A FADING BAND; WE CAN’T GO BACK; EXCERPT FROM A LETTER TO MY MOTHER
By: Claire Scott
A FADING BAND
whitewashed and weather-
bleached by time’s relentless tick
My caregiver Talia or Trisha or Trixie
says we need you to be clean
as she scrubs between my low slung breasts
Lying like parched fruits across my stomach
and I inhale the intimate agony
of her flowery perfume
My neurons are plotting against me
staging a mutiny after eighty years
synapses short circuiting, misfiring
They used to be on my side
synchronized like a marching band
lined up like migrating swallows
But now Tyler or Tracy or Trina
says it is time for our supper
as she tucks a napkin under my chin
To catch our spills she says
no interest in her watery soup or tasteless stews
but Tessa or Tara is my only friend
Unless you count the figure waiting in the wings
wearing a sable suit and a sinister smile
knowing his turn is coming next
So we break open a bottle of our best wine
while we watch swallows flying low
and listen to the wobbly notes of a fading band
WE CAN’T GO BACK
There I go again, right in the middle
I have forgotten the point
was there ever a point
there used to be
all the time
now this keeps happening to me
the punch line, the pithy wrap,
the thrust, the core, the crux
in short, the point
has vanished like Edsels and Betamax tapes
Sometimes I walk into a room filled with purpose
and then a blank, a total blank
like being in an Arctic blizzard
or scuba diving in the Coral Sea
but I will teach you a trick
go back to the beginning
sit at your computer again
or stir the pea soup and you will find
your purpose, maybe a pen or a pepper grinder
but we can’t go back, can we
to type writers and telephone operators
to carbon paper and cassette players
entropy increases, time is one way
EXCERPT FROM A LETTER TO MY MOTHER
they treat me well in here
plenty of pills for la la land
an alphabetic panoply
like the horn of plenty
on our holiday table
Abilify, Effexor, Geodon,
mix and match
do you remember
the Thanksgiving dinner
when I bone-wished
to be a sea gull
a starling, a nightingale
do you remember
when I leapt
from the rooftop
wearing Icarus wings
sabotaged by spies
what of years
of white gowns
no belt, no laces
only the sharp click
of heels and metal locks
they drill holes in my head
I am rising
on waxless wings
perhaps a sparrow
a smudge in the sky
a slight tickle
in your throat
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
Interview with the Poet:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I started writing poetry about twelve years ago. I was a psychotherapist (now retired) and found a number of similarities between being a therapist and writing poetry. In both you need to be present, empty and receptive. Both are about listening closely, to your voice as a poet or to the patient’s voice. And both encourage you to play with associations.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
As a child, I was given a copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I loved The Land of Counterpane, My Shadow and The Lamplighter. I think it was then that I fell in love with poetry, but it was only years later that I dared to dream of writing.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Oh my. So very many. I particularly like Franz Wright, Ada Limon, Dorianne Laux and Kaveh Akbar. I love One Heart by Franz Wright and Downhearted by Ada Limon.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
I start my day with meditation. Then, before starting to write, I read a few poems. Afterward, I may either look at the poems I am currently writing along with my scribbles on the page or go through my stack of three by five slips of paper where I have jotted down ideas or words that appeal to me. I try to have an fresh mind, open to possibility and play.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
I definitely let the poem tell me! I often start writing in one form and find the poem demands another. It helps me to write the first draft or two as a prose poem and then see what needs to happen next. It is important to listen to the poem.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Set aside your judgmental mind. Read lots and lots of poems. Take classes from poets you like. Find a writing group. Write every day. Have fun!
What is your editing process like?
I usually start writing a poem by hand. Then I type it into my computer and edit. Then I print it out and scribble. The entire page is filled with arrows. Type, print, scribble, type, print, scribble. When I am editing I try to have my more analytic mind without shutting down my imagination.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
That’s a hard one. I have gone back and looked at older poems and realized they were not finished. But generally after several weeks or months I find I have nothing more to say or add.