This is a poem I wrote last fall. The first section appears in Temple Ambler’s 2011 issue of Parable, so I thought I’d post the full version here (I wrote the rest of it after submitting to the magazine.) The formatting here is mostly right; I need to figure out how to make Tumblr format my writing the way I type it.
I Swore I Wouldn’t Spend Another Fall
I don’t want to say
“Lethargic,” because it’s not like I’m
Doing nothing. I just don’t have the drive
To drive from here to the bar
To hold a conversation.
And when I do make it out,
I sit lock-jawed at the dim-lit
Table in the back, waiting for someone
Else to initiate conversation.
And when they don’t,
So I stay at home
Sometimes; I stay in bed
Sometimes. I go whole days
But I write. And that
Counts for something, right? I
Write enough to make up for all
The things I don’t do.
Last weekend I wrote five
Sonnets in a day and twenty
Pages for my novel the next
Monday I was doing better:
Between pages I asked the coffee
-shop girl how her day had been.
I think I even smiled.
I don’t know what’s gotten
Into me, but I’m writing more
And faster and better
Than I ever have before.
Weekdays after school
And weekends before work,
I’m pouring out pages a day.
The last time I tried
To write something this immense,
It was an exercise
In frustration, patience,
Sporadic forward motion.
This story is almost writing
Itself; all I have to do is drink
My coffee and let it happen.
It’s an incredible process,
It’s all the excitement I have to
Look forward to, now that I’m
My progress these last few
Weeks has been astounding.
On my best days, I feel
Almost that the keyboard is an extension
of my fingertips, and my nerve endings
All run through my fingers into the
Wires and my thoughts spring into
Being wholly formed on my laptop screen –
And my hands always linger
For a moment when I try to pull them
Away. Other people say they get
And I’ve forgotten what that is,
But I’m almost certain it stems
From the distractions of speaking,
That take their minds
Off the only thing worth doing.
I wrote my first novel in three
Years, and my second
Will cost me only three
Of course I miss
You terribly, but I want you
To know that your going away
Was the best possible thing for me.
I never had this kind
Of dedication before.
I’ve lost five
More pounds this month.
Every day my body gets
A little smaller, and it’s that
Much easier to slip out of it
And back into my work.
My steady caffeine intake
Keeps my mind sharp, but some days
I can’t stand the cafe. I no
Longer have any way to drown
The cacophony out: I have
No money to replace my headphones.
My focus is assailed by the buzzing
Of human conversation,
By the distractions of mere life,
The speaking and eating and sleeping
That preoccupy those
With no higher aspiration.
I’m almost halfway finished
My object has changed:
It matters little to me at this point
Whether anyone ever reads this.
My aim is the process itself:
In writing, I think, I’m becoming
Something other than that which I am,
A being of pure intention,
Surpassing every concern of my flesh,
The lulling calls of sex and hunger,
The shackles of the mundane.
I want to write
I want these words
To brand themselves
On your retinas.
When you lie in bed,
Stomach churning with
Some ache whose cause
You do not know, remember:
I’m inside you, gnawing
Tunnels through your gut.
Those echoes of me –
My gaze, my taste, the threats
That plate my fingertips,
Will never leave you.
And if I ever become
A famous writer,
I want you to know I’m
Doing it so my voice
Will haunt you too.
I woke up in the early evening today
And got in my car and drove
And drove until I could see nothing
But an endless line of trees
Dressed up in the radiant colors
Of autumn and the radiant light of
The setting sun.
I haven’t been this awake
Since the last time I really slept;
I have a lot of catching up to do
On a lot of things, and rest seemed
Like as good a place as any to start.
You know as well as anyone
That I wasn’t always like this.
I used to smile more; I used
To be the opposite of who
I am here. I was deeply happy once,
And I’m going to do my best
To get back to that place.
When you left, or maybe
Before you left, you tore
A hole in me, but right now
It’s no one’s job but mine to mend it.
When you return, we’ll repair
Whatever we can, but until then I’m going
To rebuild myself as best I can manage.
Tomorrow I’ll neglect
My work to make conversation
At the cafe, and hell,
Maybe this time I’ll even laugh.