I know the tradition for writers who have just come home from AWP is to cleanse by writing a blog or essay about the experience. My experience went pretty much the way you’d expect AWP to go. I saw many beautiful faces I love, kissed them, and told them all of the fancy things that have happened to me in the past year.
I listened intently to some fabulous panels and tried not to sleep through others. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books, writers, and magazines in the world and stumbled through the book fair feeling ant-like, accepting offerings of bookmarks and journals and pens from other writers who were also, no doubt, feeling ant-like, staving off existential crises, wondering if their voices could ever matter in the cacophony, the way maybe drops of the ocean wonder why they ever bother trying to be part of a wave.
I met new faces I think will likely be part of my life forever. I sat on rooftop bars with writers, and drank in opulent, deafening halls with writers, and talked about the pros and cons of first-person-narratives with writers. There was whiskey and champagne and gin, and there were tarts and rellenos and lobster rolls. All in all, it was a rollicking success.
But my favorite thing that happened to me at AWP is my muses came back to me, my poetic muses, to be specific. I used to write two or three poems a day, and then, the well just dried up. The well undried one day at a bar, when a boy half my age started hitting on me while I was waiting for my friends to show up.
This one goes out to the one I love. All the ones go out to the one I love. (I know blog readers don’t like poems. I get it. But sometimes a girl has to write what’s in her heart instead of what she thinks that nebulous “audience” will want to read. Because holy hell, if there is one thing I learned at AWP, it’s that there are at least 15,000 writers out there desperately trying to write what the audience wants to read. Today, I just want to write for him. Because I write best when I do that anyway.)
THE BOOK OF HIM
The boy at the bar asks, “What book is that?” and I want to say:
It is the book of him, it is always the book of him, everything is the book of him. He is the cracked vodka bottle and the mangy cat and the homeless man with blighted red skin who needs the voices to SHUT THE FUCK UP. He is the salt on these nuts and the gray at the waiter’s temple. He is this wine as it turns my mouth the taste of the French countryside. He is the blister on my heel. I read him when I chose this red dress, when I painted my lips, when I outlined my eyes like Cleopatra. I took a photo of that mural because the hand reminded me of his. He is the shred of lettuce wilting its way back to dust on the floor and the brown spot left on the ceiling when it snows. He is the neon sign spilling green into the walkway, the pedestrians slipping in its gunk. He is the peonies that wanted rain and died of thirst. If I lifted the stone at the corner of this building, I would find his name carved there, his birthdate, the secret of his never-death. I would know finally that this life was just a big Where’s Waldo game written by him, only everything is Waldo. Waldo never hides. He is the only book I have ever read, kid, and if I read you, you will be him minus something, and I will hate you for it. Don’t waste your money on me, Jeff, Sven, Pedro, William, Serge, Bo, Lamar, Brian, Santos, Lee you are all him, and less than him, and I promise you’ve never read my book.