I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how they spend the day.
March 1, 2023: Cheryl Clark Vermeulen
Cheryl Clark Vermeulen and I had an event together in July in Provincetown. It was hot and humid, about to rain, but what fun to listen to her read from her poetry collection They Can Take It Out, which is divided into five parts—a first part missing a name, Thyroid and Other Matters (one long poem), Artgoing, The Almost, and Continue From Here.
In the long poem “Thyroid and Other Matters,” each page has plenty of white space and reads like a separate poem. There’s wordplay—endocrinologist and chronology, secrets and secretions. Page 11 begins with the title phrase, “They can take it out,” and offers an idea I’d never thought of—the idea of loving what’s missing, what’s gone, what was here but is no longer. It’s my favorite line in the collection.
To love the deletions.
Page 13 begins with, “After the diagnosis…”
After the diagnosis, her legs drag
secrets over the ground.
Some materials are being created in the world:
a body part newly grown (the heart valve)
and a cloak that can make someone invisible—
invisibility by redirecting the light.
On the ground, vomit or waterlogged woodchips.
A landscaping truck nearby narrows it to that of
woodchips, another deforested.
During a Californian wildfire, a family leaped
into a neighbor’s pool.
She’s exchanged runaway stories with herself.
Echoing a major theme of the collection, words are left out of this section of the poem, as they often are throughout the book. So the reader must make leaps. (And here on this page, there’s an actual leaping.) The missing words, ideas, and connective tissue give the reader work to do, and in that way, things are not just happening on the page but also inside us.
In the poem, “I Always Wanted To Be Somebody. I Should Have Been More Specific.,” lines attributed to Lily Tomlin, the first line is full of life and humor.
I must now stop liking things and go to bed.
In the poem, “An Unerring Stream Finds Trace Unerring Streams Find Traces,” there’s this gorgeous line.
Art is my favorite future.
The narrators in these poems eat egg salad sandwiches and find heart-shaped rocks at Herring Cove. These are our lives. There’s illness yes, but also, humor and hope.
For a poet’s take on this wonderful collection, click over to the Heavy Feather Review to read Anna Zumbahlen’s thoughts.
Cheryl is also the author of the chapbooks Dead Eye Spring and This Paper Lantern. She received an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems, translations, or poetry reviews have appeared in Caketrain, Drunken Boat, Jubilat, Tarpaulin Sky, and Third Coast, among others, and the anthology Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico. She edits poetry for Pangyrus literary magazine and teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where she founded the Creative Writing Minor.
Come back on MARCH 1st to read how CHERYL CLARK VERMEULEN spends her days.