Tuesday, April 26, 2011

“Hello…is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me; is there anyone home?"

I never offer up anything but poems on this little piece of the blog-cosmos that I call my own--but it is late, and I don’t have a poem in me or an old one to patch up. Sure, I can bare my private parts with abandon in simile and metaphor; I can communicate most purely through the broken line—sometimes I hit it, sometimes not so much. This is just as true in everyday life. No doubt I can communicate in that certain “socially acceptable” chatty way—I swipe my debit card while yammering with the cashier, shrug and smile, tilt my head. Indeed, I am fascinated by people and wish that I could speak to my random everyday acquaintances in a more effective, compact language—having nothing to do with the weather forecast or the price of gas or where I got my skirt (it was my friend’s; she outgrew it, thank you). I want to understand why the convenient store clerk flushes and mumbles when he says Have a good one now. And the little boy across the street sits on the front stoop and fingers the hole in the knee of his jeans--his shoulders are always hunched. I want to know why he is sad. From my driveway it looks like he is singing to himself. I imagine his squeaky kid-song-whisper. I want to know: that’s why I write poems. They help me to get to those bleeding roots, the tangled places in myself that are not so different than anyone else’s—my own weird gesticulations, my own bland silences, my very raw self-consciousness.

A blog-candidate I was not. The word itself grosses me out. It sounds so…unwriterly, so anti-lingual. Like snore or scuzz. It happened that a good friend of mine was always harassing me to get my poems out there, so what, publication-smublication, the world needs poems, more poems. Your poems. My insides stiffened when she talked like this. Who the hell cares about a poetry blog? Don’t people want to read about each others’ day and dole out sewing tips? This was the same friend who held her transistor radio close to her ear as it fuzzed and mumbled its way through a local poetry show I did. K was the type whose concept of technology included the words transistor and radio—and yet she was bugging me to start a blog. She died last summer, my brilliant snarky friend. For awhile I typed letters to her for hours on end, night after night. Writing to her like that, to the furious clunky music of the typewriter, made it like she wasn’t completely gone. But that didn’t last long. I didn’t have my best writer friend. I just didn’t. So I decided to do the thing. Make a blog. It was both a cathartic and sentimental move, and I was secretly embarrassed. But I also secretly wanted a blog. There is, after all, a riot in my soul---and I don’t mind taking it to the streets. I’m just self-righteous like that---I hate to follow trends, and I especially loathe mixing poetry with them. It feels dirty and lazy. Like how I feel when my muse sniffs in disgust as I ignore her to watch "Weeds".

Yes, I know the world is unfathomably big and I, with my handful of poems, am infinitesimal—but everyone’s got their standards. I found myself compromising the latter for vanity,  or validation—I’m not sure what.  I started out with a fervor, listening carefully for the praise and spot-on criticism that K would have doled out. It’s been a little less than a year and I have 13 “followers”. What a terrible, wonderful word to have heading up a list of your poems….but the number!---so small! This is the equivalent of being on the outside of the outside of the outside of the popular group in high school, or reading a poem to a good friend whom, when you look up, is all hesitant eyes and pursed lips. Every time I post a poem it is like standing naked in front of the skin doctor under those awful snot-colored lights. All you can see is the crumpled tumble of your clothes in the corner, those embarrassing pink thongs that you meant to tuck into the leg of your jeans. The air smells like paper and whatever the doctor had for lunch.

I have caved to a certain ego-ruckus: the idea that whole bunch of people should be paying attention. To my poems. Right now. I mean, not just looking—scrutinizing. I check my ‘stats’ at least once a day. My heart rate picks up when I see that blue tracking-grid: it’s as if the grid were a heart monitor. I feel attached to it by thin, primary-color wires. Electrodes smash into each other, the lights start to fritz, my pupils dilate: okay—no flatline. Good. Good. But no major leaps either! And, worse...no comments, or new followers, or messages…I can feel my scalp tighten up. I swear my lips chap. Somehow my elbows hurt. I think to myself: Christ—what has happened to me?! These are my poems and I am treating them like e-bay items that no one has cared enough about to bid for, or fight about, or even click on. But then, sometimes, an unidentifiable silence blows into the room: it plays my ribs and sweeps my fever. It calms me in the same way that looking at my favorite picture of K does. The photo is an explosion of glitter. The glare off the camera bleaches out whatever is behind her---it is an intense, summery picture: everything is white. Mammoth Janis-Joplin sunglasses nearly smother her sharp pixie face. Her daughter is standing just in front of her, mugging and squinch-eyed. K’s teeth glitter like a row of shined-up pearls—her mouth is open in laughter: she is hauling light and heat into her summer-browned body. I love this picture. It makes me cry, or smile, or laugh. Sometimes it just pisses me off. I miss her. Missing is the color of bruised, rotted plums. Grief is a boiling, bottomless cannon. Sometimes I try to stuff that canyon with a language that makes sense. Poems make sense to me. They made sense to K.

During this unexpected and self-concious blog-life of mine, I have stumbled over grief many, many times. That happens when you are so self-centered as to feel you are nailing your poem to a cross every time you post one. It occurs to me that I am in fact nailing my poems in place, keeping them in time and space--- keeping them occupied and bleeding. At the same time I am waiting for them to land in K’s mailbox or inbox. It hits me that I am still waiting to hear back from her, dozens and dozens of poems later. I miss her searing wit and surly indictment of all things fatuous. She was my no-bullshit-zone pen pal, and my punctuation guru. Grief is like a latent, sunbaked snake.

It occurs to me that I am not distressed because I only have 13 followers, but because she is not one of them. She is nowhere on that graph. There is no evidence that she has come and gone, vivid as she was.

So it seems that I did not start this blog because she badgered me, but because I didn’t have anyone else to show my naked poems to. And so why not put them here, on the internet, which is really a peculiar and vast nowhere, for complete strangers to see? It is like bellowing across a moon-sunk lake at midnight: my voice is bound to come back at me---a depleted echo. She is not there to catch and map it, or even swim it back to me like some illustrious, wise fish. In realizing this I have been able to begin to stop fretting about who's looking and liking and perusing and dismissing. I have started to stop waiting for my remarkable, insatiable friend, which is in some ways more nerve racking. I say this, and yet I am compelled, for the first time, to write a post in prose—only to tell you that it is not so cutting anymore, this need to know that someone is paying attention. Hey---just nod if you would.


Eric Anderson said...

Posting a blog – like writing itself - is always an act of faith. You have to believe there might be an audience, might be a connection, might be a meaning beyond the act. But even if no one is there and you find yourself alone on a stage speaking to an audience of empty chairs at least you’ve still said I’m here.

I feel for your grief, so sun-baked, your desire to reach and communicate and say more.

Poetgirl said...

Yes, Eric, thank you. It isn't a small thing, not always. And writing itself, at it's rawest, can feel like a little death itself.

Carl said...

Alicia, you rock!

Chloe said...