Monday, December 20, 2010

Reverb 10, the one where I avoid the prompt

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

(Author: Jake Nickell)


I cut up the words from Jake Nickell's prompt and tried to make a poem out of them, but all I could think of was a poem I’d already written. I attempted to answer the heart of this question a few prompts ago. I’ve already admitted that I am a monumental slacker. Haven’t I? Well, if I haven’t, I’m admitting that now.

I could vow to stop being a slacker, to finish the novel, to send out a poem a week, to go to more open mics, to attend writers group meetings, etc., etc., etc. These are all things I “should” have done in 2010 but didn’t do enough. Will I do them next year? If I write here that I will, I probably won’t.

This is part of my perverse response to nagging. When I was a kid and I was about to tackle some chore or bit of homework that I’d been saving, literally about to put pencil to paper or pull open dishwasher door, my father always had a way of saying just at the moment when I was about to begin, “Have you started that geometry homework yet? Are you ever going to empty the dishwasher?”

Guess what I did. Right. I avoided the dishwasher and put off the geometry homework until midnight.

In other words, if I think about this prompt too much, I’ll feel nagged and go back to bed until 2012. If I write to this prompt, my answers would be like the 11 things prompt (I didn’t share my 11 things, which were really 23) or like the aspirations vs. actions prompt, the trying prompt, the making prompt, the writing prompt. I think Jake Nickell’s clothing company is a pretty cool concept. In other words, he has the credibility to nag me, but I’m not going to listen to him.

Instead, I’m going to share the poem the words in his prompt reminded me of (pardon my bad grammar). Never bothered submitting it. I wrote it many years ago when my daughter would still be considered a little girl. We were very close. We still are, but it’s different now. She had an uncanny way of reading the emotions I tried to hide under my skin so that even when I was trying to be cheerful, she could feel my sorrow.

I was putting her to bed one night. I think she was 5. We had a set routine that I shared with her daddy. We’d read and read and read, then I’d turn out the light and talk to her about her day, sometimes sing to her, sometimes I’d crawl into bed and pretend to fall asleep and she’d nudge me after a few minutes and say delightedly, “Mommy! You forgot to go!”

But this one night, I was sitting on the edge of her bed, stroking her forehead, reluctant to leave but maybe too busy to play the “forgot to go” game.

“Mommy, you look sad,” she said. “You feel sad.”

“Do I?” I said. “I’m all right.”

“Do you miss someone?” she asked.

“Oh, maybe I miss your granddaddy, but I always miss him.” My father had been gone about a year and a half, I think.

“No, it’s not granddaddy. I know you miss granddaddy. I do, too. I think you miss yourself, Mommy.”

And, oh, hellfire and fuck did my heart explode in that moment. I’d been struggling to keep hold of myself for about four years at that point, struggling with all the roles I was playing – wife, mother, daughter, sister, writer, editor. I did get lost.

When I was “lost,” my child had nightmares about being unable to reach me or about me turning into someone unlike myself, an Evil Mommy, Witch Mommy. I rarely shouted at her and was never mean, so she was seeing something that was buried far, far, far beneath the surface. She may have been seeing what Evil Mommy was doing to Nice Mommy.

Scary kid.

The poem came from a “seed” my poetry teacher gave us during an online workshop I took in 2005. I can’t share the prompt because Diane's lessons are copyrighted material. But I can share the poem because it’s mine.

Also, I seem to be revising it today. Boy does it need work (passive much?). The bits are there; they just need some polishing. I suppose we’ll just call this a poem in progress, five years to complete? Wow. I really ought to go back through all my files and finish this stuff.

sorry. had to delete poem.