song of the king

I am distracted. The mind wanders. I lose focus. 

I am thinking about fragility, about brokenness. 

Once, I saw a performance in a small black box theatre in which one dancer drew long chalk lines across the stage while another followed several feet behind, writing fragments of text between the lines. The man then drew a chalk circle downstage and stood in it. Then, he bent at the waist and rested an egg in the small of his back. He walked the lines he had drawn with the egg balanced there. It was odd and it was beautiful. We held our breath. Halfway across the stage, the egg dropped with a quiet thud to the floor. A collective gasp. The egg.

There were four of us and it was late. They led us to a long table in the far corner of the deck, closest to the beach. We had already had cocktails upstairs and at the newcomers reception and then again in the lobby bar in various configurations. One group would disperse and then another would form and now, we were the last, the devoted. It is likely we were quite loud. There were two waiters attending to us - the lateness of the hour I suppose and also the bit of spectacle we must have made, four laughing women, our lipstick fading, the straps of tank tops showing now that our blouses and wraps had slipped from our shoulders. We drank frozen margaritas and told stories about the places we had been before. In the distance, the pitch dark sea. Our voices big and laughing. We stayed out until we were certain we had extracted every last pleasure the night could yield.

Anyone can love the perfumed days of summer, but I have come to love the cold dark mornings best. They are quiet, save for the radiator knocks. The sky moves through its early morning palette of blues. 

This morning, a gray pallor to the brown lawn suggests frost. There is a slight, occasional wind. It makes the tree branches shiver. 

M. returned late last night. The week ahead will be a busy one. I have fallen behind. There is never enough time. 

I have come to an uneasy place in the writing. The fragments come and I lay them out, one after the other. I number them. Occasionally, I will move them around, change their order.

I am preoccupied by a number of themes - brokenness, fragility, loss. Hunger. There are others, I am sure. I am haunted by this sense that I must drive this thing forward to some sort of conclusion and when I start turning words like conclusion over in my mind, I become paralyzed. Exploration? Yes. Absorption, obsession? Yes. Momentary suspension of grief, of despair? Yes, yes, yes. Conclusion? Emphatically no. 

A few years ago, I met a dear friend of mine met for breakfast in a little cafe in a part of town I rarely go. I don’t know why we went there - perhaps it was soon after it opened. It was nearly empty on the weekday morning we met and we sat at a table in the corner, lingered. We were talking about writing. I was lamenting, as I often am, the passage of time. The year before, she had enrolled in a graduate program in Boston, but soon after the semester began, she withdrew. Her family situation is a complicated one. She explained that she was needed at home. She gave up the apartment she was renting near campus and returned home. She never shared with me the details of her decision and I did not press her, but I remember being tremendously disappointed on her behalf. 

In my limited-attention-span way, I move from writing to reading one thing and then another, to listening to music and writing down lyrics, to searching for lyrics; to watching television or at least, flipping through channels; to scrolling through screens online and back to reading, back to writing, back to texting (rarely sexting); trying to read, trying to write, trying to hold the sounds of my family waking up and making their way down the stairs in one part of my head while at the same time clinging desperately to a line or a phrase or even a word or two that for whatever reason has whispered itself to me and asked me to remember it. 

These words, these phrases will come to me at inopportune moments. In the shower or driving to work. Over dinner. In a staff meeting. As often as I can, I write them down on whatever scrap of paper I can find. I throw the scraps in my purse over the course of the day and then when I am next at my desk, I take try to make some sense of them. Here is what I had this morning:

  • sadness
  • fire/burn CD
  • french audiotapes
  • I think we are still talking about writing
  • blossom should not ever fly from bee to bee to bee
  • turn the music up louder

The blossom line is from the musical “The King and I.” It is a song the king sings defending his polygamy. I looked up the line, which I had misremembered. Here it is:

A girl must be like a blossom
With honey for just one man.
A man must be like honey bee
And gather all he can.
To fly from blossom to blossom
A honey bee must be free,
But blossom must not ever fly
From bee to bee to bee.

I am running out of time. This is the way it is. Recently, I sent some poems to a well-respected colleague, a poet and teacher who knew me as a fiction writer, years ago. I explained, this is what I am doing these days, these fragments. It is difficult to sustain anything longer. He wrote back and kindly, generously validated these “bursts of text,” given my life and its attendant demands. 

My life is getting in the way of my life. These are my words, not his. 

In the times I turned away from the screen while writing this (and there were many), I found a few additional scraps:

  • a dimension of performance
  • lottery
  • mole on the side of his neck 
  • where a thing lands, where it touches down, even if only for a moment