The Process: A Twitch of the Lips

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A Twitch of the Lips

I find writing poetry about my physicality to be daunting when I’m not making light of something dumb that I did. For example, “Omnipresent Inseam” is about a time when I split my pants because I was dancing too euphorically. I was watching Daredevil recently, and there’s a scene where Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdoch (aka Daredevil), and Rosario Dawson’s Claire the nurse share a kiss. It was not a big deal in the context of the episode, but for whatever reason my lips started pulsing. It caught me by surprise, since I was not watching Daredevil for the romance.

I wish I had a more confident voice when talking about desire. My tendency is to brush off the emotion, or make light of it(the same I would do for a goofy pratfall, since desire can make fools of us all). Plus, I don’t like admitting when I feel sad or lonely. Writing about unrequited emotions walks the finest line of melodrama of any type of poetry, I think. I try to find a way to admit that I have a more melodramatic emotion without actually admitting I feel that way, and my poetry comes out, as you might expect, conflicted and vague.

Take, for example, the first draft of “A Twitch of the Lips,” the poem I wrote shortly after the incident above:

It’s surprising – the little things that wake us up.
I’m not struck by the injustice,
The moral quandary of how to perform good acts in a bad system.
Nor am I staying up reflecting on brutality
Shot through excellent choreography.
No.
All I can think of is that I haven’t been kissed in a year,
And Rosario Dawson isn’t making my life easier.
The little things that wake us up
To realities we had the good sense to leave unacknowledged.
A twitch in the lips, a sudden pulse of blood,
And all the realities solidify into empty spaces around me.

See, I’m trying to find the humor. I’m also trying to be pragmatic – look at the chronological, literal listing of what I’m doing. At the time, as I realized what I was feeling, I shook my fist to the sky and growled, “Damn you, Rosario Dawsooooooon!” As though Ms. Dawson was to be blamed for being beautiful while my couch mates were a dog and a cat. Then there is a real sharp downer of an ending. This is also accurate. I can see the humor of my physical response, but that does not really correct for the feeling itself. Feelings don’t go away because we identify them or analyze them. We must confront them. Writing is a means of that.

So, how to combine the sadness of feeling lonely, the humor at being drawn into a tv show, and a physical reaction of unrequited desire?

The answer, as always, is rewrites and edits.

Three days I sort of picked apart what I’d written, kept words that worked. I tried to be more symbolic (bodies creating problems minds had not thought to address). I toyed around with being more direct – but it came off as stilted. Self-realization worked a little better. I thought about a start with questions as though I had surprised myself:

Has it been so long?
In that short scene I feel a definite twitch in my lips
Am I that parched?

I really wanted to use the adjective “parched” for a space – it seemed to hit on the right idea. But I though too much doubt would make the disconnect between body and mind sound weird.

Then finally, I hit upon a style that I tolerated in a voice that was more honest and compassionate. I kept my lines shorter, and my thoughts clearer. I’m not going to lie – most of my poetry I do in a single session, or perhaps a session and an edit to clear up punctuation or a word I stopped liking. I don’t dedicate time to refining my poetry, and maybe I should. This need to be correct on a subject I usually avoid brought out some good tools I had not used since college.

Editing, rewriting, being honest – these are not always easy. Sure, when I’m making up poems about ducks and rhyming about time, it flows like rain down windows. Anger also comes easily to me – which is why I try not to write really angry poems (anger is another emotion that can veer quickly into self-pity/melodrama), because they get old-school vengeful fast. Maybe I was an Inquisition member in a past life? The more difficult emotions require patience – the more nuanced or conflicted, the more teasing is required to find the truth. Unless you don’t care – in which case, why did you write it down at all?

See what will most likely be the final form in the next post!

Also if you’re a fan of superhero television / drama / guys with nice mouths, go watch Daredevil 😉

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