Poetry Revision

I haven’t played with poetry this semester as much as I have in past semesters. Even so, this week I sat down to practice revision. I used revision suggestions from The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.

First, a quick edit of my draft:

Gray day facing the sea,
waves turning over seaweed,
plastic bottles, shells,
our kids in the froth

Between us we’ve touched
all continents but Antarctica
We know how to pack a suitcase,
bringing what we’ll miss most:
cheese, chocolate, vodka,
the right pens, affordable shoes
Between us we know how to make
temporary permanent enough
so our kids make it through okay
and our marriages do alright
We paint walls, hang photos,
insist on familiar, heavy books
to fill shelves

Some places you just can’t make it
from the start or near the end
Oil and water,
your body and all the others
Even if you want to like it,
you can’t

Our kids come up from the waves,
shivering, kicking up sand,
hungry from play

It is good to sit
and look at the sea,
making it enough

And now, with lines cut and slight changes to how it looks on the page:

Gray day facing the sea,
waves turning over seaweed,
plastic bottles, shells,
our kids in the froth
Between us we’ve touched
all continents but Antarctica
We know how to pack a suitcase:
cheese, chocolate, vodka,
the right pens, affordable shoes
Between us we know how to make
temporary permanent enough
so our kids make it through okay
and our marriages do alright
We paint walls, hang photos,
insist on familiar, heavy books
to fill shelves

Some places you just can’t make it
from the start or near the end

Our kids come up from the waves,
shivering, kicking up sand,
hungry from play

And last, paring to the stanza that sparked the poem, and trying new:

Some places you just can’t make it
from the start or near the end
rural Wisconsin
New York
Kuwait
Even if you want to like it
you can’t
marriage
new motherhood
church
I make love a duty
to like this day enough

I drew the draft from a day at the beach with other expat moms, and from separate conversations over the years here. I like that a first draft turned out two different pieces. And I really like the line another woman said

Some places you just can’t make it

and how I finished it

from the start or near the end

The second revision includes another idea I’ve been thinking about, that sometimes love is a duty and there isn’t anything wrong admitting feeling comes much later, or not at all. That we love because it is right.

Revision: Comparison

I have an essay to revise, in need of a title. It’s saved as Comparison Shit. I wrote it a few months ago, uncovering the still raw sting that I eat a lot of comparison shit. My comparison game really kicked off a year or two into parenting. My mothering insecurities are fed by emails regarding my daughter’s behavior at school and my son singsonging Stupid, stupid at his sister; by the screaming just to scream in the elevator; by a bedtime that drags into an hour-long ordeal. My mothering insecurities double when my kids’ misbehavior is witnessed by other parents whose kids, at that moment at least, are docile creatures with clean mouths and combed hair.

I often write my way to an answer. And just as often, I return to a topic, write my way again, hoping for a better answer. I wrote Comparison Shit in a fit of wanting out of the game. And at the edge of jumping into the piece’s revision, I am (again) returning to the topic. And reminding myself what I already know:

I am a great mom and an awful mom, in the swing of a day. But my kids and I belong together, by design. During holy reflective moments, I sense the blessing of our stories unfolding and overlapping. During angsty embarrassed moments, I think none of us will make it to their adulthood emotionally intact.

I am Claire and Grant’s mama, but I am not their full satisfaction. Their deeper heart needs are beyond my love; I pray their hearts open to God’s greater love.

I write my way to the truth: My worth is not found in this singular role of mama, but in the complete love God has for me. I’ll write my way to that truth again and again because I forget his goodness when I am in the middle of stacking my gifts and flaws next to yours. I’ll write my way to that truth again and again because such generosity is unfathomable; because when I do grasp at its understanding, I get it: there is no comparison.

And still, I eat the shit.