Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Cassandra Colors Her Hair after the Apocalypse

Later today, I'll turn in midterm grades at Spartanburg Methodist College.  In some ways, it's amazing to me that we're already at midterm.  The weather is still somewhat summery.  I look across the mountains as I'm driving, and most of the trees are still green.

But on my daily walks, I notice that some of the trees have lost all of their leaves already.  In the area beside the road where I saw the bear back in August as I walked up to the chapel, a bear would not be hidden there today--the undergrowth has lost most of its leaves.

When I went back to my August blog posts to verify that I saw the bear in August, I saw another blog post, Cassandra Colors Her Hair.  It talked about my visit to the fancy hair salon that served wine in crystal glasses, and it mentioned a poem that came to me at the hair salon.  I wondered if I ever wrote it.

I went to my rough draft file, and I don't think I ever did.  I decided to give it a go.  My blog post talked about the poem arriving in full in my head, but it's no longer there.  Happily, my blog post gave some details about what I planned to write:  "It will contrast her past life, when she went to salons that served wine along dreams about what a hair cut and color could give us, with a current life in the midst of a climate crisis--or will it be post apocalypse? I have a vision of Cassandra who knows how to use plants to coax life from a womb or end it, to use plants to stave off infection, to poison or to cure. But for the most part, she uses her vast garden (and the nature preserve beyond her property) to color cloth and to dye her hair."

I decided to paint the poem with apocalyptic tones.  Here's how it begins:

I uncork the last bottle of white wine,
an extravagance I may regret later if I need
to disinfect, if I need to forget.

The poem came easily.  I had that uneasy feeling that back in August, I had an idea for an even better poem.  I shrugged off that feeling and kept writing.  I've ended up with a decent poem--but is it finished?  I'll keep the document open and see.

I'm also thinking of my poetry process these days.  Once I wrote poems longhand on purple legal pads, but these days, I open a document on the computer, and I toggle back and forth.  I'm getting more written that way.  It's not as easy to go back to rough drafts and leaf through them, the way it is in a legal pad.

I am so happy that I wrote a poem.  It's been weeks of writing a few lines and then sputtering.  And in the spirit of appreciation for August Kristin who left me poem notes, let me write down an idea for another poem I had as I drove back from Lutheranch, back across Georgia on Sunday.

I thought about what and who had previously been on the land, about Harriet Tubman leading slaves to safety.  I thought about dark skies and scars and reading the stars, a map to freedom, stars that scar the black back of the sky.  I thought about all the people we cannot save, no matter how hard we try.  I thought about writing about Harriet Tubman when she's old and cannot save people anymore, but is that valid?  I realized I don't know much about Harriet Tubman when she's old.  I thought about Harriet Tubman and the Stono River and her spywork during the Civil War.

This blog post has gone in an unexpected direction.  I sat down feeling a bit grumpy because I thought I didn't have much to say.  And now, I have not only a blog post but a new poem--hurrah!

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