Writing and Musing and Poems


I randomly opened to this Bukowski poem in You Get so Alone at Times it Just Makes Sense:

take a writer away from his typewriter
and all you have left
the sickness
which started him
in the

Several Days Ago

There is nothing I have to say.  Nothing really.  I could say anything at all.  Be forewarned.

My husband and son have given me some writing space.  My husband is cleaning up the mess in the living room that I should have cleaned up today but instead paced around the house thinking up brilliant ideas.  My son is running around him in one of his many personas, laughing and being his little perfect self.  My son, in fact, has been kind enough to allow me space, in little tidbits, all day.  He spent an awful long time in the tub, for instance, while I sat on the toilet with my laptop.

So, although I have been deep in thought, wavering between jubilation and anxiety, it has been a very good day.  A day dedicated to thinking.  To change.

Right now, I have several books stacked in front of me:

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldburg

Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

The Writer’s Path: A Guidebook for Your Creative Journey by Todd Walton and Mindy Toomay

See a pattern here?

I also have a stack of my old journals.  I am flipping through random pages:

Thus the beginning—a new phase of my life.  How appropriate the new moon.  And the thought that we cannot see the future is compelling—a rush—perhaps love, perhaps doom (are they not the same thing?),  perhaps greatness.  Some spiritual mish-mash with the Tao, the meeting of the maker.  I am about to leave for work—some just-above-minimum-wage job—stuffed like a corpse in a grey booth, dialing the phone, begging for people to be kind, to answer my questions. And the politics of the place, like any place, are dismal and annoying and, like many times before, I try to close my ears and eyes to the political environment and concentrate on the world inside my head.  Narcissism for $5.75 an hour. So, it’s December 5th, 1999 and this is my new book, my new pen…

I have dozens of them.  Journals.  The insides filled with poetic ponderings about unrequited love and sex and enlightenment.  Maybe there are some answers there.  Answers from a girl in December of 1999.

I don’t know.

I am trying any means I can to get my mojo back.  Mojo, where the hell are you?

I used to have a muse named Donovan.  I don’t know why he was named Donovan, but I often spoke to him either as if he were a god, a lover, a mirage, or as if I were just plain talking to myself in the third person:

Oh, Donovan, what is the world coming to?  Je ne sais pas.  Let’s make love.  We’ve been talking about it for years but we have never consummated our vows.  Til the death Herr Donovan.

(I almost deleted that bizarre display of myself at 22.  But, I am a truth teller, no?  Let it be what it is.  Let it be.)

Maybe I should conjure Donovan back.  Maybe I should do a little séance, burn a lock of my hair, dance around a hot tub naked like Madonna does in Four Rooms.  I just need a new name.  Donovan certainly does not cut it.

I would name my muse Lucille after Lucille Clifton but B.B. King already named his guitar Lucille and I don’t want to step on his toes.

Still, maybe, I should step on his toes.  I doubt he would notice.

So, for now, Lucille it is!


Dearest Lucille,

Please feel free to come to me day or night.  If I am making coffee or in the shower, if I am in the midst of a pleasant or terrible dream, if I am feeling busy or lazy, if I am walking, talking, or moping, or driving.  Please come to me as often as you like.  I could use you.  No, I could more than use you.  I need you.  Please take me back to this place:

When the Words Come

Drifting off to sleep,
the words come.
They rush at me
like a band of soldiers.
Hustled by adrenaline,
bayonets flailing,
spit and holler
filling their fearful mouths.
I am forced awake.
Forced to pacify them.
While driving,
the words buzz.
They swarm at my eyes,
my ears,
at the very edges of my forehead.
These semantic horse flys,
ready to bite,
that I am all too often
forced to swat away.
In the shower,
they tempt me,
run in little rivulets
down my arms,
between my toes.
I am paralyzed
by the pattern and pitch of them.
These lexical sirens
humming and harmonizing.
As the soap slip-slides
into my eyes.
Yes, the words come at the most inconvenient of times.
I have scribbled on the inside covers of books,
on receipt backs, and birthday cards
in the dark
eyes half open.
I have stood over the bathroom sink,
dripping little lagoons onto the tile floor,
starting sestinas
in eyeliner on the back of a Kotex box.
And, yes,
to your dismay
I have written on napkins
while speeding down the Interstate.
Letting my hand do its magic
while my eyes
keep a steady two-beat rhythm
between the rearview mirror
and the road.
Oh, when the words come.
Whenever they come.
I’ll give anything, just anything, to sate them.

(The poems were not meant to be in italics.  I was having formatting issues.)



  1. August 5, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    You spoke in your last post about writing for others. Well, that is the perfect time to take out those journals!
    Whenever I lose my Christa ‘voice’ I whip out my moldy old compostion notebooks and read the raw untethered (or maybe silly and whimsical) natural stream of consciousness that one can only scribble in a diary. Then I find myself again!

