When I am the reader, not the writer….

When I am the reader, not the writer….

It still comes as a shock to realize that I don’t write about what I know, but in order to find out what I know. Is it possible to convey the enormous degree of blankness, confusion, hunch, and uncertainty lurking in the act of writing? When I am the reader, not the writer, I too fall into the lovely illusion that the words before me which read so inevitably, must also have been written exactly as they appear, rhythm and cadence, language and syntax, the powerful waves of the sentences laying themselves on the smooth beach of the page one after another faultlessly.

But here I sit before a yellow legal pad, and the long page of the preceding two paragraphs is a jumble of crossed-out lines, false starts, confused order.  A mess.  The mess of my mind trying to find out what it wants to say.  This is a writer’s frantic, grabby mind, not the poised mind of a reader waiting to be edified or entertained.

—  from I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl

Buy on Amazon

In which our writer tries her hand at poetry

On the occasion of unintentionally leaving Imagine Dragons on repeat

Don’t get too closeErzengel_Michael-Statue_über_dem_Portal_der_St._Michaeliskirche_Hamburg
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide


My demons don’t hide anywhere,
They’ve been wrestled and slain.
I deboned them and sautéed the meat in a fine shallot reduction.
I fed it all to my better angels;
They have grown healthy and strong
On the added protein.

Strong Wings

Strong Wings

Writing is hard. I want to run away. It’s an absolute confrontation with the self, though, so you can’t run away. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to metaphors: they screen; I can hide for a minute, catch my breath.

Strength training is the same kind of hard: there’s nowhere to hide. I always show up on time, I’m always warmed up, ready to go. My trainer’s always there, always ready; he shows up too, every time.

I have trouble with shoulder movements. I tend to hike my shoulder blades up towards my ears, dancer backcaving in on myself, compressing my neck. When this happens, I can’t breathe properly, my posture breaks down, I hunch. When this happens, he stands behind me and touches his fingers across the top of my trapezius muscle, gently pressing down, to keep me in place. To remind me of the proper form. “Remember to stabilize the scapula,” he says.

BrownScapularBut I hear it as scapular, and I remember necklace I wore as a Catholic schoolgirl, the two squares of brown felt, stitched to a narrow satin band. I think of how it promised me salvation. “Whoever dies clothed in this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire,” it read.

“You want to keep your shoulder blades in position so you activate your lats,” he tells me.  “You want to use the strength of your back for this movement.” I try to focus on my lats, on keeping my shoulders down, try to breathe into the movement.

But I run away again, remembering the moment in The Awakening where Edna Pontellier recounts an odd conversation with Madamoiselle Reisz, the artist.Edna Library_Walk_30Edna remarks, “when I left her to-day, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong, she said. ‘The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.’”

“Lift your chest up,” he reminds me. “That will help you breathe. OK, ready? Let’s try it again.”


© 2017 kathy * writes