She asked nicely enough. She said Please.
In fact, when L.L. Barkat asked me for the sparrows-in-flannel-lingerie-insurance-report-poem, she said Pretty please.
At the time, I’m not sure she knew me well enough to realize that such an invitation would more likely garner an eye roll than lyrical verse about how sparrows dress for bed.
Looking back, perhaps she knew me just well enough.
I’m married to a man who will drop to an arthritic knee and sing happy birthday to one of his high school students in a crowded hallway or teach a fidgety toddler to say rubber baby buggy bumpers between the gum and candy bars in the Target checkout line while I pretend not to know him. When he wrestles one of our near-grown sons to the living room floor and ties him up in the chicken wing hold, I tell them not to wreck the furniture I and leave the room.
It’s tough to get me to unfold my arms from across my chest. My brand of fun almost always comes with a hint of reluctance and a straight face, and words like stoic, droll and deadpan come up often in my company. But some will see the quick-flashing glint in my eye, camouflaged by the stuffed shirt I often wear.
One cold, winter afternoon when I was posting Facebook updates between stops on a day of claims work on desolate country roads, L.L. must have caught that glint. Sensible conversation quickly dissolved into a playful exchange about frozen plumbing, lingerie and small birds figure skating on the ice. She knows a little something about the value of play.
When we are engaged in what feels like the serious business of writing, we may be reticent about regularly incorporating play into our writing habits. It might seem too childish, too outside our familiar routines, too unpredictable concerning its potential impact on our writing. Yet I have come to accept the drain-clog [or in my case, frozen hot tub] episodes as a kind of godsend in my writing life — a signal that I’ve been taking myself too seriously and need to change venues, from the writing counter to the sled. (Rumors of Water, pp. 70-71)
I sometimes think I’ve been taking myself too seriously most of my life. So when Pretty please came with a frozen hot tub on top, it was too much to pass up. I tapped a few lines together on my phone from that brief Facebook tomfoolery.
Hot tub, frozen
A man in bright Bermuda shorts tapped
a chisel against the ice
to free a wide-eyed yellow duck
caught swimming and mid-squeak
when the cold snapped
His wife laced up hockey skates
on winter white legs
and sniffled that they don’t
wear flannel in Florida
I poked fingers into frozen pipes and
advised it is our policy to bathe indoors
when thermometers read zero and
deductibles do not
With Spring coming into full bloom, I’m still doing all the same serious things I did all winter long. But I get up a little earlier and I read a poem (or two) every day. I pull out my leather-bound notebook and write a poem every day. I unfold my arms and accept invitations to play—even with flannel lingerie.
We’re discussing L.L. Barkat’s Rumors of Water today, considering Habits and Structure. Maybe we won’t find you dropping to a knee and singing in public. But how do you play? How does it add dimension to your writing? To your life?
Could a disruption in your normal routine (like a drain clog) give you grist for a few lines in the comment box?
If you’ve posted on the book this week, please be sure to drop your link in the comments for us as well. Join us again next Wednesday for chapters 21-26 on Publishing.
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