You hold in your hands an outdated letter — a time capsule from the days before everything changed. As you read this, almost certainly my wife will have given birth to our second daughter, Fiona, and I will be swimming again in the wearying whirlwind of late-night diaper changes and early-morning tantrums — the never-ceasing reel of demands and dangers. My brain is scrambled. Like eggs. So scrambled I can’t help but mix a metaphor or two.
Typically I struggle with getting this letter down to 500 words. I write a longer version and hammer at those words, clean them up, chip at them, even abuse them if necessary until what’s left fits on the page. At times I feel more like a puzzle-maker than a writer. For this issue, 500 seemed daunting. I had to wait for these words, patiently, keeping an empty notebook near the teapot and eyeing it now and then, wondering when I would find myself at that infamous minute known as The Very Last.
In December, I started reading the poetry of Tom Sexton, to whom I was introduced by the profile beginning on page 72. His simple forms yield complex results — bare shadows explode into rivers containing stars. Here is everything: birth, death, love, growing old; a sense of what matters fading into myth according to the powers of memory and language.
Unlike Sexton, I can’t conjure a counterpart from the Tang dynasty for an evening of chanting and wine drinking. I have to remain silent as the facts present themselves. After all, I am writing in a transition period. Momentous shifts have been happening at home and in our Methuen offices. This past October, the team behind mvm launched a national publication, The Bean Magazine, which is now available in bookstores and coffee shops from Lowell to Los Angeles. Hello, America.
Only in rare moments can I wander with the poets, plucking the silver apples of the moon or riding celestial dolphins above frosted mountain peaks. Me? I have an inbox overfilled, and have seen the movie “Sing” with my 18-month-old daughter many more times than I’ve watched my favorite films.
I plan out dinners based on a frantic calculus: What results can I achieve in what time using what method: Instant Pot, rice cooker, oven, grill? What dish will require the least effort to clean? What will appeal to wife and babe but sate my own hunger? You can imagine: Cooking for my family and editing a magazine have much in common.
On a Sunday before deadline, my clock ticking audibly, I sat down to write. My wife and daughter were visiting family. I kept my phone close by, waiting for the call telling me that I was needed at Lowell General. For now, it was all waiting as the rain cracked against the gutters and a trio of chipmunks hurried to complete their labors before the return of the winter snow.