Thursday, October 19, 2006

In Medias Res

The respite from rain has ceased. The skies are occluded by slow moving clouds emptying swaths of rain onto the hills of Cincinnati. I'm tempted to conflate the dreary weather with my mood, but honestly, do I feel like a chill wind? Do I feel like wet, vibrant leaves gathering on suburban lawns?

It has been a difficult week—for me.

But my mind is still aflutter with thoughts of fiction and poetry, alighting here and there.

More, both of our dogs are curled asleep on the sofa beside me and I have a day before in which I can contemplate literature and take seemingly insignificant steps—deleting sentences, crossing out cliches, and rearranging paragraphs—to add my voice to the constant conversation of the world's literature.

It is not so bad.


On Tuesday night, Michelle and I were lazing on the couch, indulging ourselves in a little mindless television. We let the dogs cavort upstairs in the wide-open spaces of our attic bedroom. Archie, our Italian Greyhound, appeared as if from nowhere, at the foot of the sofa. His right hind leg was pulled up to his side as he stumbled forward on three legs.

Michelle picked him up, coddling him for a moment. Together, we ran our fingers along his leg, looking for something bruised or broken, but he never once lunged with a bite. He never once whelped in pain. He just let us move our hands across his leg as though nothing—aside from the constant shivering that might have been simple fear—was wrong.

All night, Archie kept his right hind leg off the ground. We watched him, concerned. But figured it was just a bruise or a slight sprain. Something Dixie had done to him by playing a little too rough.

We went to sleep.


What is the proper order here?

When you write a poem, a story, or even an essay, it's often easy to follow the clock of your memory. Wind it back to what seems the beginning and go from there. In their epics, of course, the Greeks eschewed such notions—always jumping to the middle of the conflict, allowing the epic to unfurl both backwards to the beginning and forward to the end.

In The Odyssey, what does this tell us about causality?


Sometimes, I suspect it's difficult not to view one's life as a kind of epic poem. Like Stephen Dedalus, perhaps. In contemporary terms, perhaps a melodramatic mini-series is more appropriate.

Regardless, we constantly look at our own lives through the lens of narrative. We constantly rewrite and revise the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

I am still looking for the words to describe Archie's injury. Part of me wants to blame myself for not watching the dogs more closely. Part of me wants to blame Dixie, our Jack Russell Terrier, who is perhaps twice his size.

But we've not reached the beginning yet.


On Saturday, rejection after rejection seemingly tumbled from the heavens like hail. I did not react well. Instead, I kept thinking about endless rhetoric I've heard. The Internet is changing publishing—with lower cost publishing virtually anything can be published.

I kept asking myself why my flawed poems have yet to catch this wave. Is it because such sweeping generalizations miss the particulars of publishing a poem anywhere? Or is it because my poems just aren't as good as they should be?

My wife had to cheer me over diner food.


Where is the beginning?

We've learned that when Archie was born, his hind knees had a congenital defect. The tendons between two of his leg bones are not straight. Instead, they angle across the joint, resulting in more pressure and a likelihood that the tendon could pop loose from the groove where it lays. And his tiny knee cap floats from its normal position—painfully.

Typically, this condition, called meida patella luxation, manifests itself gradually. Yet, with Archie, some sort of trauma on Tuesday exacerbated his condition. Archie will need surgery.

In the meantime, there is nothing I can do for him, aside from being here for him, restricting his movement as much as possible, and providing him with a little pain killer when he needs it.


I want you to think for a moment about ordering. Why do we make the decisions we do about ordering?

And how have I done today? Are all of these disparate parts connected?

Can you see how one thought is strung together with another—the way a tendon connects two bones, the way a difficult day can help connect a couple, the way a line connects to the next one and the next, turning, here and there, toward the end?

Archie will be fine by next month. I will be fine. We will be fine. And this knowledge, I suppose, is a kind of beginning. Isn't it?


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