I feel the need to go back to the moment before I created Lemon Hound, the blog, which means, going back to the time of writing Lemon Hound, the book, a process that made me aware of my more vocal alter ego. Here she is, lounging confidently in an open window, on a bridge, in a great pool of personal silence, with time to watch the river peak.
Lisa Robertson was the first person to introduce me as a blogger, or perhaps she said “poet blogger” but all my body remembers is “blogger.” It was Philadelphia, 2007. I can’t recall whom I was being introduced to; we had just seen Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and were having drinks. It may have been at Rachel Blau-Duplessis’s home. It rings clear because of the horror of this description of me. It felt like I was being stamped “literary waitress.”
I chose this poem because it takes me to a place of pure joy. A place always mixed with sadness because joy is awareness, and to be fully alive to our moment one has to live in a constant state of mourning. I wrote this poem in Vermont. By a red barn, transformed into a writing retreat. I wrote it after weeks of time to read. To unfurl. It was already difficult to be without Internet but it was also possible. I had a pink flip phone but no service. I was grateful to sit by the window. To sit in the garden. To sit with my thoughts among the artists.
What does this have to do with Robertson’s introduction? I have never wanted to be a blogger. I am not, despite the flattery of many people describing me as one, a critic. I am someone who responds, mostly intuitively, and for that to be true, I have to respond not only with my mind, but with my body. Walking away from Lemon Hound is, in some ways, like walking away from a position as hostess. My motto has always been if you can, you should. But just because others recognize something in us, even if that something is amazing, we don’t have to realize it. Similarly, just because we’re good at something we’re doing, doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. Women in particular need to learn this. On the other hand, we need to do what we love. What I love is creative, not critical, writing. What I love is discovering the flesh of the poem and holding that next to my skin.
IF I WEREN’T SO MISERABLE I SHOULD NEVER BE HAPPY
All night the rain fell through the open window. She dreamed of orange and yellow salamanders. She heard mushrooms sprouting. She heard the robins before sunrise. Still it rains. Umbrellas appear: now red, now blue, now green, no Burberry in Vermont. She stands on the bridge and is happily miserable watching the river rise. Turbid, yellow, it hits the falls, ducktail of a man who smokes too much. It pounds the bank. She thinks of yesterday when the sun shone. She pruned lilacs. The red mill burned. Iris unfolded. The ladder creaked under her. A duckling peeped. Louise waded in with nets in each hand: a grey and blue butterfly she pushed against the current. She scooped the duckling in a net. It shot through like a feather. The duckling surfaced and peeped. Where was its mother? Louise tried again. The women looked on from the bank in their sunhats. They were busy weeding. The sun shone like sugar. Louise tried again and again the duckling slipped through. It shot like a tadpole for the bank. It zigzagged a puff of cotton against the current. It willed itself to shadow. It hid under the tory roots. She imagined a mink there, or a weasel. Perhaps the dog did too. Standing guard on the bank. Sniffing at the cuffs. The drakes watched from a distance. The mother was nowhere to be seen. A goldfinch lit on a branch, crooked its head and pricked her with its beaded eye. There was a buzz in the syrupy air. Bees tumbled in pink locust. The swallow continued sitting in the nest box. A yellow butterfly swooped and shot upward. Men passed by in trucks oblivious. The marketplace continued its ticking. Interest rates fell. The chef chopped carrots. She twisted and the ladder tipped under foot. A thousand babies were born in the second it took her to catch her breath. The mother duck was nowhere to be seen. Louise walked back across the river, nets like wings. The sun shone warm as honey. Later, after she had finished pruning, she heard squawking. She saw a mink slinking along the river’s edge. A grackle hopped from branch to branch along the bank. She saw the mother duck chase the mink away, magnetic ducklings in tow. She hoped she had found the lost duckling. There was no telling how many had survived. Now the river is too swift even for ducks. The drakes are on the grass waiting. The mother and ducklings are gone. The mink is gone. Louise and the women are gone. The dog is sleeping. Another thousand babies are born. More than have died. Now people skirt the red mill in windbreakers. She stands on the bridge feeling the river swell under her. Somewhere a man stands up and says the river has peaked. A car drives over the covered bridge, just out of view. Somewhere else a fish is caught. But here the river takes another swipe at the concrete pillars under her feet. Someone in the red mill pours a coffee. Sylvia arranges her bark. The rain lessens. Robins appear, flashes of copper on the lawn. She is sure there is no music here. For a fact, there are no ladies.