Today I am thinking about how to move forward. I get up, less nauseous, make my coffee, come into the quiet office, light a candle, write in my notebook for awhile. The pen moving across the page makes different things happen than fingers moving against keyboard. my candle’s still lit. How do I move forward. One small step: one thing, every day, that reminds me I’m human, while I move amid all this inhuman infrastructure. Water the plants, listen to music made with fingers and breath instead of keystrokes. Rinse the mung beans just sprouting in their small plastic jar. Take one more step. Cover up the bags under my eyes and move out into the world. Let some of the dark seep through, because it’s thorough: not for pity, but because I am honest. Right?
What does it mean to be a human? During these intense-triggered times, I sometimes forget: I remember, instead, what it feels like to be outside the human experience, that disconnected, untethered. I talk with my sister and she tells me about energy, about connections among people, about that most unexplainable magic. When I talk with my sister I (eventually) remember that I’m human. I remember I have a heartbeat and blood. I remember what saved me.
I’ve been reading Andrew Vachss’ last Burke book*, Another Life. Someone asks Burke what saved him, and he says it was his family: not his blood family, of course, since he doesn’t know them, and not the ‘family’ that raised him, as that was the State, as abusive as it wants to be, but his chosen family.
I think about how humans get to choose our family, even our blood, eventually — we get to choose who we let in, who we will grow with and against. We don’t get to choose all that shapes us. We do get to choose who we will acknowledge as family.
Of course, writing helps me move forward, too. When I thought that question to myself, “what saved you?” — I thought about my sister, and I thought about writing, I thought about curiosity. How I love so much just to sit with the pen against the paper, getting to see what emerges. And I thought, too, about not being saved.
How to move forward? This poem is helping me with some steps today. Use it as a prompt: read the poem (aloud, if possible), and then write exactly as you’re drawn to write. What comes up for you as you read/listen?
by Connie Wanek
First you’ll come to the end of the freeway.
Then it’s not so much north on Woodland Avenue
as it is a feeling that the pines are taller and weigh more,
and the road, you’ll notice,
is older with faded lines and unmown shoulders.
You’ll see a cemetery on your right
and another later on your left.
Sobered, drive on.
Drive on for miles
if the fields are full of hawkweed and daises.
Sometimes a spotted horse
will gallop along the fence. Sometimes you’ll see
a hawk circling, sometimes a vulture.
You’ll cross the river many times
over smaller and smaller bridges.
You’ll know when you’re close;
people always say they have a sudden sensation
that the horizon, which was always far ahead,
is now directly behind them.
At this point you may want to park
and proceed on foot, or even
on your knees.
*If you don’t know about Vachss‘ Burke series, I highly recommend that you check them out — plot-driven crime novels that focus on bad things happening to people who do bad things to kids. Quick, intense reads, wildly satisfying revenge fantasies, engaging if also sometimes aggravating characters…