Before I begin to write something I experience an almost physiological sensation, like the ache of the jaw in the presence of a decadent chocolate cake. It's the longing for something deeply good, something satisfying. When I sit down to write something it's more about sitting down to 'say' something, and it's that need to 'say' something that compels me. The reverse is also true, I know if I don't get a whiff of that first line, and if it doesn't make my mouth water I may as well not fire up the laptop. Those posts, or drafts usually end us as "drafts" and almost never are finished.
The chocolate cake metaphor is a fun one, but it's not 100% accurate. When writing or saying something that has anything to do with pain (which most good writing does) the sensation might be more like the burn of a muscle you are building- the inane activity you are attempting will pay off in strength. But at the present it just hurts.
Maybe that's why it took me 10 years to write about September 11, 2001. I recently remarked to a colleague, that I've been trying to figure out what I think about that day for 10 years. I haven't written or said much of anything, and that's just not like me. But afterall, what could I say? What could I say that millions of others couldn't also say, and probably better?
What's funny is that in the 10 years between 9-11 and now, I've written very little in the way of poetry. In fact the last poem I wrote was one turned into a song in 1999- called "You Appear and I Write." Then Jesus happened, then 9-11 happened, and my creative process was totally reshuffled.
Last year I took a workshop at University of Houston, shortly after attending an artists retreat at Laity Lodge-- and in a few short months I'd written dozens of poems. Dozens. And one of them was "Tuesday."
I revisited "Tuesday" this week after leaving it be for about a year. I took the scalpel to it (the "delete" key) and shaped it mercilessly. Since I started writing again- I've become a much better editor. And I decided to apply what I've learned about editing essays (keeping within a word count, staying focused on a story, etc) to my poem. It's time, at least for me, to say something. And so I did, and The Curator magazine published it, to my surprise- I thought it was a longshot. I thought it was too subjective, too specific, too sad.
But they disagreed, and I am grateful. "Tuesday" is my tribute to my friend Matt who lost his life that day, but it's also to others- to my friend Sarah who lost her father, to the firefighthers and police officers who were lost charging fearlessly into those buildings. It's for the brave men and women who've lost their lives fighting the war started on that day. As an artist, this is what we do, maybe because it's all we can do. This is how we survive. And for me, writing this poem about September 11, 2001 is my way of surviving it.
You can read it here: Tuesday.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and memories of that day, and the days that have followed.