I just printed and mailed the most recent version of my memoir to an agent who, last spring, said she'd look at it again if I reworked it substantially. I have done so. It's better, it's closer. I lost enthusiasm when the box slid down the mail slot at the post office. I'm tired of trying. I don't even want to send things out anymore, to tell you the truth. It just isn't worth the time of finding places, preparing envelopes, and mailing. Not for 1-2 acceptances per year.
Today a rejection came for my poetry manuscript. I'm used to these, but I felt good about this press. Two chapbooks have been printed from the contents of this book, and yet no one takes the book. There's a lot of crap out there, and I know I'm at least as good as all of it.
Which makes me think about poetry book contests. So many are, if you look from year to year, clearly slated toward a few people and their particular mode or style. Those 6 people might as well be the only ones entering each year. What a club.
I'm unhappy with my job to boot. Not the teaching, not the time with students, not that, but the pay, the stuck in Low Pay Ville, the use-you-and-lose-you beast that has become higher ed. I feel chewed up. Roto-tilled. I'm wasting my life.
In two months the garden will be nearly done blooming, leaves turning, weather cooling, the school year in full swing. And the only thing that can fulfill me and keep my head above water is to chip away, bit by bit this fall, at the research for the next memoir. I think. I hope.
As I was driving to the post office and back, I passed people on the downtown Lincoln sidewalks. A man walking, leaning back to counterbalance his belly, swinging a lunch pale. A woman in high heels and pressed black pants with those large "can you see me" sunglasses women wear these days. A city worker watering a young tree. Another young woman in very high shorts wearing white tennis shoes and black socks. Two GQ men walking side by side and into a coffee shop. Two plum middle-aged women who seemed to have lived a hard life, judging from their scowls and leathered skin, leaning back in folding chairs behind tables of colorful clothes, plastic, and what not arranged on a short driveway.
We are all so similar and so different. We have no idea how each person lives inside their house, in that row of houses there in the middle of what was once a corn field. But we know they want similar things, to be healthy, happy, loved, and full. And yet it is so hard to live. I know I don't even have a clue, privileged as I am.
I suppose I feel like an emo kid today, and I wonder if they don't live richer lives in their solipsistic turmoil, because at least they feel deeply, even if those emotions are completely inward, dark, and draining. The older I get the less I feel deeply, the harder I have to try to do so. All I have left are these words, and they pale in comparison to what's out there, right now, living, failing, falling, celebrating, changing. All I know is I feel quite stagnate. Like some bronze statue of a bison in the middle of a park celebrating a dead culture, more for its nostalgiac value than the intrinsic longing and realization to be something better than we are right now.
After | Life
I stayed in the shower as long as I could,
then posed before the steam-shot mirror,
trying to remember what Frost said
about ghosts: if the dead are souls,
surely they don't have them? I've read
arguments about whether ghosts exist,
but none that tell if you are one.
I know a dozen times I could have died--
the fever that spiked in my sleep, a crash
two lanes away, the alley I avoided.
The people I see in the grocery store and the park
don't seem dead. I might be haunting them,
though they look frightened only by their lives'
ordinary burdens. I feel different than I did
last night--lonelier and less afraid.
If that was life, this morning must be after.
-- Carrie Shipers, from Ordinary Mourning