I have always heard the conventional wisdom that when one's writer self feels uninspired, one should read poems, and/or return to the writing that made one want to be a writer. That wisdom can work for me, but it runs the risk that I'll feel even worse about my own failures to launch.
Happily, this week I had the best kind of inspiration. On Sunday, I read all of Jeannine Hall Gailey's Flare, Corona straight through, instead of a poem here and there, the way I read the book before I had time to consume it in one gulp. My brain returned to the poem "This Is the Darkest Timeline" (you can read it here, and you can hear Jeannine Hall Gailey read it here).
She includes an explanatory note in the book: "'This is the Darkest Timeline' refers to a common phrase in comic books and pop culture in which any multiverses and string theory result in one timeline that is the best and one that is the worst" (p. 101).
That comment, too, inspired me. And so, this week, I wrote this poem, which might be finished, or it might need a last stanza to tie everything together. I do realize I tend to overexplain in my creative writing. So I am still letting it all percolate.
In the meantime, here is a draft for your reading enjoyment (and let me specify that while parts of the poem are true--we did install new windows that face the road, and we did get gifts of tomatoes--I do not know which herbs heal and which kill, only which herbs make food taste better, which doesn't have much dramatic impact in an apocalyptic poem).
In the darkest timeline, I am the one
with the house in the woods, the one
who knows which herbs heal and which ones kill,
and I grow both.
In a less dark timeline, you put windows
in the wall that faces the road.
You don’t anticipate the need
to keep the presence of our visitors secret.
In the brightest timeline, we escape
the lowlands, the house in a flood zone.
Neighbors bring us tomatoes to welcome
us to the area, tomatoes grown in their yards.