Taking stock

July 18th, 2008

Little Boy A is at the grandparents’ farm and Little Boy C is taking a nap. I make a cup of coffee and spread a sheaf of poems around me on the floor; the Tour de France runs in the background (in July a cyclist’s heart turns to France like a sunflower turning to the sun). I group the poems into two piles: “would be thoroughly horrified if I died and somebody found these and thought that was the sum total of my work” and “would not be horrified if I died and somebody found these and thought that was the sum total of my work.”* I move the cat, who is attracted to piles of paper laid deliberately on the floor as surely as if I had dipped them in tunafish, repeatedly. To my surprise, the “not horrified” pile outnumbers the “horrified” pile, but in all likelihood that is a function of my process: the truly horrifying poems have not been printed yet. They are still in the pen-and-paper stage.

I set aside the poems I’m not happy with (setting aside entirely the issue of whether I can ever be happy with a poem), concentrate on the ones I’m proud of. I sift them and sort them. I find common themes: poems inspired by old black-and-whites of my parents, my childhood, my fisherman father, infertility, motherhood, a pile that refuses classification. Several poems could fit in more than one pile. I have a pile of short poems like this and this that I’m pleased with. Of the poems I’m proud of my least favorite are my poems about motherhood – they fall so short of the true moment.

Why is that? The thing I want most to capture, the thing that pierces my heart, is the hardest to pin down.

* a distinction stolen, of course, from Anne Lamott