Sunday, January 25, 2009

toe in the water

Hi K,

Did you read that thing in TIME, about the future of publishing? It's pretty interesting. It's called Books Unbound, by Lev Grossman. There's a lot to talk about after you read this, but the reason I'm mentioning it now is that I've certainly been afraid of putting my writing out on the web, for a lot of reasons--one, that it hasn't been professionally edited, two, that no one's actually asked for it, and three, that I'm vain and hoped that what I write will be published on paper, and I'll even get paid for it. It does seem, according to Lev Grossman, that many writers are not going to be making money in the same way they used to. So I guess it's a bit like blogging. I ought to give it a try.

And, along with that, I've always been afraid to send my poetry out because it's really personal, and it's not great poetry, I just write it for me. (Many of my stories come out of my poems.)

Anyway, I now climb ladders at work (yep, really, no kidding, who would of thunk it, me being afraid, big time, of heights--any heights), so I'm going to push myself here, too, and post a poem. Nothing to it but to do it. (That's what I say with each step up those ladders--holding books no less.) So here goes.

August 27th, 1966
Sleeping in the slat-wood barn
I wake to a chipmunk on my chest,
a trembling, fur-covered heart.
I scream and he scurries off.
I’m twelve and there’s nothing I can do
about chipmunks.

Last month my father hitched a rope
to a high branch,
made us a swing.
I push off, pull back, pump.
The woods applaud.
This is easy.
This I can do.

My mother cooks cabbage soup,
my father’s favorite.
Upstairs, he coughs that cough,
as if he were cutting down a tree,
or a forest. Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop.

I sleep in the barn again,
pretend there’s three feet of snow outside,
a wolf pacing the roof,
my parents dead, not dying.
I will kill bears to survive.

I practice being alone.
In time, I’ll be perfect.


michael salinger said...

very nice -

I especially like the wood chopping cough. It reminded me of a piece I recently read called -ironically enough - "Cough" by Harry Humes from Micro Fiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories where he compares a coal miner's cough to a needy child.

sarah willis said...

Thanks, Michael. It's scary to post a poem, knowing you're going to read it. My stuff is always too prosey. But I try. . .


Karen Sandstrom said...

Really nice, Sarah. I've never read any of your poetry, and your poet's voice is clear and evocative. Don't be afaid. Do this more.