“Revising It Into Something I Can Bear” by Lisa Mecham

September 29th, 2017

Originally published at The Shallow Ends, you can read Lisa Mecham’s poem here.

This poem is small and tight on the page, contained in relatively short lines of even length (4 – 6 words; 4 – 8 syllables) so that it appears as a short column. This sense is enhanced by the first line, “What if instead, a cathedral”, making us think of literal cathedral columns. The title tells us that whatever “it” is, it is painful to the speaker (unbearable), and the poem will be an attempt to recast this “it” into something the speaker can bear to look at. The first lines fulfill this expectation with the gentle imagery of “cherubs and doves, glass stained.” But the poem introduces a shiver with the next lines -

My small back
cool upon the smooth
stones.” -

which both continue with a gentle imagery of smooth stones and allow a glimpse of the unbearable the poem is seeking to revise – “my small back” gives us an image of a child, and in light of the title we begin to suspect the harm done to this child that the poem does not say. This double vision continues with the lines

Look! I too can make
an angel, arms, legs cast
apart.”

I simultaneously imagine a child making snow angles and a child spread-eagle in a sexual position: the bearable and the unbearable contained in the same lines the way the picture on a tilt card changes with just a slightly different angle. It’s an extraordinary line doing double-work, carrying two completely different meanings with it, both of which are essential to the poem. The childlike innocence of a snow angel cannot be sustained, the shadow is always there -

My sweet one, this baptism
is always gonna hurt.
” -

and the poem which started out reimagining the scene ends with not being able to look away from

“the oval mouth
at the rise of the child’s why.”

 

Blog version which point-0?

July 29th, 2017

Trying, once again, to revitalize this space. Maybe I will re-create this blog as I re-create myself: six months out from my thesis presentation and one month out from the formal graduation ceremony, I am now a post-MFA-er trying to establish and hold on to the rhythms of a post-MFA creative life, to hold on to that community and to join the larger creative community as well. Freed from the beneficial tyranny of deadlines, will I write more? Less? Differently? Freed from the beneficial tyranny of reading lists, will I read more? Less? Differently?

At any rate, I doubt I have a reader left in the world – freed from an audience, let’s see what happens.

What I’m reading now:

This essay by Adrienne Raphel on the 50th anniversary of the publication of M.S. Merwin’s The Lice. “The most frightening aspect of The Lice,” Raphel writes “is its brutal cyclicality. We have felt these bruises before, felt them disappear, and then been re-bruised.” And it is now my dearest wish that my poetry manuscript one day ends up in Merwin’s compost heap. Read the essay – you’ll understand.

Forest Primeval, always, always Forest Primeval by Vievee Francis. This book has changed my poetry in ways I can hardly describe. I turn to Vievee’s work again and again for lessons in writing into discomfort.

Female Dragonflies Fake Sudden Death to Avoid Male Advances” by Ava C. Cipri in Stirring: A Literary Collection. “Dragonfly, girl, I feel you.”

 

 

Oh, boys. And oh boy.

January 27th, 2012

Playdate Friend is over this afternoon – over right now, in fact – and he, SB, and Boychen are raising a ruckus and a half. They played hockey down in the garage for awhile, and did you know that the sound of three boys happily playing hockey in the garage is a dead ringer for the sound of three boys killing each other in the garage? Yes, really. Now they’re playing with dinosaurs, and you know dinosaurs are loud, right, with the roaring and the eating and the running away shrieking, right?

They are loud, my children. Playdate Friend too, who likes to complain about how loud Boychen is (and Boychen is loud – I’m beginning to think we should have his hearing checked because the child is loud) without realizing that he himself is not exactly the quietest earplug in the box.

* * *

Last night waiting to get on the ice for the hockey school the Juniors were warming up. They were doing jump squats while holding a medicine ball, ten in a row, and then after the tenth they handed the medicine ball to the next guy in line and  jumped five hurdles. Not the way runners jump, but from a dead stop. It made me tired just to watch them and made me once again marvel that my boys – my crazy running down the hall pretending to be dinosaurs eating each other boys – are going to turn into men. It’s the chest and shoulders that kill me, the way the boys suddenly fill out, get tall and broad. SB just grows up and up, he’s so wiry and lean I can’t picture him filling out at all.

* * *

I suspect SB’s hockey coach wants to build a goalie out of him. From his birthdate, he’s the perfect pick once the two Bambini boys who are goalies now age into the next group. I don’t know how I feel about this.

* * *

I’m definitely burning the candle at both ends these days. I am tired, so tired, and yet I’m also having fun – the hockey school, making friends with other parents of kids who play with SB, a poetry workshop and lots of drafts coming along – but I am so tired. I need a vacation. (I suspect some of the letting the world rub me the wrong way is a symptom/warning sign of stress.) This can’t go on much longer. Hockey school ends in just over a month, which I am both looking forward to and regretting, as this whole concept of having work colleagues is new and wonderful to me; I think the benefits of the fun I’m having outweigh the added crazy to my schedule, but the crazy is taking its toll.

American football, Swiss-style

April 17th, 2011

The New York Times has an article about the American Football League in Switzerland, but long-time readers might remember I blogged about it first.

Swiss, French, Italian readers please help spread the word about these missing twin girls

February 7th, 2011

Could you Switzerland, France, and Italy based readers please help spread the word about these missing twin 6 year old girls from Switzerland. I’m calling on those three groups in particular because the girls are from Switzerland, they were possibly in Marseille with their father a week ago, and their father committed suicide in the south of Italy Feb 3.

