Even after all these years, I feel that way when I publish a piece of writing online. Oh, it looks real enough, but when I turn away from the screen and back to my workroom full of books, some of them hundreds of years old, I swear I can hear the beating of wings.
Back home, my great-grandparents’ barn was a cathedral of light and sense and sound. I’ll never forget, as a child looking up, the fleeing of pigeons into the sunlight through holes in the roof. Little did I know, the living image of that experience would come to symbolize an act I’d repeat thousands of times as I commit poem after poem, note after note, story after story, to a world I can imagine and magically traverse, and even love, but never really see — except that I do see it, because this electronic experiment is but another facet of ourselves, our activity and yearning in another dimension.
I do not know what will become of the work I publish online. I do not know what will become of the books I have published. I do not expect ever to know. I do not try to know. I am too busy listening, and then rising to answer the call.
Do you know? Not about mine, but about your own. Do you worry? Do you care? Or do you simply let it go?
Each time I ask myself when I became a writer, I give a different answer. I was writing notes to myself and hiding them when I was ten. Once on the farm, when I was twelve, I wrote something on a small piece of scrap paper, and then tore it up and buried it. I remember it so clearly that, if it were possible for us to go there, I could show you exactly where to dig. And it would still be there. And I would be embarrassed by what it says.
When I was fifteen, I wrote a poem for my father that made him cry — my father, strong as a bull, more than two hundred pounds with hairy chest and arms, fierce, good, honest, and a proud descendant of the heroes of yore. What did that moment do to us? I have been trying to understand it ever since.
And where is that piece of writing? Like him, gone, gone, gone.