I started keeping a journal shortly after my husband of 10 years moved out in February of 2013. I wanted him to go, was surprised he agreed to leave, and knew as he had so often threatened me that the backlash would be nearly fatal to me. I thought if I can survive this, if I can be here in the moments and process this as it is happening, maybe I can emerge whole. These are the things we tell ourselves when there is nothing but unknown and fear.
Here is how it begins on March 17, 2013:
"I don't want to feel anymore today
and prefer the symbolic world.
I have been living poems for so long I'm only
a figure and I'm glad. " -Alice Notley, Culture of One
I would like to think poetry brought us together, that it was something we did well like making three amazing human beings. But I think too, we hid there. We imagined because of it, we were something else. We lived in words and not in the space between us. When we talked, we talked too much about too many things and never just sat with feeling. I wonder too, if the erratic, unstable behavior I see more clearly in the last year separated from him is the stuff I chalked up to being eccentric, to being a poet. I mean, when you are at home with the kids and he doesn't show up till 4am drunk after a reading. That's normal right? That's what poets do. When the control and passion blind everything, financial sense and responsibilities, well that's just him being a poet. But I was a poet too, and I was never afforded the same generosity. His poetry allowed him to be irresponsible, flighty, crazy, and undependable. My poetry allowed me to pick up the pieces, to hold it together, to steal time to write in between pregnancies and babies. His writing was a given, from the largest room in the house that was his "office and library" to the second floor porch where I was not to disturb him to his late night bar hopping where he talked poetry till the wee hours with other poets, mostly single, males who didn't have 3 children and a wife at home.
March 17, 2013:
There's no way to tell a stone it's a stone, to tell water to be less. A woman too can only be so much in world always at war against her. There's fighting and then there's fighting for your life.
March 19, 2013:
... the breaking I will admit to, I said to someone: this life is overwhelming and all the emotions. handle what you can handle. make and make and poetry. always the poetry. these lines that draw and draw us.
I met Dave at the Faulkner Literary Festival in 2000. He was married and I was in a relationship with someone. He came to a reading I gave and shortly after I attended a workshop he held in poetry with the New Orleans School for Imagination. I remember the first time I went to his house and saw his extensive library. I thought I could spend my life with someone who had this many books because I would never run out of things to read. I knew nothing about love or marriage. I barely knew myself. I was 23.
Being married to a poet made me a better poet especially in the beginning. Dave was supportive, he was enthusiastic, he knew who I was talking about, who I should read and why. He knew tons of poets and taught me how to host readings, how to put on events, how to make broadsides, how to make magazines, how to read deeply, how to write harder. I was bought and sold on the mystery of what it was to be a poetry couple. In 2001, Dave handed me Bernadette Mayer's unpublished MS Ethics of Sleep and said you are going to publish this. It took nearly ten years later, but I did. I told him I wanted to publish books and he opened the door to that. I did the work though; I laid out that manuscript while the baby played at my feet. Just like I got a MFA while taking care of 2 kids and rebuilding after Katrina. I always did the work, but it always felt like so much of the work was Dave's work. The patriarchal standards that divide the world were just as sharp in the poetry world. Dave was ten years older, so I could never catch up. And the gap became a widening point of contention as the shine of him being the teacher wore off and I wanted to just be a poet in the world. Not a poet-partner, not a wife-poet, not a student- poet, not the person who fulfilled the ideas and made the practical happen.
March 23, 2013:
I found completing most things impossible. how to be better plugged in, how to not war ourselves to death, after the fact--we were still addicted to the wreckage.
In May of 2013, Dave petitioned to gain sole custody of our children. He told the courts I was an unfit mother who endangered the children's lives. For as long as I live, I don't know if I will ever be able to forgive this. I remember the day the children were supposed to come home. I hadn't seen them in 3 days and Dave texted me to tell me he had decided I couldn't see them. He wouldn't let me see or talk to them for 5 days until the judge saw us and decided to grant me supervised visitation pending an evaluation. I had to prove I wasn't the lies that he had made up. And as usual, he didn't have to do anything. The kind of man or husband or father he was was never put on trial. Being a woman means you are already guilty, in the face of money and privilege, you have to prove you are a fit mother even if you have always been one, based simply on the word of a man.
June 21, 2013
I had to expand big enough to fill my life, it was no longer an option to be brief, to be fitted. The fatal couple is an unending/ what do they want? the world to bend & bend. I could run or I could write, either way you have to push the emotion out as Sartre says, we engage the abyss. We go under b/c we enjoy going under: the loss of self in another. How much can you take me away from this moment?
Oct 1, 2013:
of everything written & said between us, we were never able to find the right language.
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