The next morning, I stepped out of my motel room and into the furnace of Monroeville in August. The Best Western is on Highway 21, which becomes Alabama Avenue. To reach the courthouse, according to the clerk at the motel, all we had to do was follow the road about five miles. It ended right at the town square. We passed an unremarkable stretch of auto parts places and assorted businesses. Next we came upon the Monroe County Hospital, up a short, steep hill to our left, then a strip mall with a Winn-Dixie supermarket, a Rite Aid, and a dollar store.
That’s about as far as I got into this book excerpt on Huffington Post before I had to get up and leave the room and sit quietly being sad. I’ve never even been to Monroeville. These roads are familiar, though, strips of commerce laid out across yellow fields. One corner down 82 was always overrun with giant sunflowers, not long before you found the Northport Walmart.
I’m wary of idealizing / idyllizing the South, seeing it as some simple place where people are all good neighbors—that’s not how it was for me. I don’t want time away to change that. But I had so many pockets of calmness, and long drives, and the heavy pollen on the breeze that wasn’t enough to cool me. I had dread when it rained. I had the cows along the bike route and everyone I knew ending up in the same backyard on a Friday night. I had the intense green leaves of any 100-year-old magnolia, my snakes in the water. I had confrontation with a history, all the time, in the big white houses, in the biased rental codes. Bad roads. Wet winters.
It occurred to me I’ve been too busy here to take time to miss anything, and so the missing occurred to me all of a sudden, in a public place, mostly alone, memory jogged by someone else’s words.
I’ve been waking up at 6am every morning, either to go for a run and or to write. Somehow I never seem to actually sit down to write until about 40 minutes have passed. I’ve had this problem my whole life—time moves wrongly in the early morning, episodic, feeding the cat and making tea inexplicably separated by ten minutes while I just stood very still.
I’m still glad to set aside the time, but I’m not sure if I can sustain this schedule. Mornings are time-weird, lunch breaks I’m even more zombie-like, afternoons are spent sighing and prone, and my eyes start closing around 9:30pm.
In other news, I just loved this poem by Sasha Fletcher. I will be looking for this book.
I began to write in an ugly way
To subtract myself from womanhood and see only
A person in bas-relief with crucial parts and cartoon
Grief. Grooming and fashion make a seduction
To hide the horrors of the day.
I have to be bad to be this way. I will give it up for you.
I think I am ready to. I want to be sick over something else
And act like another kind of person, a writer
With ideas, not selves, a woman with values
More than scars and years and you know
– Ariana Reines
Finally / Reading Mercury / Making attempts to write in an ugly way / Having attended previews of our next poetry faculty candidates / Having realized / really / My need to be taught / To teach myself / To mourn my Self the Student / and to write more Um Tears / in the politics of my thesis as it becomes its own municipality.
I woke up this morning to little scrambling noises coming from somewhere in the ceiling vicinity, and now our whole apartment smells like skunk. I’ve been carrying a scented candle with me from room to room.
Oh dear. This always seems to happen in the fall—things get busy, and I forget about this writing space. The visiting writers, whose visits I organize, started visiting right at the beginning of October. B spent a week in Belgium, so the cat and I spent a week cuddling. Ever since B got back, our apartment has been Sickville. The cat loves it, because all the humans are lying around so still and horizontal.
I had a conversation with B about the poems I’ve been writing lately, and my frustration with suggestions to name people in them, to create more of a coherent sense of narrative. I know I’m not the first writer to use pronouns without announcing them [see: Kate Greenstreet, The Last 4 Things. see: C.D. Wright, in general.]. I want these figures to function as figures, human shapes, not delineated by their relationship to the speaker but by their existence as Other. And I can accept that it’s currently not working, but I want to figure out how to make it work, rather than subscribe to narrative. My work of the past couple of years, the book manuscript and Future Skirt, has worked within narrative and character, and so it’s not that I dislike narrative. It just doesn’t feel right to me in the context of what I’m working on right now. My work of now is photographic, non-linear, flapping behind a screen. And I like it that way. And I’m very stubborn.
Yesterday, friends and I went to the lake where we’re not supposed to swim, hiked around the edge to the cliffs where we’re not supposed to jump off, swam around, floated on our noodles. More new students arrive every day. I had a long lakeside conversation with one of the new folks about why Spring Breakers is so good and The Bling Ring is not, and I was proud of myself for being so articulate. Then I thought, This person is meeting me and I am a fourth-year, and this is the impression I am putting forth. Should I be more couth? Should I pretend that I don’t watch trashy TV, that I am not the person at the party who eats all the chips? Should I only speak in verse? Should I not talk about my cat?
Obviously, I should always talk about my cat, but also, it’s sinking in a little more every day that this is it. Some day, I’m going to remember the days that are happening right now. When B and I were in Kansas City, we spent an evening watching old home movies and looking at old pictures, mostly of his birthdays and Christmases. The clothes/technology looked old to me, as they usually do in old home movies. Then B’s brother came over the next day with his very new and tiny child, and as we were taking pictures and making funny faces (okay, that one was mostly me) I started thinking that these exact moments were the kind of thing this tiny human would look at photos of, twenty years later. The clothes I was wearing would look old, and the iPhones so outdated. When I see photos of myself as a kid, I feel so detached from that time, that body, that whole sense of a person. This is just it. Which is such a complex emotion I really can’t portray it.
[ Mom / Unknown / Aunt Carole / Aunt Nancy / Late 1950s ]
Today, I have a thesis advisor. I have work to do for the job I’ll take over in less than a month. I have future plans, and I wish for it to be the future, because the future looks nice. These upcoming weeks feel like treading, waiting for someone to blow the whistle so that I can get out of the cold pool and go on, but these are also the last couple of weeks before I enter my last year here. Four years always sounds so long, but it spends itself so quickly. I’ve lived in this house for almost a year now, and the front room is still empty. In the future I have plans to be less complacent, to shape things the way that I want them to be shaped, to observe corners and closets and schedules.