Ars Poetica, Sort Of

by a contributor

Kathleen Brewin Lewis

Because you think your poetry has become too full of clear skies and morning birdsong, you begin breaking your pills in half. There’s a little line in the middle of the peachy, oval medication you take each day indicating it is designed to be divided. The act makes a small but satisfying popping sound. Now you take only half of a pill per diem.

After a couple of days, a little fog rolls in, but just around the periphery. You can feel your bruises again, can finger the bumpy ridges on your scars—old friends. You’re back to arranging your words in a beat-up notebook in random coffee shops, and what you write about has an edge. Not a black hole, just an edge. You can still be chirpy with your friends and family, like they like you to be, which is why you keep taking half a pill.

You realize you had actually missed crying, like you’d miss the rain if it never fell anymore. Similarly there are days you think you just might jiggle for joy. And there are other benefits to cutting your dose in half: You can have two glasses of wine without feeling like your tongue is malfunctioning. You don’t fall asleep with your mouth hanging open in the movies. You write better poetry when you are pissed at your boyfriend. Or at least you write faster, pounding away on the keyboard or bearing down hard with that pencil, putting urgency–and a kind of insurgency–into your work.

Here’s the thing: it’s supposed to hurt when the hardwoods start to drop their leaves; it’s appropriate to be filled with feeling when the sun lowers itself into the sea.  Hunky-dory turns out to be half-hearted. There’s no more riveting place from which to write than what feels like the beginning of the end.

Kathleen Brewin Lewis is an Atlanta writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Yemassee, Southern Humanities Review, Foundling Review, Heron Tree, Weave Magazine, and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. V: Georgia. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is senior editor of Flycatcher journal. She has an MA in Professional Writing from Kennesaw State University.