Friday, October 17, 2008

Backsplash--(while we're on the subject...

...of toilets) is the term for what happens to you when you do something for yourself that doesn’t include the kids and they’re loose somewhere in the house minus your hyper-vigilance. (I was going to credit New Jersey-momma-of-two Maureen for the word describing the phenomenon—until she corrected me: she’d actually said, “Blowback,” defined by Wikipedia as: “a term used in espionage to describe the unintended consequences of covert operations.”) I know she'd forgive the Freudian slip--it betrays a mother's position: close proximity to dirt, and other organic, earthy elements.

But we’re not the CIA, so maybe I should stick with backsplash: the 6 dresser drawers strewn about on the floor, because the five-year-old got his t-shirt without you (while you read the latest issue of Sow’s Ear), or the entire alphabet of Scrabble letters jammed between the deck boards (while you scanned Poets and Writers for upcoming deadlines), or the dismemberment of the husband’s G. I. Joe collection one fuzzy head and muscled forearm at a time (while you updated your blog), or the sleepless night after the long nap the littlest takes, when you foolishly wrote feverishly and thought, my God, I’m getting somewhere...when you really should have stormed the little trooper awake and gone back to gluing hairy bits of yarn and damp noodles to construction paper.

But would I go back to the immaculate mid-western post-graduate flat, with its shiny wooden floors, house plants I had time to water, writing desk at an angle to the corner of the room, one load of laundry to wash and sort, the routine of teaching two sections of literature, scoring essays on the side, vacuuming the floor of the crystal/gem store downtown on closing shifts? Nah—best to forgo those pre-marriage days of writing sour love stories with flowery titles better boiled down to include, “UTI in Paris,” “Panic attack in Grand Canyon,” “Chatting again, in bed, about your ex-wife,” or, “Abandoned again for the dog.”

So I remain anchored in time, here (with three children, a husband, five feral cats) in the beautiful mess of a house, and in Egypt, having just finished Michelle Moran’s novel Nefertiti: Queen of Egypt, Daughter of Eternity, imagining what it would feel like to be Nefertiti, birthing her six daughters while opposite her on the marital yoke, first wife Kiya birthed two sons. I ferreted out Moran’s novel because I am working on a series of poems written from various points of view—Nefertiti’s, her pharoah man’s, her sculptor’s, etc. The cost of finishing Moran’s novel? one gnarly morning making pancakes and getting kids ready for school with a reading hangover—you know the one—painful white fog between the eyes...somewhat mitigated by the delicious bliss of having gotten away with reading an entire book (between midnight and 5 a.m) without once hearing, “Mom? Mom?! Where are you?!”