It’s heaven to lose yourself in the company of others. In this instance, I’m thinking of Saturday afternoon in the Kind Cafe in Selinsgrove, PA with fellow writers James Black and Jimmy Guterman. For an hour, we sat together, ignored each other, and wrote. For me, it was utter peace, focus, and fellowship.
The two of them are fictioneers. I thought about joining them and taking a stab at a story, but couldn’t work up the energy (or was it courage?). I thought about starting a new essay, which feels like my writerly occupation now, and immediately my energy dropped — I’m temporarily tired of exploring the known. So, I took some notes (see top right corner of the page in my new notebook, below). Then, I thought about poems, and writing one. I mean, I like characters, and I can’t help but do setting, and yet I’m not so hot on plot. Don’t only narratives have plot? But, I’ve been reading again the longer poems of Louise Glück, and I like the story quality to them.
Jane's new notebook, 11.1.2008
At the top of the page, after the bulleted notes, I wrote a note to self: “narrative poem — why not?” I dove in. After a couple of pages of 4-line stanzas (an impulsive decision), I stumbled over an image I liked and circled back and slapped a provisional title on it: “Ghost Dances.” Here are the first few stanzas. Very DRAFTY.
Where she stands. At the edge of the
yard, her back to the cedars, she
faces her own house, the life
inside, like a movie
playing for her. Or Hollywood Squares, each
window a light, a character, a
small stage. Not the world. The world
is a stage, but this is not
the world, only hers. Life is boxed,
parceled into bits. There, the kitchen:
a woman bowed, hair falling away
from shoulders, tipping toward dishes
that her arms, white and bare, wash.
Light glows down on her. Woman washing
is holy and this is what Grace, feet
planted on dirt and moss skirting
the trees, churns up at when she
watches this movie, the one with the good
golden girl. Even the audience wants her,
only Grace doesn’t. She wants the dirt
I wrote many pages of this in longhand, and experienced many discoveries, while working quietly alongside my friends. Note: Grace is simply the name of the main character of this narrative poem. She bears no resemblance to my daughter of the same name. It’s just a lovely name, and it was on hand, so I used it.
P.S. Dr. Poppy also inspired me today with her post on handwriting.