I am not a poet, and not sure I agree with Billy Collins’ self-effacing comment that, when you spend most of your time writing poems, you find the poems come almost unbidden.
What I know is I just read “Say What You Want” by Sherri blogging @edifiedlistener. That is poetry, and powerful. She uses the repetitive phrase, to great effect: What I want to say.
What I want to say is no, and not have it hurt you, not to have you upset with me, who cannot be you hearing my refusal. How will it land? What I struggle to say is no.
When you asked me to teach swimming lessons with you this summer—just like in the old days when we were just fresh from college and days at the public pool with those tadpoles and sharks were followed by nights on the town—I was caught up in the enthusiasm that you bring to every new adventure. Life is an adventure, always has been for you, and that speaks to me. Your river of reasons swept me away.
Today, though, I’m standing on the shore watching, out of that current, and I’m saying no. I have yet to tell you, so I’m shivering a bit…the chill, the loss of sparkle as a cloud obscures the reflective surface.
My no comes from this truth, which is honest but maybe not complete: the water, swimming, has become something I do for me. I make time for it apart from my life as a substitute, because those laps, that ritual, is all mine. If I take up teaching once again, it becomes different. As enticing as the vision of us in tandem teaching again is, it will become work…and I do love my work. But I do not want to surrender my time in the pool to it, not now.
So what I want to say is no. And when the day beckons, wide awake, I will.