I can tell you what I was doing the moment my poem "Acquiescence" (from HFR #50) was conceived. I was holding onto all three dogs as they each pulled in a different direction. I stood in the graveled road and tried to untangle myself from all the leashes. It was sometime after 11 pm. In the near distance, the moans of the highway created an ambiance against the weary sound of waves and the thumps of car stereos. The dogs and I wandered toward the single street lamp that always seems to flicker off as soon as I step beneath it. From there we walked along the cliff of the lake, where if you look down, you’ll find generations of broken houses creating a jagged beach.
“I am looking towards the lake/at darkness, I am building my house/there/in a great space of uncertainty/The wind has built me walls but now windows.”
Where I lived at the time with my boyfriend used to be a Christian summer camp in the early 1900’s and what’s left of it, on the shore of Lake Erie, consists of a burnt out field, this gravel road, one row of perfectly spaced trees, and a few hunched houses with leaded windows gazing in the direction of the water. I often tried to envision how this place looked when Cleveland lakefronts were lush and a few hundred feet closer to Canada than they are now. Set back and hidden from a main street inhabited by a neon-clad carwash, a used washer and dryer store, a gas station that covers its door and windows with a war-proof shutter at night, a store called “Magic Hair,” as well as some other nondescript store fronts, this neighborhood always felt both peaceful and mysterious to me. Perhaps the fact that there’s little information about the history of this neighborhood made it more intriguing, though probably because there’s nothing really worth remembering.
“Underneath these tufts like clouds/are people dancing/I can see them laughing, twitching/pushing bone into bone.”
This particular night I imagined myself a poet and basked in the darkness of the field and the inability to grasp onto anything other than the words that mellowed in my head. I had just read Howl in its entirety and had Ginsberg’s rhythm and his voice pumping through my veins. (Admittedly, I read it after seeing the movie and being slightly embarrassed that I had only read parts of it prior to that. Having said that, Allen Ginsberg plays a better Allen Ginsberg than James Franco, as well as a better writer, and I recommend not watching the movie before or after you read the poem.) I summoned words merely for the sake of their sounds. All I had was space so I began to invent things to fill the space, to make this empty moment something worth doting upon later or musing in a poem. I can’t really tell you what made this a moment worth capturing, though there was something in the air that night. I think that this is what we do when we have nothing else. Sometimes we find ourselves living in ruins and we attempt to put those pieces on a page.
Elena T. Tomorowitz completed her MFA at Cleveland State University, and is working on her PhD at the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers, where she is associate editor of the Mississippi Review. She has poems published or forthcoming from Used Furniture Review, ILK, Blue Earth Review, Barn Owl Review, Red Lightbulbs, and others.