Poetry for Side A: “Dear Cut-Glass” by William Erickson

Dear Cut-Glass,

It’s been longer
than I thought
this trail of blood
would go, but
the mountain is
so much smaller
at its peak than
when we drew
those pictures
into the dust
on your windshield.
Do you still have it,
the baby we made
from all those
leftover dinner
Remember, we
named it Alice and
called your parents
with the news but
no one answered.
The sky is falling
is a thing we’d say
when it was the only
thing that wasn’t.
How in the thick
of it we’ve gotten,
how frightened awake
by our own restarting pulses.
Isn’t this the way
we’re told to grow,
by holding ever so softly
to the last of our
parts going quiet?

Mini-interview with William Erickson

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

WE: Standing in front of a moderately-sized group of people in Washington State University’s beautiful library in Pulman, WA (the largest crowd by far I’d ever read to), preparing to share an excerpt from a short memoir featured in their lit journal, sweating too much and running through a rapid inner monologue about how I’m maybe the least interesting person in the room, I notice that a lot of people have copies of the journal open to the title page of my story. I notice that a lot of people were waiting very intently to listen. I notice as I scan the audience mid-sentence that people are focused on the words, nodding sometimes, like they’ve been there, like they know what I’m saying.

I think I realized that what we like about stories—whether they come as poems or novels or images or whatever—is that they help us understand who we are. It’s cheesy, even cliché, I know. But seeing all those people relating to this little unremarkable bit of my life helped me overcome the notion that writing has to be about some profound and profoundly unique event. I was able to jettison a good bit of anxiety about writing once I discovered that. Plenty of other anxieties persist, but losing that one has sort of freed me to dwell on and explore and celebrate the joyful little monotonies—and that, in turn, has helped me understand a little better that art is an expression of how an artist could see a world, or understand a world, or attempt to fit into a world.

HFR: What are you reading?

WE: I’m currently (at the time of this writing) reading Leyna Krow’s I’m Fine, But You Appear to Be Sinking (from Featherproof Books), and I’ve been really into hours inside out by Isabella Preisz (Not a Cult Media), and a lot of stuff that Not a Cult is putting out right now in general. Lovability from Emily Kendal Frey (Fonograf Editions) is a beautiful work I’ve been returning to. Dalton Day, Jenny Zhang, Stephanie Adams-Santos, just so much top-shelf poetry out there I could go forever. Oh, and I’m so, so excited for Julie Doxsee’s forthcoming work from Black Ocean. In a different vein, I suppose, I’ve also been revisiting a lot of Howard Zinn’s work. His voice is as relevant now as it ever has been. Was that rambling? That was rambling. I rambled.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “Dear Cut-Glass”?

WE: Hmm, I want to be careful not to lead too much here, but “Dear Cut-Glass” is kind of an epitaph, I think. I wrote it while at a wedding in Alaska, watching a brief snow put a skiff all over the little wrought-iron archway that would soon stand over this lovely little agreement between two people, and in a way I saw this beautiful beginning as a sort of beautiful ending also, with all these hopes and confidences simultaneously being transacted into and away from the world. Maybe that sounds bleak, but it’s not. It was lovely.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

WE: “Dear Cut-Glass” is one of the pillar poems of a manuscript I’m preparing to put up for adoption very soon. So that’s receiving a lot of my attention right now. But I’m always focused on making new poems—there’s always a chapbook in the back of my mind. And trying to share as much as I can and learn as much as I can in the process of sharing. I want to just keep exploring where my intuition takes me, the styles and subjects and songs it reaches for. And make books. I want to make books of poems.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

WE: First, I’m deeply honored to have the privilege of sharing my words with people at all. It’s just damn amazing and humbling that I get a voice, and it’s a responsibility I hope to bear gracefully and graciously when it’s given me, because a hell of a lot of people who deserve the floor aren’t afforded opportunities to take it.

There’s so much going on, and all of it is systemic and devastatingly important and it’s daunting. I think the easiest and best thing I can say is to be a nice human to those who deserve it. Try to understand people who are hurting. Perspective is important and so is being self-aware, learning your own biases before pointing at other people’s, taking someone’s pain seriously because it’s fucking theirs and not yours.

Look at the world—it’s pretty clear what’s destroying it and us. Do less of that stuff when and where you can.

Wave to dogs when you see them.  

William Erickson is a poet and memoirist from the Vancouver, Washington. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in West Branch, Bear Review, GASHER, The Wax Paper, and numerous other pubs. He is the author of a chapbook, Monotonies of the Wildlife (FLP). William writes in the company of his wife and his two rescued pups.

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