This post breaks almost two full weeks of blog silence from me. I simply couldn’t write or think it seems, and I was conscious of the potential for my writing here to be overly self-indulgent and maudlin. So it seemed best to make my lists, catch up on the housework that had been neglected and begin meeting some of my poetry submission deadlines again until I was ready to blog.
Sometimes doing the mundane tasks helps to clear the mind of the sludge that builds up, especially when the build-up is the residue of great sadness. It’s been a difficult month here with the loss of a very dear friend who decided it was better to take her own life than go on suffering in ways that were deeper than we knew.
But there has been good news as well. My sister had a cancer scare, but her lumpectomy went well, and it appears that the cancer was not “invasive,” that it was confined to the area that was removed. She will have to undergo some radiation treatments just in case, but there is apparently no more cancer in her body. On top of that, my other sister, as well as the mother of my children each got their mammogram results back, and both were thankfully normal.
Today’s post is part of my attempt to catch up with John Nooney’s “Reading Out Loud Project” on Poetically Versed. I can relate to Marge Piercy in this one. In the case of this week, the making of lists, the checking things off was a way to break through the paralysis of depression, a putting of one foot before the other, knowing that the fog would eventually lift, and that movement of any kind would help bring me out of it more quickly.
I have a good life, and aside from some financial concerns and a handful of worries. . . well, and this recent loss. . . and what comes with it, namely the fear of what might be lost next. . . well aside from all that, I know that my moods always, eventually improve, and that sometimes all I can do is to push through until they do. For some it is much more difficult, and movement is nearly impossible without some sort of help to surmount whatever physiological and chemical hurdles our brains and bodies face.
On the upside, lists can be fun. Not in the way that housework is fun, because it isn’t, but in the way that having completed housework is fun. After labor comes play or relaxation, and I understand Piercy; sometimes I too like to write things down that were already done, just ahead of the list-making, because the added pleasure sometimes gives the boost I need to do the next thing.
You can hear John’s version of this poem by clicking right here. What follows below is my interpretation of “The Listmaker,” by Marge Piercy. You’ll notice in the opening credits I had written it as two words. My mistake. Apparently the title is so important to Piercy that she felt it worthy of creating a new word.
Oh, and I have already recorded and uploaded this week’s project to YouTube, so I’ll be posting that later tonight, along with a bit of John’s easy-as-pie guidelines for participating yourself.
I am a compiler of lists: 1 bag
fine cracked corn, 1 sunflower seeds.
Thin tomato seedlings in hotbed;
check dahlias for sprouting.
Write Kathy. Call Lou. Pay
oil bill. Decide about Montana.
I find withered lists in pockets
of raincoats, reminders to buy birthday
presents for lovers who wear those warm
sweaters now in other lives. And what
did I decide about Montana? To believe
or disbelieve in its existence?
To rise at five some morning and fly there?
A buried assent or denial rots beneath.
I confess too that sometimes when I am listing
what I must do on a Monday, I will put on
tasks already completed for the neat pleasure
of striking them out, checking them off.
What do these lists mean? That I mistrust my memory,
that my attention, a huge hungry crow
settling to carrion even on the highway
hates to rise and flap off, wants to continue
feasting on what it has let down upon
folding the tent of its broad dusty wings.
That I like to conquer chaos one square
at a time like a board game.
That I fear the sins of omission more
than commission. That the whining saw
of the mill of time shrieks always in my ears
as I am borne with all the other logs
forward to be dismantled and rebuilt
into chairs, into frogs, into running water.
All lists start where they halt, in intention.
Only the love that is work completes them.
- Interview: Marge Piercy (journalwomenwriters.wordpress.com)
- Weekly Reading Out Loud Project: Marge Piercy (poeticallyversed.com)
- The difference between prose and poetry…. Marge Piercy (kaiteoreilly.wordpress.com)
- In the Department Store, poem by Marge Piercy (silverbirchpress.wordpress.com)