The Write Life Turned Upside Down

I was waiting in the doctor’s office to be seen and I had about five minutes, a pad of paper, and a pen that wants to quit. I wrote a first draft, anticipating being interrupted somewhere in the middle. I walked in, slipped into one of those gowns that tie in the back, and felt the cold stethoscope on my spine, trying to hold back the next lines wanting to escape. I couldn’t remember the images later. Heck, I can’t assemble what they might have been. I had to let the words flow past me, waiting until the doctor says I am doing fine, considering. And when I get to the car, I wrote whatever I have salvaged of the next line. I pulled to the side of the road to write. I scribbled as I walked up a flight of stairs, fumbled with my keys and pen. I sat at the kitchen table, eating soup, scrawling some more.

Interruptions is my life, even though I am retired, and have nowhere to go. I maintain a fast pace. I am twitchy and can’t sit still: more words fall onto the paper.

My writing style is part jazz improvisation, part particle physics where atoms collide. I catch tailwinds of images, hanging on for dear life. I hope those images and my life will settle down, but I’m hectic and frantic. If I was younger, they’d put me on medication, trying to prevent me from accelerating. I have the energy level of a toddler. I don’t act my old age.

I told the doctor I’ve always been this way. I’m always being revised.

He asked me about my latest book of poetry. I said that when it rains it pours ink. He asked me what it is like, meaning to be on high-alert even when asleep, to keep a notepad everywhere, even the bathroom.

I type like playing piano. I used to be both a classical and jazz musician. My fingers arched just so, skimming the keyboard, fingers spread to reach all the notes. I was a Librarian providing reference answers for years before the internet made me obsolete. I know trivia like the back of my hand. Currently, I notice my age spots on the back of my hands are Morse Code. I don’t always understand the message.

I never had a poetry writing class. Sometimes, I think it shows. Sometimes, my poems are raw, unrefined, flailing around, gasping for air. I also hit my stride, sometimes, and sprint. I keep trying to teach myself about writing poetry by reading; but occasionally, I think poetry comes through osmosis or telepathy or the mysterious. I wonder how much control I have in writing; how much the writing controls me. For someone incapable of being still, it takes stillness to write. I try to take time to revise, but I move so fast, I don’t always revise.

Maybe, writing is the uncertainty of chaos physics. Maybe, writing is knowing when to take a jazz solo and when to wait your turn. Maybe, writing is none of those possibilities or some I cannot imagine. Maybe, writing is waiting in a doctor’s office making something happen because we have limited time to make it happen. Maybe, poetry is that cold stethoscope startling us into knowing we exist. Maybe, we’re all jazz riffs.

The doctor calls up. I am perfectly normal.

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