The Need for Solitude

I have never lived alone.

I lived with my parents until the day I was married. Except for two brief separations (perhaps a week or two) I have always lived with my husband since we were married in 1989. I am rooted in my home life and love my role as wife and mother.  I am there for my family in every way that I can be. I see myself as a caregiver, and in that role it is easy to let my wellness suffer for others.

I used to suffer from chronic insomnia and as excruciating as it was, it had its benefits. Nights were mine. I wrote furiously for years in the wee hours to better myself as a writer when I could work freely without many interruptions. Sleep has come more easily, so as a result, my awake time has been shared with other awake humans. This has left me with little alone time.

Last year, I took a short retreat to celebrate the completion of the manuscript for “Eating the Heart First,” to reflect on that and really let it sink in.  It was a wonderful, meaningful time and I was happily able to go on another brief retreat this year.

I have been posting raw and edited excerpts from the Retreat Writings from 2011 and 2012 to this page. I plan to work these into a little chapbook. 

Retreating to write has become vital.  Actually leaving my home and going somewhere to be alone purposefully to write or read is a way to recognize the importance of my own wellness and life as a poet. Living the Writing Life has helped me do something beautiful and valuable.  

Creative writing saved my life. After great losses, I have turned to it to heal. So much of the matter of my life has been channeled into art. As a result, my burden is lightened, my understanding has deepened.  I give to the work to be greater than myself— poetry-making is prayer.

Retreating to meditate, pray, create is necessary for me. My grasp of myself as woman, as wife, lover, mother, daughter, truth-seeker, artist, as well as vulnerable, flawed and mortal human has sharpened—

I know myself better, which is the point, isn’t it?

Retreat Writings, 2012, Part 4

Day 2

Something needs to be said. Something needs to be written.

Facebook eats my face. Facezombie. I have no Internet access which is great. I need to come to terms with so much. This retreat was needed by all of us. So much matters and so much does not. I keep you with me. Your scent alights on my skin. I want to go under water and make no sounds. I want to fill with water and drown a lovely death.  


My fingertips are tender from playing guitar. I like the little twinges that remind me that I am working hard again. My hand strength will come back and my skills will improve.

Patti Smith’s Banga is incredible. Her poetic power is full-on on this album. I love the entire work but I love Mosaic and Constantine’s Dream the best. It rouses something great and infinite within me. I am inspired to write a poem-song, too.


Am                                             D

The veil that kept her a secret,

Am                                             D

the veil that hid her from life, lifted

Am                                             D

and her face shone like a radiance–

Am                                                        G

She set fire to the boarded house. 


Am                                                        D

She walked through the fire unburned.

Am                                                        D

She walked through the ashes of men.

Am                                                        D

The land of her people smoldered.

Am                                        G

She became fully alive. 


D                                             Am

And all of the scars inflicted

D                                             Am

in the name of holy honor

D                                             Am

were burnished to nothing.

Em                                    Am

And no man could waylay her

Em                                    Am

into motherhood or shame.

Em                                    Am

She was free to love man or woman.

D                                            G

Free to seek her own way.    



D                                             Am

When the veil lifted

D                                             Am

her face became like the moon

D                                             Am

and lit her solitary journey.


Em                                            Am

She walked until she found water,

Em                                  Am

drowning in her own image:

D                                          G

a reflection she meant to kiss.


 © 2012 Clare L. Martin