Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Almost-Finished Poem

I have this little paradise of almost-finished poems: a file called "Completed Poems - Almost."

When I have time I draft like crazy, writing big, big, long, sloppy, inclusive first drafts. I let it all hang out. I run the idea into the ground. These drafts are raw material. I mark each of them "Draft 1" and print them out. They go together in an envelope marked with the approximate date of composition (such as "Fall 2007").

When there's another spot of time (at least six months later) I delete and toss the hopeless drafts. Those that still stand are so long & sloppy I can refine them simply by cutting. If after that I still care, I print these drafts out, mark them "Draft 2," and then the intensive crafting work begins.

When a poem is almost finished -- when it's whole except for, say, one nagging word, or one line, or a closing line -- it is promoted to the file "Completed Poems - Almost."

I visit this file with pleasant anticipation, when I have time, usually every six months or so. Often I can immediately see what the poem needs, supply it, and promote it to "Completed Poems." Those I print out and put in a binder.

A really sticky "almost-poem" I'll read aloud. My sense of embarrassment, boredom, or distaste tells me exactly where to apply my crafting efforts -- or whether any further efforts will be in vain.

Some drafts do hard time in that "Almost" file. But I like that file even better than "Completed Poems" (whose drafts are disposed of). A completed poem is satisfying, but the adventure of making it, the romance, the wild guesses, the risks, the faith, the Nikola-Tesla-like moments of revelation, the experimentation -- is so OVER.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

World's Largest Icicle

Wind carved out this white sandstone cave in my woods. The ledge on top is perhaps dolomite -- harder than sandstone -- and I've seen trickling rainwater make a nice delicate waterfall in spring. The dropoff is about 12-15 feet. In the cave you can camp, sit nice and dry behind the waterfall, and build a fire (see my stock of kindling at picture's lower left). I'm not the first who's done it. A few years ago, my niece dug in the sand and unearthed an old-fashioned silver spoon.

Yesterday I went out hunting with the camera. Good thing I had it, because I have never before seen a monster icicle like this one; minimum 12 feet long. A wonder. Compare with the kindling pile, or the trees in the photo for scale. Some folks try to create giant icicles by pouring water off their roofs. This one is 100 percent Mother Nature's.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Neighbor Learns Me Some Manners

On Tuesdays, somebody throws two newspapers at the foot of our driveway. One's for me, the other is for the only neighbor I have on this unmarked, dead-end road. It's one of those junky suburban papers that's mostly advertising. Good to wrap garbage in. I used to pick up one paper and leave the other where it had been flung.

But my neighbor, Shelley, picks up both papers, takes one, and tucks my copy between our roadside mailboxes. The paper is therefore handy, doesn't get run over, and doesn't get wet.

Shelley, who's my age, has lived here six months. She aint so fancy as I. She dint go to college. Speaks with a twang. Owns a truck, and a totally hot white Honda motorcycle, and a Husky dog. Two boyfriends compete for her affections. The one who wears a canvas jacket with a name patch came by today, Sunday, and shoveled shin-high snow off 100 yards of driveway.

I picked my way through the snow to say to him, not, "Hello, good afternoon, how are you, can I make you a coffee," or anything like that. I said, "You don't need to do that; I E-mailed the landlord to send the snowplow man . . . ."

He said, "Hello. H'are you, Divine. Good to see you. I was just in the neighborhood, this is my fourth driveway today, it don't bother me. . ."

I have zero boyfriends competing for my affections.

Shelley will phone me once in a while -- just to be neighborly! I'd been puzzled when she called me with, like, a hello and nothing else crucial to say! When coming or going in her truck, if she sees me outside, she stops and says hello! It took me a while to understand that waving is a sorry substitute for stopping to chat with a fellow human being.

She treats me like I'm human!

I'd better start acting like I am.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In Love with the Analemma

The Analemma is the path the sun travels through our skies during one year. Its path, when photographed, reveals itself as a lovely, offset figure-8 shape -- set with diamonds. At the farthest ends of the Analemma are the solstices of Summer and Winter. Here is a sample photograph of the Analemma, from the wonderful site Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The Analemma such an exquisitely beautiful phenomenon, displaying the universe's absolutely perfect design, that a gardener friend of mine and I fell in love with the Analemma and in particular celebrate the Solstices -- the crucial turnabout days in our solar calendar. The Winter Solstice this year is on December 22 at 06:08 hours (GMT; for Missouri that's 12:08 a.m.). Fireworks are legal out here, so we explode the loud ones, and dance around the sparkling ones, howling and welcoming the trend toward brighter days and spring and summer. We can hardly wait!!

Friend and I have taken "Earth Names" in honor of the Analemma and the solstices. He, a gardener, is "Demetrius," which means "priest of Demeter," because a gardener is a priest of the Earth. My Earth Name is "June," for the month I most passionately love. You take an Earth Name, too! And dance!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

World of Warcraft, Country Style

Anyone who digs violent video games ought to try annihilating the mice in their house. This is not a game for sissies. This is rated Triple-X for real life and real death.

A foe made out of pixels is nothing compared to an enemy who scrabbles inside your walls all night, poops and pees on your stove and kitchen counter to taunt you, chews open triple-wrapped foil to eat your leftover pizza, and can squeeze through a dime-sized hole. Its speed and cunning make mincemeat of human weaponry and strategy.

I like 'em dead.

A cat is its only true match. Without one, I tried mousetraps. Meeses are, however, masters at eating up every atom of peanut butter without triggering the trap. When a trap gets 'em, its fun to see them dead -- their necks slammed flat beneath the wire, their beady eyes wide open, surprised. Crow about your victory, but there's lots more where that one came from, and each generation is bolder and sneakier. They'll peer at me over the sofa back, or run across my bed while I'm sleeping in it. They've stored corn in the bindings of my cookbooks, and in toes of my shoes. Little bastards.

My weapon of choice now is poison. They die. But they return to haunt me. Last year one died beneath the water heater, and the warm rotting corpse, inaccessible, stank ineffably for a full six weeks. The year before one died in the attic right above the bedroom. Little f----r.

One mouse actually crawled into a packing box and moved to a new house with me. For three weeks I worked almost full-time trying to kill it. Then one day, sick from poison it staggered out from beneath a cabinet. I got my broom. But before I put it out of its misery, and out of mine, I granted it its due. "You have been a most worthy opponent," I said, and I meant it.