You can find more information, including pictures of the girls, here.

Please.

Blog Carnival

December 18th, 2010

The second Language>Place blog carnival is up, and I’m thrilled that my post “Expat Thanksgiving. And Pie.” has been included in the round-up of posts from, and about, around the world. Check out all the pieces here.

Springtime in the city

April 29th, 2009

Bern is a green city, a blooming and blossoming city. There are chestnut trees and lillac bushes, apple trees and blossoming trees and shrubs of all description. It is one of the reasons I love living here; in the middle of my busy urban neighborhood with the butcher and the grocery store and the coffee shops and the whole foods shop on the corner there are crows and magpies and all manner of green things.

There is also pollen.

Randomness and the odd attachment to a machine

March 25th, 2009

It’s official. My hard-drive is fried and R has given up working on it and has gone ahead and ordered me a new one. It should arrive by the weekend and early next week I’ll have my old computer back. I’m looking forward to it. I didn’t lose anything because of our backup system and I haven’t been left without a computer – and a laptop at that – but I’ve had a hard time working on this machine and not just because the European keyboard keeps me backtracking and searching for the apostrophe. I have a hard time doing thoughtful work on this loaner because it’s a loaner. It all feels so strange and temporary and unreal. I’m using notebooks for my poetry but I’ve been reluctant to blog from this computer. How strange that a hunk of wire and sturdy plastic has become a comforting item.

Disconcerting, too, and a wake-up call not to get attached to the tools.

* * *

R is taking a little getaway to recover after writing his master’s thesis while holding down a full-time job and never once shirking on the homefront.

* * *

R and I recently decided that we should each get at least one solo vacation a year. I’m thinking Prague. Talk to me, readers, about Prague. (Especially you.)

* * *

A journal that passed on a poem seven months ago emailed me out of the blue and said they’d like to use it in an upcoming themed edition. Seven months. An editor remembered a poem of mine for seven months. There is a wrinkle I need to smooth out, but at any rate it’s flattering.

* * *

I hope to get out of the short snippets mode soon, I really do.

Luck, pure and simple

February 25th, 2009

I’m not worried. Let me start by saying: I am not worried.

I spent the day in the pediatric emergency room watching The Boychen get rehydrated; Boychen is staying overnight, on a glucose drip, and right now R is with him and I am getting some rest and I am not worried. I’m not worried because he’s in the hospital, because he is hooked up to an IV-drip, because he is being observed. Because we have health insurance and money in the bank if we didn’t. Because we live five minutes from one of the best hospitals in Switzerland. Because they have a bed for him. Because they have sterile equipment and glucose solution and clean water when he is ready to try to take tea. Because we live here, in this place, in this time.

My son is beautiful. I am biased, of course, because I am his mother, but truly the Boychen is beautiful. It’s a rare cashier who can resist flirting with him when we go shopping, a cold bus passenger indeed who can fail to respond to his smile. My son is beautiful, and happy, and because I am his mother I think he is special beyond all reckoning. And he is going to be fine, and I am not worried.

But there is a beautiful happy boy somewhere, a boy who is special beyond all reckoning, who is not going to be okay. There’s a boy somewhere who started throwing up about the same time Boychen did. Who this morning couldn’t even keep a single soup spoon of plain water down. Who sometime between yesterday and today stopped making tears. Who doesn’t have the strength to hold his torso up. And he’s not going to be okay. He doesn’t live five minutes from the hospital. And they don’t have glucose solution and even if they did they don’t have clean catheters to put in a peripheral IV line. And he’s not going to be okay.

Luck. The sheer stupid dumb luck of fate that falls in our favor. I’m not a better mother and my son isn’t a sweeter child. We’re just luckier. We live where we live; in a world where that sort of thing matters very much, we live down the street from one of the best hospitals in Switzerland. That is why Boychen is going to be okay. That is why I am not worried.

I can’t let go of that tonight. That had I been born in a different place, I would be holding my limp boy, special beyond all reckoning, trying to get him to keep some water down, and worrying. Worrying very, very much.

The sheer stupid dumb luck of it all.

The first word

January 3rd, 2009

Goals, resolutions. Lists. I love them. I may break them but I can’t help but make them. I love a new calendar, an empty journal, a clean page. The first day of the year – for that matter the first minute of the day if I could only wake up every day remembering this - is like the first word of a poem. It’s just starting and there is that tingling feeling in my brain and my heart and my fingers that tells me the poem is going somewhere and there is the whole rest of the page to fill and I’m writing with a new pen. The first word…a poem could take off in any one of a dozen different directions after that first word, the lines skittering off like rabbit tracks in the snow. The first day…a year could go anywhere starting from that first day.

Here’s where I want my year to go:

  • Write (at least) fifty-two poems
  • Send out (at least) twelve submission packages. At least ten of these need to be realistic journals but once or twice I can shoot for the moon.
  • Subscribe to four new journals
  • Attend one writing workshop, retreat or class
  • Read (at least) twelve new collections

The goals are mine, the specificity comes from January’s suggestions on meeting your writing goals. Specificity is a good thing. Numbers are reassuring. I’ve written one poem already, and I’ve smiley-faced it off my list.

The first word. The first word is the best word, because anything can happen next.