Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stay in the Room

You get to the hard edge of the song and it's embarrassing how wet with grief you are, and at the same time lonely, and on fire with longing. It's a bitch. You want to get up and go to bed, nap all afternoon, see a movie. There's laundry in the other room, and the dishes from breakfast. And lunch. And then, well . . . . that line in the fourth verse, it just won't come right.

I told my niece the other day that I know a poem is right when I blush to the roots of my hair. Poetry is not nice. It oysters all over the room, leaving prints, slime, gashes, echoing in the stairwell, reminding you, pulling out stuff you haven't looked at in years. Uh oh. Gads. Not that again.

And going to readings? Same thing. Last night during Big Tall Poet's reading I was suddenly ready. It felt like all my cells opened their arms and let the music wash in like ocean. What was it I scribbled on a scrap in my pocket? The lines arrive upon me like the slow beginning of a turn. I was so caught up in the song and the rhythm of Big Poet's voice that when Poet-Painter Friend who had come with me whispered something, it sounded like "I've got two offices full of panties at the moment..." What?!

Paintings. Now what the hell was running through the air in that room? I heard somewhere once that a good poem makes you vulnerable to your own joy and exuberance. Like a good friend does. And what are friends for but to surround you. Just that. Nothing else.

And my unfinished poem at home on the table, with troubled lines all through it. I'd fled it to go to the reading. The second reader gave us a chapter out of his book. One paragraph stuck, about some kid wanting to be outside in the first rain of the monsoon season more than he wanted to argue and kiss with his girl. He said: We don't write letters anymore... And immediately I fumbled for a pen in my pocket, scribbled some notes for a letter. Just for that, I wanted to holler out. JUST for THAT!

And Tall Poet's Voice rumbled on like going over one of those old plank bridges in a van. It made me thirsty, and the palms of my hands itch. And after he was done I drank down the whole bottle of water they'd given him, bought his album and one of his books, stole away into the night, and began letting down my guard.

"Look out for my [joy and exuberance]; it's in your neighborhood.." (some Neil Young lines, tweaked for my own purposes...) Words are spells. I walked home spell-bound, dazzled, the tectonic plates of my body shifting. When I give a reading, I sneak up on the audience completely naked inside, and bullet my words across the seats so that sparkle can sift slowly down onto the people who came to hear. They come because they want to be held. And reminded. Poked in the sore places until their eyes are a mush.

I went home to my poem, heavy at heart even though sand was shifting somewhere in my body, a door that'd just slammed shut stopped reverberating all down the hallway and another softly opened a crack, letting in prickly new air.

Trudging in the door I saw the pages still on the table. I sat down to them, and reached inside my coat, pulled out a scrap of paper and read: Stay in the room with it. Stay with it until you can let it go. And tears began to soak my cheeks, glistening in the low yellow light.