discovering poetry even when there are no words

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a poet sees a pair of sneakers on the sidewalk. she writes about them, of course. right? *sigh.* not this poet. she takes a picture of them. she saves them for later.

it’s been my m.o. for more than a year. going on a year and a half, i think. i say i *can’t* write. i have no attention span for writing (or reading, for that matter). but something i haven’t lost is my ability to see things. it may be sharper than ever. i can’t seem to process language at the level i used to, but i believe it’s just temporary. so i’m tucking things away by photographing them.

i understand it’s a poor substitute for memory and a miserable way to try to capture an object for a poem since it can’t disclose touch, taste, smell or sound. but it’s what i’ve got right now. and i’ve always been a visual poet. i’ve always built my poems on images. i have to believe the photos will be decent placeholders. in fact, i trust it so much (or perhaps it’s an act of desperation?) that i’ve been taking photos at a rate i haven’t since my kids were babies.

speaking of those wild boys, they are in the photos again, which means, of course, that i am seeing them like i haven’t since they were brand new. in fact, they just may be the tiny little heroes of this story even though it’s not their quest. without them to pursue, i would have given up. no — i likely wouldn’t have begun at all.

that’s a very dramatic presentation. i know it. and parents say all the time they stay for the kids. other people, like me and my ex, say they split to make happier places for the kids. either way, at the onset, both approaches are bull shit. you do the best you’re capable of and hope for the best.

i got lucky: my story turned out to be true. i needed out so that i could give the boys the best of me. six years ago, i didn’t believe they needed me at all. most of the time i thought they’d be better off without me. three years ago, i was sure i would never have the courage to let them know me. i worried i’d die before they ever knew there was a fire inside me. i’m not worried about those things anymore.

and this is related to poetry because i’m not just taking photos and filing them away and pining for the right words. i am showing the boys what i see. i am showing them the oddities and the fears. i am showing them light sources and angles. i am showing them what it’s like to be me in the world. not caged in any clever presentation. not tied up with pretty conclusions. but instead, this: let’s go see what we can see today.


  1. I like this, the adventures the four of you encounter while seeking out these photos, angles, colors, lights…the untold stories those photos will later retell. I’ve done this with my kids, made sure they knew the stories that matched our photos…

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