Everything is so quiet and so very loud. Each step I take is labored, heavy and uncertain. I haven’t written much at all this year, or submitted or had much published, but today I opened my email to a lovely surprise. Issue 3 of Orange Blossom Review came out yesterday, and I am honored to have one of my poems in its virtual pages, amongst the work of so many talented writers. If you want to take a peek at the issue, you can so here.
I am in the grip of a storm. I don’t do well in a storm. I can barely breathe, barely blink. I am drowning. I have forgotten that I am supposed to keep my eye on the surface, stretch to the moon, take hold of happiness no matter how fleeting. I have lost the words, lost the feeling in my fingers and in my bones. I am a stranger. I am about to turn 50 and I am a stranger in a body I loathe and abuse. I don’t recognize the shape of my mouth or this new sadness that slashes it. I have been waiting a lifetime for it all to get easier, just a bit easier. It just gets harder, creaks, shrieks, breaks. I am not who I was supposed to be. I can’t remember where I was lost or when I gave up on being found. I try to smudge out my reflection, fracture it, run from it, pretend that I am not this frail flesh, this breaking heart, this ugliness. I try to write poems, but they are empty, made of air, burn up before they can draw breath.
Joe and I have lived in our apartment together for almost 10 years (he lived here 4 years before I moved in) and periodically, we rearrange the furniture. We love it. It makes the apartment feel brand new. It may seem like a stretch, but when I was thinking about my writing the other day, and how much I have been floundering, I drew a parallel in my mind to rearranging the furniture. When Joe and I start feeling a bit stuck in our apartment, we move things around and clean inside corners that have been long ignored, and we both feel refreshed. Our most recent rearrange was to move Joe’s desk into our second bedroom, creating an office for him, which means our formerly shared space (what is meant to be a dining area) has become mine. We were both excited for the change, but (here is where the writing connection comes in) it also ended up shining a light on how much I haven’t been writing. Continue reading “Rearranging the Furniture”
In a split second, the weight of my mind can become unbearable. The feeling of my skin disgusts me. I remember everything that makes me ugly, all the anger and how I have hurt people. I start thinking about everything I have lost. I weave myself into the fabric of lies I believe in, as if they are prophecy. I become the nightmare. I become the noise. Continue reading “I Become the Noise”
Lately, I am a blade on the wind. Unsteady. Damaging. I am trapped in the clutches of an elixir that lies. I swallow the murmurs of depression with bottles of wine and bags of crisps, but can’t ever fully escape the noise. It sits heavy in my belly and pushes out through my skin. I wear it in my poems about fat girls and self loathing. I hold it against the roof of my mouth and in my clenched jaw, trying not to wake up. Trying not to see. Continue reading “Swallowing Voices”
I have been away, under the skin of darkness. I intended to bring along pen and paper, do a bit of blood-letting, record my thoughts; instead, I brought a bottle, numbed out and dreamed of becoming someone else. I curled up against the edges of my eyes and saw things I knew were lies, but I didn’t care. I forgot about plotting my escape and let the stillness eat me up.
Continue reading “The Return of Darkness”
I have had the good fortune, in my writing life, of having mentors who chose to share parcels of writing advice that I keep with me as I travel this crazy path I have chosen. I know I will have more wisdom imparted to me as the years pass, that I will seek it out from other writers and editors. I have realized that, although being a writer is such an isolated act, we cannot do it alone or completely without guidance. We all have our own writing process and practice, our individual voices, but we also need each other. I thought I would write some posts and share some of the things that have been passed on to me; spread the proverbial wealth. The things I share may be things that are obvious to most, but maybe there is someone who will read this and benefit, someone like me, who didn’t take the traditional writing education route.
In 2015, I started writing (poetry) seriously, after a very long dry spell, and decided to start sending my work out into the world again. I had been pretty prolific in my early 20’s, writing a lot and sending my work out a lot, even getting a few things published, but then I stopped and 20 years went by. When I began the process of researching magazines and journals, I looked for places that were open to emerging writers and had the good fortune of finding a journal with a poetry editor who would change my writing life. Heather was the first editor to whom I submitted after my long hiatus, and to my absolute joy and surprise, she accepted 3 of my poems for publication. We formed a friendship and she went on to start her own journal and to publish more of my poems, but she didn’t accept everything I sent her.
For her own journal, she would occasionally put out a themed call for submissions, and one of those themes was mental illness. In response, I wrote a poem about depression, which I felt was full of rich description and feeling. She rejected it. I can’t deny I was a bit surprised, but because I was fortunate to have become friends with Heather, she gave me a critique, and along with it a piece of advice that I will never forget. She told me that a mentor of hers had offered up this phrase, “Beware the adjective”.
I was slightly horrified. She wanted me to what? To strip the adjectives from my poem? But, the adjectives were what made the poem come alive…..or so I thought. I went back to my poem, and with much hesitation, took out the adjectives. As I rewrote the piece and figured out how to say what I wanted without relying on adjectives, I saw the poem come to life and take on a sense of motion that the adjectives had actually slowed.
In usual form, I went wild with this new information and proceeded to strip adjectives from all of my poems, rewriting like mad. It was actually fun and exciting to see how my poetry changed, but I had to get my feet back on the ground and realize that Heather wasn’t suggesting I completely strip the adjectives from my poetry, just tread carefully around them. Adjectives can be great when used sparingly in poems, but they can also get in the way of what a poem is really trying to say.
The poem she rejected is called, “Peach Pit Heart” and the revised version, relieved of the burden of (some of) its adjectives, was later published in Literary Juice, and again recently on Morality Park.
I am still working on my relationship with adjectives, but, “Beware the Adjective”, is something I will forever have in my writing arsenal. If it seems too harsh, perhaps, “tread lightly around the adjective” will work better for you.
Today began long before it should have. I woke up with that feeling that always returns, that feeling of my breath being unbearably heavy in my chest. I begin to question everything. I become saturated in the desire to disappear. What seemed clear yesterday reveals itself as a lie. Who I thought I could be is so far out of reach and I want to tear my skin off, trade in my heart and my mind, transform into a clean slate. The weight is unbearable. The weight of my body and my thoughts. The same phrase loops over and over in my mind, the thought I have had since I was a child….I can’t do this anymore. Continue reading “Cloaked”
I linger on the outside of everywhere. I am a skulker, a bone shucker, a fraud. I slip behind curtains, under floorboards, into panes of glass that mute my words. I am awkward and stumble more than I stand tall. I am late to the gathering, last to get the joke, the one in the corner feeling confused. I am hollow, looking for substance, failing. I am fleeting, a pale representation, a liar. I am a nail biter torn to the quick. I am clamor and catastrophe in the flick of a switch. You are my captor, my captivator, my annihilator. You are the steely grip of an unblinking gaze. You are my habit, my protector, you pull the strings. I will always surrender. You will always win.