I think the goal of posting one poem/post a month is realistic for me this year, as I'm making a concerted effort to stop over-scheduling myself in writing, teaching, even reading. I am also working on not feeling bad about cutting back, which has actually become the true problem.

The stack of books beside my bed has grown to an almost comical level-- it's become more daunting and intimidating than welcoming and invigorating... sure, some nights, I really do want to read some Hesse, Heine, or Schlegel, auf deutsch (with translation dictionary tucked in beside me) aloud to the cats, followed by my best interpretation before reading the published translation. Some nights, though, I end up falling into bed with only as much mental capacity as is needed to read a comic book, or at least a few pages of one, and a heavy sense of guilt for not picking up anything German, anything designed to help me prep for that distant idea of a PhD in Literature, anything that makes me think hard enough that I have to get up and write about it before I forfeit the benefits.

I am only teaching three courses this spring at the community college, and I want to get back into volunteering, start showing up at the soup kitchen down the street on Sunday evenings. There's something in me, too, that keeps whispering about how badly I want to teach violin lessons again, how I'd love to pick up a beginning student or two but know the competition in my area is strong and I don't want to spend more time searching than planning or practicing. (Basically, if anyone YOU know in the Colorado Springs area knows a beginning student, point them in my royal direction.)

Also, I'm looking forward to the AWP conference in Washington DC this February... sort of. Some aspects of AWP throw me over the moon: the readings done by so many of my literary role models, the mountains of books I've never heard of and can't put down once I sample them at the book fair, catching up with friends from different writing programs, even getting out of the house, out of my routine for a little while.

My chapbook of war poems is growing slowly, rearranging itself, and I intend to spend more time revising it for contests and open submissions. I was actually getting ready to send it out to three different publishers when I flew off to Washington for my father's funeral, and with the holidays soon after that, it hasn't been until now that I've thought about picking it up again. Still plenty of time before the semester starts, right? I need to learn how to take part in projects without throwing myself in head over heels. Of course, I also have the Colorado Springs Writers Reading Series to coordinate, which I love doing, but, as I planned the December event not too long ago, amidst final grades, house maintenance, baking, bill paying, dog training, church involvement, gift giving, holiday parties, writing requirements, travel preparation and minor physical ailments, Tom so lovingly told me over the phone from Iraq (I'm pretty sure I heard him smacking his forehead), "Dammit, every time one problem gets fixed, you set up another one right behind it!"

So, this year needs to be all about condensing the nonsense, about saying no from time to time, about prioritizing and, oh yeah, beginning that whole process of learning to live with another person again when Tom comes home in March. I need to be kinder to myself every time I pick a rejection slip out of the mailbox, every time I chastise myself for not going one more mile at the gym, for not picking up the German literature at night and opting for a magazine instead. It's all going to be okay.

(Of course, my inner critic is saying right now, "Damn, you're off to a fine start, aren't you, when you need to tell yourself 'It's going to be okay!' only nine days into the year... good luck with this one, chump.")

(And my newly hired other inner critic is putting that older inner critic in a sleeper hold, telling him to "say something nice, asshole! Do it! Now!" until the mean one says, "Okay, I guess she can post a good poem once a month, maybe...")

On that note, here's a poem for January: a first draft of another poem exploring the implications of being a poet at all.


A plane goes down in the middle

of the ocean, out where there are

islands yet to be sold or air-conditioned,

and on the plane there are five poets,

each of them surviving (as poets will do)

dog-paddling to the nearest shore

or darting through the waves like sailfish,

graceful even in death’s shadow.

The island is white with yellow palms,

pink beach crabs floating over kelp beds,

lime-green vines woven around all of it.

One poet starts weeping and says

the thing he will miss most is

turning doorknobs, opening doors,

he will miss moving through things;

the others decide silently he will die first.

Another, the oldest, says he will miss

his cigarettes, which did not survive

the crash, and he’ll miss his wife’s garden—

not his garden, you see, his wife’s,

because he was born an ambitious man—

and his wife tended such fragile flowers,

camellias and jasmine and fuschias.

The poet wringing out his shirt

in the shade of a rock cave says

they should definitely elect a leader,

he needs structure in order to work;

the lady poet says she decided

just when the plane dipped its nose

she would make the best leader,

should they all end up marooned.

The poet whose clothes were torn away

by the ocean says something in a language

no one understands so they shrug at him,

tell him with their hands to go make

a fire for their dinner, even though

each of them is burning up, even though

the animals crouched behind them

agreed years ago not to be hunted.



I personally love your resolution to be kinder to yourself...we could probably all benefit from that. Good for you! And screw that first inner critic!

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