Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Draft Process: The Calendar is Turned

40º ~ several chilly days have set in, warmer air promised for tomorrow, my body refuses to let go of the cold this morning even though I sit inches from the heater, the sun is making a valiant effort to defeat a thin cloud cover, there is a crisp wind

I've been thinking about the sickly speaker a lot the last few days and wondering how I might find her ~ recovering or regressing?  The answer: regressing.  The arrival of the answer: an hour after I'd gone to bed, which meant turning on a light and scrambling for the journal to catch her voice.  It turns out that her eyes have been wrapped with gauze again, something that came up in an earlier poem during a spike in a fever.  I have no idea why that tidbit came back, but there it was.  Another mysterious part of the mysterious illness & its treatment.  I scribbled down a handful of lines and fell back asleep.  This morning, I was excited to have a beginning already formed.

In this case, the whitecoats (what the sickly speaker calls doctors but not nurses) have also ordered her arms to be bound and that is a new development.  This proved to be a bit of a problem, since the whole vibe of the poem began as a letter to the speaker's mentor, known only as Dear Madame.  But if her arms are bound, then she couldn't actually be writing, so I had to deal with that as well.  I tried taking the letter form away from the poem and it fell apart.  So, it became a letter dictated in an empty room and the speaker must grapple with the knowledge that this line of communication is closed to her (she receives no visitors). 

The draft begins:

They've wrapped my eyes with gauze
forcing the lids closed against the fevered light.

They've swaddled my arms to my chest,
attached more tubing and more alarms.

What's interesting is that for most of the drafting process, once I got to the computer, there was another stanza at the beginning.  The line I have here as the first is the one that I scribbled out last night, and by taking out the other "first" stanza and condensing it, I was able to create the title, "The Calendar is Turned, the Year Anointed."

Oh, and I was able to use a recent incident in the poem.  About a month ago, a young robin began attacking its own reflection in the window above my computer.  We had to hang a sheet over the outside to "break the reflection" as the website we consulted advised.  On Jan. 2, at 8:58 a.m., the robin returned and began the cycle again.  (Yes, I looked at the clock.)  We were more quick with the sheet this time and the robin cussed us out from another tree while we were scrambling through the branches of its territory.  So, without giving too much away, I was able to use this idea in the poem.  Wahoo!

from Science Photo Library, click for link
On another note, one of the threads that seems to be developing is the speaker's frustration with her lack of agency in her own treatment.  In some cases, this is due to a lack of communication from the whitecoats and in some cases this is due to her own lack of trust in her own mind & body.  Does she want to get well?  I have no idea, but I'm enjoying the ride to discovering the answer.


Kathleen said...

I've been worried about that bird.

And I'm very interested in that question, your speaker's central question.

Sandy Longhorn said...

The bird is fine, although my poor window is seriously smudged. (In both cases, we were able to block the reflection quickly.)

That central question just materialized today, so I'm thrilled with that!

Molly said...

"The lack of agency in her own treatment" -- such a huge and resonant issue for me in my experience of serious illness. I'm glad you're writing about it!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Molly. It's such an interesting journey.