November invocations

Write a blog post that is a spell, Oliver de la Paz said to my class, only he said poem, of course, because I had asked him to give us a poetry prompt. The first line and the last line must be the same, he added, as the afternoon light toasted up golden and he reclined in the chair, gazing up at the ceiling. It must contain the color teal, he went on, and the breath of a machine, and bibliomancy–have you done that yet?–pick up a nearby book and incorporate the first line or sentence on page 100 into your poem.

That was Tuesday. During Thursday’s workshop, the last before break, we debriefed on how wonderful his visit had been. But we don’t know how to write a spell, my students complained. I smiled mysteriously, knowing I had writing time coming and the prompt was really for me.

From page 100 of a childhood compendium of Brontë novels: “Threading this chaos,” Charlotte writes in Jane Eyre, “I at last reached the larder; there I took possession of a cold chicken, a roll of bread, some tarts, a plate or two and a knife and fork: with this booty I made a hasty retreat.” Sounds like Thanksgiving week, during which I am retreating with pies and poultry. Let there be solitude for any writer who needs it, and let it be filling.

Let the editors also have quiet brains, the better to appreciate your and my genius, and let them offer us contracts for our masterworks–lo, promptly and with praise! Let our laptops pant with the warmth of our email exchanges.

In the sage-scented steam, let every brain in these territories brim with new metaphors and opening lines of poems yet to be. Let lying politicians swoon under sonnet attacks and be unable to utter any words except in meditative strains of iambic pentameter. Let swords be beaten into sibilance, power-abusers shuffled off in pantoums, and every vacated position find a feminine rhyme.

Let me not care if this blog is a little cryptic, random, and mistily mystical, because I am very tired! Let me read and write for a single weekend, at least, and not get caught back up in the recommendation/class prep/grading/event-planning vortex too soon. Let gray waves of worry calm to blue-green clarity. Let me release hurt feelings at things colleagues and relatives say or don’t say, because, ye gods, my habits of vigilance and bruising are a pain in my unroyal behind.

I know something about spells and there are plenty of things I want to change, within and beyond the spaces of my person and to-do list. If you feel the same, go on.

Write a poem that is a spell.

fem gourd

 

It’s red, reflecting all our sunsets

Prompt: next time you’re at a meeting or professional event, write down the weirdest things your colleagues say. Using one of those phrases as a title, without permission, close the door or at least conceal your screen and write a poem when you should be working.

A couple of years ago–maybe it was during a sabbatical, or maybe I missed the awards ceremony for some other reason–Deborah Miranda told me about an especially peculiar public verbal ramble initiated by someone especially prone to such digressions. “I don’t know how or why,” she said, “but somehow he started talking about cabdrivers during the apocalypse.” “Poem title,” I said, and we both bowed our heads to necessity. Deborah published hers on her blog more than a year ago–a radioactive prose poem, or maybe speculative flash fiction, from the perspective of the person behind the wheel. Check it out here, but watch out for the zombie rats.

cabdriver

My cabdriver likes to give advice, has a sort of philosophical take on gender after the end of the world, and is clearly influenced by certain strong female characters on The Walking Dead, a show I still watch compulsively even though it’s much less smart and riveting than once upon a time. It’s also the only show I forgive for casting mostly skinny women, given the post-zombie-plague food situation (though I find their endless supply of tight-fitting jeans implausible). Mostly, though, my poem, like a lot I’ve written lately, is about surviving middle age. Having walked through the door of age fifty, I DO know what the moon really thinks of you. “Says the Cab Driver of the Apocalypse” just came out, appropriately enough, in the new Moon City Review, handed off to me at the AWP last weekend. Thanks to the editors from granting me right-of-way.

Warm thanks, too, to Patsy Asuncion, who has been organizing Women’s History Month events at The Bridge in Charlottesville. I’ll be reading there with Patsy and Sara Robinson a week from today, at 10:30 am on Sunday 3/25 (and there’s lots of other great stuff, too, including a Le Guin marathon reading). There will be mimosas and other refreshments, and I’d be happy to sign a copy of Propagation for you. Until then, back to business, because middle-aged women have serious zombie-fighting to get on with.