13 March 2018

By Michelle Railey

I’m full of bad poems. For example, from eighth grade:

Late at night

I lie awake

Looking out my window

I see a star

Off, afar,

And stop and think upon it.

In second grade, I wrote some damn poem about a goldfish. Maybe named Fred. But I don’t remember.

In high school, I was forced to write poetry for a project; a whole sheaf of them. The only one that came close to mattering wasn’t (needless to say) good. But it had to do with a hanger as an analogy: Having the words, but no ideas to place upon it (like having a hanger without the clothes, the tools without the project, you get it, you’re smart).

I’m in my forties now. 

I started a magazine so I could have a place to put my writing.

At which point I promptly forgot how to write. Not bad poems. Not anything.

Got the hanger, missing the clothes.

A million ideas in my head, truly, good and bad and ugly and indifferent. None of them important, I’m sure. And I don’t even care, so long as I could get one of them down, into words and sentences, clauses and paragraphs.

A really shit jacket on a wire hanger is better than nothing.

A shit jacket can still keep you warm. Or at least warmer than you’d be without it.

I miss whatever it was in me that used to give the permission for me to pump out words without caring so much I stopped them before they had formed.

I miss, maybe (or maybe not), being forced by the threat of a B letter grade, to write a sheaf of really terrible so-called “poetry.”

A million ideas: I start writing now and I kill things before they begin. Edit before a syllable has been (in its way) uttered.

Did I have things to say before, back when writing was a daily thing, if not a thing well-done?

Do I have things to say now, now that my fingers, my ink, my keyboard, my pages are empty?

I don’t know. 

I know a lot of words; I was a spelling champ in elementary. Sometimes, no kidding, I read the dictionary and the thesaurus for fun. 

I have, as it were, a hanger. (Yeah, it’s wire; I’m no genius. My hanger is cheap, misshapen. Things fall off it all the time; it’s the one I wait until last to use when I’m doing laundry.)

I have a hanger. Not the hanger I want, but a hanger nevertheless.

And ideas to hang on them?

A billion possible. So, like, what, patterns or pictures of clothes: 2-D, 1-D, undeveloped. 

Nothing real, nothing of substance.

The emperor has no clothes. And neither do I.

Late at night, I lie awake 

——that’s because I have insomnia and nightmares. And my husband has restless leg syndrome. And I’m afraid for daytime to appear, with its needs and requests and its repetitions.

Looking out my window

——my neighbor has a halogen front porch light. It keeps my husband awake sometimes. And, when dawn breaks, roughly at the same time I’m falling asleep, the light makes me miss the darkness. I never see stars out of those windows. I would wonder why the universe prefers the back yard, except I prefer it, too. 

I see a star

——A star is dust and so are we. Ideas? Less than that. Maybe nothing; in my case, certainly nothing.

Off, afar

——You are here.

And stop and think upon it. 

—— Good for you. Why do you have to stop in order to think? Can’t you just think?

Bad poetry, which I don’t care about; words in my head that I can’t get to gel around the ideas I can’t get a handle on? 

Now that, my star, my window, my goldfish named (or not) Fred, that I can’t quite accept.

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