Retreat and Return: Revising dear Gerald

I’m sitting in my studio, here at Headlands Center for the Arts. The walls are high and white. I have four chairs, two office and two recliners, and two desks.  Today, finally, I began spreading out the poems. Looking at them, and taking moments to  look out of the window, and as I read the line, “So lonely, I knit a cave,” the sun peeks out. They say that when you enter the tunnel to come here, you leave behind the sunshine.

writing studio window_Headlands

I’m considering what’s to be included, what’s to be taken out. Do these serial poems count as more than one poem? I told myself that I need to write the “opening myth” poem,  a “sort-of love” poem, and a prose piece about how much I’ve cried in my 30s to emotionally even out the collection. What does even, even mean?

It’s interesting how when you propose a project and then when you begin the project so much changes along the way.

At first I thought to constantly post on this site, but I needed the privacy to work through these poems.

All my research about pearl-diving slaves and Guyanese history was edifying, but how does the research makes it way into the poem? It all felt false. I was trying too hard to make connections that weren’t there for me. It didn’t feel genuine.

It’s like when my father back in June called and wanted to know if I would be getting him a Father’s Day present. This never crossed my mind. When I would give Father’s Day cards to my stepfather as a child, it never felt genuine. I was going through the motions because it was expected. There we were in elementary school making cards out of construction paper, cutting out ties to paste on imaginary button-downs–and my stepfather rarely dressed so corporate. It was the outfit for church (which we didn’t go to) and funerals (thankfully there weren’t many).

“No, I will not be getting you anything for Father’s Day.”

My response so direct and honest,  he wondered if he was actually speaking to me. “Is this Arisa? This you?”

“Yes, it is me, Gerald. It is I.”

So looking again at these poems, I’m noticing the most authentic poems speak from a personal truth. Herstory. My day-to-day, those ruminations running my head. It’s a way for him to see me presently, and surely that is the gift.



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