Friday, December 7, 2007

The Desk

A feather, the size of half my pinky nail, and the top panel of a butterfly wing (one of my daughter’s finds) sit in a one inch by one inch cube frame on my writing desk. The feather appeared several months ago, no doubt floomphed loose from the corner of my down pillow one of those endless nights as I switched sides nursing my youngest, Nikolas, who we refer to as the marsupial nurser for his ability to maintain his grip on the nipple as we descend stairs, fold laundry, or make fruit salad. I have also on my desk a miniature silver typewriter (a pencil sharpener my father gave me when I went off to college), and in its typing carriage sits Emily D’s #1263 (There is no Frigate like a Book); the feather initially found a home there between the tiny parchment and the typewriter’s rim.

I started my Friday writing days for several weeks with a reassuring glance at the feather, until it disappeared and I spent half an hour rifling through stacks of manilla folders with their subject titles (Poem on Chocolate: due ASAP, Camouflage, June 1, etc.), calming when I finally found it between the printer cable and my laptop, hazardously floating towards the window overlooking the backyard where my father plays with my two sons while I write, or, chase feathers. So tenuous, delicate, but essential, this connection to my secret life as a writer, while really my head’s still full of milk and laundry to fold. How much lift could a feather that small provide? Days when I hear my middle son ordering Grandpa around, commandeering toys from my youngest, or the husband comes home early unable to paint in the rain and wants that cup of coffee with me, or the phone rings below and I’ve forgotten to turn down the volume, I think, what am I doing up here?

But then I look at the butterfly wing smattered dusky orange, bordered by white and velvet brown, striated with hairline veins, and the feather with miniscule spine. Better get to it, I’m writing in a world of fragile beauty, half wings, hidden lift.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Writing, Raising Children: Heart of this Blog

"My upstairs neighbor, mother of three, lives in a chronic extremity of demand that I witness from below as a kind of human storm. I do not think she would want to read poems that posit the singular solitary investigations of the privileged 'I' of lyric poetry."
Ann Lauterbach, The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience

I, poet and mother of three children under the age of seven, read this passage and laughed, recognizing that I am in fact both women Lauterbach describes, inhabiting one body. I have been living in the center of the human storm, biding my time until I could gradually return to my former passion of writing. To pass the time while my middle child raged in his room enthralled in tantrum throwing boots and shoes at the door I held closed with one hand, I began a habit of calming myself by grabbing random books down off my bookshelf and turning to the author bios: High Tide in Tucson, by Barbara Kingsolver: she has one child, published writer. Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin: three children. Mary Karr: Liar's Club: one child.

The process of writing, then, and the raising of my children, braided together, is the intended terrain of this blog. I belong to my children by day but the nights are mine (or will be mine once my youngest sleeps through the night). With one child in first grade, the second balking at preschool, and the third about to turn two, I resurfaced from motherhood long enough to find a fellow Mom-writer (Elizabeth) who gave me The Night Sky to read. We met at the park, sharing our grad school writing histories (MFA from Iowa Writers' Workshop ten plus years back; she: MFA from Bard roughly same time frame), while our boys kicked a soccer ball and my girl climbed trees, long enough to ascertain we'd pick out one night a week to leave the kids with the husbands so we could look at one another's work. How does one write, descending into the feral depths of the psyche, write well, and raise one's little people (with their equally feral demands), and raise them well, without one process compromising or eclipsing the other?