Follow Harriet on Twitter
The one thing
“The poet has only one thing to write, and does so for the lifespan of the poet, the one thing is—the writing,” lines from a poem of mine on Flaubert. A timely reference for my year-end summation coming through filters of my own divination—the weight of a cycle’s return, adding volume to a prophesy already laid bare. So when I got laid off last week, my immediate reaction wasn’t panic but resolve—a renewed sense of diligence towards what lies ahead. Including getting this post on Harriet before the decade leaves (my priorities are intact), having just arrived from family time in Florida minus computer or email. A field of snow, waiting for my gloved and suddenly unemployed hands. I’ve toyed with the idea of leaving my career in advertising for the past few years anyway…teaching perhaps, knowing my income would reflect the reality of following my heart. My sister once said to be a poet is to walk in your calling, a faith-inspired message when I was down but a true one still. Giving workshops over many years has framed my practical experience into intense weekend or weeknight bursts instead of full semesters. And though I love that transfer of information between open beings, and witnessing a nascent process blossom, I never made the change—holding on to an edge of my own creation. And this edge would be “the writing” in the aforementioned first line. The one thing that makes me—in my lifespan…another poet working outside poetry. But you don’t get fired from poetry…you’ve gotta really piss off the canon for that to happen I guess. Poetry doesn’t let you go. So the definition of career and life becomes a blurred encounter. I stopped telling my co-workers about my readings years ago, it was too stressful. I’d see them the day after a reading in the company hallways, both of us embarrassed that they had missed it. Even after they had promised to see me, and couldn’t wait and boy now I’ll hear what all the fuss is about…better to keep careers separate. All likelihood points to another few years in advertising…given current economics, etc. But there’s a weightless imperative beckoning some risk, i.e. how often are you given a chance for a new start. Without losing my head, over the next few months, it’ll be time to re-address steps taken, jeer into the gyre once again. My little boy received his first telescope—a pure novelty if we were still in the city but a revelation out here in open skies. A sign maybe, through him as always, that the new thing to see is under your nose, over your head, far away. “Singular and infinite, the poet writes the poet, over and over.”
The ladybugs descend upon our house in the thousands during October and disappear into the woodwork until Spring. During winter, when the wood stove gets going, when there’s heat to be had, they emerge—hibernating little wonders, appearing on a window, a towel, my laptop screen lit from behind. A bit of magic in a snowstorm. The isolation we’ve endured among the trees is like when you turn off all the room noise and your ears keep ringing. You can’t escape from yourself when there’s nothing distracting you. Our time away from the city has healed, wounded, done the matter needed for the body wanted. Without definition, a friend sent some lines from Thom Gunn which somehow fit; Though night is always close, / Complete negation / Ready to drop on wisdom and / Emotion, / Night from the air or the, / Carnivorous breath, / Still it is right to know the force of / Death, / And, as you do, persistent, tough / In will, / Raise from the excellent the better / Still. Do I leave you with this, humble reader? No…for I still have a few postings left, into mid-January. I’ll wake up tomorrow and the night will have happened, and what’s new will be as new as I needed new to be. If there’s a start beginning somewhere, let it know my name. And if a year is old, let it remember my bones, emerging like magic, between the lines.