It is the last day of 2014. Last year around this time I wrote a poem about letters. It felt good, so I decided to do it every day of the year. Maybe the reason I never liked resolutions before is because I never actually followed through on them. I doubted my own power of will, and the resolutions were never to achieve or accomplish something, but rather about the things about myself that I needed to fix. What a drag. Because I’ve gotta say, it feels good to finish something. Finishing things is not typically my MO. And, out of 365 poems, I’d say a good handful or two have some potential. So, I guess I’m proud of myself.
And I’m proud of you, too. We survived this year. The world is a terrifying and tragic place, but we laughed, and loved, and held on, even through things we felt were unsurvivable. Good job, us! Let’s give ourselves a round of applause, for how we held one another, how we grew, and all the dry witty rejoinders we made up on fly. Let’s breathe relief together. You are here. I am here. Still. Tonight I will light a bonfire of gratitude to you, and to this bewildering world.
For this last poem, I’m not going to try anything fancy. This is just going to be a list of things I learned this year, about poems and about life, in no particular order but for number 1:
29 Lessons from a Year of Poems
1) Life is hard here, at the darkening of history, and yet here we are, creating and loving and observing and caring and holding fast to the moments of light like tiny shells clutched in the tight and sandy fist of a small child facing the surf.
2) You can always write about weather, if nothing else comes. Weather is interesting. You can sit and talk about it with anyone. The moon is always good for a rise, as well. The same goes for landscape, but nature poems are hard. It is possible to write too much about water. Or is it impossible?
3) The Marilynn. When in doubt, make it sexy. This apples to both writing and life at large.
4) “The dishes, the laundry, all that crap can wait. This is your life. Don’t forget to live it”–Lorie Hartman.
5) We are united and anointed by our grief, and we grow stronger at the fissures.
6) The Walk Away. This can get complicated by the giant time-suck of television and Facebook and even the husbandpants’s review of a play in a game not fully understood can become fascinating, given the artists’ tendency to avoid her own magic.
7) The Come Back. Always, always come back. Don’t delete. What comes next might be saccharine. Leave the words, fix the ideas, but always return. Someone will always love your work. She is your mom. This coincides with lesson #8.
8) Butt in Seat. That’s all she wrote.
9) The best art is made for the dearest ones, and loved most by its recipients. Make for one another. Make all night long. The making makes love.
10) Sometimes the dark ones are best. Share the dark. It helps.
11) Be giddily proud. Cackle with glee at your own creations. Giggles unlock shame from the hearts’ cold dungeon.
12) Sap is necessary. It is okay to use words like magic, heart, soul, universe, ache, and love. We need it like trees do, to harden the flesh beneath the bark.
13) It is okay to write metaphors about trees.
15) A Room of Own’s Own. The room in your mind is not spacious enough. Get your own damn room. Paint it any damn color you please. Stock it with two types of beverages: cold, and hot.
16) It is your duty as an artist to get political. Care with the tight-chested urgency of a mother in an emergency room. A revolution is coming, and this is your call to arms. The enemy wants to kill art with green paper and coins, and its ranks are swelling.
17) Visit your muses. Stalk them if you have to. It is its own communion.
18) Don’t let your feet get cold. Bravery is required of you each day.
19) Stop biting your lip. Especially when confronted by male colleagues who talk shop like they are announcing a football game. Let them go on thinking they’re the shit. It is you who are the shit. Know it.
20) Have the sad songs on repeat. The sadder the better.
21) When the flow slows to a trickle, get up and dance. Turn it way up and let the beat loosen the bedrock in your brain.
22) Be honest with your sorrow. Let it fill you and come leaking out your eyeballs. Sad yourself an ocean of grief. Then maybe you will stay afloat.
23) There is an unmapped organ for your art. It will not appear on the x-ray.
24) The Way Back. When stuck in the dreary wasteland of life’s debris, imagine the wind howling on a dark night in a time you never lived. Squeeze out lit dabs of history onto your palette.
25) Some things are things are the same thing. Student, teacher. Intuition, magic. Holiness, awe. Art, prayer.
26) Some things are not. Sight, vision. Time, minutes. Age, wisdom.
27) Your thoughts matter. They move neurons. They are a new element, an undiscovered particle, an energy source that could solve this whole fossil fuels problem.
28) A year with art is better than a year without. It can be your secret lover in the dark.
29) The last line always feels like the last line. When you feel it, stop. It is finished.
29 lessons? That’s a lot. Lessons don’t come along too often. I’ve been very blessed this year. It has been a hard one, but we made it! Thank you, my dear poemfriends, for reading them. I’m very, truly grateful. Check in occasionally. I think poeming is a habit that might stick around for a bit. Bring it, 2015. Ain’t scared a bit of you. I’ve got an army of love behind me. Great joy to you all, in 2015.