THE NUMBER ONE RULE

My husband and I are in the same MFA program; both enrolled in the poetry genre. At our first residency, a faculty member mentioned that the only other couple they knew enrolled in an MFA program together had gotten a divorce during their stint. Well, I thought, we’re different. In a low-residency, there’ll be some semblance of normalcy since we’ll be going about our everyday lives—that's what I thought before my husband-poet was called up for active duty in the Middle East.
            Like Raven in northwest coast mythology, war tricked us and came through the smoke hole in our house. “Normal” was a video conversation on Skype every few days—when the Internet worked—or a phone call once a week. My husband was a medical officer for the U.S. Coast Guard’s combat unit, the PSU 311 out of San Pedro, California.
I figured there was hope for ending the war if we could sneak in a poet or two. When I packed my husband’s books into his duffle bag, I included a copy of Here Bullet by Brian Turner along with other required readings. During a Skype conversation, I asked my husband if he was writing about war and he said he’d written down some notes, which were evolving into a poem, something about mass casualty drills. His mentor during that time was poet Linda McCarriston.
Myself, I’ve begun to write poems about the experience of being a new military wife. I wrote a poem about the first dream I had the night my husband left for Kuwait. I dreamed Godzilla charged after him spewing smoke and fire trying to kill him. I was hopeful that when he returned from war, we'd have many poems to share with one another. Now, that he's been back a year, our poems are still emerging. Sometimes we share them, other times we talk around them. But every morning we start the day with writerly shop-talk. In our marriage we've always had this one rule: during morning coffee, we can only talk about writing. During his stint in the Middle East, we substituted another number one rule: Come home alive.

Comments

Toni said…
Ah, to have a husband that understands one's art. Not that I don't love mine dearly, but he really doesn't get it most of the time. Recently, and in light of my near completion of the MFA, he suggested that I, "Hurry up and write a novel. We could use the money."

Thanks for this touching post, Vivian. Hi to Howie!
Anne Caston said…
I am heartened to hear that the two of you speak together at breakfast about writing, but even more heartened to hear that you changed that to "COME HOME ALIVE" when he was at war. You are saner than most writers I know, Vivian.
Caroline Gill said…
I came to your blog via a conversation thread on LinkedIn. My husband and I both write poems. I went to a brilliant workshop led by Brian Turner here in our Swansea Dylan Thomas Centre, shortly after 'Here, Bullet' came out. Humans have written about war almost before the days when they could write (think Homer and the aural ring-cycles). However, knowing and someone engaged in conflict must be so very different for you. Thank you for sharing your story.

Popular Posts