  2. slysummaries said,

    August 5, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    I don’t think BB will notice from beyond the grave.

    I think getting out old journals is a great idea. That article from the Atlantic I sent you, while formidable, had some good advice. Start with what you known. Start with that girl in 1999 in that gray booth. But don’t limit yourself to where she went, when the she is you. She might surprised you, might have taken a different course, might make some horrible stupid un-undoable mistakes. I think what the article was saying was that to do pure auto-bio is just that, auto-bio. You know how it ends. There might be ample material there for reflection, and I do think life stories are important. But if you are after fiction, you need a puzzle you haven’t figured out yet. I think your one sentence at a time exercise would do just that.

    What I came away from the article with was the idea that you have to know your purpose. Which should be obvious to me since I teach students every year to try to identify the author’s purpose. I guess genre is one purpose, the primary one, but then there are others, which maybe you don’t have to know right from the outset. Blogging is one purpose. Each one, each genre, has different expectations. We should read the Confessions of Augustine. I think that was the first of it’s kind, journal/autobio/confessional work. I’m also interested in that book Writing Down the Bones. Is it good? And I love Anne Lamott.

    I had forgotten about Donovan. Yeah, get someone new. He probably still wears those jeans with the really wide legs.

    Do not apologize to me for using old work. You are going through a process. And it’s fascinating to watch and be a part of. My process write now is in the constipation. I can’t write because the blog only has one purpose and I don’t want to write about Big Fish. Patooey. But I am going to the east coast this weekend, which always digs stuff up for me.

    So, I didn’t really work, but I did enjoy your work. Keep it coming. Deleted perverted joke.

  3. Emily said,

    August 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I do think getting out old journals can be inspiring. You just have to be careful not to get lost in them. I am also looking through old stories to pull out characters, images, and some rockin’ metaphors. Through my search I have found some unfinished stories that seem worthy of finishing. So, I guess I have some work to do.

    And, Mel, unless the media has it wrong, BB King is still alive.

  4. slysummaries said,

    August 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Wow, I could have sworn he died. Did some other old blues guitar guy die? Ok, I just looked it up and I was thinking of Bo Diddly. Sorry!

    I do like the poem quite a bit. I have a penchant for poems about writing. You’re always talking about how you’re not the poet, but you have such an innate sense of rhythm! You have such an ear for the beat and for the flow as well as an eye for the image. So don’t rule out the genre. Is it wrong that I want to read the sestina written in eye liner? I want to see all these little words and snippets you’ve scribbled away. Did you take Deborah… what’s her last name? Logan’s wife? I can’t remember it… Gregor! Deborah Gregor’s class with me? I can’t remember. At the bottom of each poem we turned it we had to include a scrap of something we heard or thought of. Just a little scrap. I don’t know if it was an exercise for us or if she was mining our lives for ideas!!

  5. Emily said,

    August 6, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I didn’t take Gregor’s class with you, but I am certain I went through poetry 4000. I was in Logan’s class with you and in Hoffman’s. I love the idea of turning in bits and pieces. I am all into that right now. The bits and pieces and the possibility of turning them into some presentable piece of art. And, I won’t rule out poetry as a genre. Thanks for your unending support and inspiration!

  6. Kim said,

    August 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Excellent! And I whole-heartedly agree that you should NOT rule poetry out!

  7. wil329 said,

    August 8, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I return to things I wrote years ago. Inside are kernels, sentences, beautiful words I invented as placeholders for feelings and emotions I was no closer to describing than I am today. Who wrote this is no closer to the guy writing other things today than the guy writing things today is any closer to the guy who will write things tomorrow:

    Write what you know, they all used to say when I didn’t know enough to argue– And I’d write about angles: spines, jaws, heals and about your curves: cheeks, knees, elbows. And you’d ask me what to make of it and I’d say something fierce about leaving behind fingerprints; impressions; moments in glass etched forever. When looking back twice left you alone I open doors, to themselves, I like to tell myself To moments once best left behind To see what needs doing Takes time And infectious hope I know you by your charged atoms; My hair, on end Be open with me, he said, not knowing just what he was asking. And I replied, knowing the effect: sometimes I walk on shards of glass and yet i feel no pain; sometimes I walk between the puddles, and yet i feel no rain; sometimes I sit alone and sulk and wonder whats to come; and theres a fourth line that should go here, but doesn’t make it hum. Prelude, and nocturne; The sweetest aphrodesiac This is language for a bodiless talk No voice, no gesture No pauses to fill no ability to reach across and accidentally connect no chance to turn off the light and stand in a quiet room kissing until it hurt Before I push myself into someone I leave a piece behind.

    But it’s funny, returning to the things left behind.

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