I am coming back to life after a gorgeous weekend recovering from my book launch for my second poetry collection, So Speak the Stars, at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia. Yesterday, Kristina Moriconi, who is a brilliant essayist and memoirist, and also a beloved friend, took me out for chai teas at a cozy little coffee shop and read the first chapters of my memoir, which I’ve been scared to share (though I did read it on the radio a few weeks ago, but that felt sort of insulated, because you can’t see the people who might be listening). The work, about the five years I’ve spend living on the road, re-finding me, is very personal, and also, I’m nervous about its artistry, because I’ve never written a memoir. Kristina got super excited when she read it and said the most beautiful things about the work. She even offered to send it to an editor friend of hers when it’s done, and that gave me so much faith in the writing. I guess my next book is going to be a memoir called Butterfly F*cking: A Memoir(ish), y’all. It’s official.
Afterward, we went to her favorite record store. Kristina and I have bonded over all kinds of things, but one of them is our shared love of music. Since I arrived in Philadelphia, we’ve spent many hours huddled in her studio, sharing secrets, listening to Bruce Springsteen on vinyl tell us that it’s a town full of losers, and he’s pulling out of here to win. (So are we, damn it.) I told Kristina that I want to get a record player when I settle down, so when we were at the record store, she bought me a record my daddy played constantly, Linda Rondstat’s Greatest Hits (why, oh why, did I not listen more carefully to “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”?) to inaugurate my new life off the road, as the new me.
After the record store, we went to Big Blue Marble Bookstore, because Tawni, always the master of organization and detail, had forgotten to get the money she made on her books at the launch. Sawyer Lovett manages the store and is one of the smartest, grooviest cats I’ve ever known. (He’s also a brilliant writer. I’ve had the honor of reading a section of his novel, and it’s mind blowing.) Sawyer gave me cookies (does he know me or what?) and this Where the Wild Things Are pin.
To understand why I think this is so wonderful, you must know that when I was little, my beloved daddy, who was an incredibly gifted artist before he was a preacher, painted a life-scale mural of The Wild Things dancing on my bedroom wall. While this may have contributed to some of my adult neuroses (you try waking up to a roomful of giant monsters dancing around you when you’re two), it’s also made Where the Wild Things Are my favorite book in the world.
If you don’t know the story, Max gets a little saucy with his mommy, and she sends him to bed without any supper, and his bedroom turns into a secret world, and he sails off for a year to the land where the wild things are. Max screams, “Let the wild rumpus start!” And they all dance under the moon and howl and go crazy and have tons of fun, but after a time, Max gets lonely and wants to be where someone loves him best of all. So he steps into his boat, and the wild things howl, “No, no, please don’t go, we’ll eat you up, we love you so,” but Max leaves anyway, and sails back through a year “and into the night of his very own bedroom, where he finds his supper waiting for him.” And it’s still hot.
Ok, I just realized, as I was recapping that story, I don’t really need to write a memoir. The story of my life is called Where the Wild Things Are. Anyway, if my history is encapsulated in that children’s book, this past year, and especially this weekend, felt like the coming home part. Because I was launching a book that was my true heart in “fuck-it-I’m-writing-what-want-to-write-form,” mostly compiled while I was hiding in the woods for months, meditating and talking to the stars.
Because my beautiful daughter, Desiree Wade, illustrated these poems, that are such a profound piece of my heart.
Because the bookstore was filled with beautiful friends I’ve made during my travels, who see and love me for who I really am. Because Kristina bought me two cakes for the launch, one of which was a carrot cake, and my momma always made me carrot cake on my birthdays when I was a kid.
Because one of the writers and humans I admire most in the world, Beth Kephart, introduced me with some of the most moving words I’ve ever heard about myself.
Because another of the writers and humans I admire most, Grant Clauser, interviewed me, asking insightful questions that dug right to the heart of my writing.
Because afterward, some of my dearest friends went out to celebrate with me.
And because I was brave enough to sing my songs, songs I’ve written through the years but always kept hidden.
Rewind: When I was a little girl, I decided I was going to be an actress, a singer, and a writer when I grew up. I did the acting and the writing, but not the singing, because people always mocked my voice and told me it was ugly. So I pursued my love for music by becoming a groupie instead of a musician. But I couldn’t stop writing songs and ferreting them away in the back of my psyche, my dirty little secret songs.
I sang them first at a reading I did last week in Madrid, New Mexico because it’s an artist colony made mostly of paint and glitter and sparkly rocks, and sparkly things make me brave, but singing it at a book launch in the big city felt like it required a whole new level of courage. Singing those songs in conjunction with releasing a book about the deepest love I’ve ever known felt like letting my soul out of the box. I was terrified, and I said I was. I think my exact words were, “I’m scared shitless, so I’m going to close my eyes.” And then I opened my little mouth, and I did something I thought I would never do. I sang my songs at a book launch. When I was done, so many people said pretty things, and now, I really don’t think my voice is ugly, and no offense, but fuck all y’all who said it was.
When I go home to New Mexico in April, I’m supposed to meet with some of the musicians who were at my reading in Madrid. They heard my songs and asked me to sing one of them again while they played, and now, they want to get together again and set them to music, so maybe, someday when I grow up, I will be a singer after all. (The word “band” was tossed around, but I’m not sure I’m ready to use such grandiose language.)
Last night, Kristina and I sat curled up by her fire, drinking Manhattans, watching a fox look for food in the woods outside her house. “Why is the fox looking for food outside her house?” you ask. Because apparently, Kristina was leaving him whole rotisserie chickens in her yard. When I get reincarnated, I either want it to be as one of Kristina’s dogs or the fox that lives in the woods outside her house. What follows is an actual conversation Kristina and I had.
Kristina: Oh, my god. The fox is looking for food. I wish I had a rotisserie chicken.
Me: You could give him eggs.
Kristina: But they’re raw. Do foxes like raw eggs?
Me: No, they hard boil them in their caves.
(You can see why I love Kristina.) Anyway, sitting with my dear friend, watching the world turn white, I looked down at my little Wild Things pin and thought, “Well, damn. I’ve found my supper waiting for me. And it’s still hot.”
P.S. I used to always end my blogs with a P.S. and a song. I’m doing that again today because this song has been in my head, on repeat, for days. It feels true. Morning has broken.