Every morning I face the blank screen and wonder if I will ever write again. If this is the day when it all stops. And I do something else for a few years. Starts, fits, fears. And perched on my clavicle is that oxpecker who continually picks at the open wound at the base of my throat that is my self-doubt.

I think of Ariel and her little voice box. Of the blue sea-worms (the poor, unfortunate souls from Disney’s Little Mermaid) that live somewhere in the shelter of my rib-cage — all the projects I began and left unfinished.

I am too old for this perspective.

Where are the old women who don’t creep around the mad edges of the world? Who still play out their own story’s dramaturgy in rising action, allowing themselves their own point of view? It seems our culture’s old women move wickedly through the world — wrapped in bitterness -, if not they are caught in trees, or in mute animals watching and granting favors (like party dresses) as benign helpers and disembodied window dressing. More atmosphere than will.

And where are the old men? They don’t fare better in our stories. Dotting and ineffectual bumpkins with pockets full of small change, or carnival machines dispensing wisdom packed in riddles. Foils for youth.

This is what it feels like to close a book half-way through. A book that’s not worth reading. To move on. And sink into the real world.

It’s ten degrees Celsius this morning and beginning to smell like spring’s thawing rot. Talk about ambivalence. I guess all things beginning are as ugly as hatchlings. Vulnerable things frighten us. We are made aware of our own limitations. I don’t think it is a coincidence that our childbearing years coincide with the apex of our hubris. How else would our species go on?

Outside the kitchen window, the sky is turning pink. The still-unfamiliar patch of sky, revealed when they tore down the neighbor’s dying elm this fall. But I can see in silhouette another tree in the distance, its sparse crown topped with crows. The same crows, I’m sure. 

The blackbirds are singing. They don’t sing exactly. They talk, I guess. Our new neighbor works offshore two weeks at a time, and I am pretty sure the birds are onto his schedule now and are more present in our yard again the weeks he’s gone. I miss them when he’s home.

Before long I will need to clear out the dead leaves from raspberry bushes. Sort the bark from the marble stones, see what the books say about what-needs-to-be-done-when in the garden. And decide whether I will try again this year.

Of course, I will try again this year.

My life has always been more Beckett than Disney.

The trail smells like dog
shit and old bread — the ducks 
beginning to pair
off, running the hens down — loud
as traffic on the motorway

“I want to be such a conversation”… is what Neil Reid said about what can become of us when we witness someone else’s examination of the world (which includes one’s self), and then take those questions into our own examination of our own world.

And if one takes note of that process – could there be a richer conversation? And isn’t this really the definition of poetry?

I haven’t been making space for good conversations, and I miss them.

There are a lot of reasons I was lonely as a child. All of them were paths to books, and thus to “conversations” with people too far away to touch. Often too dead to be moved.

Though never too dead as to be fixed in regard to their significance.

If I have any faith in any thing, it is that our lives can be meaningful – and only in ways that we cannot control – and only in the sense that others will create meaning for the random juxtaposition of their lives with ours.

What is history but a series of perspectives, created by the juxtaposition of our worldviews with those of the dead? For good and for bad: heroes become villains, villains heroes.

Heroines become.

Reading someone’s journal – someone’s story – is like meeting them in a secret forest where anything wild might breathe in your ear, might open your veins, leaving you weaker – but wiser.

“I knew that was true.” But didn’t want to face it.

Witnessing someone else’s nature is witnessing our own. It can be frightening. But it can also be reassuring in the way that the idea of life-after-death can be reassuring. Whether that is a heaven from which we look down, or atoms that create new constellations of life. Things continue without us: most likely because they were never dependent upon us in the first place.

I find that thought freeing.

I have been reading too little poetry lately. Allowing too little poetry into my life, too much social media – where conversations are almost non-existent. I have been thinking about the word social and why nothing is called “conversational media”.

Social is a descriptor for “society”, and a society is an “aggregate of individuals”. Aggregates form a consensus. And isn’t that how social media functions for the most part: not sharing, but shaming, posing, labeling, sorting, “canceling”. It is the hard work of keeping people “in line.”

I failed Social Skills 101. And to be honest, I am okay with that now. I’m okay with having been something of an urban nomad, half-hermit – an emigrant/immigrant. I am content being someone who misses the social cues that weren’t illustrated by the likes of Judy Bloom, PG Wodehouse, Anais Nin, and Stephen King. (Imagine them coming to a consensus). With good conversation, loneliness can soften into solitude. And that kind of solitude can be freeing in that one can fearlessly look outside one’s self.

I suppose one could charge a kind of narcissism in the reader who takes on the “both” roles in a conversation found in the written word. But maybe they (we) are just playing the long game: those readers having become writers who are hoping the conversation continues once they have left the world.

There is a difference between believing you have something to give the world, and believing you have something to contribute to it.

It’s worth entering a conversation on the subject.

Be humble for you are made of Earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.
SERBIAN PROVERB