This is partly in response to the weekly prompt at We Write Poems, but I’d been toying with it for at least a month already. The poem text is below the video, as well as process notes.
When the nurses wheeled you away
on the shuddering gurney, your simple body
steering down the corridor, your toes
pointing back at me like a little constellation
of stars, you gestured a goodbye
I didn’t recognize until later, and it was like
you’d already died, and I’d missed my chance
to honor that soft instant of your disappearance,
like a pilgrim slipping over a dark border.
And I realized I’d spent my life in avoidance
of such moments, never traveled with you
to the airport, or stood on a porchfront waving,
or looked in the rearview mirror while you stood
on a porchfront, waving. And that now
I’m more than halfway through my life,
and perhaps have done the most I can
of sweeping aside the crawling hours
forward towards conclusion, the end
not what I expected – no black bag of bones,
no hissing river spitting on an empty shore –
just a dusty shelf where your photographs
are stored, a dog-eared ottoman where I rest
my feet when I get home alone at the ebb
of another gentle, merciless afternoon.
Notes: My limitations – no decent video camera with which to film my own footage, my lack of decent video editing software, my iPhone Voice Changer app as my only source of recording audio – are starting to effect my level of satisfaction with the final product. Perhaps it’s time to get down to business and commit to learning new things, but for now, please forgive the highly pixielated spots in the video and go with the concept of it.
Finding the footage for this one was a bit of a bear, as it always is at the Internet Archives because their method of categorizing and organizing material doesn’t work with my brain. I found the video of Saunders dancing first, and “Romance Sentimentale” came along a few days later. Once I had those two pieces it was just a matter of splicing them together. Music was another matter, as I changed my mind twice when putting the visuals together, then two more times when I layered the poem audio over that.
Recording the audio was time-consuming, because this is a longer poem than I normally take on; as always I created the video first then fit the poem to the footage, and then recorded my reading in one take while watching the visuals to fit the poem into them. That doesn’t sound too hard until you screw up ten or fifteen times, or read the whole poem before realizing you forgot to hit ‘record.’ I’ve found that splicing together different readings or sections sounds uneven, so I always start completely over when I screw up. EVEN SO – I realized this morning I left out an entire line. It’s in the text, but I tried to splice it into the audio and it sounded out of place, so that line is just gone for now. It works without it anyway, even though I’d prefer it stay in there – I just wasn’t up to recording the whole poem again.