Wednesday, February 12, 2014

when they invite you to the party

How These Words Happened

by William Stafford

In winter, in the dark hours, when others
were asleep, I found these words and put them
together by their appetites and respect for
each other. In stillness, they jostled. They traded
meaning while pretending to have only one.

Monstrous alliances never dreamed of before
began. Sometimes they last. Never again
do they separate in this world. They die
together. They have a fidelity that no
purpose or pretense can ever break.

And all of this happens like magic to the words
in those dark hours when others sleep.

The writing life is not glamorous. You can tell who the writers are maybe by the dark circles under their eyes. We're the ones getting up early to fit whatever writing we can into our days.

Last night, as I was driving home from work at 9pm, I heard the poem below on CKUA, on Bob Chelmick's show, The Road Home. It's also a favourite poem of Bill Moyers. In an interview with the poet, he tells her how her poetry was a comfort to him after heart surgery, and how this particular poem is one he keeps folded up in his wallet. (What greater compliment to a poet?)

The Art Of Disappearing 

by Naomi Shihab Nye

When they say Don’t I know you?

say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.

Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say we should get together.
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them any more.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Parties can be wonderful, sure they can. But you can't have those early mornings, you can't be awake enough to write, if you're going to parties, if you're spending your time making small talk and enjoying pleasantries and canap├ęs. There is so little time! And writing is like being an olympic athlete. You have to be reading the right things, you have to be in good health, mentally and physically. When you come to the page, you have to be able to shut out everything and everyone in the world. Just like a skier at the top of a hill in competition. You have to be able to disappear.

I took these photos yesterday, out on the morning walk. (Part of training regimen). I walk by this house very often, and they have the Tibetan prayer flags draped a bit haphazardly in their yard. They look particularly lovely though, with the bits of snow on them, I thought.

Returning home, the bells in my front yard, which are becoming more weather worn.

Reminding me, I have a new project. It will never be finished.

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