I was on a short retreat last week in Homer with 2 friends who I’ve shared writing with for 30 years. One morning did a writing prompt after reading a poem by David Ignatow. We chose a word or idea from his poem and wrote our own. The line I chose said, “When I die I want it to be said that I wasted hours feeling absolutely useless and enjoyed it, sensing my life more strongly than when I worked at it.” Here is what came to me.
Feeling absolutely useless
is not the void I thought would arise,
not the dark canyon where I would
have to crane my neck up to regard
my failings and tryings
and sink down to my knees in regret.
There comes a funny freedom now
not expected but intriguing,
like tentatively having a conversation with
a new person who might become a friend.
I feel my limbs grow longer feeling useless,
as if they could drag down to forever and
just dangle there, swinging, keeping time
with a new rhythm of soul.
Feeling useless chops off any need anymore
to be responsible to or responsible for or responsible
of all those things I was told to honor or respect
or most of all not question, even a little bit.
I’m lounging inside being useless, stretched
out on a chaise of my long ignored timelessness
if I’m of no use, perhaps I will be used by
that thing called grace, used up of all volition,
just suspended, just watching the trees, counting
leaves. I have never
But long ago I would kneel close to the ground
and spend hours looking for a four leaf clover,
getting distracted with bugs who wandered by
or giving up and turning on my back,
out of luck, looking at clouds.
It was a useless thing I later learned to spend a day
this way. There were chores to do, beans to walk,
hay to bale, feed to grind, pigs to sort, cattle to feed,
eggs to wash, fences to build, fences to repair, tires to
change, manure to scoop. So useful I was.
But in this getting older time, as I slide to things more
youthful inside, I want to take up the art of being
useless again. My hands growing softer, my eyes focused
on the thing right before my eyes and the time without
Feeling useless, feeling a languid freedom, feeling
A rewrite coming, a new draft, a blank page.