The general pattern, lithe-unfolded, slow, gradual, grand . . .
Iused to think “how sad,” maybe even “how pathetic,” our small lives in houses or apartments, with children or not, and each morning everyone putting on clothes, working their jobs, buying their food. That everyone loved their days or didn’t, and kept on anyway seemed a trick, an ambush—a newsreel might have called it the “promise of progress,” when really such living looped like a trolley circling a town, the tracks rounded and bright with wear. Or worse still was a far-off, aerial view of the circuit, showing no seasonal displays in shop windows, no passing faces reflected in glass, surprised by the workings of age or desire. Even before any real sense of routine kicked into motion for me—the kind of routine a child thrives on—most forms of repetition felt like a trap. Everyone’s life precious to them seemed to me a sort of defeat, a placation, the phrase itself a patronizing pat on the head.
Yet a day unhitched from the orderly currents of morning, noon, evening—how silly and vain, makeshift and slight that would be.
In place of accepting a conventional day, or making one up on my very own terms, what did I want? Meaning imparted from somewhere on high, say a steep, backlit cliff with a windy voice that led to an edge where I’d stand and face off with the queasiness?
Lia Purpura is the author of eight collections of essays and poems, most recently It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). She is Writer in Residence at the University of Maryland and teaches in the low residency MFA program at the Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington.