I was full of sadness this morning.
I had planned on going with Kendell to his INR check and then running home, but my knee was unhappy, so I didn’t. I waited outside for him, though, and the air smelled so fresh and felt so cool it made me distrust it. Like it might be the last good thing I could remember before something bad happened.
We went home and I listened to a little bit of the news, and then I read again about Emmett Till to refresh my memory of what happened to him, and while I tried to read it out loud to Kendell I started crying. Why are humans so awful to each other? Why are cruelty, meanness, judgment, racism, violence our first responses? Why is the world so ugly when it doesn’t have to be?
Next I cleaned the kitchen and I texted with Nathan and I started crying all over again. Not only because I miss him—I miss him, and I thought while I stirred up some protein pancakes about how he is so good to me, how he is sort of my Person, in the sense that he tries to understand me and is gentle and kind to me and takes me for who I am, but how that isn’t fair to him because his Person should be his one-day spouse—not only do I miss him, but because of how his absence is a symbol for how everything changes, how I am at the cusp of not having any kids living at home, and how I want that to be a good time in my life, how it can be good, but also how I miss it when everyone was still at home.
While I ate I read some poetry and this line made me feel a little less alone, from a poem by Oliver de la Paz about small towns: “as though//the little things we tell ourselves about our pasts stay there,/rising slightly and just out of reach.” I had almost skipped reading this poem when I turned the page because it is long, but I read it and it both devoured and fed me. Fed because yes, I too will never be done being haunted by the little town I shook loose from and I thought it was just me but of course it isn’t. Devoured because the poem is so good, and I want to write good poems but I’m not sure I really have the capability or skill or talent or ear.
But I took my drink out to the porch and tried working on a poem I have been working on for weeks now, a poem about finding my own voice, and I got stuck at the same place I always get stuck in this poem, which is the transition between the persona in the poem listening to others and then deciding to listen for her own voice instead. In my real life, this transition was marked by so many things, too many to cram into one poem—the Kavanaugh hearings and the way the Mormon men upheld him, my growing understanding that the bridge between my mother and me was starting to burn, her illness and the way my inability to help her the way she thought I should was a match, a thing to see with briefly but then a thing that started the fire. It wasn’t one thing, it was a process, it was a slurry of things, a flood, and I had always been living in a flood I just hadn’t noticed how hard I was trying to stay on top of the water. All the things that had kept me floating before were punctured. And in the poem I want a line that captures that transition. I have the beginning and the end, but not the transition.
So I sat on my back porch with my orange notebook and my “feminist” mug and I tried to figure it out. The air was still deliciously fraught and then, very gently: it started raining. A delicate rain, consistent enough I had to move back under the overhang so my notebook didn’t get wet. I smelled the air and worked on my poem and sipped my drink.
I didn’t figure out the transition yet.
I didn’t write a good poem.
I couldn’t hug Nathan, or run downstairs to see Haley working on homework somewhere. I still don’t know how to help Jake or what path Kaleb will find.
My house is still too empty and at the same time I want it to be completely empty. I crave solitude but I am lonely.
But as the rain fell my heart lifted. A little, a little. The smallest bit of hope crept up as the rain tickled my toes. Maybe I won’t always be lonely. Of course Jake will figure out his life. How can a world that smells like that—petrichor and water and petunias and the green scent of the catalpa leaves giving off a little bit of their summer heat into the cooling air—only be filled with ugliness, despair, and violence? It’s not. There is good here, too. Even in my little corner.
I smelled the air and then I turned back to my notebook.
Maybe there is a good poem in me, too.