Here We Go Again

November 1, 2007
Thursday

Here we go again,
up the narrow stair
of fall, and I’m full of nerve. . .

the river the very color of cold,
November on her way to winter.
    — Deborah Gottlieb Garrison, b. 1965
        American poet

NaBloPoMo 2007

When I sat down to start this piece, I really didn’t know what I was going to write about. I knew only that I was going to use some lines from the poem quoted above. I came across it a few weeks ago, falling loose out of a folder, when I did my poetry collecting. I had clipped it from the magazine it originally appeared in, and I’d written “The New Yorker, 11/26/90″ in the margin. Today, I chose the lines I wanted, and then decided to find out something about Deborah Gottlieb Garrison, whose name sounded familiar.

According to “Mother, Poet, Editor, Wife,” a profile that appeared in The New York Times last spring, Gottlieb is a 42-year-old mother of three, married for twenty years to her high school sweetheart, the poetry editor at an important house in New York City, and a working poet in her own right. Her first book, A Working Girl Can’t Win, sold 30,000 copies, an enormous amount for a poetry collection. She was young, hip, working in a plum editing job at The New Yorker. She wrote about sex and the city, about falling in love and out of love, about life on the corporate career ladder. Then she started her family, changed her residence and her career focus, and took more than ten years to produce her second book, somewhat ironically called The Second Child. Now she writes about breast feeding, saving kindergarten art, and being a soccer mom.

She has it all, I thought: creative work and a perfect family. And yet, she writes, “I’m not half/ of what I meant to be.” It took her so long to get out the second book not only because she was busy, but because she was too happy to write. “When I was unhappy/words slipped ceaselessly from my pen, /arrows down the page . . .”

I am half of what I meant to be. I wanted a home and a family and I had that and if I were a poet I too could have written lush lyrics about the deep contentment that nursing gave me, the elementary school art that is on a high shelf in my study zipped into the backpacks Lynn carried each year, the nine years of field hockey. I was so busy being happy that I didn’t take the time to write about it.

The other half, the accomplished fiction writer, I have yet to become. I am two weeks away from the start of my first real opportunity to prove I can do it. For the past week I’ve been walking around in a state of free-floating anxiety, not sure what it is precisely that I am worried about, but knowing that I am worried about something.

I drove along the river today and it was the color of cold. The summer-like heat we had through hockey season is gone, and the water looked gray and choppy. The wind has picked up as I sit here tonight, full of hope, full of anxiety, full of nerve.

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