The Writing Life

Watching the Wheels

 

I forgot who I was. I knew the age spot on my left cheek. I knew the sagging breasts and the overlapping belly. I knew my feet; my unusually small toes. I knew my eyes and what they had seen. I knew my lips, now shaded in regal purple. I knew my place in the bed next to the dog, and further away, my husband. I knew him; his wants and needs. I knew the losses: friendships, a friend forever, my father, son and now, almost seven months ago, my mother. I knew something of my values, but not as clearly: my own value. I had forgotten the tools of my fingers; except to inconsistently pleasure myself, wash my face, shave the stubble here and there, or grip a steering wheel. I knew my daughter; but already this knowing is an ocean away. I knew the reason I withdrew from an outside life that filled others more than myself. I knew the shame of saying one thing and doing another. But I had forgotten myself.

I know that in the past six months I put words on paper. I know that as soon as those words were written I forgot them. I forgot the thrill too, and felt only dislocation.  I forgot the feel of words in my mouth, as though my tongue had been numbed for surgery. I forgot the clicking taps on a keyboard except for inane mumblings; wretched gloats and ambiguous streams of babble. But back to dislocation: my writing setting has been unsettled. There are two sofas in this room. One does not belong here. Things are unplugged that should be plugged in. There are china cups wrapped in newspaper in boxes that haven’t been unpacked. One curtain hangs and another needs to be hung up. Where is my grounding? Files and files and no skeleton for them. Unopened mail. Books unread. I became dislocated in the aftermath of death. I do remember the tenderest parts of me and the kisses they received.

Before I progress, I need to familiarize myself with myself. Yesterday, I wanted to disappear. I wanted to drive on a road I’d never traveled and tell no one if I was going north, south, east or west. Instead I went to a bakery and bought my favorite dessert. My husband ate half and my daughter the other.  The yearning I have is to be left alone. JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.  That has been my mantra, but I do want to engage. Those closest to me understand. I have enough time. I just need awareness of the ever-presence of the opportunity of solitude and the will to delineate myself into its holy grasp.

Drained. I have been drained. Lately, I have related an adage that came to me: “If your own kitchen is on fire and your neighbor’s house is burning, put out the fire in your kitchen and then bring water to your neighbor.”  This is how I must live my life, for now, until the fire is put out, until the long task list is accomplished. I do not feel guilt for saying no. I do not feel remorse for expressing wrath when only wrath, justified, would accomplish the necessary. I had forgotten wrath. Wrath can be useful. I accept my own blamelessness.

God help those who elicit my wrath. It is life-stopping in a metaphorical way; and profoundly affecting. Good, good, good. Now you know. Now you will pay attention and show me respect. Wrath: a wolf in defense and defiance for survival. It is necessary for the continuation of my living with no ill intent at all.

I talked to a friend today. It was nice. She offered refuge and calm water. I cannot do for others outside my closest family and my core friendships. Loss. We have lost so much and I am in transition. Part of what I forgot or tried to unburden myself from was writing; what it had come to mean for me.  But what it meant, or what it was starting to represent for me was obligation and burden. Yes, there is a burden to carry as a writer and almost always I carry that with joy, but the elements of operating in a society of writers was what I felt trapped by. I came to a conclusion to only write when I feel like it and to not submit my work to journals anymore unless I am solicited to do so. It is not because I feel I have reached a level of status that it is beneath me; it’s just that I am not hungry.  I do not have the time to write, submit, write, submit, etc. I think of the John Lennon song’s “Watching the Wheels” because it expresses how I feel about my career as a writer.

What is it about writing that brings me joy? I am no longer playing the game. I am vitally more interested in growing my family, as we have lost so many of our blood and kin. If I can solidify my core family, blood or not, I will find that inner resolve to write something worthy and authentic. I will write words with blood-worth, with the meaning and impact that has always been my fiercest intention.

Barguest

barghest

Listen: the growl is deafening. A cloud splits in two. What mythical wonder woke you?

Sleep executed by firing squad. (Oh, the marksman without a bullet cries and the woman on his finger languishes).

He who has blood on his temple will never raise the stone in his fist.

We keep the sins we commit. What is a secret if no one cares to know it?

Hunger, hunger from the day you were terribly born. (This is why she hates you). There is no milk for children made of glass.

That which is left behind is all for you. The curse is that you cannot touch it. Remember what came to you through death will go through you like water. Still, the dead keep giving.

Wind shoves its tongue down your throat. A brass bird revels in rain. Someone runs into traffic with an inverted umbrella, dances, and shakes loose coins from her belly.

Hunger, again, for dog meat, good enough to eat, so, why not eat it? Filaments of lightning sear your morning-eye then burn out.

Phones ring with too much treble. Every time it is her–I want you back. The house shakes. Sleep shatters: a plane crash.

It was wrong of me to take a swig of vodka at the funeral. I did  not want it, or its meaning.

I pity the most unusual things. And there was no charm in this creature: dwindling fur, black, broken teeth, ember-eyes and skin thin as a frog’s. Nauseating.

Why did it come here? Was it for souls? I thought to feed it raw bacon wrapped to a wooden stick, but it took what it came for.

The sun rises and we hunger. The sun sets and we hunger. It is only one hunger that matters.

Sky Burial

1998.286.163-O

Sky burial platform in Dra Yerpa Monastery
Sir Charles Bell
September 11th 1921
Lhasa Area > Dra Yerpa

SKY BURIAL

Leave me
on open land
until bonesong
goes unheard
and all putrefaction
resolves.

