It all depends…

I love my job, but it can be equal parts creatively inspiring and creatively taxing.

I spend a lot of time every day reading about, learning about, seeking to understand and appreciate art and artists so I can spend the rest of my day writing about, talking about and prosylytizing their craft and what it brings to our community.

This is a worthy endeavor, I feel and I feel lucky to be able to do it.

But, sometimes, I feel like there isn’t enough left for me at the end of the day. I feel like my yoga practice is what gets me through the day, my asana practice is what helps me wring out the day, but some days, my own artistic practice suffers, especially my personal writing.

If you’ve ever considered yourself to be a writer or aspired to be one, you probably have, like me, read all the books and blogs and advice from your betters who tell you the most important thing to do is to simply write. The most recent thing I read had some advice from someone famous, can’t remember who now, but he said it’s better to start writing, write for a while and then quit before you finish, that it’s much easier to pick up on something that’s still juicy the next day instead of plowing through the night before and exhausting your reserves.

Anyway, these well-meaning advice givers also suggest giving yourself a daily word count, one that’s not too daunting, and see what takes shape.

SO, I’ve decided that I am giving myself at least 200 words a day. And now even as I type that I have already accomplished and exceeded that by 90, now 93 words. Still, to make it even a tiny bit interesting, I’ll go on for a bit with an anecdote from my day.

I stopped at Whole Foods on the way to work this morning, as I was trying to fight off a certain amount of panic, given that I only realized after I woke up that I had left my computer at my boyfriend’s house, and in the computer bag (hopefully) was also the charger for my iPad. Deprived of both of these devices, I’m not able to accomplish this little side gig I have that is helping keep me financially afloat. That coupled with the day and week ahead meant it was time to replenish my portable spa, which of course consists simply of a vial of Lavender oil that I don’t like to ever be without. While standing in line, where I of course succumbed to the purchase of two new lip balms, I flashed on the fact that I had a prescription waiting for me for pick up. I had gotten the text from Rite Aid a couple of days ago and have learned from experience that they will re-file that stuff if you don’t go pick it up in a timely fashion and you’ll have to call and get on a whole new refill cycle.

Anyway, eager to get to work, I almost talked myself out of making one more stop, but a super-convenient parking spot with time left on the meter decided the moment. Doused myself in a bit of lavender oil and headed inside where I found myself third in line for the pharmacist, behind a jovial flu-shot purchaser and a teeny tiny little old lady, who turned back and smiled at me benevolently before taking her spot at the counter.

I knew the minute she did that, that she was going to take forever. And here’s where I know I have grown as a person (or maybe it’s the lavender oil), because I absolutely didn’t care.

A mountain of work and stressful meeting were awaiting me, but I was perfectly content right where I was, just happy to watch this moment unfold however it would. Work will still be there. It will ALWAYS be there, and even if I could have snatched back the extra 10 minutes this tiny little lady was surely about to cost me, it wouldn’t have a profound effect on the progress of what I knew to be ahead.

I watched her as she hauled her little personal shopping cart, which held just one item, an economy-sized package of Depends, up to the counter. It made me smile. I mean, that’s a shitload of Depends. The package was almost as tall as she was. I wondered how long that will last her.

The two pharmacists on hand, one of whom was administering the aforementioned flu shot over in the corner, were both perky and the girl at the counter was exceptionally patient and kind as the lady wheeled up her cart of Depends, propped her purse on the counter and sighed:

“Oh…well

The gal behind the counter listened to her for a bit as the woman described her ailment and prescription, politely and patiently interrupting to ask:

“What’s your last name? That’s how we file the prescription”

The woman told her and off she went to look. But of course, no prescription was to be found in the sea of dangling plastic baggies.

I amused myself by looking at the assortment of pill cases on the endcap next to me, tempted to walk over and peruse the cheap sunglass selection nearby, but reluctant to give up the precious ground I was earning with every passing second, and also painfully aware of the lack of line-purchasing willpower I had already exhibited at my first stop of the morning.

The pharmacist came back and pleasantly told the woman that her RX had been called into and filled at the Beverly Hills location. She glanced over at me with an apologetic smile.

The elderly lady barely had time to get flustered before the pharmacist offered to look and see if this location had it in stock and she could try and fill it immediately.

“Oh that would be wonderful,” the tiny elder said “Ten grams. Remember, Ten Grams”

“Yes, yes” replied the pharmacist as she walked away to look.

