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The Way I Write

ISSUE:  Summer 1990

In the mornings I lie partly propped up
the way Thomas Jefferson did when he slept
at Monticello. Then I stop and
Look away like Emily Dickinson when
she was thinking about the carriage and the fly.

When someone disturbs me I come back
like Pascal from those infinite spaces,
but I don’t have his great reassurances
of math following along with me; so somehow
the world around me is even scarier.

Besides, the world on fire of Saint Teresa
surrounds me, and the wild faces Dante
awakened on his descent through those dark
forbidden caverns. But over my roof bends
my own kind sky and the mouse-nibble sound of now.

The sky has waited a long time
for this day. Trees have reached out,
the river has scrambled to get where it is.
And here I bring my little mind
to the edge of the ocean and let it think.

My head lolls to one side as thoughts
pour onto the page, important
additions but immediately obsolete, like waves.
The ocean and I have many pebbles
to find and wash off and roll into shape.

“What happens to all these rocks?” “They
become sand.” “And then?” My hand stops.
Thomas Jefferson, Emily Dickinson,
Pascal, Dante—they all pause too.
The sky waits. I lean forward and write.


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