"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nostalgia and Poetry

It's about eight o'clock in the evening. Often, around this time of night, or a little earlier, I sit outside with a beer and a book, letting the goats graze on the blackberries and long grass and watching day become night.

I wish I knew the names of all the birds that sing in the evening. Certainly there are killdeer, though they aren't around this late in the season. They are a spring bird up on the top of this gravelly hill five miles from the seashore. They nest up here. Or they did: I'm afraid the animals and the construction may have scared them off. I loved hearing their shrill, prolonged calls in the deepening dusk, then tracking the noise and seeing their white wings as they skim along the ground.

This time of year there are bats in the late evening - just about now, as the light fades. Small, quick bats roost in the giant golden cedar behind the house, and they come out on summer nights, darting about, presumably eating mosquitos. I love bats. I could watch them for hours.

But before the bats come out, the swallows have to settle in for the night. They fly around in swarms like bees, in great clouds. Well, not so great. I remember them from my youth. It seems to me that the swallow swarms of my childhood were larger by an order of magnitude than the ones I see nowadays. But no matter. These latter-day swarms are just as beautiful, just as fascinating to watch. It's a long way between trees up here, and so I have perhaps a whole minute to watch them swooping and swelling as they bridge the gap.

There is another bird I don't know that flies this time of night. It is small, and it flies in groups of five to ten. In contrast to the swallows, it flies in straight lines. It calls out as it flies, a high, piercing peeping sound. I hear them before I see them, and tonight when I heard them I thought "there are things alive in the sky!"

Frequently, as I sit in my cheap canvass chair and drink beer, snatches of words that might become poems occur to me. This is now the only time they do. It has been so long since I wrote poetry that it is hard for me to remember how I did it. I know it felt like this; that first a phrase would happen in my head all by itself, something snatched from the actual happening world around me, something like "There are things alive in the sky."

But then what?

See, when I was a teenager (which is when I wrote most of my poetry) I would usually be out walking somewhere. I walked a lot. And something about walking is conducive to poetry. The phrase, whatever it was, would beat in my head along with my feet on the ground. Something else would occur to me. I'd put them together. I'd be walking. I'd think "yes" or "no." Then the next thing. Then I'd repeat all three things together and see how I liked it.

"Writing" is a misnomer. I almost never wrote anything down until it was finished. I was a composer. Now, now I write. No; I type. That's even worse.

Here's how I used to create poetry. I'd be walking. I'd have a small notebook in the inside pocket of my jacket, a spiral topped notebook with a ballpoint pen stuck through the spirals. I'd compose in my head as I walked along until at some point, I'd get to the point that I thought I should write it down. Not a finished point; I knew it wasn't finished yet. But maybe it was a point that I thought I'd composed all I could remember. Or no: I always knew that as long as it was just in my head - and often, poems stayed just in my head for weeks - there was a chance that when I next recited it to myself, it would come out different. So, if I came up with something I liked so much that I knew I didn't want to take that risk, I'd sit down somewhere and write down what I had.

But once written, everything changed. Now the process was totally altered. From this point on - whether this point was a nearly finished product or a mere sketch of an idea - it all had to happen on paper. And that was fine. I loved to write. Oh how I loved to hold a pen in my hand and just let the words come out until my fingers ached.

Kind of like now, how odd. I've tried a half dozen times in the past half dozen years to start journaling again (journaling is a whole separate process from writing. Don't get me started). It's never taken, no matter how many nice rollerball pens I buy or how many college ruled notebooks. The closest I've come is a half-assed dream journal.

And yet, look, here I am. I've written a whole page, at least, right now.

God damnit, it just occurred to me. I've written about writing again. Fuck.

7 comments:

Aimee said...

Hey bro,
in a different forum I'm trying to write down all my poems (or type them, you know) and if you are interested, I think I'm brave enough to send you the link.

AnyEdge said...

too late. I saw and translated already.

AnyEdge said...

And for the record, I am so damn jealous of your writing abilities it makes me sick to my brain.

Aimee said...

WHAT? how did you find it? Translated? Give over, you dildo

AnyEdge said...

Go over to your other site...it's in the comments. I also emailed oyu a slightly improved copy.

Penelope said...

I want the link

Aimee said...

Oh what the hell I'll e-mail it to you