Friday, April 20, 2012

Transformation at Work

I have been letting this blog slide a little because I am on a mission to upgrade and sell my house. So I’m writing for money every single day that I’m not teaching. When I am working on a project, I do so in a mole-burrowing-through-the-earth kind of way. Not to mention that my time frame is ridiculously short. I rarely come up for air.

The money writing is not transformative, per se, not by my definition anyway. It’s just some online course development, but I like the fact that it is the engine by which I am transforming my house. A week ago the bonus room of this house was covered by a pathogen-ridden, blue-paint-stained, even blood-stained carpet that had been there for thirty years. The blood came from a poor little dead bunny that the cat dragged in. The blue paint came from our dog who knocked over a can on the carpet and then proceeded to step in it and leave retriever-sized blue paw prints. Now the green chalk-covered walls have been painted a soft neutral color and wood laminate covers the floor.

As my house transforms, so do I. For several years now I have been wrestling with the aching emptiness of the sudden absence of daughter (grown up and gone off to college) and husband (got mad and left one day) and dog (died young). But my house is becoming new and beautiful. I am becoming new, too. Happier and more fulfilled.

For one thing, I’m enjoying my teaching job more. Last week, one of the students asked me to give a poetry workshop for a few interested kids. Since I was already at school and not in my burrow, I said, sure. As soon as we were in the room with the rolling chairs and we were writing, I was like a fish that had been caught and then dropped back into its pond. I gleefully breathed in the delicious words. I even wrote a poem that I don’t hate.

Transformative Writing is like a shot of tequila. It warms your blood. It changes everything in an instant.

Here is my poem:

For our dead, beat daddies

And what has happened to us, the children
of the angel-headed hipsters? You who drank
and raged in your never-ending youth. You
freed us from the conformity of the 50s,
taught us that black was cool even before
it was beautiful, and we took your tea,
decided to make a buck, put it in cans for sale
at Walmart – or almost. We would have sold
our souls if we’d found any buyers, but we
were beaten.
You were beatific. We were beaten disillusioned gave up
the fight, bought Barbies for our babies, bought
shiny shoes, bought Mercedes Benz, bought
houses and then lost ‘em to a Hong Kong pirate
in a silver suit. We dropped that dream into a nightmare
poison cup of never good enough, never got enough – and all
the toothpaste ads came to life, pushed right past us, and we
went down without a whimper. We wrapped up our anger,
moved to the suburbs, voted Republican, bought handguns.
And we stopped being we and became
me and me and me. But not

Write, howl, sing:

1. I got the inspiration for this poem from reading portions of "Howl" by Allen Ginsburg out loud to my students. There is something about reading poetry out loud that short circuits the censors in your brain -- especially a poem like "Howl." So my suggestion to you is to pick a poem you love and read it out loud, really out loud, howl if that works for you. Then immediately pick up your pen and roll with it.

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