I have journaled, kept a diary, put the pen to my brain, so to speak, since I was five years old. And I have that diary, still. My favorite entry being one where I expressed how seriously furious I was at my brother Bernie.
It’s like peeing. Sorry, but it was the first metaphor that came to mind. To say ‘like breathing’ doesn’t work because I don’t think about breathing. ‘Like eating’ doesn’t work either because I think too much about it. But peeing: I need to do it, I do it, it feels good, I move on. Writing.
And unlike breathing or eating, which I happily and regularly do in public, I simply don’t pee in public. So take this as my first big public piss. (Oh, god, I’ve gone too far. I’ll stop).
My introversion, my unpredictable confidence, my comfort in the writer’s closet, all keep me here. On the other side of publication. Watching friends and heroes, well, piss all over the place. Like damn dogs.
And while my awe pushes me to write more, and my jealousy can do the same, those responses can easily put a finger to my lips. “Shhhhhhhh.” Being quieted by the librarian of my life. Shushing my quiet child who prefers to be quiet most times anyway, the minute I step out to do it, I end up peeing with the door closed.
For National Write a Novel Month, instead of writing another novel, another fabulous 200+ pages that promise to take the reader to fun and thoughtful worlds unknown, I thought I’d utilize my full toolbox, the one acquired in grad school, in life, and with my natural born talent–just testing out the confidence thing; very uncomfortable.
Though it is noteworthy that both my mother and my paternal grandmother kept diaries. The only one that I know of from my mother contains notes on the six months leading up to her marriage to my father. My Grandmother Dorothy’s is one that she kept during the summer when my father was three. She died when he was five. (See excerpts of her diary in “At Ten Bells” below).
I decided I’d write for one month as a blogger. Well, here it is. Pocketpoet. I promised to write 20 entries, and then edit, and publish. My friend Mark said ‘No, just get it out there. It’s the internet. It’s fast and doesn’t matter.”
Oh, what sad words those are to the introvert. Makes me want to go back into the closet or out into the rain.
I’ve come this far. I am adjusting to this medium. I feel as if I have bologna in my shoes, or galoshes as the case may be. “Publish.”
Lightning in a Neighboring Town
Embarrassed and sure
you will fail
or find scorn
where you enter,
you seal your leaky self-
esteem with Ziploc bravado
and face another day
But the rigid sleeves
of your Mackintosh make
your gait teeter
like a buoy
with a splash
you have forgotten
The mercury flickers
in the slender column
of the barometer you use
to measure your time.
Like the balmy warning
before a monsoon rain
your poise, your pressure
are reliable only
in their brevity;
your talent bounces
as moody, and as startling,
as El Nino.
Wearied by the imperfect balance
of fearing success and failure
with each opportunity.
Like hail on a thirsty road
you dissolve into the dust
You wear your vulnerability
and although you’re weary,
you will never beg
for the praise you await,
you simply dream of closing
your broken umbrella,
the sky’s soft promise
even if it’s as dim
in a neighboring town.
And now, with the help of the grandmother I never met.
At Ten Bells
(for my Grandmother, Dorothy Mackler, 1902-1935, much of this excerpted from her diary)
I. Detroit, Michigan, April 1930
Put the bread into soft loaves, April, and there was still snow.
In bed at nine-fifteen, Grandma Dorothy’s spirits were low.
She was beckoned by her need for wide open spaces
where supper was simple: skin the taters, eat potato pancakes.
II. Freesoil, Michigan, May 1930
She spaded the garden, birthed eleven kits, fixed cowslip greens for supper
Fetched the milk, made fresh pie each day, tart apple or rhubarb.
Great Grandma Dare dug post holes, dragged the drowsy winter soil
while Dorothy rolled biscuits as soft and sweet as new white violets.
Great Grandma gave Dorothy something from a dusty old trunk upstairs
mended Dorothy’s ripped suit then trimmed the baby’s fine gold hair.
Some days held nothing out of the ordinary, rain water for washing.
Others carried mushrooms, eight inches across, and fourteen ounces.
Dorothy wore her mother’s rubber boots when it rained like the dickens.
Baby Harold chased Patsy the cat, Dorothy watched the baby chickens.
Dorothy wandered to the woods, waded in the swamp barefoot.
She did the baby’s wash between picking forget-me-nots.
She wrote to Mac, my grandpa, while sitting under a maple tree
thanking him for the pineapple, promising wild strawberries.
Tucked inside her hubby’s letters, Dorothy found fives or tens,
a hankie, a dress. She sent him sprigs of arbutus, painted Easter eggs.
II. Detroit, Michigan, February 1935
Cold as wet socks, February in Detroit, Dorothy wrapped her
boys with her own coat, and caught the chill that would kill her.
Listening to the cradles of pneumonia, my dad watched the doctor knock
the gentle curve of each rib on my grandmother’s dense back.
Dorothy dreamed she returned to the woods for wintergreen, wrote letters,
read a few stories, ate chop suey for supper, and finally to bed, at ten bells.