At this, the little old lady turned to look at me and said:

“Oh no, now I am holding up this young lady”

To which I demurred and said “Oh no, you’re just fine” (If she’d thrown in “pretty” I probably would have offered to pay for her transaction).

A few minutes later, the pharmacist returned with the small bottle, pointing out how she had replaced the child-proof cap to one more easily removed.

Our little friend tested it out and proclaimed herself delighted.

Then came time to pay and such. If I overlistened correctly, she marked her birthdate at 1931, which hell yeah little gal! You go with your Depend-gathering, independent pharmacy pickup, you almost even made it to the right location, just a few miles off!

There was some confusion. She was all excited to sign the release for the prescription, grasping the little pen. The pharmacist had to explain several times that that part came after the payment part.

She gave a delightful little laugh at herself about her confusion.

The payment part was its own little dance of the lady, who paid with cash. In exact change. But couldn’t remember the amount of the change part. That took three tries to get right.

Anyway, she finished up, walked by me with a nod and a sweetly satisfied smile, pushing her cartful of Depends. I swooped in and got my own package and was on my way.

And I chuckled all the way to work about it. Being that old kind of seems like being on drugs all the time.

Like, you have a great sense of the framework of what should be happening and when and how, but the details are blurry and out of sequence. You can’t hear that well and you might be miles from where you intended to go.

And, finalizing a simple transaction can give you an amazing sense of accomplishment for the day.

Then, you get to pee in your pants.

I can dig it.

(200 words for me Day One: Tuesday Oct. 8)

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Perpetuating Poetry

I love writing what I call “spontaneous poems.” Meaning, I love to write a little poem in a moment or for or about a person. I don’t edit them much, or at all, just kind of let them live however they come out. They might be OK, they might be crap. They might even be quite lovely. It doesn’t matter much, just that they are.

PoetryStickers

You can see a couple of old examples on an earlier post in this blog. I remember one night a few years ago hanging out with some girlfriends, writing a few little ditties on the spot for each of them.  It was fun. One Valentine’s Day I wrote a Haiku for everyone in my family and sent them a little card.

Basically, I’m not a serious poet, but it’s fun and I’d like to do some more of it this summer, but could use a little help/inspiration!

We’ve been doing this poetry thing at work all year. Poetry contests, events with poets (more on erasure after I finally finish the book I am working on), we created a crowdsourced Tumblr all about poetry.

For our final spoken word event of the season, David Sedaris, we had a live “poetry bureau on site.” A dozen student writers banged out spontaneous poetry based on a few simple prompts that the perfect strangers filled out.

It was a lot of fun. Granted, I know that some people wouldn’t put the words “fun” and “poetry writing” or “poetry reading” in the same sentence. But, if you’re reading this, you’re in my world baby….and that shit’s fun to me.

The student writers were very clever and seemed to be having a blast. The writees eagerly awaited their personal poem to come hot off the old-school typewriter press.  (They seriously used typewriters, it looked cool).

Anyway, I’d like to volunteer to be a poet in YOUR life and institute my own little virtual poetry bureau.

Send me an email: jessicaelizabethwolf  (at) gmail (dot) com. (Or fill them out into the contact form here)

Include answers to the following questions.

  • Favorite Color:
  • Favorite Word:
  • I wish:
  • I’m hungry for:
  • I love:

At some point (I won’t promise absolute immediacy, but I WILL get to it) you’ll get a lovely little poetic surprise in your inbox from yours truly.

And yes, I did requisition not one but TWO poems from our intrepid typewriting poets.

Here they are below.

XO

poem2 poem1

Happy National Poetry Month

Here’s the latest in spontaneous poetry from yours truly, inspired by an event we are having here later this month and a contest I can’t enter.

Still, if any of you are feeling creative…..you should submit something to the poetry competition we have going! Deadline: tomorrow. Winners get Book Soup gift certs, recognition and free tickets to the show.

Imperfection

I wanted to write a poem

today.

I started,

and realized what I really want

is to be a poem.

And more importantly,

A good poem.

A lithe one.

One that flows, one that cuts.

One that inspires.

One that makes my reader laugh,

….then…

five lines later

Cry.

As poem,

my existence could be

reflected in perfect linguistic symmetry,

clever metaphors

and rhyming couplets

that please the ear.

But I realized

Even if I could live as a poem

I’d still probably just be

(for the most part)

me.

only as words….

on a page.

