Tidal Basin

Germination Detail Part III, by Leslie Shellow

contemplations about what stays in the net

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Words are Not Lost

As I sit to look at my manuscript for the first time in quite a while, I am hearing words through the lines I have written. A work that seemed so important for me to write at one time is quieted by the immensity of what is happening in Japan and by the powerful experience I am having reading Reiko Rizzuto's book, Hiroshima in the Morning, as these events simultaneously unfold. I surprise myself. I do not give up on my manuscript. Instead, I write a few lines, change a few words, and start to notice: reading and writing is my sun and moon. The celestial weight of the yearning is what I glean from Reiko's book, beyond the beautiful language, the palpable honesty, the courage of this heart-endeavor.

I realize I haven't been writing. Since my friend took her life, I have done what I could to float with what I had: multiple jobs, a new relationship, a sore shoulder, living with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Yet, submerged in Reiko's words, the rest of the world becomes silent: water around my ears, slight pressure, the sound of my own breath. What do I want? This is a question Americans get to ask. And not even every American. This questions absorbs in itself the needs and wants of others. If I want something, then someone must provide it for me. If I provide this thing myself, it no longer becomes a want, but a piece of me. It becomes who I am, who I always was - some sort of recognition of self rather than a want of other.

What do I need? I do not know anymore. The things I thought I needed have slipped away these past years - some violently, some without so much as a struggle, only perhaps a small sigh before leaving, marking the spot they occupied once in my fabric. My fabric is shifting. The strings pull apart to create more holes, more space. Which is better? Holes or space?

The relationship ends on pain of knowing too much.

I am back with what I write. If I were to claim one need, it would be this: to find the words and the beauty that is required to write something of substance that creates, as Reiko's book does, a raft of sorts for people floating in their own experiences. I want to build a raft that is made of the pieces of my corner of consciousness, lashed together with strands that grow out of something deeper and broader than who I am. Without these words, I have yet to see how I become whole.

These past months were an unintentional experiment. To say I dropped what I loved in the service of mourning would be a lie. Let me explain.

A death. A service. A collection of lines of poetry attempting to capture a life lived and ended.

Before these days, I woke with a dream that I would write in that month between classes. A life. A death. A service. And I knew, that if I began writing, I would not stop. I would write across the boundaries of time that defined schedules and classes and where-to-be's and when's. I would not come back if I left for that well-journeyed place. I closed the computer and pulled out the pile of essays to grade. Easier.

Reiko writes her way back to herself. Though the courses we have charted through the high waters of obligation are different, perhaps even opposite, I ride on the same yearning. She, a wife young before maybe even becoming an adult. I, in my forties now, sealed inside a chrysalis of having made it this far without my mate, never having wanted this to be the case. She, a mother without wanting to be one. She, loving her children and still not wanting to be what mother meant to her - the mother she had yet to define, a simple glow in the future she may not have seen flicker back then. Me, always wanting to be a mother, mothering other children, sometimes resenting other people's children because I gave to them that part of myself I thought was finite.

It was not.

But the impasse is the same. How does one write for oneself and for the world and still give (the best) of oneself to those nearby? I return to my manuscript. Some day, this book might buoy a swimmer for a little while. I hope so. For now, I am grateful for the reminder to keep writing. I dip my index finger into the salve of your words, Reiko, and touch the wounded places.

Thank you.