What you think I would have learned in my personal poetry 101

June 29th, 2008

I would know myself well enough to know that after two weeks of parenting these boys myself, my husband six time zones away; and the week before that two week trip he was gone more than usual; when ten days out of fourteen I had both boys in the bed with me (and somebody tell me, please, how a boy who is 68 centemeters long take up so much space); after I’d leaked tears in public and yelled at A in private; when the sleep deprivation is like grit in my eyes and a forest of ticks colonizing my nerve-endings; when all I want to do is hide in a closet with a nice bottle of red wine and a chocolate cake, fork optional; on this day of all days I would know better than to open the SASE from the magazine that was a long shot to begin with.

“Thanks for sending us your work, but it’s not right for [us].”

Parenthood and poetry. Two of the crueler gods in the pantheon. Yet both so beguiling. How can I not worship in their temples?

Swooning over this simile

June 27th, 2008

Listen to this line from The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon: “He checks behind the hot-water tanks, lashed to one another with straps of steel like comrades in a doomed adventure.”

Wow. Wow oh wow oh wow.


June 24th, 2008

I’m exhausted. My husband left for the US eleven days ago; I’ve been on my own with the boys since then and don’t expect him back until about noon on Saturday which suddenly seems like a long way off still. Beyond the physical exhaustion of parenting from just after six in the morning until eight at night – my three-and-a-half year old A is a non-napping early-riser – the emotional weight of being on call all the time is grinding me down. I’m tired of making all the decisions. I’m tired of being the sole disciplinarian. I’m tired of cooking dinner and distributing dinner and cleaning up dinner. I’m tired of giving baths and changing diapers. I’m tired of laundry. But most of all I’m tired of having to decide which child gets my attention and which one has to wait. I’m tired of saying not right now, in a minute, I’ll be right there, just as soon as I finish with your brother. I’m tired of always being the one letting somebody down, making somebody wait, listening to somebody cry. I’m tired of having to decide by myself how long to let C cry in his crib before I do or do not go rescue him. I’m tired of it being my fault that somebody is crying, that somebody is alone. I am tired of choosing between my sons.

It built up slowly, like being buried on the beach one grain of sand at a time. What’s one grain of sand, it weighs nothing, what’s one more grain of sand? But suddenly the weight of all those grains is compressing your chest and you can’t breathe and you can’t move and you’re buried, buried up to your neck and you don’t know how you got there and you can’t get out and all those grains of sand are so heavy. I’m up to my neck. I can’t stand another grain, I can’t stand another day of inadequately parenting my children.

How do single parents do this?

(If you’re wondering then how do I have the time to write this, it’s because my in-laws, bless their hearts, have taken A for a sleep-over and C is supposed to be falling asleep but there are an awful lot of tears involved and I’m trying to decide how long to let that go on and hoping that by the time I finish writing this the situation will have resolved itself.)

Protected: Lather, rinse, repeat

June 23rd, 2008

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:


June 18th, 2008

This week’s ReadWritePoem promt was a good exercise for me: take yourself out of the poem, let the narrator of the poem be somebody receiving a story rather than telling it. (You’ll notice I didn’t quite pull it off.)


Suppose I had looked right
instead of left that day.
Would he still have caught my eye,
taken my hand,
my life?
What would I be
if I’d looked right?

(It’s not something she should be asking

Suppose I had said no
instead of yes.
Woul have have asked again
Persisted, insisted on
Where would I be
if I’d said no?

(It’s not something I want to hear from

Suppose I had gone to college
instead of typing class.
Would I have had a sorority sister
a homecoming
a life?
Who would I be
if I’d gone?

(A good question, but not one to ask
your child)


You can read more stories here.

Who are you reading?

June 16th, 2008

A while back Poet Mom wrote this post about who the top selling poets in the US seem to be: either dead (Gibran, Whitman) or well-known (Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver). It wasn’t that Poet Mom was suggesting that the poets on the list aren’t quality poets, but that there are so many good contemporary poets writing today that don’t seem to get attention (to the extent that poets in modern America are getting any attention at all); that casual readers of poetry reach for names they’re familiar with and aren’t willing to read a new name in poetry the way they might be willing to read a new name in fiction.

Which got me wondering. Who are you reading these days? Who’s the last new – new to you, that is – poet you stumbled upon and how did you make the discovery? What’s the last book of poetry you bought? I’m reading Dorianne Laux and Anna Akhmatova at the moment. My most recent “discovery” is Jack Ridl; his poem “From our House to your  House” in the current issue of Poetry East spoke to me enough to inspire me to order his book Broken Symmetry, and while I was at it I also ordered this and this.

So tell me. Who do you like? Who do you read? Who’s on your “must read” list?


June 15th, 2008

My husband is out of the country for two weeks – in our old home town of Washington, DC, ironically enough – and I’m flying solo.

My three-year old doesn’t nap; he’s an early riser; we’re talking fourteen hour days here, people, and a six-month old who still wakes anywhere from two to four times a night. Two nights ago he slept from 10pm until 6am for the first time ever, but needless to say lightning did not stike twice. It’s ten minutes to nine and I’m going to bed. This post right here, this constitutes my me-time for the day. Bed calls.

She felt a tug at her shoulder,
but it was just the wind
pulling at a thread on her sweater.
She walked on
oblivious to her unravelling.

Like dragons in the sky

June 11th, 2008

Two fighter jets scream through the grey waiting for rain sky, their afterburners announcing themselves like dragons. Flying dragons. I point them out to my son, all excitement, tracing their receding shapes with my finger.

“Do you see them?” I ask my three-year old. “There!”

Teaching him the words “fighter jets” then telling him the German Kampfjets so that he can tell his grandfather what he saw. I do all this before I have time to reflect that – military blood on both sides of the family notwithstanding – I do not want him to think these dragons are exciting. The jets circle and pass again, a training exercise, two jets low and fast and close together sending a cry out over the sky that rumbles in the clouds like thunder long after they have passed from sight. Again, unbidden, I follow them with my finger as if painting their paths.

“Do you see them?” I ask my son.

“Ja! Ja! Fighter jets!” he answers.

This is how it begins, isn’t it, with these gestures that speak before we have time to form words. The body language of teaching, of impulse, of naming, of love. I give my son the names for his world, even these names – fighter jets, Kampfjets – for this imperfect world. Arming him with this one thing I can be sure of, these nouns and the pictures we can paint with them.

“Listen!” I say as the jets rumble off. “They sound like dragons in the sky.”

Protected: When I watch you

June 9th, 2008

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Four a.m.

June 5th, 2008

Jillypoet is writing a poem a day in June and inviting others to join her. I think I can try to write a poem a day in June – my husband will be out of the city for one week and then out of the country for the following two, so this is either a really good idea for my mental health or a really bad one – but I’m not sure I can commit to actually posting them every day. I’m happy to post pages from my notebook now and then, to work through the creative process in public on a poem here and there, but I’m not sure my fragile poet’s ego is prepared to post poem after poem that misses the mark, that dissatisfied me, that seems so pale compared to the colors in my head that I meant to describe. I took a long, long break from writing poetry and I’m so pleased it has come back to me like a homing pigeon bearing the answer to a missive I had forgotten I’d even sent. I don’t want to burden the poor thing with too many messages too fast. It was a long flight and my cooing bird needs to rest in its coop and get strong on sleep and grain.

I’ll do the writing, but I’m not brave enough to share it all. Not yet.

That said, I did write something this morning. Very. early. this morning.

You are incandescent
at four a.m.
even I
have to smile
rub sleep
from my eyes
give you my pinky
to chew
for awhile
in this minute
between dream
and day
at four a.m.