Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Many Poems Have You Sold, If Any At All?

Well, don’t be shy. Let me check the tally here,
under this stack of poems that I spilled tea on the other night.
The stain spread across lines about a bird that notices
the loose string of a clip-on tie. It’s not even my poem. A girl
about your age wrote it. She said, “I am not the whole.”

I am not the whole either. I am parts, many parts, a cobweb
that someone tried to relocate from an oak to a porch.

The girl leapt metaphorically from herself
to a bird in a class I taught. There’s that triumph.
Pay for that work covered the water, sewer,
and trash bills this month.

But you asked how many poems I’ve sold.
A specific question.

A boy in the sixth grade classes I’m teaching now
scrunches up his forehead at me and asks,
“When you’re not here, what do you do?” I tell him
I wait outside all night until I hear the door unlock.
Not too much of a lie.

“No, what do you REALLY do?” Hungry for the precise
answer too, that kid.

Are you supposed to sell poems? After 30 or so years
of writing them, I’m pretty sure no one wants
to pay for my truths. They prefer the news,
or reality television, the steady  thrum and throng
of here’s-what-you-should-think,
and ads that promise there’s a medication
for the way you’ve been staring out the window all this time,
instead of making money.

My truth is free.
So here it is.
I’ve sold no poems.

At least I don’t think so. Books of them, in a way,
but people always want to barter, or I end up
paying to ship them overseas. My poems
are better traveled than I am.

I’ve written as many as there were moths
on my bedroom ceiling at night when I was your age
and I couldn’t get to sleep in the black hole
that was the end of every single day.

I’m not sure what they are for in our world today.
Moths, or poems. They disappear.
A moth’s body —
have you seen it?
It is feathered dust.

If at all. You’re ruthless enough
to be the next one
to wait outside until you hear
the door unlock,
reverse your fame,
become the richest poor
woman alive
in her own

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Are You Sure You Want To Delete All Files?

Poems are spoken, heard, felt, perhaps forgotten. Or in some instances, the words find their way onto a page that yellows, becomes brittle, and decays. You may spend three sleepless nights stringing 800 carnations for a one night event. Plays take shape for a few nights on a stage, and then the set is torn down, the props and flats packed up to build some other reality later.  The dialogue and nature of the character lives on in the actor only as long as the next role they play.

Performance is constantly changing as it is being created, and even as it has its run. It is fleeting. Miss it, and well, you've missed it. Entirely. There's no file recovery for missing the opportunity to see your friend Nick perform with his band because you opted to sit on the sofa and eat Oreos instead.

Yesterday a student in one of our classes lost all of her work. We've written self-portrait poems, and for the past week or so have created animations of the lines using iStopMotion on iPads. She deleted, accidentally, or possibly on purpose, all of the animation she created. Tears welled up with the realization that all of her work was gone. She left the room, collected her courage somewhere in the hallway, and returned to redraw. She learned one of the hard lessons of creating. Hearing "It will all be alright," or "I appreciate that you've gotten back to work," doesn't really help when you're mourning a loss. You're alone with empty hands. We'll discuss what happens when you lose all your work in class on Tuesday when some time has passed.

We've experienced all sorts of "All of my files are gone!" in this residency as well. The iPads have a function engaged on them that allows the user to delete files by shaking the device as you might shake an Etch-a-Sketch. It first prompts the user with "Are you sure you want to delete all files?" but short attention spans, or a desire to have a virtual dog gobble it all up, often ends in a click of the "yes." Then regret. Or delight, depending. Some people like starting from scratch. Others think deleting it all will be an excuse to get out of rewriting. That's a whole other lesson.

When the cat pees on your painting (this happened to me once - a critic!), or you break a bit of pottery, or even burn up your origami, you have pieces and parts (or ash) to work from, but when you work digitally, what is left? File recovery, if you're lucky.

All creation is ephemeral. Whatever you make will be gone through decay, erosion, explosions, deletion, including you and your beloved patterns, someday. Hit save all you want, you're on your way out. For now, go out in the hallway to find your courage to come back. Do something, anything, to add rather than subtract before you go.