My writing files are a mess. Unfinished drafts and scraps which feel as if they are done (for now) cohabit my file drawers and banker boxes and teetering stacks. I can deal with that kind of disorder. What’s worse is that my writing files on the computer are a mess. It’s harder for me to find files lost in computer chaos than in room mess.
So I started the long process of organizing my Word and WordPerfect files. That’s when I found a folder full of old (really old) poems, some published, most not. I’d forgotten that I had ever written them, but when I re-read them the old feelings came back and I remembered the complete writing process of many.
I’m not sure if this was a positive or negative event. It seems somehow outside that sort of experience. There’s a sense of déjà vu, but I also detect new layers in myself–strata added on in the years since I wrote those poems.
Here is one of my forgotten poems, published almost 200 years ago in 13th Moon. I wrote it when I was a grad student, newly moved to California from Michigan, feeling as if I’d left behind a part of my life.
Pearl Diving Off Mikura Jima
Fingers persuading back wind-beaten hair
under the cotton bonnet
of Puritans and infants and Japanese pearl seekers,
she adjusts her jumpsuit,
arches her naked feet,
and waits for the girl going first. Then she herself swoops
into the gelatinous,
immune to the pull of the breeze.
Remember that dubbed horror movie we couldn’t shake
off–or wouldn’t? It was when
we thought the world was fun
in its irritated state.
Last week I found myself asking–
I was thinking of mock
ascensions and the superiority of irony–can we be Virgins
I want the miracle.
Torrential murmurs from the primordial conch,
Do you believe in magic?
Saying yes–both at once–we knew
it could happen,
the re-entry, the nacre increasing,
radiant as babyskin.
But the horror movie
is a recurrent rerun–
terrifying and allegedly harmless.
The Japanese woman returns from the deep and shakes her head,
swings her open, empty hands,
simple kites in the pull of the breeze.
Each image in the poem brings back a specific memory for me. Watching pearl divers on television in my old house. Reading mock ascensions in Plath. Finding the spaniel with the ear hematoma. No, don’t bother going back to look: he’s there, but you can’t see him.
I’ve asked myself how it’s possible to remember the whole writing process for this poem and some of the others I discovered. And why it felt important to remember. I don’t really have an answer, though.
Thank you thank you thank you to Elizabeth at The Daily Creative Writer, Olivia Wolfe, and Nathan at manoftheword for nodding back at my blog (the Very Inspiring Blogger award). You’re all inspirations to me!