“I don’t understand why people think you’ll have a poem after you sit down to write a poem. You don’t get fine after one trip to the gym. […] when you miss you just miss.”
-Jericho Brown, poet, in a discussion at UIUC
I’m sitting at a table I’ve never sat at in a building I’ve never been to before. That doesn’t happen very much these days, not with COVID. And in another way maybe that happens all the time.
For the last couple years I’ve been giving up the idea of a method. I used to think there was a specific way forward, a specific way to balance chores and friendships, work and dancing along through autumn leaves. Once I found that one way I would just do that, that method, day after day. And it would keep working. I don’t think the world’s like that. The situation’s changing everyday, I’m changing every day. Sweeping the floor today because yesterday I had to sweep up after spilling lentils everywhere doesn’t make a lot of sense. Being present to what is, moving with that is—that seems to work. There isn’t one method to repeat and repeat. There are moments to meet.
And then when I feel like I’m learning something I realize how mixed up I still am. My mix-up’s in that phrase I just used—“seems to work.” It’s in Jericho Brown’s big grin: “I don’t understand why people think you’ll have a poem after you sit down to write a poem.” I was holding onto the idea that if I let go of my method I would get where I was aiming. Again and again, whenever I wanted, I would get there. And I don’t think it works like that. Being open to what is, to what’s moving, means being open to moving in different directions than I expected. Sometimes I sit down to write a poem and end up lost in thought about a friend. Sometimes I sit down and struggle and struggle with words that don’t mean much. I like the sitting down. I like getting lost in remembering a friend, too. And the struggle.
When you miss you just miss. Maybe that’s not a problem. Skipping a rock across the river doesn’t mean you’ll hit the other side. It means there’s a rock, and water, and air, and for a moment you spin through them in another place you’ve never been.