I remember visiting the Boston Museum of Science as a child and stumbling on a long lit case into which was affixed a room-length, finger-width crust of sand, a rod of sand that lightning had passed through and melted to glass. A shape hollowed out by the sheer power of traveling light. A solid object formed from the tiny beads of worn down rock that would otherwise shift in the hand.
I realized at that moment that if you shock electricity through something, you can jolt it into something else.
I write because I die again and again at the hands of a world that cannot have me or make me fit.
I write because each poem is my reincarnation.
I write because the garbage found buried in an old landfill has sometimes turned to treasure. An intact, ceramic doll. A clay marble. A clay pipe.
The scent of something calling us back.
I write because when I was a child, we would go to the Bronx Zoo and I would feed the giraffe leaves through the fence and understood, as it chewed, the slow, sideways rumination.
I write because there are nothing but questions. Because one word placed down beside the other can be sealed in with the mortar of suggestion.
Because there is no meaning. And I knew this early on.
I write because Orpheus’s head continued to sing as it moved down the river. I believe my head is moving down the river. My death is the very perspective of my life.
I write to remember the self that inherits me every time another self dies. I write because I cannot lie still. I write to rue the world. To shake my fist. To be incredulous. I write to uncover the ruins. To ruin the ruins. I write to find the already found.
I write because I am afraid with the deep, deep fear of this whywhywhy.
I write because of what took me in and made me into what I am. Because, submerged, I was diving down, and out came a new me like rain, and out came a new me, inanimate, rigid or fixed or rigged.
I write because all things swim like light and link like lilies on a pond, like laymen in a chapel, because all things gather and wash over me, a high tide.
I write because I need to speak to hear things sort.
I write because I stumbled on writing as a child who had to hide away because people were too much.
Because of the gold rush in the blood that wants and wants and wants and will not sleep and keeps one eye open even as we balk, even as we blush, even as we bend, even as we end and ripen and start.
As the earth turns on an axis that tilts and names us and rains for us and rules us and keeps us embattled and punctured and trim.
There is a spiritual in putting the word down on the page, a kissing of the icon, a warlike drum. My ear against another’s heart just listening.
Traces of minerals there in the skin.
I write because the roots go so far down and can’t grip, because the spit turns and still the carcass can’t cook, because the facets of the self burn and broil and recoil and return.
I write because there’s no solution.
I write because of the recoil on the gun. I write because the self is the sum of its parts, I write because of the arduous way the signs flower, sine and cosine, marigold and migration and styrofoam and chimney soot. Lucid as a lantern spark. Artless and in flux.
Because the flesh is an investment made and then lost.
Because a rain basin fills up and then must spill.
Because of fear because of fear because of fear.
I write because thunder is the sound the lightning makes. Because light travels faster than sound.
JENNIFER MILITELLO is the author of Body Thesaurus (Tupelo Press, 2013) Flinch of Song, winner of the Tupelo Press First Book Award, and the chapbook Anchor Chain, Open Sail.
- Three Poems - March 14, 2019
- Two Poems - August 15, 2015
- Why Write #23: Jennifer Militello - July 30, 2013