Let me cultivate
the growth
of all that is visible
and invisible—
be the giver
of alms to the birds.

My secret name,
as is yours,
is Carrion.

Dead
or living come,
come to commune.
Let us go with eyes open
into ineffable light.

 

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

 

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS*

That summer I was tobacco and burnt sage; a carnival ride that lurched midair—

The barefoot, bra-less girl who watched thistle seeds carried on the wind, listened to King Crimson on a mix-tape and sneaked her grandmother’s mulberry wine—

I tore you open: a lusted-for letter that announced my emancipation. I nearly choked on love—fervently sucking the pit for every last sweet string of flesh.

Now we watch CNN with thunder in our chests. It is how we feel all of the time—a marching band parade of all drums and tubas.

We have grown so old sugar cane fields are malls, Taco Bells, and neighborhoods obscuring magenta sunsets. Where are our horizons?

There is a collapsed mine in China on the TV. The newscaster spends 15 seconds on it.

And somehow a memory rises of a stranger: his taut arms cradle my hips; his deft fingers twirl an ice cube on my nipple—before you.

I begin to tell you about it but remember that twenty seven years ago
you asked me not to.

 CLM ©2014

*Based on the prompts: a wax seal, an apricot pit, distant thunder, a collapsed mine, strangers fornicating, a blissful magenta sunset, devils in the details, tobacco, burnt sage, spit, carnival rides, a thistle, wind, mulberry wine

We write.

I use the following as a handout for discussion in creative writing workshops I present.  It is great for youths and adults. It’s a compilation of motivational advice I have given and have received over the years. It’s a simple direct way to keep yourself on task when embarking on the path of The Writing Life. More can be said, and I encourage others to use and amend this list.

 

WE WRITE

Writers write.  Writers read.

Fall in love with a dictionary.
Vision—it takes courage to see.
Face the blank page or screen.

Don’t wait for inspiration.

Practice and play. Make mistakes.
Observe. Pay attention to life.
Experiment with language.
Write to express, but even more write to see and make others see.

See, hear, taste, touch, discover and know.

Bring the reader into the world of your poem with concrete images.
Dream journal –peer into other worlds, seek out unconscious connections.
Write your responses and impressions of poems you like.
Free write to music. Free write to static.

Write “in your head” then write it down.
Fight for freedom on the page.
Keep a journal.
Cultivate the desire to write.
Get out of bed to write if an idea strikes you.
Write what you need to write.
Say what you need to say.

Listen for your voice. Befriend it and trust it.
Uncover the processes of your psyche.
Aim for tension in the words.
Write from the depths of your experience—the writing itself will deepen experience.
Free write and then control the words with form.
Strive for a precision of language.
Nurture your discipline.

Do not punish yourself.

Give it time.

FIGHT FOR EVERY WORD.

 

 

© 2014 Clare L. Martin

Good Fortune

 

“Things I once thought unbelievable in my life have all taken place.”

~PJ Harvey, “Good Fortune”

 

Ten years ago, I set forth on the path of The Writing Life. It has taken me to places I never dreamed of. I think of PJ Harvey’s “Good Fortune” which is one of my favorites. It gets me fired up today to believe in the unstoppable force of Good.

Every occurrence that I have perceived as a failure has been transformed to a reason to celebrate. Because of the will and commitment I made to myself to persevere, because of positive actions and beliefs–I have persevered. I have overcome so much tragedy. My good fortune to have the people in my life that I do, and that I had, is something I am grateful for beyond words. Some people who lifted me up are gone, but they really are beside me, whispering encouragement. I will join them someday and bring my own force to the living, giving palpable inspiration through the spirit.

Many years ago I faced what I believed to be major setbacks and failures in my life. I lost a job due to illness that left me in shame and hurt for a long time. Prior to that, I had left graduate school because of my illness, which was also a deep hurt for me. But I realize now the full force of how those perceived losses were transformational; steeled my will to make something of myself, and turned my attention to the things in life that really matter, which are love for one’s self without compromise, care for our loved ones and movement forward on the high road, even if that means the road traverses a mountain.

Right now, I feel I am nearing a summit, but it won’t be the only summit. There are many mountains to climb, metaphorically, and I am up for the challenge.

Daily, I reclaim this life. I honor its restoration. I accept the calling to inspire and lift others up to meet their own paths of transformation. I am where I am because of where I was and because I chose to commit to a life that seeks truth and personal revelation through dedication to an art  that I was blessed to be gifted with some inclination towards.

I offer praise to the Universe, God, the Divine Whatever for this life, and peace and resolution to you.

And if you care to read an interview with me about Eating the Heart First and my approach to poetry, I would be much obliged. Today, Flash Fiction Chronicles has published an interview Susan Tepper conducted with me about a month ago. Enduring thanks to Susan Tepper (www.susantepper.com) for this interview with me in her series UNCOV/rd at Flash Fiction Chronicles, and to the editors there for extending National Poetry Month one day, to feature a poet instead of a flash fiction writer!

The direct link is: http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/clare-l-martin-uncovrd/

 

Words Across the World

One of my poems, “Litany” has been translated into Turkish and will appear in a small print journal in Turkey called Gard thanks to poet and translator, Şakir Özüdoğru. How cool is that?  Just to know that this poem has impact and has moved another to share it with readers in his native tongue is thrilling. Much thanks to Şakir and best to him in all his artistic endeavors!

The original poem can be read, in English, in the current issue of MadHat Annual in addition to four other poems by me here.