If You Want to Write

gogh.chambre-arles
If You Want to Write

No writing is a waste of time….With every sentence you write,
you have learned something. It has done you good.
― Brenda Ueland

Some days the dog will go
unfed, most surely un-washed
and -combed. Your wife

or lover will languish
in bed upstairs, driven finally
to watch foreign films

with English subtitles
until he or she gives up,
adjusts the covers,

and turns out the light. Your
kids will hone survival
skills like baking

fries or frozen pizzas, maybe
even learning to spot the least
dirty school uniform

in a large, abandoned pile. But
you will feel every comma
like a stroke

of good luck, fall in love
with random words—
weevil, genus, rugosa,

and burred—sit in silence
and ambient smoke
till the last line appears,

and you have done some good.

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Crossing the Line

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Crossing the Line

I.

First,
there is this—
the insatiable need for fact,
the coiled wire waiting to be unspooled,
two steel towers, unstrung, facing the windless gorge,
a drowsy green bird dreaming of flight, and a tiger roused by hunger pain.

II.

Karl Wallenda, high wire walker, born January 21, 1905,
near Magdeburg, Germany, to a dancer and
trapeze artiste—by ten, balancing
in beer halls,
conceiving the great seven-man pyramid, rising three tiers high,
in the winter of thirty-eight, leaving
retirement at sixty-nine
to set
the high wire distance record (one-thousand-eight-hundred feet),
later, in a burst of wind over San Juan, falling
twelve stories to the gaping
hotel street.

Or, the hum-
mingbird (Archilochus colubris),
smallest bird in the world, alone able to hover, fanning
its wings seventy beats-per-second, producing a humming sound,
feeding
on nectar pooled in salvia, thistle,
jewelweed, and the scarlet horn of trumpet vine, weaving
a nest of spider silk, laying eggs, each spring, the size of navy beans.

Or, the four-hundred-pound tiger, biggest in the big-cat family filadae,
each tiger marked with a pattern of stripes more distinct
than fingerprints, a night-hunter, searching
animal trails
and stream beds for buffalo, deer, boar, badger and hare, creeping
within thirty feet of prey, leaping the line in the sand,
crushing throat or nape—eating men,
a rare, but tragic, case.

III.

Then,
the terrible, taut
tension we string in the wire,
the joules and foot-pounds of work performed by like, is, and as

The Great Wallenda stepping as quiet and careful as a tiger stalking
its prey—for a moment, after the gust, hovering
mid-air, like a ruby-throated hummer
balanced
on invisible wings. The tiny green bird, floating spot in the tiger eye
of the sun—a weightless Wallenda fashioning crisscrossed lines,
bridging the blank canyon of the sky,
linking bloom-
to-tree-to-post-to-nest-to-roof-to-rim—stringing unstrung flowers
with geometric flight. The flaming orange tiger
falling like death on a face
up-turned
in the grass—tiger eyes dazzling with the brilliance of emeralds
or rubies—the air humming with tension—the paws
electric with power before the deadly
arcing rush.

IV.

HERE! It is Wallenda falling. HERE! The whirring of bright, green
wings. HERE! A fiery pattern of stripes
flowing like finger-
prints.

V.

Last,
we find the writer,
writing—balancing words on a trembling wire,
funambulist crossing the line—a focused, lyrical walking
always
done with fear—seeing
crouched tigers at both ends, with
need—drinking trumpet nectar from the deep ruby wells
of blooms,
with joy—walking
where no human skin has ever
touched the wind, with sheer abandon and devil-may-care—
crossing the line, stepping out, on the most wild and reckless of dares.

from My Travels Among the Spiders

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from My Travels Among the Spiders

Sometimes, during the spring after rain
I hear the love-ruined voices
of spiders at night, walking in the trees
outside my window, stitching up lamp-light
and darkness in the limbs and leaves.

Several times before, I have stepped
quietly downstairs and hidden behind
the Privet hedge in my garden, shining
with a flashlight for the blue sparks
of spider eyes at night. I love to watch

the secret spiders play as they defy
our best-kept law—floating, mid-air, in
and out of light. I often have noticed
their legs, so much longer than stars.
Sometimes, when they are at their worst,

patching up all the trees with passion,
I have known them to stretch some fallen star
into strings of light across my usual
garden path. On these occasions,
I walk unawares into their feathery embrace.

For a moment, I am held like Gulliver
by the tiniest

of threads until I move
in the surge of my surprise and silver lines
pull loose from their moorings
in the limbs. It is then, in all directions,

that spiders abandon their play and run
on silken legs to hide their turquoise eyes
in the canopy of shadows and leaves.