Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Small Triumphs and the Accompanying Smiles


Today, while driving home from my parents' old house for the last time, I called my wife to see what she was up to. After a bit I asked, was there any mail? She said that there was and her tone suggested that it wasn't the electric bill. It turns out that today's post brought a hard copy of the poetry journal in which I have had two poems published. There on pages 46 and 47 were my poems. It was kind of neat.

That might not sound like the most effusive reaction I could have to publication, but it's a reasonable reaction and one that I'm happy with. As she told me that the journal was in her hands and that she had found my poems, I smiled. I saw it in the rearview mirror as I glanced down the highway. I'm happy about having those two pieces published and I'm happy with the idea that publication is no longer mythical to me, an imagined thing that someone like me could never achieve, but I also know that I'm the same person I was before the publication. It's just that now, I see things a little differently. Publication hasn't changed me very much, but it has shown me the way that things can look.

I drove the rest of the way home remembering again that there are possibilities in this world and that all I really need to do is get myself out there and have a little faith in myself, in others, and in the world itself.

That's why I'm still smiling about all of it.

It's good to be reminded of these things while driving home from helping move my parents. Yesterday was the big day of moving, the day with a moving truck and trailer, my father's pick-up truck and another trailer. Today was mopping up, grabbing a few things that we couldn't fit yesterday but that he couldn't lift on his own or with just him and Mom. I walked one last time around their house and, though I felt a little sad as I always do at the end of most anything, I was able to move on easily enough. It's a house on a piece of land and no amount of moving erases the memories of that place. It was a nice enough house and we had some lovely times there, but that's that. And now...

Well that's the thing. Like being published, the move isn't really the big deal. Moving is just a way to remember that we all can start again. My parents are 73 and 71. It has been fourteen years since they last moved and started in this way, yet even they can do it and do fine with it. The world is open to them again.

Those two poems of mine in the journal are really good poems but I'm happier today that I wrote a draft of something new in which I imagined myself a cowboy having just driven cattle across the prairie. The cattle are my parents chairs and tables, the boxes of books and pans. I'm a cowboy living in the city, typing in my basement on a computer. But I've got spurs and they make the most delightful sound when I walk, bowlegged up to the bar for another drink.

The poem I wrote today isn't nearly as good as either of the two that were published, but the newness of it makes me happy, makes me smile. So too does the simple idea that I wrote it today and that I will rewrite it tomorrow. It's a fluid thing, changing and still out of shape. Those other two pieces are paintings on the wall of a museum. If I throw more paint on them, the authorities will take me away. I can paint all over this new one.

I hope that my parents can come to think of this move in similar ways. We'll have to see and I might try to help them with some of that. It's the least I could do. And, at some point I'll have to show them the journal and turn the page to where they'll see the name that they gave me and find in the moment proof that they have done the job that they set out to do so long ago when they were young and so much of the world was new. Maybe they'll remember themselves from back then and all the challenges they came up against and got over. Maybe, in some small way, it will help them to remember the quiet little smiles that they have worn in moments of small triumph which are the proof we all need that it is safe to go on.

Write on.