Several months ago, a journal called Poet Lore published one of my poems, a piece called “Early Spring.”
I had mixed feelings about it. In a world where one’s mailbox is constantly swelling with terse rejection slips, one learns to be grateful for whatever one can get. The theory behind submitting poems to journals is a lot like that of the horndog wandering through the bar asking woman after woman, Wanna fuck? He knows 99 percent will smack him down, but the possibility of that one sloppy drunk whose eyes will light up gives him hope.
But this piece—confessional, so autobiographical it made my skin crawl even as I wrote it—was atypical of what I tend to write, and I briefly considered changing my mind and asking them not to print it.
Of course, I didn't.
What fascinates me about this moment in time is that the threats to our privacy are so constant, and people so passionately opposed to the invasions conducted by government and corporations alike (when those two bodies are separate at all, that is). And yet never before have we been so prone to revealing our most private, intimate thoughts to a hungry anonymous audience.
I recently read a blog in which a 30 year old woman was openly discussing her virginity and her desperation to lose it; her thoughts were the sort that I might express to my oldest, dearest friends—but no one else. Sometimes it seems we're fighting two opposing fronts at once: one to keep hold of our personal sphere, the other to open it as wide as possible. So much of the latter seems driven by loneliness.
Poetry has always revealed the smudgy, oily hair-clogs at the bottoms of our emotional drains, of course.
So what’s the difference between poetry and the universe of confessional blogging?
All I know is that when this baby came out in print, it made me real glad my dad reads nothing but John Grisham novels.
On the mattress we’d carried into the woods—
through April dusk, sky bannered pale blue,
lines of townhouse windows
shining gold back across the creek—
I held him carefully to take him in.
Pain opened, very slowly, into joy.
After, we lay beneath the breeze
and pulled up the blanket. Dirt and leaves
crept in near our bodies.
Blades of iris pronged up through the soil.
It grew darker. We could hear
night animals moving in the trees;
families cooking out in nearby yards
as we began again, this time with me above,
staring down into his astonished face.
It had been hard to breathe beneath his weight,
but with fuller lungs I found a voice
to call to God—for pardon? or in praise?—
all that seemed certain was something huge
had taken hold; I wanted to name it
so I could call it back.
Later we dressed, tender with each other,
helping with buttons, brushing off leaves
to meet our parents’ probing eyes at curfew.
Conspirators, giggling triumphant,
we carried the mattress out
slung low between us
as though it were the third body
we had torn alive from the dumb wet earth.