Sunday, September 11, 2011

the looking-back post

Dear Molly-of-ten-years-ago:

You will be in the shower when you get the news.  You will brush it off; a week or so ago you were in the shower too when a false alarm was set off in the apartment complex and you stood dripping on the lawn with your cats in your arms.  You will think as others thought, immediately, that a prop plane, a hobbyist, flew into the tower, and you will think what a terrible accident for that person, that he was alone, that it was a he, for sure, a man wearing khaki, have sandy hair and glasses, he will be forty-ish, and will be mourned and the hole will be patched and you'll have forgotten it as you delved farther into your undergraduate project.

Poetry that morning.  Seminar with Michael Dennis Browne, only your second class with him thus far.  You've had him for a fleeting week in the May session course titled The Discovery of Poetry, and he will eventually encourage us to put in an application to take his spring course called The Poet in the World, and you will accept this challenge and get in and fall in love with Pablo Neruda and Anna Akhmatova.  He will remember you for a small piece you did on June Jordan, who was good, but Annie was the one who loved her and not you.

But this morning you'll go to class, shocked after the shower, after wrapping a towel about your head and joining your boyfriend (who will one day become your husband, can you believe it? And ten years later, you will maybe be surprised at the journey, but you will have gotten there, you will have gone through the MFA-ropes, more or less, you'll have a humble chapbook and a baby and that will surprise you in only the best of ways) at the television and seeing what was really meant by plane.  You will go to class, because that is what you do, and your husband will drive you in because he's decided not to go to work himself, downtown Minneapolis, because the world isn't certain it isn't just snowballing deeper into the country, four planes down, the possibility of more, or other ways of exploding.  MDB will give the class a choice:  we can go out onto campus and write, come back and share, or we can go home, be with our families, and all but one, all including the girl who drives down from Duluth every week, will want to go home, turn back to the television and watch.  And this is what you'll do.

You'll remember sitting on one of the benches on campus, smoking a cigarette, and thinking, hurt, of how the entire world will change and what if they shut down the universities and everyone has to go to war and sleep in the basement and collect gas masks.  And in some ways, the world does panic for a while in the ways you fear the most, with envelopes threatening anthrax and something about collecting duct tape from the hardware stores.  There will be a continual hum about the Middle East, and two of your favorite people will go there, one knowing Arabic and meeting his wife and having beautiful sons and no longer writing poetry, and the other will come back earlier than anticipated, losing one foot and decorating the other with shrapnel and that phone call will change you too.  A childhood cat will die that day too and your boyfriend (same one) will drive up from Winona, where he is in graduate school, and he will hold you and sleep over and leave before the sun comes up.

You'll also quit smoking that winter after the planes because you'll have your first pregnancy scare, which will later turn out to be infertility, but don't worry about that now, just be glad you were able to quit the first time and make it permanent and your boyfriend will follow suit a few months later, but not after thinking he was hilarious by testing you in various ways, like pushing your buttons in a very teasing sort of way.

You will think you'll watch the news more and become more in tune with the world news, but you won't.  You'll watch Bush the younger's announcement of going to war in your boyfriend's (same one) dorm room, his first year of graduate school, and you'll sit while he's in the lab, cross-legged on his narrow cot, the snow thick outside, and you're tired of it--it's March in Minnesota and it's been a long winter--and your boyfriend is turning a year older and now you're afraid because you don't want there to be a draft, you want graduate school to secure him-and-her tight enough, lock us all into safety.  (And what does this have to do with 9/11 again?  You'll be confused, but get used to this, as your brain is about to start fogging more and more every day and faster, once you give birth to that babe.  You won't mind so much though.) 

You know about Poets Against the War because MDB has told you about it, and you submit a poem and check every morning to see if it made poem of the day but it doesn't, which is just as well, because it's a "you were there and we won't" sort of poem (this is what MDB often says in workshop when the poet is being too obscure for his tastes) and one night you drive into St Paul at night and listen to Robert Bly read "Call and Answer" at a little coffee shop and other poets joining other events across the country, poets reading poems they wrote against this war.  You want to let this make you feel better, being a small student, a small voice that is a part of it, but it's not enough.

Ten years later you will watch news reports for the day, or plan to anyway, though you'll also plan laundry (you'll do a lot of it these days) and you'll write out a grocery list and you'll wonder about those babies who were stretched out in their mama's bellies when their papas passed away. 

You'll feel safe.  You'll write poems.  You'll look at this day from the outside of the fishbowl and continue on.  You'll wish maybe you could write more coherently about ten years ago, but you know this story isn't yours to tell.  Your story came from a different sort of fishbowl, and you'll be glad for certain minnows who tug at your socks, pull themselves up to the laptop, ask to be heard too. 

Sincerely,  You-of-today

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