It has been a while since I’ve published a poem on this blog, and there is a reason. I’ve been preparing myself to write about more serious personal issues.
About a year ago, I had a profound, life-changing experience. I went on a two-day retreat in which I did nothing but eat, sleep, and read and reflect on my friend Cathy Wild’s forthcoming book − Wild Ideas: Creativity from the Inside Out
For years, I had been aware of a significant weakness in all my creative endeavors: an inability to face directly the frightening memories that shaped my childhood and young adulthood. As a result, almost everything serious that I wrote – especially my one novel and most of my short stories − seemed incomplete, as though I always chose to leave the wrong things out.
As I read Cathy’s book of wise guidance and personal insight, I experienced something I had never experienced before – a conversion, a blossoming of faith. I finally accepted that my deepest secrets, secrets I used to hide, were a source of creative power. And in accepting that, I accepted myself.
In the near future, I will post a poem I’ve written about one of those deep secrets – my mother’s alcoholism. More work about that and other secrets will follow.
In 1980, after my divorce, I decided to study creative writing for the first time, and I took an excellent course through UCLA Extension. I enjoyed the class, but I was nervous about one of its main requirements: that you submit a 5000+ word story to the rest of the class for their critique. I vividly recall how brutal the comments of my fellow students seemed, and how surprised I was when the teacher took me aside and said: “I think they liked it.”
Recently, in preparation for this blog, I have been doing a different kind of studying with my friend Cathy Wild, who is a writer, an artist, a counselor and a creativity expert, among other things. When Cathy critiques a poem of mine, she won’t let me settle for “good enough.” She forces me to continue to look at how to make whatever I’m working on better, until I can’t make it better any more. The following poem, which began as a simple note about a fun fact*, went through several drafts. You will have to decide for yourself whether or not I can continue to make it better.
I know I’m no good with colors,
Couldn’t describe a one of them,
So a blind man could understand.
The deep purple-brown of your lips
Comes alive for me
Shimmering in the dark.
I kiss you, my lips become puce.
It is as though I’ve fed
Upon your blood.
It comes to me:
Puce is the color fleas leave.
Why couldn’t I think of that before?
*Puce is the French word for flea; ma puce is a term of endearment. I guess you have to be French…