Flu as Poetic Inspiration

canstockphoto1160815When I get sick, things get very, very dark in my mind. I spiral downward into the morose thoughts of a depressive, luxuriating in my misery, knowing it is likely temporary. In the throes of corporeal suffering, I often turn to poetry. Poetry seems to speak when my sore, raspy throat produces nothing but squawks.

Mysterious, isn’t it?canstockphoto14211413
A turn of light
Above some stumpy
The way a screen porch
Frames a bunch of haggard trees,
The way we squint

At what we love.

“Honeymoon” by Cornelius Eady
Hardheaded Weather

Between nose blows and cups of comforting tea, I read Jane Kenyon and Pablo Neruda and an old favorite, William Wordsworth. Poetry of death and aging yields unexpected meaning. Mary Oliver and W.H. Auden become my muses. In my own writing, I use more expressive and melodramatic language, likely influenced by Nyquil and misery. Characters are more likely to be frail or murdered in the novel or story I work on for the day. Vonnegut seems a lot funnier.

canstockphoto23029728Ink that enchants me,
drop after drop,
guarding the path
of my reason and unreason
like the hardly visible
scar on a wound that shows while the body sleeps
on in the discourse of its destructions.

“The Blow” by Pablo Neruda, Translated by Ben Belitt
Five Decades: Poems 1925-1970

I rarely write my own poetry. Not since I wrote an angsty poem about a dead high school classmate have I been interested in writing verse. It was put in the high school yearbook next to the picture of a beautiful 16 year old girl. The poem was quite awful. I don’t know what the adults in charge were thinking.

for forty yearscanstockphoto10667307
the sheets of white paper have
passed under my hands and I have tried
to improve their peaceful

emptiness putting down
little curls little shafts
of letters words
little flames leaping

“forty years” by Mary Oliver
New and Selected Poems, Volume Two

I once wrote a Haiku about my cat in a sunny window. My words formed the shape of a cat. I was 10. Since then, my words seem to take less shape. This is the moroseness of a flu bug. Other people’s writing always seems better than my own. But it’s not a bad thing to turn down the volume of one’s own narcissism and listen to what words have been assembled by others.

Dcanstockphoto19838329ead my old fine hopes
And dry my dreaming but still…
Iris, blue each spring.

Ome Shushiki
Women Poets of Japan by Ikuko Atsumi (Editor), Kenneth Rexroth (Editor)

With my desire for brevity and clarity as a writer, it is odd that I shy away from writing poetry. But it has always seemed a magical art and that I am not ephemeral enough in my thinking to be lyrical. I want to leave the magic unrevealed. I don’t want to know how it works. I don’t want to tinker with it and take it apart. I just want to accept its purpose in my life to inspire, comfort and remind me of the beauty of simple language. Especially when nothing else penetrates the fog of snot.

If you would leave off your play and dive in thecanstockphoto3977052
water, come, O come to my lake
Let your blue mantle lie on the shore; the blue
water will cover you and hide you.

Rabindranath Tagore
The Gardener

See, I would simply write “Skinny dip, yo.” But what an entirely different frame a poet can give the scene.

For now, I must languish in bed,
wrapped in yesterday’s clothes that
wend around me like old phlegm.

No, I’m not a poet. And yes, I need a shower.

Here are a couple of online blogging poets:

Heed not Steve‘s haikus.
He amuses me often,
which doesn’t take much.

Kathryn combines artistry and poetry.

What’s your favorite poem or poetry on or offline?

Optimism: Delusion or a Force that Propels Us Forward?

I’ve been whining about being sick the last few weeks. Really, weeks – this is the flu bug that ate Detroit. It arrived on the heels of dutifully gotten flu shots, so I’m a little bitter about it. Today is my rally day. I was up half the night with a bronchial cough, my ears are ringing from cranial cavities of snot and I smell like Vicks Vapor Rub. But by golly, I’m going to get caught up on laundry and my NaNoWriMo novel and pirouette off into the sunset, flu bug soundly rousted.

People keep saying, “You need to rest. Stop breathing on me.” I’m two sneezes away from storing Kleenex under my bra strap, if I had the energy to put on a bra. Needless to say, it ain’t pretty in The Green Study today. But – there are signs of optimism everywhere. I cleaned off my desk last night, in preparation for the day. I started catching up on my blog reading this morning and opened all the shades to let sunlight in. There is a potential for a hot shower, although that might be putting the bar pretty high.

I am the master of optimistic expectations for myself and my time. Sometimes I wonder if this is a detriment to self-esteem, since 9 times out of 10, I do not fully meet my goals. On the other hand, if I set no goals at all, would anything ever get done? People wiser than I would point out that it doesn’t have to be “either/or”, but I’ve never been adept at the middle road. My natural inclination is one of extremes. Fortunately, maturity (exhaustion) has tempered my youthful optimism. Just a bit.

Setting realistic expectations is a skill I’ve yet to fully master. Right now, I make “to do” lists like I write. I spew out whatever is in my head and then do a machete edit, cutting back until I think I have something legible and/or achievable. On occasion, I just put stars by those items that must get done. It’s a system that combines force of habit with some sense of priorities, but ofttimes is still unrealistic.

“It is the formidable character of the species to routinely seek the improbable, the difficult, even the impossible, as a source of pleasure and self-justification. Who would try to write poems, or novels, or paint pictures unless he is an optimist?”
Lionel Tiger, Anthropologist

Today’s the day, though. I will conquer the world, get caught up, write a zillion words, fold mounds of laundry that smell a lot better than I. But first, I have something marked with a star on my list for today: *Get some rest. Stop breathing on people. This, I can do.

Do you set expectations for yourself and are they realistic? This curious and snot-filled mind would love to know.