Photo by Nihal Demirci Erenay
Because I Cannot Samba All Day Long
Creative Nonfiction Essay
I write because I need to build a wall of words around my essence. Writing defines my “self” in contrast to the outer world. Scripted words trace the limits of who I am at the moment of writing. Like skin, a wall of words is permeable. It allows elements from beyond to enter through holes in its logic. If I myself have engineered such holes, I’ve done so in the way of an idiot savant. No matter. Without the holes, I’d never grow. As elements seep in through the barrier’s pores, my essence expands and bursts out of its fortifications. Then, I write a new wall.
I write because I crave a language to translate the music of weather blowing through me. I must add lyrics to the warbling inner winds. Otherwise, their song is too haunting. When thunder clashes like cymbals around my heart, writing gives voice to their temper. The disconcertment of mists and rains and squalls that constitute daily existence would leave me befuddled without words to score their symphony. As delightfully lofty as the chorus of my mind’s cumuli, I am addicted to tethering them to tales. Narration harmonizes nature’s cacophony with my inner ear. So I must write.
I write because I cannot sing. If music tunnels us to infinity, I will chant words down a page. Notes of my poetry weave endless portals. Writing words on a page is the closest I can come to inhabiting a song with my voice. I flick prose from the tongue like a chanteuse savors her lyrics. Because I cannot belt the blues or croon a bossa nova, I write.
I write because I cannot samba all day long. Words can dance across a page. I might as well let them hurl me into partnered jetes. Who doesn’t wish to tango with language when rehearsal, revision, replay are all yours? Writing is a salsa with an invisible partner. It may leave me bereft of breath, but it keeps me guessing. Writing lets me cha-cha with mystery. You may call me out for backleading, but my soul would fall to ash without regular frolics down the page.
I write to map the world. What is real? What is true? Where are the sugar castles and candy lands? I need to write to discern fact from fiction. Writing has shown me that there may be more reliable truth in the imagined and that memory is tantamount to imagination. While writing, I am at least partly cognizant that truth is a moving target and objectivity a specious notion at best. Still, I find the blueprints helpful even if they show where the roof of reality may come crashing on my head. As ignominious as it may be, I am glad to have the tools to draw new closets I can hide in. As well, I cheer at scripting the plans for this ship of life while I sail it.
I write because I need to pray and have no god. Or maybe because I need a god or a goddess but cannot fathom one. I know enough to worship mystery deep and great. Each writing session is like entering a temple of mystery. The pieces rendered are like psalms to the unknown. Writing is my way to worship. To prod at mystery. Pick it up. Caress it. Cast myself under its awesome shadow and bask in its luminosity. Anyway, I yearn to confer ultimate or momentary or renovating meaning upon this existence for myself. Writing is a way to become more than a sack of blood and skin chomping her way through a life. It is a way to add up to more than the sum of my biology, my sociology, my responsibility. It is a discipline that allows me to craft my life into a work of art. It is my psalm. My song. My solace.
And that is why I write
Tamra Plotnick’s poetry and prose works have been published in many journals and anthologies, including: Serving House Journal; The Waiting Room Reader, Global City Review and The Coachella Review. Her poetry collection In the Zero of Sky will be published imminently by Assure Press; she is working on a novel. She has performed her work in multimedia shows at a range of venues in New York City where she lives. She dances samba and raqs sharki, teaches high school, and dilly-dallies with friends and family when not writing.