Prose poetry is a weird little fish. Most days I don’t know what to do with it, and its existence seems like a joke. I mean, prose poetry. Really? Most definitions seem… unsatisfying. Even Peter Johnson editor of The Prose Poem: An International Journal says of it, “Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”
So it’s fiction, right? Or biography. Or some wishful mix of the two, weighing in at under 1,000 words soaking wet. Yeah, that’s it. Yet when I edit the stuff, I pay attention to every. Single. Word. I measure each sentence like a line, cutting articles and snipping prepositions willy-nilly until it feels right on my tongue, and though I’m careful with prose, this mode I use to edit these little slivers of something-in-between is that of poetry.
And that’s part of my problem these days, you see. It’s all coming out prose poems. Enjambed little stings of assonance, unfolding sideways tellings of old stories, trying to get at the root of what made them important. I don’t know what’s important anymore, but if I’ve learned anything in my kaleidoscopic years, it’s that I should just go with it. Rabbits know best.
Maybe I should clap my hands along the way, in case my skepticism has struck down any pretty lines.
There are many hobbies which have caught my fancy which I then laid aside. I have a box of projects, abandoned out of… well, the rain on Tuesday, or the butterflies I saw last month and followed and left the wood to soak out in the rain, or maybe I just ran out of coffee and had to go get some more and whatever I was doing in between was lost, forgotten. It happened with knife-making. It happened with harmonica. It’s happened with so many things.
It got to the point where I didn’t know if I’d ever find a thing I liked to do that stayed with me, and that I actually went out and did with any regularity– I mean, I still love hiking, yes, but how many times do I go out to the woods?
So I wondered how long it would take me to get tired of sewing. I had made my investment little enough, buying a used machine at Goodwill, and cannibalizing scraps of fabric found for free at my old college or handed down from friends or parents. I had gotten sewing books second hand, and filched notions from unexpected places. I made some nifty things, patching knits, re-purposing aprons, and turning guests’ jeans into denim skirts and giving the clothing back altered for having had the audacity to leave their clothing at my house in the first place. Denim waist cinchers. Denim and flannel bikini tops. Miles of corduroy.
And then the machine broke. The bobbin holder cracked while on loan to a friend, who was preparing costumes for an event. I had a few costumes to alter myself. I changed out the needle, switched presser feet, and then all hell broke loose. Seeing my stitches go awry, clumped into knots and tangles no matter what the position of the presser foot sent me into spasms. I shrieked my rage to the sky, battered found lumber into splinters against the side of the house until my hands were bruised and blistered… all because of a sewing machine that didn’t work.
So. I think I found it. I think I know how to tell if a hobby is right for me. If I can’t participate in it, and that stumbling block inspires fits of frothing destruction that take weeks to heal and clean up after… well, I know it’s the right hobby for me.
I think I know why people get nostalgic. I think I know why the past is so appealing, calling us over the hills, over the water… the past is certain. It’s a stone we can throw, hold in our hands and trace its riverstone curves and call “interesting” when really we mean “biomorphic,” or trace its jags and say it’s “pretty” when we mean “shot through with impurity and inclusions.”
The future, you see, weighs nothing. It feels like a stomach ache, like bad mussels eaten on a bad date. You never know. You can’t know.
Whereas the past, though it hit you on the head and made you bleed, the past you can put in your pocket, lob the memories at the younger generation who will mock you for your poor aim.
At least that’s something.