Today I had a shopping list of doubt. It began yesterday when I posted The Sleep Artist sooner than I wanted to because I work late on Wednesdays. I don’t think the end is done, and I haven’t figured out a rule for revision. I’m leaning toward, “revisions are good and the fact that you want to make a rule about them is further evidence of your laziness, and you still need to post a new poem, every day. ” Last night was a very North Idaho night, and I slid all over the roads on the way home, which is a special category of doubt. I doubt whether or not I’m going to make it home. I doubt that turning the wheel is going to take me in my desired direction. I doubt that there is anything at all under my control in this whole universe but I can’t cry about it because visibility is low. Then the power went out around midnight and our kiddos ended up in bed with us because, you know, darkness. The last twenty four hours have pickled in doubt about my skills as a mother (because how do you un-scary darkness? And what about the one who won’t eat anything but graham crackers?), about teaching, about loving, about the color of the sky and about the forecast.
Today Mae asked me why I have to write poems all the time. “I’m trying to get better at it.” “What’s your poem called?” “I don’t know yet. What do you think it should be called?” “Is it about Giraffes?” “No.” “What is it about?” “Doubt.” “Oh. You should call it I Doubt” “Yes”.
Surely she is the oldest, most ancient thing,
standing behind both kindness and evil with one hand on each shoulder,
Ready to nudge.
She won’t be murdered by your brave laughter,
And knows all your myths and costumes,
And hides beneath your pillow.
The mirror is her best weapon,
Followed by expectation,
And the pinches and stares of everyone else.
Don’t feed her any excuses but
Starve her with your courage,
moxy, and swearfingers.
The time will come when you will have to get physical,
and its okay to fight like barncats, because
no matter how you scrap,
Nothing moves or breathes or skips the stair,
the pure sweet torture of Doubt.
Okay, so that was a little cerebral. I’ve noticed that I get that way during the week, when I’m teaching and exhausted. Our schedule is grueling and I’m still recovering from several surgeries. Wordsworth wrote something about poetry being the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions, and I think I can do much better on the subject than that. In fact, that tercet was so laborious to write, probably because I am so tired that I’m having to try to make myself think, and that makes for poor feeling. I even had to write this at the same time:
I doubt I am good enough, I doubt I am kind, I doubt I can do this I doubt I can survive. I doubt what you say, I doubt what I think, I doubt words and sounds and sights most of all, and God and supernovas and art and hell most of all. I doubt we can, I doubt we will, I doubt I know, I doubt I want to know, I doubt these slippery joints and I doubt the race of age. I doubt it will ever leave. I doubt I want to. I doubt I should. I doubt we’ll get snow. I doubt anyone knows. I doubt the geese will come this year I hate this I want to know everything.
The nice thing about poetry, thought, is that I can write a poem about the same thing tomorrow, if I don’t like today’s. Never daunted. At least not in public.