Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Violence of Collision: Interstellar Space, Flannery O'Connor and Other Inspirations

I've been thinking about how we conceptualize mortality:  do we use images of moistness (mold, exploding cells, rot) or dryness (bones with no flesh, aridness)?  This morning, I tried writing a poem that used those images along with cicadas.  I thought about incorporating ideas about breast cancer.  I read this article about menopause and thought about using some of those ideas.  I was listening to Friday news round up show on NPR, which covered the death of the astronaut who stayed in the ship as the two men walked on the moon for the first time.

From there, I started a new poem about astronauts and satellites and interstellar space.  And now I have 2 rough drafts and a head full of ideas about interstellar space.  The second poem makes the most sense to me, but the first poem made some unexpected leaps.

Now I will let it all percolate.  Maybe tomorrow I'll revisit these drafts or maybe I'll start with something fresh.

Let me record two other ideas before they fade away from me:  this morning I thought about returning to my poems that may be making a series, my poems about Noah and Noah's wife.  Perhaps the few that aren't about Noah's wife I should refashion into poems about Noah's wife.  And this morning, I thought about writing a poem about Noah's wife and cicadas who emerge after 17 years to mate for a month or two (or the whole season of summer).  I'm thinking of Noah's wife and menopause and sweeping away the dried husks.

And my other inspiration: one of my Create in Me female pastor friends made this Facebook post about visiting a congregation to talk about South Carolina retreat centers:  "How wonderful to eat ice cream in a cemetery on a sunny day surrounded by all the saints."

I loved this image--could I do something with it in a poem?  It also reminded me of the graveyard that was beside the campus of my undergraduate school.  Some people found it creepy, but I found it peaceful to take walks back there, to read work for class, to have the occasional picnic.  One of my college friends had his grandfather's grave in that very cemetery.

It also seems like a very Flannery O'Connor kind of detail, which made me think about possible short stories.  But so far, I've got nothing--except for this strange realization that much as I love O'Connor's short stories, they show a sort of meanness and cruelty.  I was thinking about the woman and the traveling salesman who is interested in her wooden leg and how she doesn't have perfume, so she dabs some sort of nasal spray on her neck.  Am I remembering correctly?  And I always see her as pathetic, but lately, I'm beginning to think I may be more like her than I want to realize.

Of course, that thought is so disturbing that I turn away.  Am I like her in her snootiness?  Am I like her in that I am a pathetic excuse for modern womanhood?  Am I like her in that I am vulnerable in ways I don't even like to consider?  Yes, to answer all those questions.

And if I'm a kind scholar, I would say that's the point.   O'Connor's stories work like Christ's stories:  to warn us, to call us to our better selves.  But yesterday morning, I had my doubts.  Maybe she was just delighting in the foibles of humans and meanspiritedly showing how we're all just dupes.  Maybe she sat aloof and judgmental and Godlike.  Her theology is not always (or often?) my theology, so I could see her view of God coinciding with ideas of aloofness and the violence of collision.

The Violence of Collision:  if I was writing a book of scholarly criticism on O'Connor, that's what I would title it.

But now, on to more mundane things:  time to get ready for a Tuesday work day, which hopefully will not include collisions.

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