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Letter from My 48th Year (Mar 17)

I was excited to write to you on Thursday and had emailed myself a blog post I scribbled during lunch to share with you. But I got home late from an invigorating conversation about Nat Turner in Jerusalem (if you see the show at Forum Theatre next Friday, yours truly will be on the panel afterwards) and thought I’d just post it on Friday morning. Except the menstrual cramps started in the middle of the night and I spent Friday having the worst cramps I’ve had since I entered puberty a zillion years ago. I think it was my uterus’ payback for letting me have a month off from  menstruating last month. Neither perimenopause nor having a woman’s body in general are for the weak. I’m just saying…

And you don’t need to know any of that to read the post that follows, which is about poetry. But if this is indeed some sort of journal of my 48th year, it didn’t seem right to babble away happily—which is what follows—without ‘fessing up to having spent a whole day wishing I could rip my uterus out of my body. Sigh.

On that disturbing image, here’s the post I meant to share with y’all on Thursday. And yes, all the excitement there within still applies… or will in about another day or two when my hormones are done being monsters.

Several people have told me I should write a book (of prose not poetry), and I think they’re right but I don’t know what to write a book about. I saw this piece this morning about what it means to write what you know as I was flitting around the Interwebs, and I asked myself: Well, what do I know about? And I know about poetry, or I should know about poetry, or I know about writing poems, and anyway, I started writing about poetry. I know what I don’t know about poetry, I know what I don’t care to know about poetry, but I have no idea what I actually do, in fact, know about poetry. So I’m writing from a place of discovery (remember that manifesto of mine?) and perhaps one of the things I will discover is that I’m not writing about poetry at all even as I write about poetry, and that will be fine.

I don’t know if this project will persist, and that’s fine too. Maybe all I will discover is that I do not actually want to write about what I want to know about poetry. Maybe the only true thing will be I am interested in writing poems, but I’m not so much interested in poetry. Perhaps I will discover that when I say “poetry” it does not mean what I think it means. (See what I did there? she wrote, suddenly feeling anxious that she was doing far too much thinking about poetry and what if that was the type of thing that dries up poetry forever?)

More to follow, but obviously not on the blog, because that would defeat the purpose of writing a memoir about writing poetry… or something like that…

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Letter from My 48th Year (Feb 17)

Before I fell asleep, before I gave myself heartburn by falling asleep when I’d just eaten a bowl of pasta, before the snow started, I’d planned to write a blog post about what a beautiful possibly spring day it was. How it was cold, but a fresh, light-warmed kind of cold, with no bite to it. It was a springtime kind of cold.

And it may still very well be on its way to an early spring despite the groundhog’s pessimism and the icy white outside. If the truth of who we are is not our circumstances, perhaps the same is true of the seasons?

I am waiting for my period, which was supposed to show up on Thursday. If I believed that carnal thoughts about Jon Hamm could get you pregnant or if I weren’t in perimenopause, I’d be worried, so so worried. It’s interesting that as my body is moving from maiden to crone (I seem to have skipped whatever’s in-between) that I wait now not to have my period.

I wonder, is this the start of those 12 months with no period that will land me in full menopause? Or is my period simply on hiatus for a month or two, leading me down the garden path of thinking we have parted forever, only to come flooding back—and yes, from the stories I’ve heard “flooding” is no hyperbole—whenever it feels like it? The 40s can be such a steadying time; I have experienced an influx of wisdom, of calm, of peace about who I am that I never expected to get to. Yet my body is unstable, unsure if it’s ready for my fertility to sputter to a stop, or if it wants to hang out just a bit longer, waiting by the phone for a sperm to call, full of expectation and excitement and already disappointed that the delicious tenterhooks of waiting will end one way or the other. Am I in spring or am I in winter? (And really, I should say “fall” and not “winter” but oh how a poet will lie sometimes just to make the metaphor work.)

 

 

 

Open Letter to Patti Smith, Day One

Dear Patti–

I’ve been trying to write to you for months now. Things I should tell you follow behind me place to place like a trail of breadcrumbs, or a swarm of bill collectors. I type and delete, type and delete, type and delete, all the time my mouth so full of all I want to say I can barely swallow. But, here–I’ve made a start.

I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I shouldn’t have fought so hard to keep my uterus, when they found all those fibroids swarming inside me and I looked at the ultrasound and saw none of the usual things–no tiny heart, no nascent fingers, no promise. Just my blotted copybook of a uterus, colonized yet functionally empty. I didn’t know till then how much I wanted a child and though I knew I was running headlong toward the fertility cliff, that desire, that need roared up in me, desperate and hungered. And I’m telling you this not because you know what it’s like to not bear a child, but I suspect you know about hunger and need and how they can pulse inside you, a secret Morse code for which noone’s given you the handbook or answer key. But that was then–which is what we say about everything eventually, isn’t it? And now that I’ve stumbled off the fertility cliff and I find I don’t feel quite as “less than” as I thought I would, I’m wondering why all the fuss? True, I couldn’t quite bring myself to paint an infant onesie at a friend’s baby shower, but I was there and didn’t have to remind myself to smile so that counts as “this too has passed,” doesn’t it? What I’m really asking is how much of what I tell myself is true because it’s grown into fact and how much is true because it has to be, and is it also true that there’s a difference? is it true that that particular hunger has passed, or have I just numbed it by thinking of clever hashtags for perimenopause and by crafting loud comedic groanings about hot flashes? What matters more–what we know is true, what we say is true, what we need to be true? Or am I still asking the wrong question?

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