Often arranged in a pleasing fashion.

Other times…

frought with grammatical errors,

misspellings,

random ellipses,

messy run-on sentences

and an overabundance

of expletives.

Nope, no islands here.

Welp, it’s April 6. Seems to come every year this time.

It’s early morning on Wednesday April 6, 2011 and my brain is kind of stuck in the memory a different April 6.

I can’t help thinking about Thursday April 6 2000–the last day I got to see, touch, talk to, laugh with, smell (all those wonderful things humans get to do to and with the people they love)–that was the last day I ever got to do any of those things with my little brother.

For a long time after that day, Thursdays were hard and it was weird because prior to that, Thursdays were rather delightful. I was in college, working on the weekly entertainment magazine at Arizona State. It came out on Thursdays, which meant, for the space of a day or so I could lay my hands on that tangible product, enjoy for a moment the hard work of the week before (a.k.a freak out over editing mistakes or bad color correction) and take a breath before becoming completely frantic over assigning, writing, editing, coming up with story ideas, etc. for the next issue, on top of a full-time school schedule and two part time jobs. (In truth, I would not trade those frenetic years for anything…perhaps some of you reading this were part of them and can understand why).

Anyway, college time…Thursdays also kind of signaled the beginning of the weekend. Something was always happening on a Thursday. Thursdays were good days for the most part.

Not that one.

I remember walking out of the hospital on that particular Thursday, it was a fucking perfect day…one of those Arizona spring days in which the relentless sun is just making everything look so shiny and alive rather than wilted, brown or sunburnt like the oh-holy-hell-i-live-in-Dante’s-Inferno days that summer in Phoenix brings.

But that Thursday’s perfect sunshine was just so out of place, so disconcerting. I remember walking to the car from the hospital slightly dazed, seeing people and cars and feeling the sunshine and thinking “oh yeah that’s right, all this is still going on, how odd, how odd that all of this is still happening out here, when my brother is up there in that room not breathing anymore.”

And he wasn’t. I knew he wasn’t. I was there. We were all there. We watched him stop breathing. No hope of a mistake, no moment of denial on being told the news that your brother is dead. Nope. Just pure saw-it-with-my-own-eyes confirmation.

He just stopped breathing.

On a Thursday. A bright, sunny April Thursday in Phoenix. And the world kept on going without him.

We’ll all stop breathing someday, and the world will just keep on going, the sun will just keep on shining without us. It’s a humbling and daunting thought.

I’m not trying to be maudlin just for its own sake. I’m getting to a point.

Anyone who knows me probably knows just how random my brain can be. Imagine actually living in it. The internal Jessica I know so well (who doesn’t much look like what I actually see in the mirror or photographs btw), well that poor girl gets the brunt of all the shit I’ve seen and read over three decades, all of it cropping up in my brain at inopportune and opportune times.

Floating to the top of that litany of grey matter of late was this John Donne poem. Even if you’re not a poetry lover (or Hemingway lover for that matter) you probably know of or have had some kind of connection/frame of reference to this poem.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

I started thinking of this poem after I read an article in LA Magazine this month about this blog. I sat up way too late and read practically the whole damn thing Monday night and cried my eyes out. The way this guy tells his story really got me you know? His wife died a day after giving birth to their preemie daughter. He chronicles his heartache and the love for his baby that kept him going in this blog. (It’s a book now too).

For a long time, in his blog and in his mind Matt Logelin was marking Tuesdays the way I did Thursdays. Every Monday he would celebrate the week-birthday of his daughter, then every Tuesday, was the same-week anniversary of his wife’s sudden death, which he witnessed because he was in the room helping her into a wheelchair to see their baby for the first time when a blood clot burst in her lung and she died.

So sad and so uplifting at the same time. This guy, through his blog, discovered he was very much not alone, not an island. Even though the person he wanted, the person who should have been beside him charting a course through parenthood, was missing, he was not alone. A wealth of family, friends and strangers are part of his story of dealing with loss and going on with his life.

It’s marvelous and devastating to discover how un-alone we are in loss. It’s the oddest kind of catharsis in the world, but I remember feeling it a lot after my brother died and people would tell me stories of losing their own loved ones.

It’s like, something about that kind of a loss just makes us fucking remember that ultimately, we all really do belong to each other more than we don’t and we should probably behave like it more often and with more earnestness than we usually do.

