I also need to take the time to say that I learned so much in a short amount of time with Rebecca Brown. She is a brilliant listener. She would lean back in her chair with pen in hand, scribble a note or two while we were reading, and then open it up to the class.When we were done, she would chime in on THE THING that needed to be said. Sometimes other listeners picked up on it, but they would merely hint at THE THING she so clearly heard. I am still learning this. It is different to listen as a writer. This is a real thing, to read and listen as a writer. I soaked up a lot of what she was discussing. I read some of her writing before class so I knew that how she values words shows up in the care of her choice of words. She is precise in the way poets are and not a word is present without just cause.With practice it becomes habit until you don't even notice that you are flash- sifting to find just the right word before it hits the page. I can just now feel myself starting to do this. It's not so much thinking before I write but having what I have learned become part of how I write.
I hope all that just made sense.
About this next piece:
I was taken with a few vignettes written by Kevin Sampsell. They are a collection of chronological memories that seem spare at first, but they are rich. My attempt was nothing like his, but what did happen for me was that I worked more consciously than ever to take what I see in Rebecca's work and think carefully about each word and let the story sort of just tell itself.
I chose to write about what my day was like on 9/11. I chose this for a few reasons. First, we all know what happened to us on that day and I think it is worth a simple recording if only to share with our children and grandchildren. Also, I can see this part of a larger collection and it's impact will be much different in the context of other work. I envision other ordinary days, some full of loss and regret and joy and it will be interesting to see how they fit next to each other.
For now, it stands alone and what I like more than anything is my effort. I am in this piece, but it is a stretch for me not to belabor a point. I feel good that I tried.
9/11, Madison, Wisconsin
We were living in Madison, WI and my husband was in his last year of a family practice residency. He had just gotten home from a long call night and went upstairs to take a shower. He always took a shower when he got off call no matter what time it was. He liked going to sleep clean.
It was hot and humid and our only relief came from a tiny window air conditioner in the living room. That’s where I was, sleeping on the pull-out couch with my three-month old baby. I woke up when I heard the shower running, sticky from leaking breast milk. I pulled my daughter closer to me, switched on the television, and began to nurse. I was half in and out, tired from my baby’s fitful night. I didn’t understand what I was seeing. I saw masses of blue sky. I saw dark billows of smoke. I saw that one of the twin towers had been hit. I knew I was looking at the World Trade Center, but why would a small plane just fly into it?
I stared at the screen and tried to make some sense of it. Another plane appeared.
“Hey Bob! Get down here, please! This is so weird. Bob! Shouldn’t a pilot see a tall building?” I knew he couldn’t hear what I was saying, but I kept talking.
Bob walked into the living room just as the second plane hit. He settled in next to us and we stared at the tv together. I couldn’t stop wondering out loud.
He was quiet, tired from a long night, and I couldn’t tell if he was really paying attention to me. After a bit he said, “It was probably planned, honey.”
He never answered my questions and I stopped talking. We continued to watch tv, three of us stretched out on the pull-out couch, the baby in the middle. We drifted in and out of sleep, me waking to nurse, him to find a snack. My chest was sore from the constant feeding, and the exhaustion pressed in around us.
I don’t know how much time passed before he reached for the remote and said, “Let’s turn this off.”
I remember how quiet that room was, except for the cranky sounds coming from the air conditioner. My entire life was curled up next to me on a pull- out bed and I remember feeling like the world had changed.
I couldn’t help but replay the smoke and crumbling towers in my head until I joined my family in sleep.