Saturday, November 12, 2005

this woman's work

I spent much of tonight--a Friday night I might add--in my little room. Picture: I have no dresser. My socks are in my suitcase. I have no bookcase. I have the tiniest of windows. My books are stacked around my bed in little piles, boxing it in like a fortress. I lit tea light candles on top of each of the stacks, plugged in my flower lights, brought out my pictures, my stones, my good luck bracelet, my favorite book, my red wine and a glass, gathered them around me in a circle.

I need magic. I need deliverance. I need an editor.

Fiction I can do. Nonfiction I can do. I know this now. We appreciate your willingness to do anything, my last employer said.

But organizing a book of poetry? What to think, what to do? How to arrange it—not just so a reader can follow, can appreciate—but so an editor can pluck it from the contest pile, give it a gold ticket in the mud. I won’t resort to bells or ribbons. I hear some people are paying a certain poet to organize their manuscripts.

That is crap, people.

If I know anything, I know I have to do it alone. But it is so, so hard doing it alone. I’m tired, 27 and tired. I have spent the past two years staring at a pile of poems I have spent the last ten years writing. They are spread over the floor; in this case, carpet, beige, stained. They creep under the edge of my white comforter, beside the box for my keyboard. They are always there, beneath the fiction writing, beside the thick smoldering novel. They are about the same thing, and yet wholly different, wholly incompatible, confusing, awkward, sealed, impossible.

The little voice inside me—instinct—comes and goes. Lately, she’s left. Vacation, I think. The beach. No one told her it was cold.

She’ll come back when she’s good and ready.

Back to Kate Bush. I always thought the song “This Woman’s Work” was about childbirth. I will stand outside this woman’s work, this woman’s work. Oh, it’s hard on the man. Now his part is over. But then I saw the video, or clips of it, and it seemed to be about a car accident. Then I saw the second episode of “Alias,” where she fingers the engagement ring from her dead fiancĂ©e while the song plays.

What is this woman’s work? Surviving?

I don’t know. I think it is a start.

This woman’s work is standing, staring down. This woman’s work is writing, and what comes later, which is worse, which is harder, which is the loneliest thing she has ever done: looking at her poems alone.

It’s cold in my room. It’s winter. The wine stains my lips.

I made them up. I made them. I made them. I will make an order. I will make them make sense. I will make them outlive me. I alone will make them survive me—him, them, all of us—yet. Give me time. Give me some good luck.

I know you have a little life in you yet. I know you have a lot of strength left.