read a book. Couldn’t write a letter. Yet, the emotions of the crisis were vast and overwhelming. How do I deal with them?

I picked up my phone one day while out on the deck overlooking the beach and allowed my thumbs to skip over the glass.

In moments, I had the first poem I had written in years. The next day, another. Then a blog entry. Then another. Then more poems.

So many words I had contained for months (in some cases years) were spilling out of me. I was feeling, if not full relief, at least not so bundled up in pain.

I was surprised at just how much I connected with the words. How quickly they fell onto the screen and how cleanly they fell. At times, they felt (and still feel) much like they had in my youth, as if I was not the one writing them at all but some greater force had taken over (and I am not the spiritual sort).

I still write with my pens and pencils. I edit with my favorite fountain pens and bright, cheerful inks. However, the best flow comes on the little 3”x 6.25” computer in my hand.

This blog entry began its life just so. All my blog posts now begin and are fleshed out on my phone, move to my laptop, are sometimes printed for review/editing, then are posted.

Somehow, it connects. Somehow, I still sense these words as I did when writing with pen and paper. I still feel as linked to the words, ideas, and emotions as I ever did through a nib on fiber. I am a bit humbled by this realization. I am fifty-seven and I have been forced to recognize that art is not lost or bastardized in or by technology despite the protests of many of my generation (I am on the Boomer cusp). At the same time, I hope this also shows that we are not all floundering dinosaurs, insisting that “the old way is best.” Nor is the new way superior. It’s the typewriter vs. computer argument of old which was once the pen vs. typewriter argument. And that was once the quill vs. fountain pen argument.

Ultimately, the way that works best is the way that works for the individual in the moment. When my heart was calmer I could sit in a quiet room with those seemingly gentler implements and “compose.” Now, in this moment of my life, my heart is panicky and wild and my thumbs need to spatter my creations across the glass instead.

The Thing: Compartments, Poetry, and Brain Soup

My ex always said he could compartmentalize his thoughts. This allowed him to set aside external stresses and go about his day. It allowed him to simply close his eyes and sleep at night within seconds. Another man recently expressed this to me, as well, in reference to his own daily stresses and trauma.

I used to think it was just a way to excuse not showing concern for others or not consider my feelings in conflicts, but probably it is a real thing. Some people can just shut off parts of their life or mind and focus on the less emotional tasks at hand.

I can’t. I have a mind that is the opposite of compartmented. If something gets in there—if something worries me, hurts me, or even brings me great joy—it saturates everything I think and do. I will think about that concern, hurt, or joy throughout my day, whether it be personal, political, or spiritual. As I wash dishes, fold laundry, walk the dog, work, attempt to sleep: every task is bathed in a soup of “but what about this thing that is pressing on or filling my spirit?”

I don’t know if this is the bane of the writer or if this is what makes writers, painters, etc., turn to their craft in the first place. I only know that, try as I might, I can’t set aside these thoughts. They turn into words. For some writers they turn into voices or characters. Lately, they have spilled onto the page or screen as poems in a vain (both meanings) effort to rid the mush that is my brain of these racing, raging, craving thoughts.

Poetry thus has become a highly selfish exercise for me. I might spend days honing a single poem of a few lines, not because I care what others think, but because it must express exactly what I am trying to communicate. I don’t care if you understand what I have written. I care that what I have written completely expresses the bath of hot confusion in which my brain is swimming.

If I write:
“This love is—lacuna”

I didn’t write “this love is an empty space” because I don’t mean it is an empty space.

I meant, “this love is an empty space, a hole in my bones, holes in my every tissue.” Lacuna.

Bone structure. Bone tissue close-up. Osteoporosis.

If someone has to look up “lacuna,” I don’t care.

If they don’t want to look it up, I don’t care.

I am not writing my poetry to please others. I am not writing my poetry to make the world a safer place for readers of poetry. If I’m lucky enough to reach anyone, that’s lovely. But that’s not my goal.

I am writing my poetry because I have no lacunae in my brain. I have no spaces or compartments to stash how I feel about someone or something. I can’t simply lock those things away and go on with my day. The closest I come to that is when I’ve had a couple of beers and, even then, it’s all I can do not to crawl inside myself and think of the thing that is in there, whatever that thing may be.

I sometimes envy the two men mentioned above and anyone else who puts the events of their lives in neat, little boxes while they function seemingly normally.

But, sometimes I wonder what will happen if all their neat boxes suddenly break open.