What Does It Mean To Write

What Does It Mean To Write

We reach, at first, slowly moving fingers,

Plays poetry and prose
We write,
Pieces shared, never shared,

Confined in close drawers

Combined with music and movement

   Every morning we write, 

With sun rising rays radiating into late evenings

   Must be silence still and yellow darkness 

whenever it comes    we write,

Raining days, middle march mornings,    weary afternoons,

Hot August evenings,    in brass beds,

On wobbling kitchen tables

On desks of dark mahogany, in loud bright buses

At dusk,   in musty country libraries,

On the edge of city bathtubs,

On napkins in hospital cafeterias,

On snowy nights in Vermont villages,

On assembly lines


   I scratched


   With a knife

   Into cardboard.

We write, all the precious time,

And sometimes,

   Not at all.


   Years pass

   And nothing comes

   Forth from our fingertips.

We are shut underneath a trapped door.



Or just gone.

Somewhere where the self is no more.

  1. It’s 1980

   And I’ve come from Lydia,

Lydia Lydia, O Lydia,

Away from five years of rural living

Knowing one other woman who wrote.

Lydia, Lydia, who wrote highly structured poetry

And obscure short stories

About an enormous woman who got stuck in chairs
always humiliated, Lydia, 

Her mother her mother her mother was a writer

She remembered sitting

Upon her mother huge cushioned bed

A small child

Listening listening listening to her
Read read read her glistening glistening poetry.

In her memory her mother’s voice like snowflakes

Coming down through a shining light at night.

Her mother died a few years ago growths overnight

All over her smooth once smooth delicate soft skin Growing like parasitic fungi and quickly she died

She died as if in a race and in reaction to some action

Lydia Lydia, O Lydia, in your stories you were stripping yourself down, thin to begin with, slowly unloading a very heavy burden with in your craft.

  1. Yes, I come from Lydia,

I come physically, away, from, Lydia,

But to what to what to what to what do I come,

What does it mean, to write,

What the hell does it mean, to write?

Our stories are of living, it means simply living

All the while setting senses down with words widening 

Making marking making marking whole

Telling truths,   it means truth,

It means in Nazi concentration camps

   They immediately killed



   With scraps of their own writing,

   For this reason,

It means writing because you write

Could not stop,


It means with attention in-attention taking pencil taking Pen pen pencil in hand

Placing keys under fingers

Paper — white yellow green onionskin cream

It means making tangible for another

A cold shower or sweet, the taste of an orange.

It means listening listening listening to that voice

Those whispers no one else hears

Those shadows no one else sees,

   It means

Listening listening listening,

To everything.

Then, it’s not about having time season reason license

Not a room of one’s own

Not even a space of one’s own

Sometimes just a box with holes for air,

A toilet seat,

A bathroom with a door.


It means being a writer,

Writing through it all,

Or not writing,

   But coming back

   Always back

To this first and forever lover

   Who is always


For us.

 Being a writer means sanding like an intricate sculpture Shaping into words our living our lives it means impact It means having power    power over what was before The unnamable, unspeakable.

It means work work work work creating a new a new

A new world,   a new universe,

A forest from one seed

An ocean from one river

A continent from one mountain

It means chaos becomes light

It means being a writer

It means simply writing writing writing writing.


What Does It Mean To Write  © Susan Lynn Gesmer, Written, early 1981, edited December 2015/November 2017.

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