Last week, Connie invited me to speak to her Club on March 1st, filling in for the originally scheduled speaker. (Thank you, Connie.)

I offered several topics that are ready on the shelf — and one that might be fun, from scratch. Connie chose the unwritten essay, “Delegation Nation: A Call For Citizen Poets.”

The title — and Connie’s selection — sparked my writing last Thursday at 2 a.m. When the ideas are awake, I get up and write — otherwise I don’t remember them all, or fear that I have forgotten, or look at the note pad beside my bed and can’t decipher what I’ve written in the dark.

After the ideas were noted, only minutes had passed. I finished fixing my tea and wrote the following poem. A few days later, I presented a draft of this poem to Beth at our Poetry Circle (you are invited). Beth said that this was a markedly different poem from me: more in the moment, more acrobatic. I agree: not the usual pre-meditated screed.

See you on March 1st, Connie. And to the readers of Net Cotton Content, I will post the essay here, too.

Now the poem.


First, a kettle of water
on the smallest burner,
to stall the boil,
an infusion of leaves 
in the mug at the ready
— the naturally sweet tea
from the Aveda salon,
where I last delegated
the styling of my father’s hair.

Thé réconfortant sans caféine
of licorice root and peppermint,
the only responsible delight
at this time, the middle of the night,
just barely late enough 
to rise and call it early,
to slip into the elegant robe
my mother sewed for my father,
our shared initials,
embroidered on the breast pocket.

I go to work with pen and paper,
not a pencil, use the ink, don’t go back,
like my friend’s father on Metro North 
who would start the Times crossword
as the doors closed on 125th Street 
and finish upon arrival at Grand Central.

I scribble against the rush of forgetting
the ideas for the essay — the attempt — 
the rockslide of the night’s sleep, 
scrambling to stay atop, 
not buried in the juggle of stones,
chopping and throwing onto the pile, 
for the daytime work of sorting and placing
each in the river for crossing with you, 
some stable enough for stepping,
some too small, 
some unnecessary 
because the river is only so wide.
I couldn’t sleep 
with so many stones in the bed. 
Now they are sorted, stacked, 
and stored in my journal.

Perhaps I’ll return to bed, 
awake with the thought 
I would be better rested 
if I enjoyed more sleep, 
and I could delegate my sleep 
to someone who does it better, 
off-shoring or cross-mattressing 
to my beloved 
always fast to sleep 
and fast asleep now.

But now the kettle calls 
and I will rest 
with a mug of sweet salon tea.