“Art hurts. Art urges voyages – and it is easier to stay at home.”
– Gwendolyn Brooks
I haven’t written a poem since June 2015. It’s been more than a year since I’ve tried to craft light, to breathe some brightness within the margins of a page.
I would be a much better writer if I would just write.
In June 2015, I’d written a poem about my grandmother’s backyard, her small garden battling weeds and the splinters of the neighbor’s overgrown rose bush. I was staying in Greensburg, PA for the week surrounded by fifty black poets at the annual Cave Canem retreat. I felt heavy with pregnancy even though I was only five months along. On the day that fifty black poets boarded a charter bus into Pittsburg’s City of Asylum, my grandmother called with the news of her brother’s death. She filled me in on the bits of family drama and understood that I may not be able to make his funeral. Virginia was calling. I’d already been away from work a week and she knew that we were heading into the part of summer where sweat and swelling were inevitable.
If I was a better writer, I would get less distracted by life. I would be less indebted to sleep. Less distracted by television, social media, chores, the constant doing.
The truth is that art hurts right now. I haven’t submitted work for publication in over a year. I have a manuscript full of poems that remind me of people who I will never see again. I have poems about memories that are blurred, un-graspable. In many ways, I have lost grounding. When I lost loved ones, I lost homes.
Grief is not one-dimensional. In its complexity, it culls memory and present. A scent, a vision can transport into solemn times. It is fickle, a struggle to be truly present, to snap yourself firmly back into place.
It’s easier to not do. It’s easier to excuse the passage of time, to promise to get back to it. It’s easier to avoid the voyage, but it is inescapable. Even in joy, the multiplicities of mourning are apparent.
In October 2015, what I hoped would be my last month of pregnancy, I considered my baby’s flips and jabs, how she turned and stretched the skin of my stomach. How my hips widened and ached as she dropped, ready. Before her birth, debated her name, held it secret as I determined what legacy she would express. In joy, her grandmother’s name, her great-grandmother’s name still brought up the pain of their loss. The family she won’t know, how important they were to me. I found comfort in her birthday (November 1), nestled between theirs (October 26, November 10) as if a sign.
I am one writer embarking upon the voyage. I am trying to get back to myself.
I wrote this post in March 2016. The fall, particularly October and November, is a hard time for me. Updating it and sharing it now seemed right.