Starting the day with some Wallace Stevens. The joy of life as life is actually lived, the pleasure of sensation, the immersion in the real. But this too:
“there was about the earth, a terrifying and awesome sublimity, capable of crushing us in an instant.”
I did an online course course once on writing poetry and the writer giving a workshop told us we needed to ‘turn our souls around’ in order to make place for the creative. I believe that with all my heart: if I don’t open a book of poems, don’t go for a walk in the autumn light, don’t talk often enough with other writers, don’t tell people I love how much they matter to me, don’t write even a line or two of fiction or a phrase of a possible poem each morning, don’t listen carefully enough to music or go out of my way to find art, something withers away within the soul.
Early this morning, I counted perhaps 42 white cattle egrets walking about on the playing field across the road.
Yesterday, someone came around and helped me put all my heavy pots back onto the small verandah. I gave away some smaller pots and I still need to empty out and re-pot some succulents and pelargoniums. But the plants look green and luscious against the freshly painted walls and dark-grey waterproof flooring. Then we trimmed back an old lavender bush and tugged out beastly invasive Lantana from the depths of a old mauve and white salvia. I went inside and wrote a line or two of poetry about surrendering oneself to loss in a green world, letting nature die down and resurrect herself over the years.
My poems take forever to complete — a friend in Montana asked in her email about a snake poem I have been working on for almost three years. I first had an image of the serpent wound around a burning tower in a tarot deck of Lenormand cards, named after the 19th-century French fortune teller Anne Marie Lenormand. Then I began a narrative in quatrains about the time I was in Limpopo province and nearly bitten by an angry cobra. And then I thought about the mixed awe and terror I feel for dangerous snakes encountered out in the bushveld. And about the sangoma traditions to do with oracular serpents, the thrill I feel when I find a discarded snakeskin, ghostly and diamond-patterned, shrugged off on some dirt path on a mountainside. And I took out some lines and couldn’t find a word. I changed the enjambement in two places. Then I had a dream about a snake with glittering eyes and that went into the poem as well.
One of these days I might realise it is complete, as far as I can get with this poem at this time. And then I will hesitate for another year or two before sending it off to be published or rejected. And by then I will be working on another kind of poem and the snake poem will sound as if written by someone else.
The storm at the back of the mind, the music’s lift and fall, the sublime magical and terrifying as sheet lightning.