Write What You Know (Right, What You Know)

Today, I am entering the World of Edit. Although I’ve made revisions a thousand times over-each time I opened the document-I’m now on the third pass, serious pass, of the manuscript I will turn over to my publisher. I’m learning that the work is not the writer. There will be a time when the manuscript is done, but the writer is not. Eudora Welty said that she would mail a manuscript to her publisher, and then stand at the mailbox wondering how she might retrieve it without felony conviction. Walt Whitman could not bear a new edition without a makeover. It is never over. But there is a recognition of commitment to the process. And once the book is out, what remains is hope and regret. And joy at the wonder of the opportunity. So back to my edit, and here’s a poem
I wrote long ago.

I am a prisoner
of inadequate language.
A mime behind glass,
palms pressed to whiteness,
voiceless and nameless.
What do I know?

I know survival.
Lessons learned early.
Shake out your shoes,
always check them
for roaches
before putting them on.

I know kiting checks,
pawning jewelry.
Keeping counsel from others.
Feel nothing,
say nothing,
give nothing away.

On my own, I learned
other lessons.

That Modigliani painted heads.
I bought one.
A woman in profile
printed on cardboard
for eighty eight cents.

I learned that Mozart
borrowed from Vivaldi,
heard it, on my own
before I learned
that this was true.

I recall them, these lessons
but have not learned
to tell them,
or write them, or bear them.

Tell me.
How did Picasso
reconcile all those angles?

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