I made a quick list on Monday that featured as many things I could remember from my recent visit to Vancouver, B.C. Having failed to keep much of a record during the week, I did what I could to keep from forgetting. Fortunately, there are hundreds of pictures to help me remember at least for a time. I managed to keep a more detailed list of events from my trip to Jackson, Mississippi last year. Upon my return from the South, I was talking with my boss at the Writing Center, and she asked me about the trip. After I related a fair overview of my crash-course on race relations, white priviledge, white flight, predatory lending, and so on, she asked me if I had written about any of it.
"No I haven't really gotten a chance to," I replied. "I've just got a list of events written in my journal."
She gave me a quizzical look and responded, "Isn't that writing about it?"
The journal can be a powerful tool not only for writers but for all people who actively engage their experiences. Writing about something doesn't mean it needs to be a proofed and published authority on anything. I know I remember things better if I write them down. That seems to go without question, but what I mean is that even if I don't look back at what I've written, I still remember better. Admittedly, the more detailed journal entries are, the more effective they will be later on, but I think there is something to be said for short-hand and bulleted lists when reflecting on an experience. Like bits of string tied around your finger. Or a mnemonic device.
I wrote a poem that explores the power of forgetfulness a while ago called "I have nothing memorized." Although it takes a fictionally romantic turn, it remains a testament to my unstable short-term memory. This poem, along with four others have made it to the final round of consideration for publication in this year's Jeopardy Magazine, Western's campus-wide literary annual. As I understand it, the final round of consideration determines whether pieces will appear in the actual physical publication or on the new web-zine at http://jeopardy.wwu.edu/. Final decisions and respective publication should occur before the end of May.
For now, here is a prose piece that was not picked up by Jeopardy. I closely modeled it after a piece by Gretel Ehrlich as an assignment last quarter.
A Strike at the Heels
after Gretel Ehrlich's "A Match to the Heart"
Twisted in two. I am doubled down the middle. My guts splinter and spiral, suspended in the vacuum of my abdominal cavity. Something switches and the ground begins to pitch. I am walking on open water. My palms slip against each other’s sea-salt sweat. There are no voices. Only echoes. I cannot tell where soliloquy ends, so how do I decide where conversation begins? I feel anxious of future events I have invented in my head. The world is unstable. The room is spinning, sinking, turning over on its end. I lash my mind to anything right side up, but the twine is almost gone.
A single breath stirs words that churn my brain. What light. What space. What cluttered silence.
Another breath and words reawaken me from dumb vacuity. A tincture to calm the waves inside my tempest chest. I can’t tell if I’m speaking. My lips open to release flocks of butterflies chased by felines that arrest only the muscle bed of my mouth. Another breath and I have run out of my reserves.
Music slants the gaps between exhaling. They are the words I’d always meant to say, I just never knew the notes to write. I lean against the music staff to catch a breath of what is left. It steadies me, gives me rest.
My heart is punctured, and I am smitten.