A first draft of something

Between words

Each time I lift my pen from the paper
there’s a break in transmission,
a lost signal.

Grab a can of seltzer from the fridge,
listen to the birds outside my window –
if I tune in a second longer
I might understand their speech.

Reach for a tissue to wipe my damp nose,
decide it’s time to practice Neti,
feel warm salt water rush through my sinuses,
as if swimming in the ocean,
even though I’m hours from the sea.

See in the mind’s eye my son and his friends
camping at the beach – he’ll let
his shoulders burn without me
around to nag about sun screen.

Greenhouse gasses, polar bears,
no solid ice floes to launch
their seal hunts, three hundred
years from now maybe all

mammals will be blistered
from ultraviolet rays,
and cockroaches will drop from poison
ivy grown as tall as trees, will enter our
homes, build nests in our walls,

crawl over our unmade beds.
Humans, cats, and dogs will have
burrowed underground or escaped
to the moon to protect their skin from burns.

And still I turn my antennae toward space,
scribble hieroglyphics in a notebook.


I wrote a twenty-minute free-write with the idea in the back of my mind of what I do instead of writing. It was inspired from a poem Michelle McGrane shared with me, and also from different comments I’ve read on poetry blogs about people feeling sort of blocked, myself included!

6 thoughts on “A first draft of something

  1. Michelle says:

    “And still I turn my antennae toward space,
    scribble hieroglyphics in a notebook.”

    I’m picturing it! Isn’t it strange how we can’t help ourselves, how it’s bigger than us?

    I really like the way you’ve woven your thoughts and concerns about the destruction of the environment into the poem.

    “break in transmission”, “lost signal”, “if I tune in a second longer/ I might understand their speech”, “escaped/ to the moon to protect their skin from burns”, “antennae toward space” and “hieroglyphics” all conjure up another world, an other world.


  2. jo says:

    I feel like I’m right inside your head…..you’ve captured that meandering, thoughtful state so well. I love the part about the birds.


  3. Julie says:

    This is the poem I’ve been wanting to write lately. I love how you have coupled the writing process with all of those thoughts and things that can become a distraction. Great details like seltzer, and I love the lines about understanding bird’s speech. Then the distractions lead to powerful thoughts about the environment and turn into a wonderful poem.


  4. Narendra says:

    I liked the “I turn my antennae toward space” and “scribbled hieroglyphics” brilliant!!you actually wrote a poem on things that actually trouble you while writing!wow!that is a great thought i must say…loved it


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