Monday, February 28, 2022

her daughters become diction

Every once in a while, I like to pull out older work and older books and take a look. Sometimes, it's an effort to revisit an older version of my work or myself.  Sometimes it's a confidence booster to see how far I've come and how much I am writing or creating better than I was then. This weekend, it was my first book from oh so long ago--16 years now--which seems like an impossibility. A book that is actually no longer really in print, though I have a stack of copies and occasionally make them available in the shop, but mostly direct readers to the pdf version on my website. 

As presses close and lit journals shutter, especially post pandemic when everyone has been struggling,  there is much talk on the internets about what happens to our work when the things that used to seem inviolate--publishing houses, presses, lit mags--are in flux all the time. I've had two presses fold on me, one after publishing one book and accepting a second (girl show, which later found a great home at BLP ) and another (little apocalypse) that made it to the final proof stage and the press, which had published another project, had to close.  (that one I do eventually intend to put into print, but right now, it's just a freebie read on my website.) My young poet self would have been frustrated with all the uncertainty of this world we call publishing, but now I just figure the work is also fleeting and shifting. There's a certain amount of responsibility I feel l should take in making my work available if other avenues fail or end. 

There are, of course, poems in the fever almanac I cringe to read, mostly ones that seemed ever so brilliant at age 30 that seem kind of unspectacular now.  But then again, sometimes I cringe when things are published and later soften toward the work.  I remember hearing poets talking about how your work of any given period is simply an example of what you were working on during a give span of time. If it's not perfect, and you've thrown it out in the world, it's still important in your development and scope of artist.  Even if you hate it sometimes. There are actually some very good poems in my first book.  Also some merely adequate ones. (I was a promising young poet, but mostly just, however between these two poles. 

They span from when I first moved back to Chicago and started writing again in earnest and started publishing in the world of online journals I was discovering. (it was a world that seemed vast, but compared to later, was actually sort of small.) The last poems in it are from my first year of my MFA poem, when I was struggling to shift my work in new directions (which is where these poems broke from would become book #2, in the bird museum.  That final section of the collection begins to change a little.  Mostly I remember the poems in this book as the fodder for countless group readings and open mic nights I used to do when I was first navigating the local poetry world, so those are mostly fond memories of sharing work in real time via readings over cocktails, and later, in my first workshops (though these memories are less fond admittedly.) 


She still promises us an ocean then.
The lick of salt on our lips.
Sand settled in the depths of our bodies.
Anchor. Motion. Tide.

In late July, we travel the road
to the quarry, the dry skin
of our heels cracking, rasping.
Summer drying us out like sea grass.

She survives only on ritual:
her hands washing stockings
at the sink, the comb at our scalp.
Whispers stories of mermaids, loss.
Treads wistfulness like water.

Fires burn the valley nightly.
Her body listens, lists
to boats and destinations
while smoke settles in the curtains.
Scorches itself in the weave of her day.

Her daughters become diction.
The ghost of us, our lost selves,
scattering across the continent.
We are roses presses in a book,
the iron bed pushed against the wall.

We are furrowed, furious,
prone to strange weather.
Dream the water will take us
back one day willingly.
Our voices dumb as stones.

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