Tidal Basin

Germination Detail Part III, by Leslie Shellow

contemplations about what stays in the net

Saturday, August 28, 2010


My novel is hemorrhaging. I've been prodding it to shape up. I've poked at the language until it no longer makes sense. I think I've created some wounds.

The advice is to stop and let it rest: Write something else and come back later, and I will know what to do, as sure as landing after a jump.

I wish I had words to share about the state of our world that might change something fast. I want my novel to show me how to make medicine, but I haven't asked its opinion. Maybe it has other plans. Inasmuch as I am a microcosm of the macro, I edge out to rearrange the places that come within my grasp on this tapestry. I am a slow learner. It takes me many tries to follow my heart. It takes me many mistakes to learn to let go. Perhaps, that is why my novel is mooing like a sick cow. I reach into the stitches to unravel them and make more space. I want my work to serve, yet I am sure I have enslaved it.

I will teach soon. The spirit, the longing, the loss, the distraction, the love, the confusion, the curiosity that is me will stand in front of a roomful of college students and ask them, "Where does writing come from?" And I will listen, because I need to know.

I will ask them to do the impossible and the necessary: write who you are on these pages, don't hold back, find the truth and watch it change in front of your eyes. Then, I will go home, turn on my computer, connect to the internet, open my e-mail, hope that someone has written, notice: not today, open my word document, look at the first line, change it, change it back, erase it, close my word document, check my e-mail, check my heart, shut down the computer, pick up my notebook, open to a messy page, and write:

I curl up
bunching miracles in my claws that
I pull out of the thinnest air.

I hope one is for me.

Suddenly, I will remember that my novel wants to breathe. I will take the last draft I printed and spread Chapter One all around my room on the surfaces of desk, dresser, altar, bed, floor, hamper, trashcan. I will take a highlighter and light up a phrase or sentence from each page.

This is what I will come up with:  

a winged storm cloud
they foraged
"I didn't know I was being watched." 
The mirror was unreliable. 
"Do you need a bag?" 
Jack stared at the birds' feet that landed on the glass.
...and he did see stars and clumps of stars and constellations of black bird feet peppering the glass ceiling
appetizers always served before the main course
They seemed so loud; he wondered how on Earth they didn't reduce the door to a pile of glass shards. 
He would resurrect himself in due time. 
Duke, cosmically single, 
He squinted into the imperfect mirror. 
"Can't see anything, can you?" 
Don't guess its nature. 
They smelled of clumsiness and arguments and perilous rides through the countryside. 
"The hardest thing?"
He was left with no choice.

I will close my notebook and give it a rest. I will hope that when the time comes, I have a pen in my hand.

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