“Ingredients” appears in Issue 44.
Have other people swept their floors with such desperation that they’ve broken their brooms? Maybe. But I might not know that unless I admit that I’ve done it multiple times. This is one of the gifts of poetry for me: when I bring these truths to the page I feel less alone.
In recovery, I’ve heard the phrase “everything I’ve let go has my claw marks all over it.” This feels true to me. I am always writing about my failed attempts to control my life—in my paid work, in my home, and in my leisure activities. The image of the broken brooms seemed to encapsulate this perfectly, and when I started there, several other examples emerged. My struggle with fertility forced me to face my deep resistance to surrender, and many of the poems I wrote during that time turned toward this subject whether I wanted them to or not. The poem wants what it wants, independent of what I want it to be.
I typically write first drafts freehand in my notebook without worrying about form. Typing is the first step of the revision process for me, and this helps me find the form organically. As this poem was evolving, I liked the list feel of the short lines and tercets and the way this form supported the content. Initially, this poem was entitled “Sweeping,” but I quickly learned that this title wasn’t serving the poem. My first draft also included an epigraph, but when I transcribed the poem from my notebook, it was clear that it wasn’t adding anything.
I’m grateful to have trusted poet siblings scattered across the country who help guide my poems to their final form. Mónica Gomery, whose gorgeous book Might Kindred recently won the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize, provided her thoughts on an early draft of this poem. I am indebted to Mónica for her suggestion of the title “Ingredients” as well as the final line. My graduate school professor, Sharon Bryan, urged me to practice origami editing. At times cutting the first and last lines can reveal the true start and finish of the poem. Mónica helped me recognize this was the case here, and her keen eye ushered this final draft into existence.