jornales

for a moment of joy or moments no one pays for, i give myself a ‘jornal’. this makes me rich. try it.

The dread of a writer’s block

(with tanka, a 5-line Japanese short poem also called song)

Amazing how crunched up the mind gets when on its own it churns up an ocean, an ocean of time, for me. I’ve never learned how to escape the undertow. Like now, I got only two weeks to clear up a week to be in Hawaii, yes, again! Why do you do it to yourself, a friend had asked yesterday, when on her ‘hi there’, I unleashed an anguished list of hurdles. 

Why? I never did figure out since my school days. Maybe I dawdle longer than hunker down to tackle what awaits me. Maybe time sense in my brain has been weakly encrypted. Maybe pushing off the present to grapple a future has long been a habit…like instead of writing two more advanced columns here to free me up until the first week of November, I poured in two hours of haiku-combing to catch up on my responses to daily haiku prompts at the National Haiku Writing Month Facebook site, which I had joined three years ago. And I have yet to read through friends’ posts I’ve missed, or worse, responses to likes and comments. 

weavers/

could we be? Or more/

of clam gatherers…/

who speak of tinted/

fabrics in moonlight/ 

My suitcase from trolling in the North East remains intact with scents, flavors, or maybe dried-up rain-and-dew drops, star-and-moon dust, or even thumb prints of luggage handlers and chocolate fingerprints of a child because I haven’t unpacked. Lists and more lists of what to fill it with for the next trip stare at me from a memo pad. And yet, here I am gripped in the undertow of receding waves to write this…and oh, wishing for more haiku or tanka as in:

if all the flow/

pour into my heart/

imagine me/

singing about what oceans/

know of starlight/

How do writers confront deadlines, really? I knew one in university days who chomped off leaves of books, not of lessons but of poetry he wanted to write. Another stared in class through blood-shot eyes the

  veins of which he said throbbed with lines. 

 But performing artists take on stress, too, like in the weird body contortions as if the looming first bell for a symphony concert could be squeezed out of the young conductor’s body I once knew. One premier danseur would go in a cabinet-building or dismantling rage before say, a Swan Lake gala while his is prima ballerina I heard would search for old receipts, redoing budgets.

 Why does a deadline sound like the approach of doomsday? Or like 

rain shadows/

in shimmers our song/

flows away/

among anxious steps/

melting in runnels/

You make frequent trips to the fridge to look for what to cook, or suddenly take the broom and scour corners, chides a friend who knows me from university days. In those days, I had to refile my notes, take hours to file my nails and wash for the evening, and long minutes to choose which pajama to wear to study and I would obsess over slapping a nuisance-mosquito before I finally open a notebook to memorize from beginning page to end page for exams. Nothing to do with creativity or writing then but such habits could have marbled my bed of procrastination that now I slip into each time I try to meet a deadline.

loss/

to a flower…/

same as/

my anguish over time/

vanishing perhaps?/

And the dread of getting stuck on a line while time like a martinet stomps on, marching while a blank space stretches on to the horizon. I once took on “an answer-if-you-can challenge” in a writing blog on writer’s block with this fancy response:

“Stuck, I am often but not glued upside down on a ceiling though I had wished I were for years or with the kind of pain that would summon my whole being, overwhelmed but freed with screams if I have to, and whines or groans.”

But stuck on a blank page I always am, which exacts more than a body feat—much more than pain. Or these days—on a blank screen, where a cursor shredding the ‘now’, a pulse hacking at space even taunts me with a beat that rises in decibels until these march after me: scratch, bite, cry, or die, scratch, bite, cry, or die . . . and it begins again. 

A wave of peace though slips in on rare moments, the kind that washes off the horror. This wave hums and murmurs mythic promises not unlike a phoenix, and indeed, out of the wave in the most ordinary way, I rise, unstuck. Yet, in truth, I am often stuck solid, dead-beat for no reason, beaten by the blankness, bushed. What I do then if I remember it—weave a cocoon made out of the last verses from the Canadian poet, Earle Birney’s ‘Bushed’ (1951):

‘…And now he could only/
bar himself in and wait/
for the great flint to come singing into his heart.’”

Still, while quite a flitting balm to my chronic fear of deadlines and blank pages, I do un-block myself with exactly the same dreadful lines that first scare me like with my first lines here.

March 25, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment