Tall Orders

I am hunkering down, low, low, into the stuff of language, deeper, past layers of concepts and into the steeping pot of creativity. With a packet deadline for the MFA just two weeks away, this sinking has become my survival mechanism. It means more silence. More time at home. Only going out for practical reasons and the occasional one-on-one conversation for perspective. Otherwise, no, I cannot come over and watch a movie and no, I cannot go shopping and no, I cannot watch you blow glass in the glass studio. (But yes, I can and will sing on Monday night and go to the Andrew Bird concert on Tuesday night.)

My advisor’s orders for the next packet are tall. She has asked me to write a nonfiction lyrical essay and present her with the “new me” in nonfiction. No more fiction; at least not for this next packet—and no more of the old voice from my first and second semesters.

New. Fresh. Brave. Surprising even to myself. A voice heretofore unspoken.

Tomorrow, finish the Andre Dubus book, read up on lyrical essays, let the rhythms be felt, then begin by imitation. Copy style, rhythm, and voice and change only content.

Then break free of that. Listen for the places when the copied voice grows impatient and new one starts to talk. Then let it talk. Follow it. Let go. Close my eyes, and write until it stops.

Brandish weapons against all those other voices of discontent. Kill the editor. Sabotage the censor. Ignore the temper tantrum. Isolate the source of doubt until it is nothing but the silly call of a peeper frog alongside the road, who, when approached with any measure of closeness, is completely silenced.

But if you turn your back, walk away, or stay dormant for too long, the peeper will begin its call again, scratching at the subconscious. At this moment, lean in closer. Dare to shine a flashlight in its eyes and you will see how imperceptibly small such a loud creature is. Lean further and keep leaning, looking all fear in the eyes, and you will see that it is nothing but a mirror of your own face, a creation of the same mind that puts pen to paper, weaves stories in the night, hunts truths as if its life depended on it.

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