Thursday, October 29, 2020

Poetry Process Notes: "Oregon Trail"

I got my contributor copy of Adanna Literary Journal this week. I am so pleased that they chose 2 of my poems to publish.  Today I'll talk about "Oregon Trail."  Here's the poem:

Oregon Trail

She leaves it all behind:
the furniture that never fit
her life, every cabinet full
of dishes that she always hated,
the art supplies, and every key
to locks known and unknown.

She leaves the interview suit hanging
in the closet, along with all the shoes
that pinched. She closes the suitcase
that holds only clothes in her current size.

She thinks of refugees and all they carried,
jewels sewn into hemlines
or those who flee without papers.
She checks her wallet one last time,
all the plastic cards that define
her in place.

She leaves the door unlocked
as she eats one last supper out
with a grad school friend. She writes
the wrong forwarding address on a napkin
before boarding the plane.

This poem is not about me, although aware readers/friends will know that I have often yearned to do this, to pack a bag or two and take off (though in my car, not in a plane), to just start over, to reinvent myself in a new place.

A few years ago, a friend/colleague/person who stayed in our back cottage did just this.  She was headed to New York City, which had always been her dream; she had been accepted into a cool sounding graduate program that combined museum curating and fashion and some other elements of archival preservation.  It sounded like a dream come true.

And then she abruptly changed course and moved to Utah.

I watched her make decisions about what to keep and what to give away, and I felt all sorts of emotions:  awe, inspiration, fear as I watched her cast away all that she said had been important.

The title comes from those emotions.  It echoes what those 19th century settlers must have felt.  And there's also that video game that showed so many of us how precarious it was to be one of those settlers. 

I'm often fond of my poems, and I'm almost always overly fond of the poems I send out to journals hoping that they'll be published.  I confess that I'm both fond of this one, even as it gives me pain in remembering how that my relationship with the person who inspired the poem came to an end.  I love that creativity can transform that pain.

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