Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where does your writing take you?

     When I began nanowritmo (that write a novel in November free for all) I had a vague notion I'd be writing about Colombia.  Instead I find myself in the complexities of a father daughter relationship in a small American city.  What happened?  There is no real control over the writing process; it leads you.  You may nudge it but it has its own life full of surprises.
    Then I'm left with the question- when will I ever write about my year in Medellin?  There is a surfeit of material- the Latin boyfriend, the violence in the streets, and the extremes of wealth and poverty.  The list goes on.  This was my own "year of living dangerously" or stupidly as I could say, years later, looking back.  Why did I ever go to Medellin to teach English at the height of the drug lords' power?  It wasn't like I hadn't done some research so there are no excuses.
     I went to South America expecting Europe.  The first awakening came at the airport in an enormously long line of passengers transporting TV's and anything else that might fit onto a plane.  A guy next to me launched into how thieves cut fingers off to steal rings and how they could be identified by their bloody pockets where they'd stuck the fingers.
     Next the school, a binational center, picked me up from the airport in a bulletproof car.  That should have been a clue.
    In my year in Medellin I saw a motorcycle shooting (it supposedly cost $50 to have someone shot), the glass out of the lobby of my apartment building shot out, I had to get under a table in a restaurant because of shooting, and I watched tanks drive up the street where I worked. Excellent fodder for writing. 
     Yet there was an enormous beauty in the landscapes.  Driving down the mountain roads to the city, the city glittered in the night.  I had a fantastic set of friends- we cooked French meals, hiked, and read poetry together. 
      So much more to tell- the friend's brother who was addicted to crack (bazuko in those days) and stole everything in her house, and another friend's house with her deceased brother's room preserved as if he were still alive.  My dear friend Patricia with her gorgeous smile, Lai Yin from Malaysia and our meals together talking for hours. So against that backdrop of fear and violence, there was a great deal of love.
     One day perhaps I will tell those stories, but not yet.  Here is a poem from those days....

Santa Fe de Antioquia

The smell of decaying fruit hangs
in the hot sun,
A green as strong
I´d never seen
in years of temperate moderation.

Ceilings beyond reach
in a room very old,
matching the inhabitants
busily fashioning
caskets out of wood,
the family trade.

Neatly stacking them
just beyond the bedroom
where I sleep in coolness,
for babies, tiny and white,
for adults several wait.

This night double church bells
announce another lost.
Bats flutter, then
rest flat
           blotting out paradise in palm trees.

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