A proper piece of poetry should stand on its own—no poem worth its salt should require a backstory. But I don’t claim to be a poet, so here it is: I am reeling from a recent rejection.
I talk a big talk about dusting myself off and try, try, trying again. And again. About how the ol don’t-call-us-we’ll-call-you is part and parcel of this crazy, beautiful game. Still, it stings being told thanks, but no.
I have come to hate letters signed “Best,“.
Have you ever heard this story, which may or may not be true? Jerry Seinfeld once told it something like this:
It was a dark and stormy night. Engine trouble forced the Glenn Miller Band’s plane to land miles off from a gig. So the musicians grabbed their instruments and commenced a cold, rainy, cross-country trek—the show must go on, right? Wet and weary, they came upon a farmhouse, all aglow, with a family gathered fireside at supper, a regular Norman Rockwell scene. One of the band members peered in the window at the cozy sight and remarked, shaking his head, “How can people live like that?”
In other words, come hell or high water, you do what you do because you love it.
And it’s a high honor, doing the work and putting it out there—whatever the weather.
But lately there are days—so many days—I want to say hang it all. Go inside, get warm. Strictly do the hearth and home thing, along with my finest impression of somebody stable and well-adjusted, some one who doesn’t feel compelled to write anything down. I mean, what is that?
But then I write all night in restless dreams (I can’t explain how this happens), and I know the answer is no, no normalcy for you!
Submit, rinse, repeat.
I check my motives. If I am honest (and why not?), I cannot say with metaphysical certainty I would mind being admired, appreciated, acclaimed. I once asked my writer-husband if he wanted to be famous. He smiled wryly and said, “No… although I’d take it. Because that would mean I’m good.”
Yes, what he said.
I’m driven by many things—some of which I’ll never understand—but chief among them: love of craft and a God-granted compulsion for expression and a desire to gift others as I’ve so often been gifted with, What, you too?
(Oh, also, I’m not rich. Money, I like money. Money helps with things like: college tuition, shoes, sandwich meat.)
So here’s my little ode to the Mias… and to daughter Maggie… and to me. To all of us who ache with want.
Last Girl Standing
Big news pops on tiny cell screen—
she crumples to the bathroom floor,
cries a little.
Cold water rescue, then,
drawing a bottomless breath, shoulders squared,
tip-toeing back to the party.
Trembling, whispering in eager ear:
I got the part.
Next time she doesn’t, though,
or the next.
You win some, you lose some, they say.
What do they know?
Shrugs and safety and good sense.
She aches with want.
Christmastime, Midtown with Mother to see the show.
Mother, with her collection of no thanks from publishers
and her lost contests.
She doesn’t shrug,
but afterward hums snow scene song down the street
to the car.
Mother and Tchaikovsky and daughter, driving.
Back home, upstairs in white cotton nightie, long hair half-up,
Half-past midnight, spent,
folding finally into sugarplum dreams.
She wonders, is eighteen too old for bedroom twirling?
Long morning–early English lit, economics, pointe class, sore feet—
stretches into evening.
One whole day without shimmering dreams—
This won’t do.
She slips on headphones,
emerges into cold night,
alone across campus—
no one’s looking.
leaps a little.
A gazebo—behind the business building?
How funny, flight of fancy—
why hadn’t she noticed it before?
It is hers
for an hour,
steam rising in January air.
She’s got the part,
all the parts.
Take them, one way or another,
Unrelenting, rash, foolish,