My mother said, “Paul, she can’t help it. You can’t choose when inspiration strikes. If the poem comes to her at midnight, why, then she has to get up and write at midnight.” Her default laugh was both deep and forced; it represented not amusement but a choice of how to encounter a largely disappointing life.
I was in the eighth grade. My room in our ranch house in Phoenix had blue ruffles and quilted pink roses. I sat with an Esterbrook pen at the white pickled desk in the bay window that also contained my mother’s New Home sewing machine.