past life

It’s National Poetry Month which, in my life, used to be a huge deal. It was a morning just like this one – gray, somewhat warm, and raining – that Cat, Erin and I set out for a day in the city. After a 45 minute ride on the Long Island Rail Road, a few subway stops, and a handful of blocks, we walked into a lecture hall at Cooper Union to hear Robert Pinsky speak. It was 2000, just around the time that he Released Americans’ Favorite Poems as part of his tenure as Poet Laureate.

I can remember like yesterday how my coat and backpack were drenched, my hair sticking to my back, as we sat, mesmerized but his rich voice and subtle lisp. It was the kind of day that I loved. I was in awe of his craft, his knowledge.

I lived in the world of poetry in high school. The Dodge Poetry Festival and Mr. Van Zant’s poetry class and readings at the Barn and poetry club and the Literary Magazine and celebrating National Poetry month with posters and trips to the Poets House to sit among the stacks and photocopy page after page of poem that spoke to me. They all seem so far away. But if I close my eyes, I can take myself back to that room with Cat and Erin like it was yesterday. But life is so different now. As much as I long to find her, I have no idea where Cat is. And as much as I’d love to just sit down on the spur of the moment and grab coffee with Erin, she’s almost 100 miles away.

There’s a post-it note, faded, in one of the pages of my Pinsky anthology. I don’t know why I marked it or the meaning it had at the time, but it’s still there. Remnant.

 

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Nor for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Not for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

-Dylan Thomas

 

 

My writing life seems so far away now.

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