So that Donne poem, in its beatific ubiquity has become a cliche….and while that one proves itself to me to be true over and over again, there’s another cliche that I’ve discovered isn’t quite as true.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds.

In fact, in a way, time opens these particular ones up a little bit more. I mean, 11 years have passed and I still miss Jared every day, still think of him, still wish he were here. Sure, the pain is less, but it’s stabby in a different kind of way because now I have to really grasp to remember what his voice sounds like, what his laugh sounded like, what he smelled like. All those little things that went when he went.

But here’s what I do think is true.

Time plus love. That’s what makes some of the healing happen. Time has stripped me of many of the strongest sensations of my brother, but the love keeps me yearning, keeps me aching for them, and hanging on to that kind of pain is OK with me. That kind of pain is healing, at least for me.

I love him just as much as I did the day he died. Just. As. Much. Even though I haven’t heard his voice in more than a decade and never will again.

And I know… am not an island. (each man’s death diminishes me… for I am involved in mankind).

He’s in here, he’s out there, he’s in all those spaces where the people who have lost someone they love live and work and write and mark the passage of time. We’re not islands, none of us. We’re not floating aimlessly. Shit sucks sometimes. But we have each other. And that’s pretty OK.

Poetic Catharsis

Since Dana and I are epic failures at joint blogging (RIP Brunettes Unleashed), I thought I would kick off this blog I built a while back but never really launched.

I’ve been writing some poetry lately. I also have a new idea for a book that I admit, has been temporarily abandoned due to insecurity but I am trying to get myself in a good habit by at least working on some poetry.

Unfortunately, what’s coming out right now is far too graphic to post. I confess, it’s kind of a habit with me. When I’m staring at a celibate time in my life I tend to write graphically sexual masturbatory poetry. What can I say? I’ve always been a sexual person….writing is a good release when you are lacking, well, release.

Anyway, I am working on a couple of things that aren’t sexual or masturbatory, but the only stuff I actually like so far is coming out really graphic.

I often wonder how real modern poets write. What’s their process? I feel like my most honest poems are always spontaneous and completely unedited. I’m trying hard these days to tackle poetry like I do other writing, with care and thought for construction and editing.

But really, truly, I know I’ve always been something of a stream-of-consciousness writer in all forms. I think I just luck out when things come out right. I used to feel like that all the time when I was a reporter like “Oh that’s not the story I thought I was writing, but it works too.”

Maybe when it comes poetry that spontaneity works out OK as well. For long-form writing I think I need more discipline.  Hence the fact that I am actually slogging through an official book outline for the first time in my life. Wish me luck.

In the meantime and for breaks, I am indulging in short-form.

For inspiration, I have been reading a ton of poetry from my betters. (Trying to avoid Bukowski because he makes me feel inadequate, but I go there for some necessary self-flagellation).

I was reading some Billy Collins the other day and came across this poem below—I just love it. I admit I love anything that touches on death. I feel like so much of what I write has an undercurrent of death, (except for the masturbatory poetry, though I suppose, it also holds its own brand of pathos.)

NEW YEAR’S DAY

Everyone has two birthdays
according to the English essayist Charles Lamb,
The day you were born and New Year’s Day—

A droll observation to mull over
as I wait for the tea water to boil in a kitchen
that is being transformed by the morning light
into one of those brilliant rooms of Matisse.

“No one ever regarded the First of January
with indifference,” writes Lamb,
for unlike Groundhog Day or the feast of the
Annunciation,

This one marks nothing but the passage of time,
I realized, as I lowered a tin diving bell
of tea leaves into a little body of roiling water.

I admit to regarding my own birthday
as the joyous anniversary of my existence
probably because I was, and remain
to this day in late December, an only child.

And as an only child—
a tea-sipping, toast-nibbling only child
in a colorful room this morning—
I would welcome an extra birthday,
one more opportunity to stop what we are doing
for a moment and reflect on my being here on earth.

And one more might be a small consolation
to us all for having to face a death-day too,
an X in a square
on some kitchen calendar of the future,

the day when each of us is thrown off the train of time
by a burly, heartless conductor
as it roars through the months and years,

party hats, candles, confetti and horoscopes
billowing up in the turbulent storm of its wake.

Anyway, welcome to the new blog. I’ll try to keep on it better than I have in the past.

In the meantime, I’ve posted a bunch of old (nonsexual) poems below. Feel free to critique/comment.