In one of my favorite interviews with James Galvin, he talks about writing out of the fear of not knowing verses writing from a sense of knowing. Though none of us can predict our own futures there are distinctive factors, individual and collective, that may forcibly turn our attention toward the uncertain. In these poems from my forthcoming book—Brightword—the speaker, a mother, contemplates the microcosm and macrocosm of dissection. Physically, the speaker’s son lives in constant risk of a life-threatening cardiac event. Environmentally, the son, obsessed with nature, bespeaks his fears of eco-catastrophes. Through lyric exchange, images become the principal of repose.
How do any of us—as writers, readers and human beings—move toward, rather than away from, our own disquiet? And where do we house such unknowing? When I write, I am conscious of two things: the feeling in my stomach (I’m not speaking metaphorically here) and the fluidity or shallowness of my breath. For me, disquiet made manifest is a physiological entity. A barometer of authenticity for the poem. If, on occasion, that feeling (let’s call it the tide pool of panic) is absent, I will consciously trigger it by memory, image or music to keep it close and true. What I’m talking about is far from self-inflicted suffering. Rather, it’s more like a faithfulness to an authoritative utterance with no artifice, no whitewashing of fear.