Thirty years ago I joined the Connecticut Writing Project and haven’t recovered yet. Since then, I've tendered my drafts almost monthly in a writing group of other recovering CWP teachers. There’s a closeness among us we get nowhere else, as we share bits and pieces of our lives — our trials with truculent pianos, unpredictable children, and failing parents. Part is honing our craft, part is shaping our experiences, part is understanding who we are.
Looks so exciting! Let’s get in! And we do.
We’re the ones who lock the door behind us
as if we’d never want to leave. Which sooner or later
we want. Perhaps this isn’t the right-sized cubicle
or bed. Perhaps that wasn’t God who called.
Now what? Some of us, leaving
who knows how much wreckage behind, just
get up and go, looking for a bigger cubicle
a better bed. Some of us sneak out from time to time
(as if nobody notices), some of us stay put
but yell and scream about it, some of us
hang curtains and make our beds
without fail every day. And some few sing
irrepressibly, effervescently, our songs
telling the world how free we are
how free we surely are.
There’s a Stillness
now, in the house. Ghosts
of children return from time to time,
clatter about harmlessly and go.
And with the stillness comes a lightness
of shutters flung open, clothes
shed, bedroom door left open.
And in the stillness, a closeness
returned, but different now.
No longer that of railroad tracks
running parallel, appearing to converge
at the horizon. No. In the stillness now
the closeness of two skiers schussing
down in double helix, intertwining,
savoring the junctures, but ranging
wide in long, sweeping arcs.
The Way You Do
Talk went to wives, his, mine.
But sometimes he seemed to be
using the present tense,
sometimes the past.
“I haven’t been able to tell
if your wife is still alive,”
I asked gently the second day of
hiking together, he the eldest
member of the group, I the slowest.
“She died twelve years ago,
at sixty-three.” For some time
we continued to pick our way
down a tricky part, scree underfoot,
brambles. “This is going to
sound a bit strange. We were hiking
in the Lake District; brilliant day.
But she started feeling poorly after lunch . . .
pork pies. And she said to me,
‘What do you care? You don’t love me.’
And the next thing I knew . . . .”
More scree. Slowly, carefully. “She said it
flippantly,” he turned to me to ask,
“the way you do when you’ve been
married a long time.”
© 2018 William McCarthy
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