Thursday, March 29, 2012

Draft Process: Leering at My Lessened State

65º ~ sun rising over my left shoulder, filtering through the new leaves, all is liquid green and shaded, a wee-tiny breeze, birdsong, morning in late March, central Arkansas, perfection

Dear Reader, I'm doing a little happy dance at the desk of the Kangaroo this morning.  I DRAFTED A POEM TODAY!!!  Yep, all caps, three exclamation points, and shouting.  It had been so long, so very long (last draft 2/9/12), I was sure the sickly speaker must have abandoned me by now, must have given up on my power to tell her story.  BUT NO!  She was there, all along, under the surface, waiting.

Prudence, Digges Memorial, Chilham church

I began this morning by re-reading all 25 sickly speaker poems in the rough order I've settled on.  In some sense, this follows the order of composition, as I've been following her narrative in my head, although a few poems here and there needed to be shifted.  Still, I found myself making small notes for possible revision but I didn't let myself get sucked into any one poem.  I wanted the speaker's voice to waft over me in one long song of sickness & possible health. 

As I read, I kept mulling over where she might go from where I'd left her: possibly healing after the transfusion/transplant.  In the last few poems I'd drafted, she was seeing the beginning of a healing.  What would happen next?  Quickly, I knew that she was still healing and that I'll need to write some poems to describe that process, but I also knew she really wanted to write a letter to her mentor (the Dear Madame letters).  At some point this morning, and I've lost track of whether it was during my routine of making ready or during the reading, one phrase drifted through me, "They've brought a mirror in."  I let it slip by me but the echo lingered.

After reading the poems, I knew I wanted to start an epistolary poem but I was still feeling a bit wobbly, so I grabbed one of the books I brought home from AWP, Emily Rosko's Prop Rockery and started gathering words.  This book is a goldmine!  Can't wait to read it for real.  Hopefully very soon!  In any case, I got a group of words on the page and even started drawing my arrows and circles as I saw interesting combinations and hints of how they would fit my speaker.  However, that line from earlier interrupted me -- "They brought a mirror in."  She was insistent. 

So, I flipped the page in the journal and started in on the mirror.  With this I realized a few things.  1) The speaker had been cut off from her own image for eight months, as the poems began in August and seem to be following the same calendar as I am in real life.  What must it do to someone to not see their own reflection for this long?  2) The speaker's body would have changed greatly, as anyone's does when they are bed-ridden or sick for this long.  3) I didn't have a clear idea of what the speaker had looked like "before the fevers" (as she says).  Don't worry; she clued me in.  The poem raced off from there.  Sadly, I didn't use any of the Rosko words; however, I plan to use them soon on some of the healing poems I need to write to get from the last draft from February up to this letter.

And so, the new poem begins:

The nurses brought a mirror in,
deemed me fit to face the image

of a new body whittled from

The rest of the description here fills in what the speaker's body looked like "before the fevers" and then goes on to describe what's happened to it in the intervening months, including being "invaded" by the donor. 

When I'd gotten down what I think will be the main body of the poem, I flipped back to Prop Rockery for help with the title.  In "Monarchy," I found this:  "the stars took to jeering, leering / at our lessened state."  In Rosko's poem, the "lessened state" has to do with being oppressed and having had wealth stolen; yet, I found the phrase fit well with how my speaker felt in looking at her own body, so I did a tiny tweak and ended with "Leering at My Lessened State."  This may hint at the fact that I discovered that the speaker carried a few extra pounds around "before the fevers," and has now wasted away a bit.

It's a shorter poem than this speaker's usual, but I'm just thrilled to have the words down on the paper at all.  Here's to some calmer weeks and a return to my routine of drafting once a week.


Molly said...

hooray for new drafts!

Sandy Longhorn said...

wahhoo, Molly!

Kathleen said...

Yay, yay, yay! And I do love the phrase and the idea "before fevers."

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kathleen!

Martha Silano said...


Sandy Longhorn said...