this is not a poem

i was going to set my nose to the grindstone of creativity and productivity and write a poem for each day of national poetry month.

i didn’t write one yesterday. i sort of tried to, when i was driving down the highway listening to music that made my mind feel like a kaleidoscope and sausage meat at the same time, but i kept getting stuck in the sausagey part.

i didn’t even wash my hair last night … goodness knows i should’ve.

today i composed a brilliant and profound poem about lemons while  i was staring out the window. then i got distracted by one of the pine trees waving in the wind, which reminded me of another poem i wrote a long time ago. consequently the lemon poem died in my mind unfinished while i wondered how many poems were stillborn because they weren’t written down soon enough.

when i drove home from school i used to end up with odd scrawlings across the tops of my legs because i didn’t have any paper handy and didn’t want to forget the poetry i was composing before i got home.

part of the reason it’s hard writing poems right now is because i’m being lazy. the other part is because the ideas i’m thinking about are so big that i feel like i can’t compress them down into something manageable yet. i don’t so much mean ideas for poems as i mean principles of life and the universe. my friend strawberry told me once that the best poems are written when you’re in love — which i think she said to tease me, because i’m fairly sure neither of us had been in love at that point.

i don’t know that the best poems are written when one is “in love,” but i think strong and resonating poetry comes from an overflowing of love, whether for someone or something. it’s not that i don’t have any love from which to write … i just don’t want to write the same things about the same things i’ve already said them about.

and i wrote more than my fair share of lame, limp poetry in college (… and afterward … and in the present … and probably the future). there are, fortunately for us both, only so many melancholy implorings i can stomach the writing of. even the subject of spring — this only season, this perpetual astonishment, as ellis peters calls it — seems tired.

i have an almost debilitating sense of nostalgia. “oh! things were so much better last spring!” i think, when during that spring i thought the same thought about the spring before it.

i’m wading my way through timothy keller’s “the prodigal God,” and the other day read an excerpt he quoted from c.s. lewis. this is part of a longer passage:

“our life-long nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.”
— c.s. lewis

it reminds me a little of this blaise pascal quote, but i like the everyday imagery lewis grounds his thought in.

“what else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? this he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God Himself.” — blaise pascal, pensees #425

when i stare out the window i’m unconsciously longing for “home.”

“… but the things  I do are unprecedented things. This round road I am treading is an untrodden path. I do believe in breaking out; I am a revolutionist. But don’t you see that all these real leaps and destructions and escapes are only attempts to get back to Eden — to something we have had, to something at least we have heard of? Don’t you see one only breaks the fence or shoots the moon in order to get home?”

“I mean,” he said with increasing vehemence, “that if there be a house for me in heaven it will either have a green lamp-post and a hedge, or something quite as positive and personal as a green lamp-post and a hedge. I mean that God bade me love one spot and serve it, and do all things however wild in praise of it, so that this one spot might be a witness against all the infinities and the sophistries, that Paradise is somewhere and not anywhere, is something and not anything. And I would not be so very much surprised if the house in heaven had a real green lamp-post after all.” — Manalive, G.K. Chesterton

chesterton talks, i think, in orthodoxy about this present world at once being home and not home, our enemy storming and our castle to defend. all too often i forget my job as a warrior maid defending a particular part of the castle that only i can defend as i daydream through my wanderlust and desire to be off questing anywhere but here.

we spend so much of our lives discontentedly trying to get back to the garden, only we don’t know where it’s gone.

i think there’s room for a poem in that.