Thursday, August 10, 2006

floating city

I saw an old friend recently and he wrote me, saying I must have good news. In parenthesis: book? I don’t have a book. That it to say, old friend, I don’t have a full-length book—real book, as my mother says—poetry or novel, published.

But I do have news, good news, old friend, the best I have ever had. I do.

I write here so friends don’t have to call every day (though I certainly don’t mind if they do!), to start or reenergize my writing day, and to talk about new projects. I am wary of the internet, though—its speed, its lack of tone. I am wary of bragging. I am very wary of strangers, though I have met some great ones who have ceased being strangers (hi cornshake!), and I am touched by some of the comments people leave. I am wary of anonymity. But something has to be said. I have come to New York. I have come to New York to stay. I have come to New York because I have come to love a New Yorker.

Okay, I’m not sure if I fit in in New York. I don’t want to be on TV. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to lose five pounds. I know I have obligations elsewhere (don’t worry, colleagues and teachers; I’ll do them; you can count on me for workshop), but the truth is, I have to be here. I have to be here. There are butterflies in Times Square, and five white balloons, and a double yolk egg. I have to be here. My heart is here.

For the last six years, I have been preoccupied with not having something, and that something—of all the things in the world—was a book. And I was sad, that I had been writing and publishing for so long (and when I mean long, I mean it; I didn’t come to writing in college or high school or elementary school; I came to it at birth; ask my mother). And I was sad that many of the poetry books I read were not very good. By good, I mean interesting, new, surprising, smart, and alive. And I was sad that many books being published had rumors behind them, rumors of nepotism and deceit. And I was sad that some of the writers I met were anxious and unkind.

This picture was taken at Alcatraz, which is the most beautiful island I have ever seen. The view is for miles. The water is pale blue, like eyes. There are birds, wind, white trees. The city is distant, a cloud city, a floating city.

And all the men on the island saw it through a window.

For years, I have felt like I have been seeing the city through a window. It’s lovely, but I’m inside. What am I doing over here.

I thought if I moved enough times, thought if I published in enough magazines, thought if I won enough prizes. No way. I didn’t need an absent lover to write to, I didn’t need anger or hurt, I didn’t need a favor, I needed you. Not to write to, though I do that, but to come home to.

Now my disappointment at not having a book is different; it’s wanting to feed my family. It’s wanting to help provide for the most important person in the world. And it’s not disappointment, it’s will. It is a different kind of urgency. It is one that can lift cars. It is one that I think will finally propel me into doing what I need to do, into accomplishing what I have always wanted to accomplish. It’s more than me now. I know who I will love. I know who I will wake up beside. I know what makes my heart beat now. Now it’s time to sell a story that will help us live.