This past week a friend of mine invited me to go to Portland and write poetry. My mother was stable, my kiddo was home from camp and getting caught up on her on-line classes. My husband would have to do without me for only three days and two nights. We were staying at my friend’s daughter’s apartment (she was in Iceland!), so there was no cost other than a couple of meals out (and a trip to Powell’s Books, of course). How could I say no?
Because it was 90-95 degrees in Portland, and I don’t do well in heat, I woke one morning with a migraine. Once I’d recovered, I decided to take a short walk, got lost, and walked two miles. But I proved surprisingly resilient. Even without the right meds in my bag, I recovered. I went to movies (ah, air conditioning!), and enjoyed wonderful meals. I drank lots of water. I took naps. I wrote and wrote and wrote. My friend and I took breaks to read to each other, our own work, and poems by favorite poets. I bought Joy Harjo’s memoir, Crazy Brave, and read the first 50 pages in no time flat.
My life has been about 1000 times easier than Joy Harjo’s, but I’d like to claim that it was a little brave of me to drop everything and go to Portland. I know for certain that writing is brave, if it’s any good, if it’s true. (Joy Harjo’s poetry is crazy brave.)
One theme of my new poetry manuscript is loss, and life keeps very happily offering me examples to draw from. A good friend has gone through so much loss this year that it looks as though she’s cutting loose from everything familiar — from God, from me, from all that she can’t seem to help feeling betrayed by. I tried this week to write about her, about my complex feelings, my huge longing to do something about this situation. My inept attempts to do anything effective.
Another book I was reading — not coincidentally to everything else I’ve been thinking about — is Rita Dove’s Mother Love, a retelling of the story of Demeter and Persephone. I thought a lot about my friend, but also about my mother and me, and my daughters. For my postcards, I wrote some very short poems in a Demeter voice. I’m not sure they were very good, but I mailed them anyway (which was sort of brave). In my journal I wrote questions.
- What is it exactly that I’m afraid to do?
- What is feeding my fears and how do I stop feeding them?
- What small acts would move in the opposite direction of fear?
- What might I do now that would feel just a little brave?
- What would be crazy brave?