Without computer, without Ed, without old friends, without advice or home or boyfriend or Midwest or winter: I am here, trying to reconstruct my poems. I am trying to go back to that style, that wildness, that way, that girl. It was taken out of me, and now I want it back: my long lines, my layers, my excess.
I was sick as a child. At two and a half, pneumonia nearly took me. So my parents took me to the hospital, to a doctor who ordered no medicine, who ordered me placed in an oxygen tent, and would not let my mother touch me. For seven days, I stood up and screamed. Would not sit down. Would not eat. Would not sleep. Just screamed. Would not stop screaming. I was two and a half. My mother watched behind glass. They wouldn’t let her hold me, pick me up. Had never seen anything like it, such screaming. Finally, after seven days, she signed me out, took me home. She won’t get better, the doctor said.
I did, or I didn’t. After that, I was different. I had been fearless, smiling, talking to strangers, singing. After that, my personality changed. My father told me this later, wistfully, as though it were my fault, or his. After that, I flinched, I hid. My poems have been flinching, hiding behind clipped, tight lines. Cut, cut cut by me, by the one with the long arms.
I think there is a more direct voice for you, my friend said last night at the restaurant, ceviche raw and pink on lettuce cups.
I think I said, I don’t know how to find it. I think I said, I’m doing the best I can.
Say it, my friend said.
I am saying it, I said.
Keep on saying it. Say it again and again.
Okay, I’ll say it again. Okay, I’ll go to hell. I’ll step back and stop myself, my slashing hand. I’m done revising the mess out; I’m putting the mess back in. I’m sitting in the computer lab on the lovely campus early this morning with my medium weekend coffee and my ripped jeans and my notebook, stiff from water spills.
Mine is not an ordered beauty—I know this now. Mine is not breezy, not neat, not shiny hair, not ironed skirt, not accessorized. Mine is wild, hair of three colors, curls. There might be a leaf in there. There is most definitely a cut on my hand, and a stain on my shirt, shirt which cost three dollars, necklace which is glass beads strung together at the back with a safety pin (I’m allergic to gold), but the library security guard can’t help smiling when I come around the corner in the morning—I know.
It’s time my writing knew this too, showed it too. We are wild, writing, you and me. We are going back down. We are not through screaming, not just yet.