Jonelle Strickland

Do you recall learning to walk? Talk? Let’s go further back. Cry? Do you remember learning how to do that? You must have learned it quickly, some doctors suggest maybe even in the womb. Curled up inside your mother’s body, which for you was just a bunch of lights and darks thrown together in the spin cycle, you practiced chewing on that nub that appeared near your face in a jerky way, but sometimes even though you knew that you wanted to practice on it, it was gone. Not even the nub to a nub. And you cried. You must have.

I don’t always remember the reasons, but maybe that’s not important; maybe what is important is that something is always missing. Like a treasure hunt. Each clue fills you up with victory–yes, look what I’ve got; I can even hold it up in my hand higher than all of the other kids who didn’t find it first, but if you let yourself dwell on it, which for a kid is the time scale of a fly, you begin to feel the paper’s lightness more than its existence as a platform for you to climb, and soon the words that your mother or father or cousin or cousin brother has scribbled across it will cease to be chanted in the air as you collectively scramble, one primitive herd of overalls, to unearth the next clue. After all, there is always a next. And an after. Another.

Why do we bother to dwell on what’s been written at all, if it’s never good enough? I think every writer must come to this junction, if not more than once. What am I missing when I am dwelling? Why am I dwelling so much? Wouldn’t life be easier or better, or at least wouldn’t everyone else’s be better if I could plug all of this energy into their lives more directly? I could light up their hearts with my deeds, not my words. God, why must we these words always chase?–I cannot tell you how many times I have peeked through a window into the soul, only that it is often. More often than not, the way out of a down note has not been the up note, but what was written, or told, or sung, about either note that shed light on its existence before I knew how to look for it and want it, or recoil from it and want more not of the same.

I suppose some of us, maybe even all of us, learn it in the womb, how to write out our cries. How to ask for our needs, not always met, to be noticed. We notice things first, and we seldom forget them.