The Role of Accident in the Writing of a Poem

I had had this idea for a poem kicking around in my head for a couple of weeks but really left it till the last minute and got it written on the tram on the way to my poetry reading Monday night. Pressure means focus. This is good.
It’s a much darker piece than I usually write, but that’s O.K., a bit of dark among the rainbows and puppy dogs, some writers are constantly dark so it’s much appreciated when they have a moment of levity so I’m going the other way.
Anyway, it was handwritten, and I should add at this point that I have really bad handwriting. Always have had. It was a thing I was known for in elementary school, that my mother often commented on, that everybody who has ever seen it has commented on. That’s one reason I appreciate this modern world of ours, writing things out is becoming a thing of the past and my bad handwriting is not so much a factor as it once was, it’s certainly no bar to communication.
Here’s the poem, because the point of this story depends on it:

We are at a random place
in space and time, in time and space
and as we wander here and there
across this lovely planet’s face

We’re breathing in the sweet, sweet air
it doesn’t seem to be so rare
and it’s the same with time as well
it seems that there’s a lot to spare

But, beyond this fragile shell
is space, as cold and black as hell
Here, everything is nice and bright
but after that, we just can’t tell

As we stare out into the night
at emptiness, no end in sight
We know the nihilists are right
We know the nihilists are right

I got up to read it but in the first stanza, where I had written ‘this lonely planet’s face,’ in keeping with the dark tone, I read the n as a v and it came out of my mouth as ‘across this lovely planet’s face’ and it brought it back to sweetness and light for a second before that descent into the ‘we’re all going to die and none of it has any meaning’ ending, so as far as my overall body of work goes, it’s a bit of light in a dark piece in a light collection.
I’m taking it as an omen and leaving it this way, although it could have been the other and, in some alternative universe, undoubtedly is.


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