Today I feel like dusty cinnamon whose top has popped off in a breakfast frenzy. I can smell everything, see everything, read letters of languages I’ve never noticed. I’m permeating outside of myself and finding space in cobwebby corners of the world.
As I was cleaning the kitchen, I spent a few cents of gratitude for our knives - nothing special, more form than perfect function - but they serve us daily. I even made a mental note to tell any of my future marriageable friends to ask for a good set of knives on their gift registry.
And just like that, I squelched some detergent into the dishwasher, whipped it closed and let it get around to ultimate scrubbing as I pounded out a poem on the nearest laptop. Inspiration is just like that. It’s the pesky neighbor that knocks on your door and won’t go away because she knows you’re in there and she needs you to help her take a giant vat of soup to the cab. You can answer the call, or you can hide for fifteen minutes until someone else has risen to the occasion.
Now, the poem has a little form and also functions properly as far as words on a page go, so I’m pleased. It’s a bit of a downer, but I’m excited about it being one of only two poems I’ve written in the past five years.
I feel like sharing this one. Not because I think it’s particularly excellent, but because I’m happy I wrote it, instead of writing out a blog post about what I think real-world couples should register for: 15 Must-Haves On Your Wedding Registry That Guarantee A Happy Life Together!
So here’s what I did instead of that, all its unedited, unrefined glory:
The Good Set
First, you’ll want a good set of knives.
Pick your vows, edit but don’t add.
Don’t promise too much, unless death
is imminent (which it is). Part
your lips just a little for the kiss, for the kids.
Keep it PG. Coo at the flowergirl,
watch the turbulent ring bearer
“bearers will be bears will be boys”
Spill out of your dress and into a box
that you’ve neatly checked.
Clamp your hands over your modest belly
and say your somedays and your soons.
Boom into bridehood in a brave and beautiful
sadness. Always remember to sharpen
your knives and don’t let them sit
(as you do) in long soapy baths.
Bubble yourself in iridescent lace curtains
and fine, carefully-counted cotton sheets.
Until the day it all comes, piercing
up through your thigh and into
the cavern between your rib bones,
and it’s not the supper onions begging for tears,
but your years of dulling. Don’t burst.
At least you got a good set of knives.
Obviously, it shouldn't need to be said that not all poems are based in autobiographical truths. This poem is about a person I have constructed in my head, and for whom I feel devastated. (Oooh, whom?! Whom does fancy Emily think she is?!)
Tonight has been an interesting lesson in noticing: there’s poetry everywhere, seeping through the cracks in the cupboards, leaking out from under the sink, in that forbidden space between your oven and your countertops, if you just root around a bit for it. Same goes for anything you’re looking for - there are flavors, colors, smells, and shapes everywhere that can inspire your next project.
Pay attention, and inspiration will begin to rise out of the earth like a dinky weed. Pay more attention, and it’ll be a fucking tree.
So here I am, just paying attention. Not hoping to be told the answers, but just noticing the patterns of questions that float up and down on the breeze, like the warm up scales of a musician.
Pardon me as I sink into the desire to wear scarves and drink black coffee in grungy coffee shops, wearing fake glasses and staring out of the window at imagined rain. Humans are weird, right? We write one poem one time and become friggin' Emily Dickinson. (With regards to Emily, thank you for your work.) We take a leisurely walk on one wooded trail and suddenly we’re shopping for a Camelback for our trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. Is it just me?
How would you write a story or a poem around the line “you’ll want a good set of knives”? I challenge you to write your own poem about knives, if you’re up for it. Or, make an effort while you’re cleaning your (dirty, dirty) home to open yourself to receiving inspiration from weird places.