Tonight I reread a chapter from a favorite book, Lucy Calkin’s The Art of Teaching Writing. I was reading the chapter on poetry because I am presenting a workshop on poetry tomorrow and I’m always looking for last-minute inspiration.
I left an index card in the book the last time I read, I guess. It’s in a section about images. I had written:
take b&w pic of the shirt on the nail
the nail holes on the mantle
other rough places that say home
comfort and joy came first
before what some visitor might think now
we hung our stockings at a different
place each year, sometimes
nails pulled out, sometimes not
Well, it’s not a poem, but it is the beginning of one. I don’t remember writing any of this, but I often think of these images when I think of the old home place: glass doorknobs, the nails on the mantle at my parents’ place where we hung our Christmas stockings every year, my dad’s old work shirt that is still hanging on the back porch on an old nail…it’s been hanging there since 1974.
I had given myself directions that day, and I have followed them. I do have pictures of the shirt and the mantle. I know I need to go back and take a few more. There is still a message there.
I had also jotted down the words from a message from my friend Tina on one of the pages: “You’ll write your way through this.” And, looking back, I know I have done that time and time again. Writers always write their way through it. We have no choice. The words storm out or wait on a card in a book…and we seem to return to these same books over and over, too.
I am struggling to get all of the images and words on a page that I would like to, lately. I know I’m transitioning. I can feel it. It is days like this, though, days with a message on a card at just the right moment, that change the game.
Next I had written:
paint the sweetgums
use pencils dipped in paint
and rolled for texture
I see those trees immediately. I wonder why I have waited so long to paint them. It is dark now, otherwise I would be at the edge of the pond taking in every textured piece of bark, the points on the balls that will fall soon, the ones that are already on the ground, the colors exploding into autumn: violet, mulberry, crimson. The yellow trees behind them that I’m never sure of…are they birch? It is time to learn some names. A poem is waiting…