And the others
of digestive juices
allergic reactions and
by your fingernails
scraping the skin
around them, over
and raw, again,
again, it feels
Everything is nothing, but afterwards. I rise and the moon disturbs the darkness,
revealing symbols, a few stolen words
on the bureau. Tomorrow I’ll express
my gratitude by disappearing be-
fore I’m found, which is to say goodbye before hello, a paradigm for the
prepossessed. Compton tells us to imply
what’s missing, like Van Gogh or Bill Monroe,
but why listen to the dead before they’ve
stopped speaking? Unfortunately we throw
out the bad with the good, only to save
the worst. I return to bed, and the floor
spins. Nothing is everything, but before.
This first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine in December 2014, and is also included in my chapbook,If Your Matter Could Reform. The line “Everything is nothing, but afterwards” comes from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin. Porchia wrote one book in his lifetime, but what a book it was! Often described as a collection of aphorisms, Voices is so much more – each time I open the book, I find new meaning in old lines.
“Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine” is included in my forthcoming chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, which is available for pre-publication order until August 11.
The poem first appeared in Panoply in summer, 2016, and was subsequently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Many thanks to editors Ryn Holmes, Jeff Santosuosso and Andrea Walker for this honor, my first such nomination.
See the woodblock print that sparked this poem: Hokusai
Welcome to “Sunday Compulsion,” in which creatives answer one question: Why do I create? Here’s poet Luanne Castle:
When I pondered why I write, my mind flipped the question to why I don’t write during so many fallow periods. There have been so many reasons over the years: school, work, social life, teaching, raising kids.
It’s not that I haven’t had plenty of active writing periods. I wrote poetry as a kid and, later, as a teen. I attended grad school for an MFA in poetry and fiction. When casual poetry workshops formed online, I joined them. When schools offered more formal online workshops, I attended some of those, too.
But I would write with passion for weeks or months or even years—and each writing period would be followed by a period where I wrote little, if anything. I didn’t have writer’s block. I don’t even know what that is. I’ve just lived my life and waited for writing to demand my time again.
Even now, I am always finding something that keeps me from writing. I spend time on my elderly mother’s needs. I foster (and adopt, too—it’s called foster failure in the shelter biz) homeless cats and volunteer at the local shelter. My husband and I travel for work and we travel for pleasure.
So the question that might help me answer Bob’s initial one is what brings me back to writing? It must be the pressure of not writing. The idea bin in my head and the idea list hidden under my daily to-do list both spill over. I realize I can no longer sort through my thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings begin to merge, to blend together. I get cranky. Really cranky.
And then I start to write again. At first it’s a little bit like throwing crap on the wall, but then my mind develops some clarity. I feel more in the moment and can process my emotions as separate events from my thoughts. I become less cranky, even a bit amiable, and when I’m tired, I turn off the computer screen and have a glass of wine, happy to put away a draft of a poem for tomorrow.
* * *
Listen to Luanne read “When Your Grandfather Shows You Photographs of His Mother,” a poem from her recent publication, Kin Types.
Winner of the 2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award, Doll God, Luanne Castle’s first collection of poetry, was published by Aldrich Press. Luanne’s poetry and prose have appeared in Grist, Copper Nickel, River Teeth, Glass Poetry Press, Barnstorm Journal, Six Hens, Lunch Ticket, The Review Review, and many other journals. Kin Types, a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was published July 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Kin Types was a semi-finalist in the Concrete Wolf chapbook contest.
Luanne has been a Fellow at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside. She studied English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside (Ph.D.); Western Michigan University (MFA); and the Stanford University writing certificate program. Her scholarly work has been published in academic journals, and she contributed to Twice-Told Children’s Tales: The Influence of Childhood Reading on Writers for Adults, edited by Betty Greenway. For fifteen years, she taught college English.
An avid blogger, Luanne can be found at luannecastle.com. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina.