Write a brave poem, my mind says to my shrinking self, who just wants to take a nap. Okay, okay, what is brave and what is not? Let’s discuss. Is it talking about the body, the body I have now, what I have done with it, what I haven’t. Should I write about the little slips of urine that sometimes dribble out when I cough these days and —wait, wait, no one wants to hear about that and isn’t brave more like talking about sex and lack of sex and all the details of your sex life, like Sharon, Sharon… What’s her last name? Is it Stone? No, that’s not right. What is it??? There goes my memory, which is terrifying, how it just blanks out at times, just goes whoosh, and there’s nothing on the chalkboard except white dust. I’m determined to remember her last name before I end this piece and not google it. Death is always a good subject. Emily Dickinson got a lot of mileage out of her friend death and I’ve been starting to have small, bedroom conversations with the guy myself, but nah, we’re not far enough along in our relationship for me to speak with any real authority on the end of life, especially my own. Sharon Olds! The poet! That’s who I was thinking of. I knew it would come—and she’d like that I referenced “coming” in relation to her name. That was kinda brave right there.
Maybe brave is just trusting what I’ve written and to keep on going, peering into those dark alleys of my mind, daring to walk down and poke my head in one of those stinky dumpsters to see what’s inside, stuff that I threw in there years ago or just yesterday. Could be it’s about the very ubiquitous subject of love, loving, being loved and being rejected in love. Man, there are worms crawling out of the can just thinking about that subject. Shit (Is swearing brave or lazy?), I’d first need to set down on the page a definition of the word and that right there is a big enough challenge itself.
I think it’s brave to think about bravery in a way that doesn’t involve a dashing hero/heroine on a silver steed rushing into the proverbial battle to save the innocent from the wicked. But, now that I think of it, writing is kinda like that, without the risk of being severely wounded or dying in the process. A writer risks offending, of hurting, of confusing, of boring, of educating, of inspiring, every damn (getting used to the cussing thing) time they sit down to plop down their thoughts. Writers who are willing to get words on the page, whether it be fiction, biography, poetry, or any number of genres, should get some kind of be-knighting when they actually take what they have written and dare to put it out into the public sphere, when they express a piece of themselves—thoughts and feelings put into words that are now in the mouths, minds and (sometimes) hearts of those who read it. Now, that’s fuckin’ brave!
Sharon Olds is an accomplished poet and teacher of poetry. One of my favorite books of poems (and she has many wonderful ones) by her is Strike Sparks.
Banner artwork by Grace Moira.