It’s been a while since I’ve written a poem and believed it to be true. The seasons have slid in, replacing the words – spring cleaning, winterization, falling back, summer vacation. Instead I write what I will do down, a way to recognize them but not fully commit – hours and days become lists of chores, shopping trips, phone calls, and follow ups. They read like lyric to me now and I race to scratch them away:
When I was a child, I literally thought a snake would jump up and bite me in the ass. Waking in the middle of the night, I’d be terrified to pull my legs off the bed, put my feet on the ground. Just like the shadows of leaves I pictured being men with moving mouths on the way, I swore there were snakes and mice on the ground, waiting to get at my toes. I’d pee in the dark bathroom once I half ran there. And I’d sit on the toilet thinking this would be the night I didn’t check to see if the water snake slithered up the pipes, in wait. I’d hurry and wipe and half run, half jump onto the bed, covers over my head to ignore the shadows creeping in.
Now, when I pee in the middle of the night, half groggy, listless, I keep the door open and stare into the dark hallway. I often feel like someone’s waiting, someone’s watching, some invisible curious being that I believe Ivan notices sometimes. I hear a scurry of a possible apartment mouse. They keep coming back. Who am I to think they find interest here, that this is even worth being around?
I speak to the dog to keep from speaking to myself. But I still practice dialogue out loud that I plan to use for the fiction I have yet to write. The fiction ideas that pile up on some white page in an unnamed file on the desktop of computer. In bed, on my side, I wrap one arm around my shoulder not to feel so distant from the empty. I write a line of poetry in my head that’s so good to write down, but I wake in the morning and it’s smoke.
One night, I sit alone on the couch as the dog snores behind me. I watch a baby mouse scurry across the living room carpet and then jump for a minute repeatedly, finally to grasp a vent rung and slink into the utility closet. I turn on the TV.
I triple check locks on the door; set six morning alarms on my phone five minutes apart. I close all the doors and the drawers and the cabinets. I move books and coasters so they’re flush with straight angles.
I’m supposed to make lists to keep my mind from spinning. I’m supposed to Be Here Now, to practice the art of mindfulness to get these anxieties to wilt away. She says if you drink coffee, drink the coffee. If you shower, shower. If you read, read. Focus
How am I supposed to focus with so many lists? I could spend my day jotting down these schedules, these tasks, like every day poetry and never get to any one of them. I want the cold, clean calm of a fresh inked line through a word, through a thought. I feel like I’m inventing a new style of writing in this everyday feverishness of nothing ever finished.