There are days when simply coming to the page with something to say that is empty of bitterness, self-pity and the sharp edge of doubt, seems impossible. But fortunately for myself and those out there who like myself labor at this wondrous, often fruitless art, know that it only takes a few words, carefully or perhaps even haphazardly arranged to bring back the energy, the excitement, the world as pictured in poetry to make you forget all those difficult days. I deny the existence of writer’s block, referring to these lapses in imaginative insight as funky spells which can likely be blamed on not enough time spent in the woods (berry picking or otherwise), or with good people or engaged in activity that makes your heart race, pupils open and your soul sing.
During Finn’s nap today, one I narrowly escaped myself, I found the daily approach to the page slightly less terrifying by first sitting down and taking comfort in the words of one of my favorite poets, Galway Kinnell. He’s one of the masters who I likely would have missed out on had it not been for the recommendation of a friend and poet who’s work I will always dearly admire. The first poem, “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps” made me realize that not all poets are the misanthropic loners we imagine them to be, but many are husbands, fathers and time jugglers just like myself. Finn and I had an amazing morning, beneath the first pink blossoms of an early spring, climbing and sliding in and out of bright sunshine and shadow, while a chattering storm of school kids and barking dogs swirled around us at a neighborhood park. It was the first morning in some time that as we finally reached the street, stroller, sunglasses, two dogs, snack sack and all, I felt the absence of my pen and notebook which I felt certain I could make time to use while watching the spring world explode. I didn’t go back for my notebook but my writing mind was racing all morning with a sense of satisfaction and pride at being a dad and having the time to watch Finn explore and be changed by the magic in the air around him. There seems to be two constants in my life right now, plenty of time and Finn’s daily naps (which go by too quick, even now I hear him stir). Before I forget why I felt unafraid to come to the page today, I should share these poems. Both come from the collection, A New Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell (2000 Mariner Books).
“After Making Love We Hear Footsteps”
For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run- as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies,
familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears- in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small he has to screw them on-
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.
In the half darkness we look at each other
and touch arms across this little, startlingly muscled body-
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making,
sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.
I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
into the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry eating in late September.