Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the island

The other night I dreamed that my novel was published. It was a panic dream. I woke up coughing in the air conditioner. I dreamed of rows of hardback, light pink books on bookstore shelves, a table display. I wanted to sweep them in my arms and take them all away. I had changed my mind. It was wrong, the book, or it was not yet right.

The pink was also distressing.

I went through this a little when my chapbook was published five years ago. I loved the poems while writing them. I was proud of the chapbook when it came out and worked very hard to promote it, but it was discouraging how little it counted, slim book stapled. And then I became less excited about the poems. They were very old. I was very young. But I glowed about the press, who are good people (check them out). They gave me hugs and a reading and a plant. It did well, for a little chapbook. I wanted to do well for them. It only slipped into the millions on a few days ago, after five years on the charts, and oddly, my heart slipped a little along with it to see it fall, tiny book that shouldn’t have counted but did, tiny book that could.

Five years later, I am doing something different, but I respect those poems and the one who wrote them on bunk beds and in library study cartels and in notebook margins for unrelated subjects.

I would like to be given an opportunity to grow. I would like my next book to be better. It was written on a back porch, and in an attic office, and on a mountain, on picnic benches and rock beaches, in coffeehouses, on three computers, in longhand, and on scrap paper, finished in an August all-nighter upstairs in my sister’s old room.

And the one after that? Written maybe in the hot seat, maybe in the bedroom, maybe in the library with its ornate ceiling skies? I write about the places I have left. This next book is about an island. Oddly, I am finally on an island. But I have left the other island, the one where I thought only of myself, the one where I believed I was and could be only one thing, the one where there was only one way to be a writer. No more one. My favorite part of every day is when we decide what to have for dinner. Many high fives. This island is populated. I am finally alive.