The assignment was to write a poem about writing a poem. I was climbing the ridge behind my house when the first whisper of this idea blew past my right ear. I chased it down my favorite trail through the forest for an hour, all the way back to the house, kicked off my muddy running shoes and sat down to write. At which point, of course, my mind went blank.
[poor emma sits in the bay window among the plants behind me
so silent I don’t realize she’s there at first
I haven’t seen her all afternoon
I thought she might join me on my run as she often does
I race through the woods while she races through my brain
now, winded, sweaty, I sit down to put words to paper
and I hear her, just there
over my left shoulder]
no poor emma, not now. I’m trying to remember how the mountain is blue with layers of purple.
I’m trying to describe how there are streaks of red across it where the hardwoods are budding out and how the red is both close and far
like a star in the night sky that you can’t really see if you look right at it
but if you slide your eyes an inch to the left or right
it becomes perfectly clear.
Heyyyyyy heyyy I’m a monkey
please, Poor Emma, I’m trying to concentrate.
I’m trying to put words to the sound of water running under spring snow
and how when the crust gives way under my foot I sink to my ankle in sharp cold goo
and how scaryfun it is to cross a snowmelt pregnant river in late March.
I need to remember the sound that wind makes without leaves.
Ooooohhhhhhh dirty dishes in the siii-iiink, dustbunnies on the staaa-iiiirs
[ignore ignore ignore; tip tip tap tap tap, backspace backspace backspace]
A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh
[inhale close eyes exhale]
In the jungle the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight
[...magenta, no; crimson, ugh too cliche; ruby, mmm, not really the right descriptor…]
aweeeema-weh, aweeeema-weh, aweeeema-weh, aweeeema-weh
POor EMma! -- please!
I’m trying to understand how the woodpecker’s trill bounces off the trees behind me in the woods
and how the weasel’s body does this undulating dance along the edge of the pond
and what it feels like when you hear the geese for a long time before you can find them in the sky.
I need to envision how the grey and charcoal of the birch work together
and where the yellow begins on the tips of the balsam.
[my scold turns Poor Em’s taunt into a sulk
she wraps her fingers around the rosemary stems
and flicks brittle houseflies into the corner of the window.
Po’ Em just wants to be seen, to be heard, to have a life outside the south-facing bay window
and all I want is for her to ssssshhhhh
so I can focus
and find the words to finish