I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
April 1, 2018: Kelle Groom
Kelle Groom leapt to my attention when she became the Director of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in February of 2015. First I read her memoir I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl, which was published in 2012 and was, among other honors, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. In The New York Times‘ review, Madge McKeithen wrote, “The writer knows what she’s doing, giving us the experience of a woman who often did not know at all what she was doing.” I’ve tried this; it’s not easy.
This beautiful paragraph from Kelle’s memoir takes us so close. Notice the short sentences, the parallel constructions, the repetition like an incantation or a song.
My son has his eyes closed now. He’s close to leaving my nineteen-year-old body. Ripples wash over his skin that no one has ever touched, except me. We’re still together. My darkness keeps him safe, fed. My body does everything right: carrying, feeding, singing a water song. My heart counted on like a lullaby. In the outside world, my practical skills are limited–I don’t know how to keep house or manage money, sometimes I can barely speak. But in my son’s world, my body has everything he needs. I belong to him.
Kelle was a poet first, publishing Underwater City in 2004, Luckily, a Florida Book Award winner in 2006, and Five Kingdoms in 2010, also a Florida Book Award Winner. When Spill came out this past October, I scooped it right up.
I feel unqualified to write about poetry, but I love reading it and spilling is what I need to do. So hear goes. “The Lost Museum” opens with these lines. Say them out loud. The words tumble out.
All my life stars falling on cars, the laundry
on the line, stars in my hair, open mouth,
and in my chest a massive celestial body.
The poem closes with these lines that draw us to the title of the collection.
What can we do but love
who we love even if you won’t find them
in our houses? If someone must saw open
my chest I want all this light to be what spills out.
Blues and goodbyes can be felt and read and experienced in any number of these poems. I love counting things and tried to count the occurrences of these two words, but I kept getting distracted by the poems. In “Goodbye To A,” I expected to say goodbye to a specific thing or things, but the poem, which begins with both blue and goodbye, surprises by playing with words that begin with the letter a.
Someone has to blue metal
for the gunmaker. Blue the gown
worn by the imprisoned,
licensed to beg. Goodbye
to Abdicate, to Abode, chunky heels
crossing wood floors at 3 a.m.
In “42,” more blues and more goodbyes.
Goodbye 42, ten more hours in another life with sleeping
children, a man willing to drive, all the blue stars being born
when I died years ago, when I felt the inside of the way out
I think I stopped breathing while reading “Swerve.”
If an Indian / could have bought land.
In Spill, you’ll find psychic readings and coffee cups and train poems…
…the Lincoln Memorial which I also visited
as a child & dreamed of ever after, Lincoln in my childhood
dreams I’d visit nights climb until I reached his knee like a chair
& I’d just sit there with him
swing my legs so high up so held
and more train poems…
But I feared what he’d ask, which he asked,
What does it mean & I was afraid
Even though he held the blue of the ocean in his hand even though
he’d showed it to me even then I couldn’t say love love is what it means.
As Pam Houston said, “There is only one story of our lives and we tell it over and over again, in a thousand different disguises, whether we know it or not.” Don’t miss Kelle’s story–in all its many tellings. And
Read how KELLE GROOM spends her days.