Buttttt. As always I have a big (somewhat skinny) but. And that but is that I’d like to be hintfully more clear. So I sit in a creative nonfiction graduate workshop grappling with my big but. I bite my lip in retort, post oral class reading. It seems so blatantly clear to me…alas…this is definitely not the first time I’ve run into my own big butted ambiguity and abstraction…
Yup, in elementary school I was always circularly corralled in the dumb oral reading groups. Gosh, even I knew the why for the way words twisted off my lips [then as now], my cheeks burned cherry red, and all cognitive conceptions canceled. Even the former, two and a half decade long, legal love unit was perpetually shocked and mildly mocked my blatantly blabbed butchery. I remember multiple sullen Saturday morns when he trudged next to me trying to break a part “especially.” It simply would do nothing but mutate in its roll from my tongue. And he’d repeat — Eeeee. Spesh. Aaa. LEE. Eeeee. Spesh. Aaa. LEE. No, really Kathy! I was thirty three. Sigh. Eeeee. Spesh. Aaa. LEE. Especially. Finally now, today, unmalformed it flows as the unit strolls by in my head as I go Eeeee. Spesh. Aaa. LEE. Ha.
Oh yes, I did flunk sophomore “Five-Hundred Word Theme” with a forty-seven, repeated again for a C. Dormed and degree bound, first one, I was stuck in remedial writing–same freaking textbook I survived with an F then a C. OMG. I deferred my remainder, English courses that is, to the end, hoping I might be raptured before then. Dang my unrapturedness.
A decade later, hired as director of communication, I explained that I might edit BUT would not write. I would not write. I was clear. Of course, I also told them I would not wear a dress either. I’ve quite a few big buts.
So I find it infinitely humorous on degree three, that at least three art historians, really, one, two, three–Brauer, Padget, and Jacobs–suggested I had a knack to write and criticize. Head that direction. Ha, the blatantly blabbed butchery bound to each page was simply ignored, for the compression of critical content couched in hidden humors they got. A, A, A, A, A, A, A, A and another. I contemplated degree four in writing and critical theory. Five seconds then done. I was tribe bound with a legal love unit, so that was to be ignored. Hugh. Huh. Hmmm. Welp, here I am.
Now sans one legal love unit, I write with little shame. But, but, BUT could I just be a tad more freaking textually clear?!
That said, here is rewrite three in which I try to ground my ungrounded graduate reader, post my oral presentation. Next week I’ll do a re-right again, trying to work further around my big ambiguous but that blocks my way.
— Draft three —
Two magnets, one mom and a refrigerator door
Your eyes shift down from their low casting across the long table’s surface to the one with blush burned cheeks. With eyes averting, you wait for something small, something smart, worth the wasted while. Waiting. Waiting. My cheeks burn all the more in the stalled stretching span. The words on the page coarsely twist off my lips. Stupidity overwhelms me in that first unrecoverable instance.
My nose flares with a frustrated hmmph. In fact, there are no words on the page to twist off my lips, and you, you, and you, with your already penned publishes, gathered here in round three of each of your piling up English degrees, have yet to sit.
Hunched over my desk, I look to my right. I hesitate, hating that damn black bulldog clip thingy. It sits silently clasping itself, clinging impotently and unused to my wall mounted magnetic strip. Waiting, I calculate and cull from Paper Clips, Sausage, Candy Cigarettes, Silk: ‘Thingy-ness’ in Flash Nonfiction—but the black bulldog clip’s thingy-ness remains verbless and voiceless. There is no fusion of form or frame for content or cognition. No muse at all, just a damn mute thingy. It watches me subjectlessly grope my way through the assigned text. I turn the page hoping for more from the next. I stop. I wait. I try not to do smart. Smart is stupid. It stalls me, binding up as yet unwritten moments. I stare empty eyed at that stupidly smart bulldog clip, clamped shut, failing to give voice. I hold there, for a memory of my own, for histories released. I wait; I waffle, like an unmoored blank page a drift to the floor.
And, I mull down on my unwritten, unadmitted, why. That why that planted my ass right here for yet another but final degree. It sits heavy, I try to leverage it to push the pen. Nothing. Instead, I cultivate convincing myself to just freaking mimic the process I forced, a mere forty-eight hours ago, on my drawing students, set with the remedial task of blind contours. Literally positioning each with a laterally outstretched penciled arm, reaching slightly behind them to mark their easeled, bulldog clamped pad. They stare into a stool perched peer’s face, a mere socially inappropriate two feet in front of them, stretching the non-penciled arm forward, finger extended, pointedly poking and tracing the multiple contours of a face not their own. Leaving a mere lead trace, the pencil and padded hand translates with one continuous threading line. So focused, they work until their shoulders’ scream with exerted burn. Arms windmill around the room and then each set returns to their page. The drawings develop; find face in a process not a product. It’s a way of unlearning their cognitively compressed perceptual knowings. One eye large, one small and displaced below the nose, the ear a cheek, the chin so small, the nose laps over the mouth. Each distortedly different—fragility and frustration processed, released. Those that forego fixation on the final outcome, find face. The drawings oddly read as real. On the other hand, those penciled from the cognitively coerced are worth only two magnets, one mom, and a refrigerator door.
My mind returns me to put pen to page in a parallel process, to write. Of course, this is a lie. I thumb my digital device, swiping away my glossed knowings, my false facades and my repetitive reviews of the LIKES on my most recent Facebook update. Hmmmph. I point to the damn convoluting contours of that impotent clip and my mind’s eye fingeringly follows my own blind unfaked fragility and frustration with this forced first draft. I feel the residual taint of my own feared stupidity and am left with missing my mom, two magnets and her refrigerator door.
Funny after drafting this up I find myself reading Alexander Smith, circa 1892, On Writing Essays. Ha, while speaking of the essayist Montaigne, he notes,
“The essayist plays with his subject, now whimsical, now in grave, now in melancholy mood. He lies upon the idle grassy bank … letting the world flow past him, and from this thing and the other he extracts his mirth and his moralities… as I walk through the woods… His habit of mind is leisurely; he does not write from any special stress of passionate impulse; he does not create material so much as he comments upon material already existing … His main gift is an eye to discover the suggestiveness of common things… If you wish to preserve your secret, wrap it up in frankness… He laughs at himself and his reader … you suspect mockery or banter in his tones. He is serious with the most trifling subjects, and he trifles with the most serious.”
Of course I live in 2015, am female, and at the moment, less than idle. But I miss the idle and speaking to the common place of the moment. I miss laughing at myself and being my own egotistical primary source. ]