Poetry is purposeful. It’s like a very long breath after having been underwater. One doesn’t write poetry like prose is written, or at least, if they do, they’ve ascended to a level of existence that I won’t understand.
Poetry is not the quick-fingered composition of a novel or a blog post at the keyboard. Sometimes, it is a pen-in-hand, blank-stared emptiness that is only broken by the first stroke of ink on the secure page of a journal. One must slow down to a quarter the speed of life to process what needs written, to place words precisely at the end and the beginning of each line like the zig-zag thread of a repairing stitch on the heart. One must write to the rhythm in their heads, lest it get over-excited and run off the page and into their life.
I find that when I’m not writing poetry, I’m not slowing down. I’m not processing, not enjoying, not being grateful for the minutia of a life as blessed as mine. I once wrote an entire poem about Parker’s freckles, another about the fans of wrinkles beside his eyes when he laughs. I’ve written pour-me-out poems that delve deeper than I wanted to be dug into, that extricated the tumorous glob of untapped bitterness that turned into some of the greatest works I’ve ever made. But, to find that tumorous glob is pain.
I feel that every writer, once something good is written, fears that they will never again write its equal. They’ve finally hit the bottom of the well, and no more magic waters will fill it. There is nothing left to draw on. Of course, sometimes, when the poet feels as if the well is empty, they stand on the porch in the west Texas summer, they see a bird that dips, hovers, and spins, its fan-shaped tail like the oar of a boat, and the sky is its ocean. A poet looks at a bird, painting the sky with movement and the delight of freedom and finds that nothing within herself matters more than the flight of a bird in summer time. Not in that moment.
I think the key to being joyful is pausing. Slowing down. I may not even realize that Parker has freckles on his cheeks until I stop and trip, mentally, on his bodacious eyelashes. Then, a whole epic could be written about the construction of those freckles into constellations, map-markers of adventures in the sunshine.
Of course, sometimes poetry is like drawing blood. The blood that’s tainted that keeps pumping back through the poet’s heart cannot continue to live in the bloodstream. It must be drawn out and given its place on the page. Once the cancerous blood is allowed its seat of honor on its own page in the journal, the joy returns then, too. I paused and respected the wish of the pain to be let loose, and it respected me in return.
I, the poet, and many other pausers and writers do not often give enough effort in our emotional extrications. We may glimpse the cancerous tumor and allow it to continue blowing itself up like an alcohol-imbibed liver because it will not be fun to really give it the attention it asks for. We also do not want to be joyful in our writing because it would require that slowed down time. It would require the effort of scavenging for the satisfactions that lay like perfect autumn leaves on a bed of lesser ones.
I wish to pinch the red maple leaf with its fine points and webbed veins in between the pages and preserve it for another lifetime. It is beautiful, after all.