Tuesday, December 30, 2008

90 Degree Turn

I think many of us have this experience: you are about to drop into sleep when an idea comes but you are too comfortable to reach for the pen and paper. So you promise you'll remember the image when you wake. Most of the time that doesn't work. Dream images crowd in and the good idea gets buried under tons of sludge. Last night it sort of worked. I woke to the dog at my side saying it was time to go out, gale-force winds be da--ed. Falling into the usual early routine, I let Duncan out, made the coffee, gave him his morning biscuit and stopped short. Part of the image I had found at the point of sleep popped up like an ad for a free credit report. Not all the things I meant to include in a poem, but enough to get me started. In my journal, I dove in, frustrated that much of what I had planned was invisible, but the bit that remained was enough. I'd write a poem, I thought, about the need to pay attention to the scene in front of us. In my case, that's often mountains, which present a constantly changing view. The mountains stay, but the atmosphere around them varies. Not real news, but good enough. Of course, good enough is another way of saying mediocre, shallow, lazy, scary. Scary?

I think that I often keep to the shallows because I'm afraid to go deep. Then came the turn: from a few lines about the look of the Rockies in winter--a dramatic and amazing thing to a coastal creature like myself--the piece morphed into an apocalyptic warning about not paying attention to what we do to the earth and to ourselves. Whew! This was not what I intended at all, but, you know, it made scary sense and I think it will work. Taking on a huge topic in a poem always makes me pause. Who am I to think I can tell anyone what to think? Well, I don't want to preach or browbeat or thump the bully pulpit, but when I have a fresh image of what we already know,I have to send it into the world. It's cliche, but if one person changes an attitude because she/he read the poem, then I've done my job. And the title for this piece is "An Expert Witness"--someone who swears to tell the truth. What more can I ask for? What else is there?

No comments: