On Poeming … a non-fiction piece

Mother, early 1950s

Mother, early 1950s

“On Poeming”

      – after “Memories of West Street and Lepke” surface in hospital
      Here’s the gist: If Robert Lowell can be teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming in pajamas, hogging an entire house with his living, then I can be poeming whenever and wherever I let myself.


      Mother had spent the week at her sister’s home in Monroe, Georgia, while my sister and cousin were in New York City. Around 9:30, on a Friday night, my sister’s plane landed at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, and then two hours by car to my aunt’s – a quick unpacking, gathering Mother and her things, then driving all night to Northeast Tennessee, near the Virginia line, picking up biscuits around 6:30 on Saturday morning.

      Mother could only eat two bites. She was ill – still reeling from gall bladder surgery a couple of weeks earlier – or maybe it was the drive. Given her age, I felt there was no choice but to take her to the hospital – no room for guilt – and so I did. Fluids, blood tests, and a CT later – just to be certain the missing gall bladder and stones were, in fact, still missing – there was nothing more than rest needed. Acid reflux was not her friend.

      And I breathed.

      Waiting for her discharge papers – the Doctor had to cut short the closing visit – a helicopter lands, fresh tragedies to unravel. “Your papers, with prescriptions, will be ready shortly,” he said.

      Waiting – Mother napped and talked – talked then napped –

      “A-Minor Press,” I said, “has accepted a full-length collection of poems. The book will be published this fall.”

      “That’s good. So you’re still poeming,” she said. “I thought you’d stopped.”

      “I am.”


Mother, Summer 2013

Mother in hospital,
Summer 2013

      I like poeming. It’s a perfect word.

      To write a poem is all about control, about power, purpose. To direct the words is dangerous work, since what it builds is not the path. Writing a poem is all about the writer, and if you’re not careful, there’s no room for the poem. Poeming is the writing. It’s all about the poem, and that’s the way it should be.

      Writing a poem is the same as writing a book about fishing. There’s nothing real – no river, no line, no shadows flitting behind rocks, no feet, no hands. Only words about something that can’t really be told. This is the story… A fisherman, the river, and the fish are one. That’s the world. Beyond them is only silence. I like that story. That’s the way a poem is – or should be. If I know my hand is moving, there is no poem. Let the poem be the poem – and not be something to say, something to write down, not words to commit to the brain. It knows what it’s doing. Always has.

      The poem doesn’t need me. I’m the one with the need.

(Summer 2013)
[Note: “On Poeming” was part …number 11, actually… of a group of non-fiction pieces, written in the spirit of Michel de Montaigne, focused on anything & everything around me, as a way to jump-start my writing which had halted in the winter/spring of 2012, primarily because of the declining health and death of my Father. During Spring semester 2013, I assigned my creative writing (non-fiction) at King University prompts based on the writings of Montaigne. I also wrote along with the students, and my “On” series grew from this.

Thanks to Mother for everything.

Also, a special thanks to Nicolette Wong and the late Walter Bjorkman for believing in the poems which became Cinéma Vérité.]

~ by samofthetenthousandthings on January 2, 2016.

2 Responses to “On Poeming … a non-fiction piece”

  1. so enjoying how you are entering this space.

    recently a friend sent to me a grouping of disparate photographs, flowers, old houses, a splattering of birch trees like paint, a brother’s face, and i looked and looked to see between the fence posts an image of he accruing. that is what seems to be happening here with you.


    the photograph of your mother is such a force, and simultaneously, so it seems to me, an intimacy. i hurt with the charge of it.


    i’m grateful for what you do here. (some months ago james sent me.)

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