Here

I keep thinking I should write something here and then deciding I ought to wait. I have nothing to say, or nothing nice.

I keep thinking I should write something here and then deciding I will wait, because I am not okay and still believe there’s something wrong with that.

“Horrible patience,” Adrienne Rich writes. “This horrible patience which is part of the work.” I’ve never had much of any kind. A child, I couldn’t stop sneaking the chocolates my mother hid in her sock drawer — though I’m not sure that’s a failure of patience so much as appetite, desire. To wait — imagining the foil peeling back, the slight sheen of the sweet first glimpsed — means knowing what you wish will eventually be given

I keep thinking I should write something here but I don’t want to be here, wherever here might be. Here is my narrow desk, the surface stained and scratched, amber in the light of a low black lamp I’ve moved from state to state to country since I was nineteen. Lamp under which I wrote my first poems, under which I wrote my last. Here is a cream-colored page with the ghostliest grey lines as guide, a stave I fill with what feels like noise. No melody to anchor empty space, no nautilus of rhyme uncoiling words I didn’t know I had. Here is the notebook, just slightly damp, the sound of the rain underscoring each stroke, the humid air changing the page, the ink feathered grey along the tail of the y. Wet air, wet ink — here they won’t be kept apart.

And somehow here is also wherever you are, dear Reader, and whether I want to be there I’m unsure as well — I don’t know who you are anymore. You read this on a screen, a semaphore of blue-backed light. Black text against white. You read this while you wait yourself, though for what, today, I have neither will nor courage to imagine.

I keep thinking I should write something here and then deciding I will wait but I can’t stop myself any longer: I want to peel back this gossamer shield, aluminum pressed paper-thin, the tiny music it makes when torn. I want to hold it out to you, a small thing gone slightly soft from the heat of my palm. For years I wrote a letter that I knew would not be read. Impossible, then, to stop, to let the silence fill up when you’re desperate for a response. But months ago I signed my name and sealed the flap, and now — dear Reader, whoever you might be, I don’t know where you are.

Dear Reader, my teeth are aching with it.

Dear Reader, I’ll wait for you under this light.

Courage

I’ve had this conversation with enough people by now that I think it’s worth putting down in some more permanent form. The audience for this piece is specifically white academics, or those who consider themselves educated (whether self- or formally-) white allies, though of course anyone can read it.  Continue reading

Strength

I have been lifting weights again, an endeavour to which I am partial because my only goal in lifting is being able to lift more, the same the-ends-are-the-means process that motivates me to write. On my better days, I am trying to make a poem so that I can make the next one. On my worst: to satisfy my ego’s gaping maw, its endlessly open wound. Continue reading

On the Last Day of the Fall Semester

Closing remarks to my introduction to creative writing students. As with most of what I do in the classroom, it’s at least 40% self-directed.

1 December 2016

It has been my honour and my pleasure to teach you this semester. It has also been my privilege to learn from you. Each one of you has done the kind of hard, honest work that constitutes an artist’s life: learned a new skill, challenged an old assumption, surprised yourself with a talent you didn’t know you had. Said something you didn’t think you knew how to say. You have also given me, unasked, your trust and your respect. I’m grateful for that. And I hope you feel that I have given you the same. Continue reading

Faith

It’s almost the end of summer break and I’m nearly through a notebook. Like most who spend much time with such accoutrement, I am fussy about my ink (black, fine, rollerball or fountain) and my paper, which cannot under any circumstances be white with blue lines. Continue reading

Defense

I spent many many years, as a young person, playing basketball. I was simultaneously pretty good and terrible, depending which end of the court I was on. Genetically blessed with relative height and wingspan, quick feet, and a decent vertical leap, defense was my game. Continue reading