Not Mirror, but Wobbly-Puddle Images

olson

Have you ever written something (a letter, a poem) only to have it disappear on screen before you had a chance to save it? Poof. And so, with all these ideas in your head, you start anew. You have no choice.

But the creature created in Version #2 is a relative rather than a replication of the lost draft. A second cousin twice removed. It is the same in many ways, yes, yet different in other ways.

Some writing teachers play this game with pencil and paper (the easier to play “Poof!” with). Their students get to write a draft longhand. Then the teacher collects the work. Next thing you know, teacher is saying, “OK, students, now I want you to rewrite the poem. First write ‘Draft 2’ next to your name on top, would you?”

After the requisite groans, the student writers doggedly write again, remembering the good stuff, of course, but writing a true second draft because they have been denied the first to mostly copy and happily have no choice.

Yes, Christina Olson, winner of one of Rattle‘s 2020 Chapbook Awards (for The Last Mastodon), writes something like this in her letter-as-poem (epistolary to you) to a loved one. Notice all the repetition in Part 2. Notice how it echos Part 1, only with the sound caroming off a different slant of cliff.

Maybe you like one letter more than the other. Or maybe hearing it twice in different versions presses home the importance of certain ideas and ways of putting them, another pay-off of this technique. It’s an exercise you can play, too. Check it out:

 

Reconstruction Errors, Part 1 & 2
Christina Olson

1.

All day I’ve tried & failed to write
this letter to you. Do we deserve anything
for our failings, our clumsy fumblings
in the dark? I have no excuse
for this dizziness, the sober way
I lurch from truth to truth.
The sky can’t decide between bruise
or blue; in this way, it is like the heart.
We were a long time ago, you & I—
we had all our original teeth. You sent
me a video of the lake, the rustle
of blue on the rocks. I weep because our dog
is dying, because I haven’t smelled
fresh water for such a long time.
That summer, I visited La Brea twice.
It gave my pain some geological perspective.
The surface of the tar pit shone
blue-black, reflected the sky, smelled
of street. But I forgot my science;
there are more predators than prey
in the pits, the bones dragged to the light.

2.

But I forgot my science: there are more predators
than prey in the pits, the bones dragged to the light—
original teeth. The surface of the tar pit
shone blue-black, reflected the smell of street.

You sent me a video of the lake, the rustle of blue
on the rocks. Do we deserve anything for our fumblings,
these clumsy failings in the dark? The sky can’t decide
between bruise or blue; in this way, it is like the heart.
I have no excuse for this dizziness, the sober way
I lurch from truth to truth. We were a long time ago,

you & I. That summer, I visited La Brea twice.
It gave my pain some geological perspective. I weep
because our dog is dying, because I haven’t smelled water
for such a long time. All day I’ve tried & failed.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *