What’s the project?

I had a wonderful dance teacher who would show us the proper form or gently correct our alignment and say, “That’s the project.”

Now I have a manuscript that I’ve been working on for more than five years. Okay, that’s the project–but what is it? It began as a chapbook, it became a full-length book, then a mashup of two projects, then I removed the poems from the second project, then I started taking poems out, all the while writing new poems for it, and turned it back into a chapbook–with a big stack of leftover poems, three title changes, and lots of contest rejections. I’ve loved it, I’ve hated it, I’ve been embarrassed, excited, and sometimes ready to bury it in the digital basement and focus on the next thing.

For the moment, I’m happy with the manuscript, and I’ve sent it out to a couple of places. But the other evening while cooking dinner I started to thing about those abandoned poems, how I could re-envision them, tie them essentially to the heart of what this manuscript is now, and add them back in. From this musing:

The book is a lung, inhales
to fifty, sixty pages,
sighs out to twenty-five,
a dream thinning past
phantom windows the alley light
paints on the night’s wall.
I say book and mean manuscript
breathing in again–it was love
in the galleries, love and palm trees,
love with gnocchi, love when it sprawled
after the afternoon Champagne,
sheets carefree on the floor, love
when it caught my throat.
It was tickets and take offs, road trips
and running through stations.
For a good year, it was not good,
and then it was back to love
which is to say popcorn with butter
and truffle salt, steak dinner in the dark,
vodka tonics by the pool,
the sun sweat skinness inspiring
deeply three more poems
as love arrives like a train
in the desert, the air soaked with it.