Having sensitive skin and a fruit-like tendency to bruise, I am always acquiring a variety of purple and green marks from the most unlikely of sources: the desk corner, the door frame, the angry buffet. Maybe those are realistic altercations. But today a bruise from an unexpected foe: a piece of pie. I dropped the ceramic bowl containing the pie. It slipped off the counter, into the air. The bowl did not break, nor did the pie fall out; it landed upright on my foot. Blueberry pie can bruise you, FYI.
It seems like whatever you think you set out to do, the unexpected comes. I was singing when I met the love of my life.
I was a poet—-strictly poet, card-carrying, trained, licensed, bound—-when a novel came, little lightning bug, little pie flying. Now, on the hottest day of the summer so far—asphalt bubbling on the bridge—I want to start another.
For nearly a year, there hasn’t been a big project for me. I’ve been editing a novel, reshaping a poetry manuscript, writing new poems, but no big storm, no whirlpool, no swept away, and I want that. I am happiest when immersed. My mother threw me in water when I was an infant. She’ll find her way to the surface; she has to, the instructor said. I swear it is my first memory.
A friend has a list of novel-writing rules, how to see a book to its end, which include such maxims as not starting a new project, nor reading for pleasure. I’m glad that works for others, but that doesn’t work for me. I just want to tell stories. I want to read them, too. I’m going to jump around a bit. I’m not giving up on my other books, but I am trying to balance. How to deal with aftermath of writing, taking care of this thing (submitting, finding an agent, publishing), while not giving up on the creation of this other thing. How much time should each take? A hour a day to the business of the old work, two hours to the new? One hour for prose, two hours for poetry? Tell me the formula and I will write it down, carefully on graph paper, commit it to memory, follow it.
I hear the big project calling. There are children yelling and laughing and I am not sure if it’s on the street or on the radio. Sounds of the fountain.
I will buy a hundred index cards. I will write on each one an idea. I will fan them in a circle on the hardwood and sit in the center. This book, even more than the other, begins in difficulty and ends in happiness. Surprise, surprise, surprise, happiness. We came to sit beside each other.
I’m just going to keep on doing this thing. I’m just going to keep on telling the stories as I hear them. Something is coming around the corner. I’m not looking for it; I’m not calling for it, but I am ready for it. I will be singing when it comes.