Here are three pictures after the weekend storms; the whole island was wrapped in what my mother calls sea smoke. It was truly beautiful in a Mists of Avalon sort of way. Even for all that beauty, what I wish I could do is show you images of the Leonid meteor showers we watched last night from our deck. At two a.m. there we were, wrapped in jackets and scarves and blankets, clutching mugs of chamomile tea and shouting at the sky as streaks of white, green, and gold flashed by. I had to turn my back on Portland and on the lighthouses across the harbor so I could fix my gaze on the darkest parts of the sky, east of the island, where it's open ocean.
Yes, I wish I could show you gorgeous photos of comet particles falling from the heavens, but I have neither the camera nor the talent for capturing that particular kind of magic. I do have words, and I am writing a poem, but that must wait, too. I revise and revise and revise, for that is what I love best about my training as a poet: the process of revision. Inspiration, that initial rush of writing, is the fun, sexy, and relatively easy part of writing. I always tell my students (and they groan--oh, do they groan) that the real work, the real craft comes through re-vision, through re-seeing the poem as a whole and as its parts, each line, whether endstopped or enjambed, each metaphor, each slant rhyme.
What poetry students eventually find, the serious ones at least, is a kind of joy in that work as the poem reveals itself anew with each revision. The process becomes one of discovery and revelation. Writing well is like reading well, and I think that both are like living well, although it is easier, of course, for me to write and read well than to live well. I am working at it. What does Samuel Beckett say? "Try. Fail. No matter. Try again. Fail better." What I wish for tonight is a willingness and an ability to try again. I wish to see the world around me clearly--people, their fears and joys, and to accept them for who they are. I also wish to be a little braver. My whole life feels on the brink of changes, some good, many hard, but nearly all tinged with risk, so I need to pack some courage in my rucksack. I think of the Leonids; they blaze and burn out, rushing off into their own oblivion no matter what I do down here on earth, a fact which I find oddly comforting. Archibald MacLeish wrote in "Ars Poetica" that "a poem must not mean but be." I often think the same of life.
Here is a moment. We are alive. We are.