You need something to tend that exacts a stately pace.
You could set type, dice vegetables for soup,
or knit a tiny sweater no faster than the baby
gestates for whom it’s meant. Or translate Martial,
scrubbing the rust from your Latin. Then you could
spend a month in a writers’ retreat, honing the barbed
tips of the stingers in Martial’s undiligent
and antisocial bees, not Romans aswarm
but pains to be named later. You’d work on Martial
most of the day, time out for a thoughtful walk,
and sleep in a bed no wider than a stretcher
and dream of cognates and black smoke. The girl
on your left on the plane had explained
that her father was a shipping impressario
and had named a ship for her; she was on her way
back from whapping it on the beak with a magnum
of champagne. The woman on your right had asked
what you do when you finish a book. Write another?
Right she was. There’s what we call the body of work
and it grows, by taken pains, suppler and more vivid.
The work of the body is to chafe and stiffen.