Now that I have your attention…
I’ve been thinking again about why I write. With THE SUMMER OF NO REGRETS so close to release, I barely have time to think about this. But every debut novelist has to grapple with “Me-And-My-Ego.” While I’m busy with promotion, it’s easy for me to get distracted by “Please love my book and say I’m wonderful,” as if that is the point of what I do. But since I have no desire to relive junior high (“What do you think of me? Am I pretty? Does my crush think I’m pretty? What can I do to make you like me?”), I have to consider why I really write.
It’s because I want my readers to look at each other’s eyes.
No, really. Really look. A book can help us do that, I think. We meet someone new–even if it’s a fictional character–and then maybe we can risk stepping out of our isolation or into someone else’s. A real someone. The girl at the next lunch table, maybe. Or the guy bagging our groceries. Or a friend we haven’t really talked to in a long time.
I wrote a bunch of poems at the Seattle Art Museum a couple of years ago, in response to the artist Cris Brodahl. I sat with her paintings for hours, watching people come in and out. They’d look at the work for a short time or a long time. She has this kind of layered thing she does, where she’ll put one painting on top of another, like this one called “The Fall.” The face behind is different from the face in front. And the painting is a nude so, yeah, lots of people stare at it for a while. (Ah, NOW you’re clicking the link.) Okay, so I’m not encouraging lunchroom nudity or anything, but I thought about the risk we take when we expose our true selves, when we say what we think and how we feel and who we are. And I wondered if it was worth it to do that. And I’m still not absolutely certain that it is. But sometimes when we do, we see each other’s eyes for the first time.
When publicly undressed
Do not notice
The breeze across your belly,
Tightness of shoulders,
Weight of your breasts.
No one stands, head atilt,
Scrutinizing the curves of your body,
Crook of an elbow,
The intermittent catch of your throat.
Imagine you do not lean
Over a precipice.
Instead, be rain,
Small tumble that shakes the mountain,
Behind your face
A clandestine smile.
Know your secret tipping point,
How to slide out of view,
Hidden in your skin.
Do not mistake
Serenity for safety,
You, who chose this starkness.
Danger attends revelation,
Like a brooding lady-in-waiting.
Has her own secrets.
For the one who will stare into your eyes.
Hold still and do not look away.
The earth tips under both of you.
Like a flame,
Like a dying star,
And do not be afraid.
©2010 Katherine Grace Bond