Fickle as Want

Rereading the paper afterward, I found the authors warning that doctors would sometimes have to go farther than just interpreting people’s wishes in order to serve their needs. Wants are fickle. And everyone has what philosophers call “second-order desires”–desires about our desires. We may wish, for instance, to be less impulsive, more healthy, less controlled by primitive desires like fear or hunger, more faithful to larger goals. Doctors who listen to only the momentary, first-order desires may not be serving their patients’ real wishes, after all….At some point, therefore, it becomes not only right but also necessary for a doctor to deliberate with people on their larger goals, to even challenge them to rethink ill-considered priorities and beliefs.

–Atul Gawande, Being Mortal

Tales from the Writing Life: The Poetry Cleanse

Hey there, Fickle Readers! I just spent a week writing a poem a night in an exercise called the Poetry Cleanse, and boy do I feel energized! That’s saying something big for me, seeing as how I’m usually lying around exhausted from everyday activities like taking showers, driving cars, picking up stuff from the drug store, etc. Now I know that–hey!–giving yourself the opportunity to write among friends, even if what you’re writing is pretty much crap, actually makes you feel better! Who’d a thunk it?

Here’s how it works:

  1. Get a bunch of poet friends together and exchange email addresses.
  2. Compile said addresses into a giant list, then
  3. Write a poem a day to be sent to the group by a certain time each day. (In our case, midnight.)
  4. The poets in your group read but are under no obligation to respond. This is an exercise that calls for absorption, not workshopping or feedback. You can choose to respond if you like, but you also don’t want to get into a cycle of implying that one piece is better or worse than another. These drafts are all part of one writer’s larger vision. You’re simply called upon to be a reader.
  5. Write and read and give encouragement and support to fellow poets for a week.

And that’s the whole activity. I should say that this was not my idea but instead was suggested by someone else who put the group together. I just wanted to pass this along to all you Fickle Readers Who Are Also Poets out there, because I think it’s a brilliant concept. I, personally, have been experiencing workshop burnout in recent years. I took my first workshop class when I was a senior in high school, and I’ve been grinding away in the workshop setting off and on for about 25 years. Workshops are wonderful places to hone your craft, but I’ve also discovered that at a certain point you have to cut the umbilical cord and strike out on your own. And yet striking out on your own can be isolating, so the Poetry Cleanse concept is a nice best-of-both-worlds scenario. All you have to focus on is getting your work done and looking at what other people are doing.

The sitting your butt down and writing aspect can be hard, but being a silent audience to someone else’s creative process is wonderful.

Writing-wise, what was most helpful for me was catching ideas as they came and putting them into poems as soon as they appeared. So much of poetry is about small moments, small observations, small things, and yet the small is what’s most fleeting in our daily grind. I was especially grateful to be able to snag images that I never in a million years thought I’d be writing about, because in a normal day I never would have stopped to write anything down.

Thanks to my fellow poets in the Cleanse. Looking forward to digging more poetry out of my brain soon!

Yet Another Post on Gun Violence

Today was another day when I woke up to discover Americans had been shot.

Yet another day when police SWAT teams in army regalia were swarming American streets.

Yet another day when news outlets posted videos and pictures from witnesses, words from good Samaritans giving first aid and comfort to the wounded as they bled.

And so, as always, we’ll wait for the response.

And as always, we’ll be told by lawmakers that all Americans have the right to own guns, even suspected terrorists of any color. Even those who have expressed a desire to kill. They all have a right to carry a loaded weapon virtually anywhere.

Because at some point in the past, that became the American way.

I really, really want someone to re-evaluate what the American way is. Somehow, I don’t think this was the idea when those vaunted Founding Fathers carved out our democracy.

Somehow I don’t think they thought, we really ought to make sure everyone in the country has an insanely powerful gun, even if they have a grudge against our government, even if they have a history of violent behavior. Because that’s only fair.

Dear infinite, unknowable God, please please please do something. It’s apparent that no one on Earth has the power to stand up and do the right thing.

Dear God, I Have a Tumblr Now…

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Move over, Mighty Tiny Bill!

Hey there, Fickle Readers!

Just wanted to get the word out that, in my continuing attempts to join the 21st century, I’ve (deep breath) gotten myself a tumblr account. You can now go to my tumblr page at missficklereader.tumblr.com and see all the fun concoctions that have been eating up my time and occupying my brain. In some cases, I’ll be posting old poems that can’t be found online anymore. In other cases, I’ll be posting some mixed media stuff that I’ve been working on. (And in case you missed it, check out my big entree into erasure poetry and art in Queen Mob’s Tea House. The first of many Shakespearean sonnets that I’ve dismantled to form something reflecting those of us who live in the margins of dominant literature.)

So please check out the obscure lunacy and, if you’re on tumblr, please follow me! I’m getting lonely with all these young’uns out here.

Remembering May

blue flower

The cold, creeping damp. Wearing socks in what should be sockless weather. Getting sick with a cough for two weeks. Green phlegm. My son getting sick. My husband getting sick.

My husband home sick on my birthday.

My birthday. My son’s birthday. My son’s birthday party at one of his favorite local party venues. Realizing that in a couple of years–if not sooner–he’s going to outgrow his favorite local party venue. Realizing the days are long but the years are short.

Eating enchiladas for my birthday, even though I’m getting a cough and my husband is sick in the cold, creeping damp. Wishing I’d gotten a margarita, too.

The farm. Taking my mother to the farm. Traveling with goats in the pouring rain. Being entranced by a farm equipment museum, possibly because it was raining. Watching the nanny goat and her kids huddle under a tree to keep dry.

Exhaustion several days running. A lost day or two. Walking in a mental mist from one activity to the next. Losing track of days and tasks. Losing the desire to speak or write anything down. Keeping communications to small packets of words doled out only when necessary. Investing a lot of time in coloring.

Losing track of who the hell I am anymore. Realizing that these days, most of the time, I’d much rather be learning to draw trees.