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It’s 1:31 a.m….
…and I’m exhausted. But I’m sitting in front of my laptop, bleary-eyed, listening to a muted Lightnin’ Hopkins and staring at the 17th line of a poem that I’ve been working on for four years.
This profession–this writing of measured and meaningful lines–is for crazy people. I can hear the warm, contented snoozing of my husband and granddaughter, and I long to join them in the sleep of the blissfully unaware, but there’s this–line. I could forget it for now, sleep on it, but I can’t help feeling that I’m on the verge of a breakthrough. And after four years of nada breakthrough, I’m not about to doze off and miss the big moment.
I know that this line will complete the poem–finally–and that the poem has the potential to be a soul-shaker, a disturbance, a ripple in the cosmos. It’s like being on the verge of childbirth. It’s just that I’ve been in labor so long everyone’s lost interest. Before giving up on me an hour or so ago, the 12-year-old dismissed my delirium with an exasperated roll of her eyes and this oft-repeated phrase: “Oh, that poem. Grandma, it’s just a line.”
Just a line? They really don’t get it, do they? There’s absolutely no way to explain that nine words, tweaked mercilessly at least once a week for the past 1460 days, can feel so vital, so damned necessary, and not tomorrow, but right now. It’s like childbirth. You struggle and sweat to bring something into being. And once it’s there, out in the open air, you should feel relieved–but damned if you don’t miss the pain.