Learning to Mine those Everyday Moments
I’m between poems this morning, which always makes me feel a little lost and anxious, like a puppy waiting for his owner to return home, so I start flipping through an old notebook where I used to gather inspirational quotes.
Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine, writes Ray Bradbury. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.
But reading this only adds to my disquiet, makes me wonder if I’m spending more and more time between poems these days because my life has grown too tame.
After all, when I jumped out of bed this morning I didn’t step on a landmine, I stepped on a small plastic princess and had to flail silently about so as not to wake my wife and daughters.
And I begin to worry that the domestic life has domesticated my imagination.
I start flipping through my notebook to find some inspiring quotes about changing diapers or doing dishes or cutting the crust off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous, writes Bill Moyers.
That could work, I think. I have my thumb on the pulse of the mundane. But I can’t hear the word marvelous without thinking of Billy Chrystal’s Fernando Lamas impersonations.
And so I keep flipping until I find this one by Robert Bly: When a contemporary man looks down into his psyche, he may, if conditions are right, find under the water of his soul, lying in an area no one has visited for a long time, an ancient hairy man.
That’s it, I think, I need to delve deep into my psyche, reconnect with my inner brute, unleash my untamed –
Papa, my four-year-old says from behind me, can you make us pancakes with M&Ms in them?
I look up and see her reflection in the window and realize that my window to write is now over.
I take her hand and we walk downstairs, where my two-year-old is drawing all over the kitchen tiles. I heat up a pan, throw in a pat of butter, and begin searching through the cabinets for leftover Halloween candy.
And I start to worry that I’ll never write another poem.
Writing is utter solitude, writes Kafka, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.
But I can’t even pee these days without my two-year-old banging on the door, demanding to see me make bubbles.
The butter starts to turn from sizzle to burn, and I can’t help but see this as yet another metaphor for my life that I don’t have time to explore.
But if we are alert to language, James Tate writes, almost everything begs to be a poem.
My two-year-old walks over to my four-year-old and rips the Frozen microphone out of her hands.
Mine, she yells. Mine!
And suddenly things start to explode.
Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, was recently selected as a Must-Read by the Mass Center for the Book. And his new book, Then Again, came out last November. He has received awards from the New England Poetry Club and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. He teaches at Brookline High School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and two daughters. www.ben-berman.comSee other articles by Ben Berman