On a walk about a month ago, lines from an older poem of mine, “The Waters of Separation,” ran through my mind repeatedly:
we wait riven
to the rocks peeling back,
black in the water.
I find you, my darling,
knelt down and stung
Why was I singing my own line? The stanzas sounded like another voice, not my own, but one just out of grasp. “My darling” seemed so cloying, yet I never could revise it out of the poem. Something about that “back, / black in the water” built to a grandiose and over-dramatic edge as well. Where had I found those cadences? Then I heard Anne Sexton’s distinct voice:
It all started with a poster plastered in a subway stairwell in Chelsea. It was dingy, off-white and torn-- but in the middle was a pencil-drawn, yeti-like creature pulling open a slit in its stomach. Multicolored hearts and stars and smileys exploded out of the incision, and the caption read: There’s Magic Inside All Of Us. I began noticing the magic. In people. In places. I suppose if I was to have one writing superpower it would be in the noticing.
Noticing the one tree on a residential street in Hell’s Kitchen, wrapped in yarn--an arboreous sweater-and dripping with Christmas ornaments; fat, silver bulbs that reflected and warped the light of the carmine-purple sunset and shed glitter on my hands when I reached up and rubbed them. Noticing the sinews of neon deli si...