artificial clarity

My dreams have been vivid, but I don’t remember them. Only wake with the feeling of having been engaged in some high drama. The impressions I’m left with are washes of color – red to magenta. Intense, pulsing blue.

This year, even in February’s depths, I anticipate spring. Last night, an orange band low across the horizon cheered me. A bright sheen across every layer of ice.


It’s a busy time. I’m meeting with students. They tell me their plans, their anxieties. If there was a time I envied their youth, I no longer do. Frenetic desires no longer hold appeal. I am no longer interested in the sharp edges of wholly untested ambition.

My ambitions now: the work is the work. It is not as though I am untouched by desire. The surprise and seductiveness of recognition. I am not above it. The pleasures of it are uneasy, though. Complicated. I am not yet sure what I am trying to say.


Kate says that she wrote most of I Mean while driving. She was teaching at URI then, spending hours on the road. She kept a notepad near her. I keep a notepad in my car, too. Scribble things to myself, but never much of value, and frequently illegible.

Here is a note I wrote to myself recently while driving:

was no god who at the conference table said “good girl” fed me scraps of the banquet
I had myself prepared

It was a reference to an incident years ago. A work dinner I was hosting for out-of-town investors of one sort or another. After we ate, I rose to bring the platter of desserts to the table. A tray of small things – petit fours, macarons. The man seated at the head of the table, as I placed it down in front of him said, “Ah yes. Good girl.”

I was so shaken and enraged, I had to excuse myself. I don’t remember what happened next. Did they leave? Did we speak again? Surely someone stepped in to account for my absence. Why, after all this time, am I remembering it now?


As for the work: A nearly complete first draft of a new collection. The outline for the next project proposal: something sprawling and risky that I can’t yet get my head around, but grant deadlines require clarity, even if somewhat artificial. And the ever-present shape-shifting novel. (For a photograph last week, I trudged through the wet snow back to Nine Men’s Misery. How will this all come together? How am I ever going to make this work? “The work is the work” in all its triteness running in a constant, oddly reassuring loop.)

I am, for the most part, exhilarated by it all. At least today.