I am still smiling to myself over the news of this award. The day before I received word, I had just handed over the final version of Big Muddy River of Stars to my editor at the University of Akron Press. I felt empty. And rather than celebrating, I kept beating myself up with questions like What will I do next? and How can I ever possibly do this again?
I never guessed it would be the NEA providing me the time and obligation to write. I have begun work on poems for a new book, probably something I would have talked myself out of doing before. Now I feel blessed to be able to try it. I'd like to go to a writer's conference, and take at least a semester off to write exclusively.
Every time I start a poem I feel like I am fumbling around in a dark closet in search of matching shoes. I am not in a writing group or a workshop, and I don't have anyone to read my work-only my shaky instincts to tell me where to start, where to let go. It's been so nice to have this whisper of encouragement to tell me that sometimes I get it right, especially from a panel of writers I so admire. Thank you.
"In Livingston Parish, Dreaming of Li Po"
Li Po, this is your invite to the Prop Stop,
a honky-tonk unreachable except by boat
where we'd tether to a buoy and then, barefoot
or in flip flops, tightrope across a rug of skiffs,
two weekenders not looking for trouble
but ready to battle any slurs the hicks unleash.
I keep samurai toothpicks and wine on hand,
though little news and nothing but wild company
brave the drawbridge to visit this distant post--
only a den of armadillos and dime-sized frogs
that answer to your moon. Once a man broke through
my yard with a wild turkey over his shoulder,
but he didn't stop to talk. I later heard he was
some houseboat squatter come ashore
who uprooted a doublewide, leaving behind
an acre of shipyard squalor, red clay getaway
and all. Which reminds me--lose the topknot
and wear an orange vest. It's bow season,
and I fear a wild pig, or worse, will discover
you sleeping off pink zinfandel in the palmettos.
Always travel at night, in a swarm of mist.
If you send word, I'll take the four-wheeler
and meet you at the property line.