cafenowhere: teacup brimming with mysterious violet liquid (psychedelic tea)
[personal profile] cafenowhere
Poetry Notes for "Aboard the Transport Tesoro"

In November, my poem "Aboard the Transport Tesoro" appeared in Issue 7 of Uncanny Magazine. Now it's available to read for free online or listen to in a podcast.

The idea for the poem came to me on one of the many nights I lay awake in bed, in pain. I'd tried ignoring it, then meditating through it. I'd taken various medicines. I had my heating pad. I'd tried stretching out, scrunching up, lying on my back, belly, side. Nothing helped. To think of something other than hurting, I racked my brain trying to figure out what I could've done that day to trigger the pain. Nothing stood out. Eventually, I started to wonder what I had done, ever, in my life, to bring on this pain. Had emotion metastasized into physical ailment? Had I committed some sin or transgression? Was I being punished?

Pain makes me weird and illogical. (Or maybe that's my Catholic upbringing?)

These addled thoughts intersected with a conversation I'd seen on Twitter, about the difficulty of venerating elders (or ancestor worship) when your family is problematic. How do you overcome (or maybe just put aside) a history of conflict, or even abuse, for a continued relationship with the deceased? Can you ever trust them, let alone honor or respect them?

I wondered which of my ancestors might be inducing my suffering, and what they were trying to convey through the punishment. Only my grandmother seemed vindictive enough, but what had I done to piss her off this time? She held a grudge like a tick with lockjaw, so I supposed it could've been something I'd done in the past. But surely she knew my heart had changed over the years. I actually felt closer and more sympathetic to her than ever before. Maybe she was only acting out? Maybe she was hurting too?

And if I was so adrift, I wondered, how much more complicated could ancestor worship get in the future? With life-extending medicines and procedures, we might know our great-greats much more intimately, for better or worse. I imagined what it'd be like to have a wonderful, nurturing relationship with a great-great, and what I'd be willing to do for her when she finally passed.

Though I was still in excruciating pain, the poem came together very quickly after that. I got out of bed and wrote it down. I don't know how long it was before the pain subsided enough that I could sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I moved a couple of lines and typed it up, and it was done.

I don't see anything romantic about pain or suffering. If it were up to me, I'd have slept pain-free and never written the poem. But I do feel a grudging awe for the alchemy of poetry, which can take something as stupid and pointless as my pain and transfigure a bit of it. From lead to gold seems too self-congratulatory. So...shit to Shinola, maybe.

Date: 2015-12-02 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] queenoftheskies.livejournal.com
What a beautiful poem, though I'm very sad it was born of pain.

Date: 2015-12-03 07:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
Thank you. Pain can be so lonely--sharing the poem helps diminish that loneliness.

Date: 2015-12-02 06:48 pm (UTC)
ext_959848: FeatherFlow (Default)
From: [identity profile] blairmacg.livejournal.com
SO deeply affecting, both the poem and the need that inspired it.

Date: 2015-12-03 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
Thank you. We are meaning-seeking creatures. We want the pain to make sense. Sometimes there is no meaning, except in the stories we tell ourselves.

Date: 2015-12-02 10:09 pm (UTC)
gwynnega: (coffee poisoninjest)
From: [personal profile] gwynnega
I've definitely had the "am I being punished"/"I must have done something terrible to deserve this" thoughts related to chronic pain, and I'm Jewish! So, not just a Catholic thing.

I wish you could have slept pain-free, but it's wonderful you got a beautiful poem out of the pain.

Date: 2015-12-03 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
So, not just a Catholic thing

I thought not! I suppose it's a defense mechanism: we like to think there's a reason for pain, so we can avoid it in the future. If there is no reason, we make it up? (there's some nasty ableism tied in there, too, I'm sure; we're swimming in it)

I wish you could have slept pain-free, but it's wonderful you got a beautiful poem out of the pain.

Thank you. That's how I choose to look at it, too. : )

Date: 2015-12-03 01:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com
It's such a powerful poem. You grabbed the torturer's implements and created a poem--that's at least as good as swords into plowshares.

It's a good question, what we do about our elders or our ancestors who are ... difficult. I know when I'm listening to stories about other people's ancestors, or about folks out of history, that even the cowards, the sneaks, and the bullies can be interesting in stories. Not to live with or suffer under, but as humans and characters. ... I think that's easier though when you don't feel too personally implicated or connected to the person.

I really love how you've talked about your grandmother and the poems she's inspired--how you've grown closer to (the memory of) her through the creative act of writing poetry.

Date: 2015-12-03 10:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
I really love how you've talked about your grandmother and the poems she's inspired--how you've grown closer to (the memory of) her through the creative act of writing poetry.

It's been such a journey, and it's taken a lot of time. It's not so much that time heals all wounds, but there have been no new hurts, so the old wounds have scarred over.

That's why I'm fascinated by the complexities of ancestor worship in the future. Life-extending technologies may mean more of us live long enough to know our great-great grandchildren. With the cryo technology we've long imagined, we could put on the brakes and wake up in time to help raise (or, worse, compete with) those great-great grandkids.

On the other hand, without the buffer of time--or indeed, the careful cultivation of a mythology about our forebears--how can we trust the more-prickly recently deceased to intercede on our behalf? How can we interpret their "signs" in good faith?

Soooo many questions...

Date: 2015-12-04 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ericmarin.livejournal.com
That's a visceral, moving poem, Lisa.

Date: 2015-12-06 09:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cafenowhere.livejournal.com
Thank you, Eric. And I see you've been poem-ing again, as well. Great to see!

Date: 2015-12-06 10:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ericmarin.livejournal.com
You're welcome, and thank you! :-)

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