23 February 2011

The story that I am writing right now is not beautiful. This pains me because beauty is why I want to write. It is a thick, ugly story, heavy with guilt. But it is a whole story that I have worked out in my mind, it needs to be told clearly and set free from a rush of too many words.

I think I have to write about this ugliness before I can write about beauty. I have to admit to the duplicity of self. I didn’t know what to do then and I don’t know what to do now. All I know is that it wasn’t right to do nothing.

So I have carried this image of things I didn’t do, sealed in a pocked in the pit of my stomach, since the day I walked out of the newspaper office in May; since the day I left my bent copper key on my editor’s desk and took away with me a burden of narrow reporters’ notebooks that contained the story of debt, drunkenness, murder, suffering. This was the town where I worked. But isn't it any town? These things happen everywhere. This is all part of the story.

And I burned those notebooks in the fire pit behind our first apartment. I burned them all on a night late in May. C and I sat by the fire poking it with sticks and drinking wine and we watched it smolder. Above us an orange harvest moon slid up the sky. In the morning the pages were all packed and furled like petals on black peonies. I went out and stood by the ashes with my coffee. And I carried the story here in my stomach—instead of in a forgotten notebook—because in my sleep I swallowed the smoke.

It has to come out. It has to be dealt with. But I don’t want to write about this. I want to write about my childhood, when beauty was everywhere. I want to write about wandering afternoons sitting for hours on mossy stones, feet in the river. I want to write about standing in the center of a birch wood listening to the leaves in the wind.

The conflict then was that of play—oh please let me up into the tree fort, into the hayloft. Let me go out into the field with the boys. And don’t tease me. Don’t put grass in my hair. Don’t tell me stories about wolves. Just let me play with you and share in these adventures as you run across the field and hide in the bushes. But to get back there, I have to unburden myself of this story.

Dear God, I want to write something beautiful. Please live in my imagination and show me the grace that I am missing, even here, as I struggle to confess.

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