Saturday, August 14, 2004

Opening thoughts

Well, I've never blogged before. Maybe I'll start with a poem.


My word for son is gleam,
Like money,
Like his mouth right before a joke,
Like black piano keys.
It is also startle
And secret
And stands-up-in-his-shoes.
Sometimes it is

I wrote that one while I was teaching writing camp a couple of weeks ago. We were writing poems after Li-Young Lee's Words for Worry.
Sometimes what keeps me writing is to think of all the writers who've been brave enough to publish their work and have influenced me. Where would I be without Madeleine L'Engle, Dylan Thomas, A.A. Milne, Julia Cameron, Chaim Potok, Jane Yolen, Katherine Paterson, Beverly Cleary, Lewis Carroll, Barbara Kingsolver, Philip Yancey, William Shakespeare, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence? They have, each of them, grabbed me by the hand and taken me somewhere. Is that what literature is? A change in location? A wrinkle in time? When I begin to believe that my words mean nothing, that they are only useful for ordering my own disordered mind, I remember how the words of others have transformed me.
When I was a child, books were my favorite hiding place. Books contain something we need. Something good. Is it that they have the power to bring us back to our truest self? Are books in some way a sacrament?
We Orthodox would say a mystery.
I said the same think about Liturgy the other day that I'm thinking about books right now. That it takes me somewhere.

Bread and Roses

Tang in the mouth
The first miracle
Of biting.

Have you questions
About bread?

1) At twilight the girl with blue braids
Bangs downhill on her rusty bike.
She always has a loaf tucked
Beneath the rat trap.

Do you believe in blue?

2) When the phone rings
It is his dead grandmother,
The cord snaking into the ground.
“Only crumbs remain,” she says.

Is it all right to bake a little more?

3) The girl with blue braids
Adds yeast and waits,
Foot propped against her bike frame.

The bread rises higher than white clouds.
The boy with the dead grandmother
Plants rosebushes under the window.
The scents drift in and out.

May we make a shrine
Of the windowsill?

That is one of my odder poems. The dead grandmother part is from an episode of Twilight Zone. I don't know what the rest of it means. I wrote it the year I went to Centrum on a writing scholarship. I spent the whole week there writing poetry even though I was actually there for fiction. Then I came home and abandoned my novel.
Now a new novel is coming. Maybe. Characters have been talking to me. I've always said the difference between a writer and anybody else is that a writer listens to the voices and writes them down. It has been a long time since I've allowed myself to think novel. I can't talk about it much. I've promised the voices.

Blogging is rather strange, isn't it? I wouldn't write all this on my website. I feel as if I've stumbled into an alternate dimension populated by under-25-year-olds. I love under-25-year-olds. I'm not one. I once was. I'm a great deal happier now.

This is fun.

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