"To the hands come
many things. In a time of trouble
a wild exultation."
-- Robert Creeley, "For W.C.W."
The manuscript-in-progress, gloss, from which I culled my NEA application, comprises a collection of poems from which a fragmentary narrative emerges about my partner Craig and his death in 2009. Most of these poems arise out of the whole troubling idea of "getting it right"--loving, grieving, and writing about it. Some of the poems in the collection employ various species of gloss--footnote, index, definition--as a kind of formal metaphor for the relationship between word and world. So the central poem, "Love, an Index," admits to certain difficulties in writing about memory and experience, while bearing witness to the necessity of writing even with that awareness. In another poem, marginalia collaborates with the text to question its accuracy by adding to it. These poems let me address my uncertainties about storytelling as an addition to the story, not an erasure of it. As for the lyrics and elegies in the project, they feel like a continuation of a conversation I once shared--a kind of offering to the amazing man I shared it with.
The various pressures on a young writer-- both practical and psychic--often detract from writing. I find it's very hard to write in stolen half-hour increments and I hunger for the lengths and spans of time that allow for sustained focus and attention, enough to find the shape of a whole thought. This grant offers both economic and (correspondingly) psychic relief, the gift of both time and focus. Some of the poems in this and in new projects require research, and that research requires support--this grant will enable that as well. And of course, as I imagine is true for all writers, I always wonder whether my concerns are of interest to anyone else, whether I have written in a way that makes those concerns visible to anyone else, whether the poems give anyone else pleasure. This grant also allows me to believe that at least sometimes, yes.
For the time, opportunity, and affirmation provided by this grant, I am truly thankful. And I am equally grateful that there exists a National Endowment for the Arts to help sustain me, my fellow grantees, and future recipients of this support. Thank you, thank you.
Unsonnet: Dark Matter
You are a coin I keep under my tongue
in case I get to close a dead man's eyes.
You are the galaxy's dense materials
and the pull they exert on my heart.
So soft, you are invisible to touch.
I wish you could come back and rap me
like a wall for my hidden chambers.
I wish you could lick me newborn clean.
Where have you gone, taking your wrists
and the writing across them? Where have you
taken your dark gaze and your moods
turning like stars in the black? I still can't sleep
the bed's center for fear of crowding you.
This light's star is long gone and I have your
sweat in a shirt, sweating body now bone-gravel
and flora. Come back. Sound my deep and I
will fathom you. I want your sinister
yearnings, your villainous deeds. I want your
sky-haunted eyes, in which I burn blue.
I am an angel with flames where her wings go--
love my brazen catastrophe. Lay your
hands on me. I want your baptism,
your Pentecost, your rapture, your return.