Author’s Note: This Sonnet was inspired by the list made by painter Agnes Martin, whose own menial, often oddball jobs provided her with the boredom she needed to be creative.
I have worked:
- As a salesperson at a crystals shop in a bird park.
- As a waitron just once.
- As a volunteer dog-walker.
- In a cat hospital, at an animal shelter.
- Teaching someone the International Phonetic Alphabet.
- As an au pair.
- As a freelance writer for a doomsday prepper website.
- As a volunteer facilitator for special needs kids.
- As an on-and-off writer for a local travel company.
- In a witch’s costume, promoting a Disney Channel movie.
- As kidtrepreneur, selling shitty microwaved candles to my neighbors.
- As a gift wrapper in a children’s toy shop.
- As a user experience designer.
- As a summer intern at the national museum, putting labels on taxidermied animals.
If I were a sea captain, and you, a ship.
I’d give you a wide berth.
If I were a species of garden plant, I’d be what they call
a late bloomer.
I’ve built a lighthouse on a rocky peninsula called
the Point of No Return.
I’m taking a vacation to a place where I have annual time share.
It’s called last resort.
There is no single grand narrative
only expensive and cheap ones.
I do not claim to write poems
I raise them.
Sometimes, I haul poems from rocky places,
like stubborn tubers from the dirt
until I see the glistening flesh.
If poems are seeded,
I need only water them
and hope they don’t turn out poisonous.
(I have already raised
a sprawling poison garden of poems.
that I lost control of years ago.)
Some poems are bricks that I lay, one by one
until a wall is built
And then I try to climb it.
There are poems that I rip like old paper
from walls I thought were strong
to expose other poems underneath.
Sometimes I want to paint over these.
Other poems I pull at, like feral threads
unraveling my imitations and the lies I tell myself
unraveling the comfort-truths I weave.
Some poems I raise from wells.
Dipping my bucket into depths I cannot measure,
giving and taking and giving,
until it gets at something
It plunges into water that I cannot see,
but I draw it anyway,
Bringing it up to daylight
that I can drink what’s there,
that it quenches me.
A poem is the divining rod that directs me
to bewitch it.
A poem is the germ that leavens the bread of my discontent
so that it may swell and become something I can cut open
I raise poems.
Each poem that I raise, in turn
I remember, in December 1996,
Christmas lights were killer that year!
They overloaded the circuit,
Blew the fuse with high-wattage cheer.
They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
Nowadays it’s those cool, efficient ones that don’t emit heat.
Perfect holiday fire insurance.
Seriously, hazardous things (as pretty as they were),
Lights shivering as if it were winter
Short-circuiting oven before we got the lamb in,
Something burning (not the gammon).
Why – I ask annually –
did we make the entire household trip,
for the sake of something pretty?
(Written October 21, 2016)
- Lotus-eaters on Instagram.
- Ampersands in restaurant names.
- Indicators at traffic roundabouts.
- The events in a single literary day.
- The nostalgia of Christmas beetles.
- A touch of Google Translate between friends.
- A lock of hair affixed.
- Cheap wine & chopsticks
- Too much feeling all around.
- The scramble to reach higher ground.
- A sleeping totem above my head.
- Imitators under my bed.
- Speaking a far more dangerous dialect.
- Say with your mouth what is in your heart.