all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein

all poems and photographs
© by Maya Stein
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Friday, November 10, 2006

Where does a poem come from?


























Where does a poem come from if you aren't sad or angry or confused or overwhelmed or even deliriously happy? If you are in a state of plain-ness, of even-ness, of level-headedness, of small steps forward and maybe one step back once in a while but basically you're just shuffling forward, unremarkably, without much splashing about or hand-wringing or fishtailing or racing to the head of the pack. Where does a poem come from when you're not quite still enough to hear it, but you aren't moving that fast either, neither here nor there, even though you're almost catching other things - words latch themselves onto you but then fall off, an image sticks and then evaporates, a phrase fuses, then disintegrates. And it's alright, of course - the thing with poems is that when they come you feel good about it, lucky, like you've plucked some great juicy bit from the ether, a needle-in-a-haystack kind of thing, and at that moment time doesn't matter, and even words don't matter much, it's just this momentum, this little thrill, what carries you, what makes you feel full to the gills with breath.

But what carries you when you're not writing? What fills your lungs, makes you feel lucky, make you feel placed in this world for a purpose, makes you understand your deep, deep longing, makes you notice your steps, makes you gather in your arms all the beautiful & frightening & luscious things that happen daily? What fills your body with oxygen, what sticks and stays, what swims and sashays, what flies through the air, what touches your skin? Love, I suppose, but even then, even then, you're looking for something else, something that's totally, utterly, substantially yours, yours and yours only, and somehow the poem delivers that to you, it's something just for you, but what happens when a poem doesn't come?

Maybe you go to the movies. Maybe you walk the dog. Check your email, make macaroni and cheese, buy another carton of milk, watch the window, straighten the desk, clean out the closet, put a photograph of your lover in a frame, finish a book, visit the doctor, pay a bill, earn a living. Maybe you revisit the action plan you wrote last year, the one with Pilates classes and tennis once a week, and sending the writing out to get published, and making more dioramas. Maybe you check things off, one by one. Maybe you don't make anything new for awhile. Maybe you let things be.

3 comments:

Marilyn said...

I don't know why, but reading this post made me tear up. I think it was this part: "What fills your body with oxygen, what sticks and stays, what swims and sashays, what flies through the air, what touches your skin?" I haven't had nearly enough of that in my life lately. (I've been reading here a long time, but rarely comment...but I always love what you have to say.)

RetroBerry said...

Maybe we wait until you give birth to the next one...knowing of its sweetness long before its due. :)

GailNHB said...

Sometimes it is the memory of poems, journal entries, wet kisses, hot coffee, and raucous laughter gone by that keeps us upright and afloat. Sometimes a lover's smile, the colors of the sunrise, and the anticipation of reading the sweet words of other wondering wanderers. Sometimes only the questions. Sometimes it is the hope, that faith that there is more to come. Great questions, Maya. Gail