On Endings

I was standing in line at the bank this morning when the end to my full-length manuscript galloped up from behind and whacked me so hard upside the head that I almost fell over. Hemmoraging, I pulled out my phone and ran to the bathroom, opening the microphone app to frantically record my thoughts for later. “She’s got to bury all of it…garble garble” (my words drowned out by the loud echo of a flushing toilet). Did I mention I bank at Walmart?

People love to picture writing as a solitary, quiet pursuit. When I was a child, I imagined writers—especially female writers—in a garden or attic office, paper in hand, staring wistfully off into space. But writing, for me, is often a cataclysmic affair. The ending for _exuviae_  appeared while I was pregnant with my son, when, during an ice storm, trying to drive my partner to work at 4 am, I lost control of my car and spun off the road. The final poem was there, waiting on the ice, snarling at me in the headlights. The conclusion of my first chapbook, Zoo for Well-Groomed Eaters,  scurried psychotically around the baseboards during a cold Ohio winter when the pipes in our rented house froze, our car broke down, and we worried we might starve. I became a forager of both food and words.

So here I am, home from the bank, on my couch, and I’ve written down my ending, which I’m sure I’ll edit and clip and re-work over and over until it’s exactly right. The final product will become controlled and graceful, but the impulse was far less pretty and far more feral. I know I’m not alone in this. Not everyone’s muse is well-groomed. Many muses are angry and unpredictable and will jumble up your day, and that’s just part of the process for some.


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