Philip Schaefer on "[Yesterday I found myself awake]"

[Yesterday I found myself awake]

in the shower with my shirt on,
searching for my breast bone
like a doorknob in a hallway
that doesn't exist. In this one
I am learning how to say sponge
without moving a muscle.
I contemplate what it means 
to twitch. Contemplate which
Dakota I'd rather live in, having
never been. You told me
the Midwest was like two dogs
greeting each other. I don't understand
anything without distance. In this way
I am like you: greedy, not sorry.


On "[Yesterday I found myself awake]"


"[Yesterday I found myself awake]" isn't the best poem in the book, or even a personal favorite, but it's one of the most important moments I've had while writing. My partner and I got married in a bar in Chicago, then one month later packed up and moved to Montana for graduate school, having never stepped foot in the state. Everything in front of us seemed like a blindfolded rollercoaster ride, a plunge into the wild unknown. 

My partner had to return home to the Midwest for a funeral one spring early on in our new life, leaving me alone with the dog and a weekend of hungover self-deprecation. It's a rule of mine to always write when in a weird headspace, when navigating the liquid world between dream and real. It helps me engage the muse, embrace the surreal, and put something on paper that I normally wouldn't. So I stepped through the portal of The Magnetic Fields' album "69 Love Songs" and let the melodrama of those lyrics take over. I imagined what my life would look like (as it does for so many) if she never came back. If the power of the relationship was split, divided forever.

This poem was the first I wrote in a series (all with bracketed titles bleeding into the body of the poem) that seemed to spill out all at once. I couldn't stop writing them, and the through line "in this one" felt like the vignettes' tether or glue. I recounted past experiences from the perspective of sadness, not nostalgia. I projected an identity onto the page I hadn't yet explored within myself. These poems gave me a voice, not the other way around. They allowed me to wear the mask then break it, then roll around in the porcelain debris. Then they became the backbone of a chapbook which in turn became the second section of this book, which to me is the heartbeat of the whole collection. One little weekend alone, dwelling in that aloneness.

 

 

 
 

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