Friday, February 28, 2020

as muCH AS My

Good morning and welcome to a nerdy, rambling post in which I start with a simple (albeit stunning) photo and end with, perhaps, a colonoscopy.  There will be a poem, too.

I'm the family social secretary, and twice recently I've made confused errors with events on our family calendar. I saw a haircut scheduled on Feb. 14 that I was sure wasn't right, and took some time texting with my stylist to establish that no, I didn't make an appointment on Valentine's Day, but wasn't it a coincidence that my spouse ALSO had a haircut on Valentine's Day?! Turned out that was a real appointment, that the one I was seeing on the calendar WAS my spouse's, never mine, but for two days I thought there were two concurrent appointments! And then I sat right at the Sunday evening family meeting, reported my teacher training event located miles away, and then planned to pick my son up on that day--which, by the time the day arrived, I realized I couldn't possibly do.  (The reason that I'm the social secretary is that both spouse and son sat in that meeting and neither one questioned my flawed plan as I was making it.)

These incidents, and certain other signs of aging, have me questioning my own ability to do what I've always been especially good at: to remember verbatim what has passed in a conversation, to observe keenly and take detailed note of what is happening when and how.  My own precision in this is noticeable because of how I've heard my spouse recount conversations I've witnessed, using language that is at best in the same hemisphere as the conversation--but not nearly in the same neighborhood, never mind the same house. (She also says that no one wants to hear this much detail, for example at a cocktail party; they want to get to the punchline faster.  I say there are plenty of people I know--hello writers--for whom the detail IS the cocktail, the party and the punchline.)

I keep thinking about what psychology research tells us about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, and how our brains use all kinds of unconscious bias to build memories which we then treat as objective fact, and I begin to wonder if I have ever been as good at reporting my own observations as I think.  Am I, at nearly 56, losing a skill I really had, or did I never have it, because no one does?  This is very concerning for someone who relies on being right about stuff for their mental health.  Okay, maybe for their mental unhealth.

So, the poetry. I'm participating in Laura Shovan's 8th Annual February Poetry Project.  There are about 35 participants and someone provides a prompt for every day with a water theme this year.  It has taken up a good part of my poetry attention, which is why I didn't see Cheriee Weichel's host post last week until Linda Mitchell wrote a poem based on a form created by Avis Harley, the subject of Cheriee's post and of one on Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog in 2011. (Are you with me?) "Wow!" said my puzzly wordnerd detail brain. "I too want to write an intravista! Two poems in one! Deep hidden meanings! Orthography!  Let's go!"

That day's prompt was this photo by Catherine Flynn, of a particular piece of the Grand Canyon called Elves Chasm.  What better image to inspire a poem with a canyon full of more to see inside?  So I started writing.  And here's the thing:  I don't know how I did it.  I know I found the word "knives" with the little word "I've" hiding in it, which indicated a first person voice, and I knew I wanted the elves in the poem, and then I realized that I would have to choose the embedded words first and write around them somehow.  And then a thing happened where a) I was in full CsĂ­kszentmihályiesue flow and b) the needs of the embedded poem and the needs of the outer poem were talking to each other in a conversation which I could observe and record, but not exactly control until the poem finished itself.  This mental state, for a person who overthinks and overcontrols and relies on being right, is a very very very great relief--joy, even.  Kind of like that "twilight" feeling you get with the light anaesthesia of a colonoscopy. (Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Et voila, the poem.

           ©Heidi Mordhorst 2020

So, thanks to Cheriee and Avis and Sylvia and Linda and Laura and Catherine, who all had a role in my blissful elfin chasmic flow of joy, and thanks to Karen, who's hosting today at her shockingly clever blog. May you ride or escape the flow today, as you choose.


  1. That is a very cool poem. As for your social calendar, I am filled with angst even reading about it. And also, I am currently, while I read your post, making dentist appointments by text message in French.

  2. That is an amazing form, and an amazing poem-within-a-poem, Heidi!

  3. What a great post! I'm so with you on the family secretary thing...and the weird forgetting when I used to be known for remembering so well. And, I love that the intravista appeals to your brain. Of course it does. Your mind just loves a good old word puzzle so much that it works on them without prompts anyway!

  4. Cool form, cool poem--and how you managed to get chasm in their is a testament to your creativity! (So stop worrying about your brain...I've got more than a few years on you, and can tell you that worrying is one thing that won't help.)

  5. Heidi, you should be a stand-up comic for an audience of writers. I am so with you on all of this--the family secretary, the memory, the unrelated recounting so conversations by people who were both there, etc. But more importantly, oh my God, this poem! It is magical, and I now need to write an intravista!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!