A good girl is the solution, not the problem

Put your hand out

I’ll always wear scars
from playing with mom’s BiC razor
in the bathtub.
The blades stuck, almost organically,
like running my fingers over ornamental wheat
on her nightstand.
I was never a cutter, just curious
how something so precise could slice me
the way divorce had
or two different doorbells sounded like home,
never knowing which to answer
as my father’s daughter.

The pillows between my legs were softer.
Objects I pushed inside didn’t hurt like people.
Until that blood bath
where something I touched
didn’t touch me back – it cut
and after that everything became symbolic:
I saw loss in cigarette butts thrown to the curb
Loneliness in clocks counting our time
instead of their own
I learned a mean bark
always masked something trembling.

My father
nicked my fingertips
over and over each time I got closer.
My hands healed
but proved a hungry girl
will always misinterpret
fireflies lingering on her palms
as declarations of love.

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10 Responses to A good girl is the solution, not the problem

  1. Ms. Moon says:

    I have a little crush on you. I hope that’s cool.

    • rachvb says:

      YOU DO?! I have a HUGE crush on YOU, so I hope that’s cool. And I think you’re a cooking goddess. And I want to live in your yard … in the most uncreepy way possible.

  2. Angella says:

    Oh Rachel, this is just stunning. And heartbreaking. You are such a fine poet, such an artist, such a soul. Can I join the crush party, too?

    • rachvb says:

      Every time I start to doubt something, you guys always pop in to set me right. Thank you. Always. The crush party is accepting members and you’re in hands down. I’ve had a crush on all of you for years =)

  3. The longer I read and come to know you, the more your work touches me, speaks for me. The fireflies and the cigarette butts, known quantities. Add me, please to the love-fest. I am working again on consistency. xo

    • rachvb says:

      Marylinn, excuse my delay. I was home sick Friday and have been a lump of poo most of the weekend. I, too, am working again on consistency. You will find an ally in that regard. I’m here then gone then here then gone.
      You have no idea how much your comment means to me. I’ve been up and down – with writing as well. I don’t know why, but these poems need a lot more space than my other ones – either that or I’ve grown lazy?? Perhaps it is mutual. I need space from them as much as they need space from me? Every group of poems is so different. It’s hard to know how to trust the process when you are rewriting the process every time. Fill up and purge. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so inconsistent lately? The ebb and flow…
      But thank you. Thank you thank you. xoxo

  4. Ah, yes. If everything just moved forward in a straight line. *mad laugh* I did not invent the switchback, the corkscrew or the serpentine maneuver but I may be their poster child. Perhaps one of many reasons why I am not a poet is the resistance to so much necessary rewriting. And resistance is a very mild euphemism. xo

    • rachvb says:

      God, wouldn’t that be nice?!
      I think there’s a reason why I design, too. Design is visual poetry. All things need a place in a design like all words need a place in a poem. They are very similar. At least for me. The revision process is so vital for design and I’m beginning to understand that more and more for my poetry. I think the only difference is my designs have an actual deadline LIKE I NEED THIS DONE TODAY and so I get lax with the poems because they aren’t on a timeline and you know how journalists work – only when something is due. A poem has to sound right, feel right, look right, break right to the poet before we can release them to the world. And even then, something is off months later when you look back on it again. I remember Sharon Olds mentioning something about how she revises – that she has to revise in the same moment she’s feeling the poem, so she gets most of it done in one day and then later on she might change a few words or lines or whatnot. I see what she means about that. It’s hard to get back into a poem days later when the original feeling is gone. You have to resubmit yourself to those feelings and sometimes they aren’t nice things to feel. Some days it’s OK to say – I know the dungeon is there, but I’m just not opening the door today. And I think that’s where I am. I have to pick the days where I feel strong enough.
      But I love poetry for the small space we get to work in. I think writing a novel would be so overwhelming to me – thousands and thousands of words to revise. That would take me years and years – as it tends to do anyway, but I admire the people who can mold such big projects. xoxo

  5. A very clear description of process. That may be why I (for posts and the like) try to do it all in one sitting, try to reach for the word in the moment. As fiction swells, even when I am in it, I wonder how I will ever turn it into what I think it needs to be. So far, still a work in progress. Meanwhile, I’ve come up with the episodic story as a form that fits my way of working, my skills. A little piece at a time, free-standing, yet still connected to what went before and comes after. I understand the difficulty of getting back into the feeling if one has left, or if it has. I think of “be here now” and how experiential writing is. Thank you for widening the way in which I can look at what I do and admire you poets all the more. xo

    • rachvb says:

      I try to as well … of course the never-ending complaint is time, but writers complain about time so much it become almost a cliche. You either make yourself sit down or you don’t. I usually write blind. I have no idea what I’m meant to say until I write it out and say it. But the mind can usually make those connections eventually. The heart is always the guide, I hope, willing the brain and the hand to follow. It’s hard sometimes to read how other writers work. It can help, but it can also make you question your own process; make you believe you are doing something wrong because this great writer does it this way and that greater writer does it that way.
      When I do have to leave a poem, my hope is that I’ve given myself enough breadcrumbs to find my way back into that feeling. That’s the hope ultimately anyway: to make someone feel something. Sometimes it’s good to give the work space. And then when you come back you can see if you’ve succeeded or not. But I think the knowing when to leave and when to stay is all about guts and instinct, the same way we read emotions in relationships: when do you fight and when do you let it go? They may be born from us, but they are their own beings. Every poem or chapter is different and that’s the challenge, that’s why writing is never boring.
      I think your writing will turn into whatever it needs to be.
      I’m not sure where I read this, but Ray Bradbury had a quote above his typewriter that said “Don’t think!” Just write. Logic can kill imagination. I like that. xoxo

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