ballad of the writer's morning

The Ballad of the Morning of the Writer

with deference to Stephen Pressfield

Before she opened eyes, she heard
Alarms — her shouting clock.
She’d set it for her pre-dawn words.
Her dry-mouth-taste: a sock?

The children soon would rise from bunks
And writing time would end
But blank pages await. Tales trunked—
They whispered, “Sleep again.”

Children took out the pep from her —
Cheeses on grills and strings —
She needed energy, for sure,
For their lunch, rides, and… things.

And her mom’s sick in hospice
and needed tender care.
If writing took that drive away,
If mom died today or the next day,
Could writing now be fair?

How the thought, how the mood depressing mind
Required another fix
Her Xanax — hear how it’s calling her —
Hear its spell — it is enthralling her —
Bottle of capsuled licks.

If she Tindered a midnight lover boy
Just to fill in the sex she craved,
The fantasy, would it fill her joy?
Would it birth books critics raved?

She turned on pillow, thought: Well no. Yet
The trouble rivets me:
For I could be a villain
And for I could pillage seas.

A life of crime would irk her friends
Respectable and true.
But Life Drama beside Book Ends…
It seemed easy and lewd.

It wasn’t her fault she was blocked!
She’d had some sexist coaches!
Her profs hated the girls they taught!
(She made up other hoaxes.) 

John, her ex, he had hated books.
Hated her love to write.
He wanted her to be a cook,
And a mom, sexy sight.

How he criticized fiction,
Enflamed her family’s doubts —
The aunts who said she needed work ,
The old men, conceiving her twerking,
Loudened grandma’s veiled shouts.

On her bed she then dreamed of hearing “Jo”
Announced before a crowd:
Awards from the same Academies
And the Prized Pulitzers, Emmys,
Heros of hers had wowed.

But she hadn’t received a Hugo yet,
Lying lone on her broken springs.
The writing life is a lonely lot
That can cripple us lonesome things.

If waited, she, a little bit more,
The time to write would come.
She’d rationalized before,
How she had both kids and home.

All this passed in her mind — the snooze alarm
Reminded her to rise
She rose from her unnerving thoughts,
And her norms, doubts, deceptions bought —
Then sat in her chair to write:

“Mister and Misses Dursley
Of Fourteen Privet Drive
Were perfectly happy…”
The pages alive

The keystrokes aflame
She wondered if this, If This,
Could be morning?
She added a by: [her name.]

So reader — writer — when you wake
And writer when you rise,
What resistance begs you nap
And meditate on other crap
You secretly despise?

What resistance keeps you fake?
From joining we who try?

:: 58 poems written at 29 years ::

This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter (excepting the ballad above). It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:

In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….

A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.

“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead leaves as radical as the radish itself: radical because it is the living root of the thing.

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