Keisha-Gaye Anderson

the door

Drawing Room

January 4, 2014

It was a blustery, grey December morning, one of many recently that felt as if they ran together, punctuated only by strong coffee and shallow sleep.

After dropping my children at school, I braced myself against the cold and set out on my usual two-mile walk to work.

Predictably, my thoughts took off in several different directions at once, like a flock of birds fleeing gunfire.

Had I forgotten the after-school payment? What did a torn rotator cuff really feel like? Should I call the bank about the closing? When could I get Maya’s eyes checked? How serious should I take that cut-off notice from the utility company?

And there were other questions that I had stopped asking, which lived now only as occasional knots in my stomach. Why did I have to learn so much about cancer and watch it affect those I loved? Who was next?

I walked swiftly, staring at my phone, as I made a ‘to do’ list for my ‘to do’ list. After a few blocks, I was arrested by the faintest thread of a poem, skipping into my mind.

I stopped where I stood, as I always do in those moments, to effectively pull the words down, touch the greater part of myself, beyond definition or eyesight, yet more real than the frozen fingers typing those few lines of verse. It is this presence that reassures me that life is far more than just bodies in perpetual motion.

As I adjusted the bags sliding down my arm to hold the phone more firmly, I realized that I still had my daughter’s lunch box.

And just like that, the beautiful words vanished.

I sighed, turned around, walked the four blocks back to the school, climbed the four flights of stairs, and delivered the lunch that would probably only be poked at and then thrown away—but my name is mother; this is what I do. I took my time getting to work, knowing I would probably be there far too late. Again.

That morning was not remarkable. It had increasingly become that way—my tired body moving on autopilot, my thoughts racing ahead of my footsteps. An elaborate balancing act and tremendous amounts of energy, just to keep the plates spinning.

And it was now December. The pressure was mounting to categorize and tally new accomplishments for the year, as if to keep pace with the aging process. As my first mentor and teacher used to always say, "Writers write." They also need to feed children and live somewhere.

So. much. pressure.

I almost succumbed to the pressure, to the gravity of guilt about parent association meetings I’d missed, writing that never got past the inciting incident, the leaky roof that needed fixing.

I almost gave in to the momentarily soothing practice of making lofty ‘resolutions’ that would only hang like weights around my neck as the new year progressed. Everything would look good on paper. But how was I doing? How was I really doing?

Just then, my phone buzzed. It was my talented poet friend and fellow M.F.A. classmate JP Howard, confirming the date that I would host her Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon at my home. I always looked forward to this gathering of poets.

And it dawned on me: I would not make resolutions for 2014.

No more insane lists, busy work, or cyber connections that were like placebos for actual socializing. I needed a drawing room…to draw room for my real self to step out of a neatly built rut.

I needed camaraderie that would be nurtured in places like those storied gathering spaces, drawing rooms, salons, where women came together hundreds of years ago to share poetry and art, just for the hell of it.

I needed less Facebook and more face time with like minds and old friends, to feel their hugs, touch their jewelry, make eye contact, roll my eyes and suck my teeth to convey whole sentences, and have that be perfectly understood. This was important.

When the twenty-plus women gathered in my home for the salon the following week, led by the amazingly talented Kamilah Aisha Moon, I felt bright, inspired.

It was the hugs, the food, the laughter, the courageous sharing of honest and complex writing that brought me back to the space where the words gather in the ether around me and slip down into my mind’s eye, allowing me to speak the most positive expression of myself into being, and perhaps, helping others to do the same.

As JP explains, Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon (WWBPS) is “a forum offering women writers of all levels a venue to come together in a positive and supportive space to create, express and give voice to poetic works. The Salon’s mission is to bring together writers of all levels, to foster collaboration within the poetry community and to showcase the work of both emerging and established poets.”

Being ourselves together helped me to feel less alone. And for us artists, communities that validate our uniqueness are essential.

So, no resolutions as such. Just a commitment to be still and take more pleasure in the journey. Here’s to the new year—let’s enjoy it!

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