Waiting for me to finish folding, she
read Southern Living, spun her cane.
If she wanted help she would ask, I supposed,
but I told her anyway out of the goodness
of my guilt,
Ma’am these dryers are empty,
pointing to the top row. She looked up from her
magazine. I could see the starburst of blue
spider-webbed across her forehead.
She stopped spinning and spoke, I can’t reach
those, she said, I’ve got a problem
with my equilibrium.
What I might have said was Don’t we all,
but instead I nodded, looked at the floor, helped
haul her wet sweat-suits to the dryers, apologizing
for not doing so earlier, whole time thinking
how lucky I was
that I never saw my mother reach
that age, how she would do laundry downstairs
in the room with the window that looked out
onto my childhood,
the lake that would freeze
past the docks during winter, and I’d walk
to the brink, lie down on the ice and dip
my hand in the water, feel the cold
on my stomach, flat and solid, but shifting.
— Luke Johnson
from After the Ark
I'm still a bit tipsy, climbing out of the Fishtrap fog. While I've been to several writing workshops, I've never spent a week with so many good people producing so much good work.
It wasn't just the headliners — such as Pico Iyer and Gary Ferguson — sharing strong, inspired work. It wasn't just the faculty — poets Henry Hughes and Myrlin Hepworth, novelists Karen Fisher and Rosanne Parry, for example. Or the Fellows, Patricia Bailey, Nicole Cullen, Angela Penaredondo and Luke Johnson (the poem above is from his just-published book).
The beauty of the Fishtrap experience, the magic it's often called (yes, I too, once rolled my eyes at this blissed-out description), was that for one absorbed, saturated week all of us generated fresh work together.
Immersion in reading, writing and words, without distraction or interruption, is a rare thing. And though the experience can be a bit exhausting, as I re-enter the "real world" of laundry, bills and everyday obligations, I increasingly value the people, words, ideas, books — and yes, magic — that was enjoyed, gathered, and carried home.
Do you attend writing workshops?
What workshops have you enjoyed, and why?