I was going to write about feeling quiet, about uncertainty over when to speak and when to stay silent.
I was going to write about Eric Garner’s eyes.
I was going to write about Adrienne Rich’s poem “Frame” and those lines at the end: “What I am telling you / is told by a white woman who they will say / was never there. I say I am there.”
I was going to write about Mary Ruefle saying “you might say fear is the poet’s procedure.” Because we know we probably won’t get it right, we so seldom do. Because we know words are never quite enough.
I was going to write about how Beethoven is known as “one of music’s great strugglers” (this according to the announcer on my local classical station). How his patron gave him the thumbs down for the first try at his Leonore Overture. A “great struggler.” Beethoven.
I was going to write about how poets become, somehow, known to us through their work. “You see a few lines in a magazine;” writes David Orr, “you get an impression of a sensibility; you feel an obscure connection, or an equally obscure disconnection.” About how our bookshelves bear the weight of lives and graves.
I was going to write about starting to cry when I read this in the Sunday Times:
“THE police killing unarmed civilians. Horrifying income inequality. Rotting infrastructure and an unsafe “safety net.” An inability to respond to climate, public health and environmental threats. A food system that causes disease. An occasionally dysfunctional and even cruel government. A sizable segment of the population excluded from work and subject to near-random incarceration.
I was going to write about feeling powerless. Even betrayed.
I was going to write about how Larry Levis is the poet laureate of oblivion.
I was going to write about how poetry connects us. About how I went and taught poetry in Kindergarten, and a boy named B. wrote a poem about his dog. About how later his mother approached me, asked about my poetry, told me of a book that had saved her in a time of bottomless grief.
I was going to write about how we all have wounds.
I was going to write about privilege — about how lucky (yes, privileged) I have been in this life. How sometimes that makes me think I have no right to speak about some things. Or write about them. About how saying “I am there” doesn’t feel like enough, and sometimes even feels inaccurate: the speaker in Adrienne Rich’s poem was not actually in the same “there” as the girl who was arrested.
I was going to write about all this, but I didn’t.
Sometimes scraps are all we have.
Because I have already tried abandoning poetry, only to have it follow me like a benevolent dog, or sometimes like a hungry wolf, I know I will keep collecting the scraps.
May it be so.