Introduction to “The Outlets”, KIMBERLY GERRY TUCKER

Note from the Editors: Kimberly Gerry Tucker chose to share this wonderful explanation and insight into her process behind writing her poem which appears in Issue 3 today, “The Outlets“.

by Kimberly Gerry Tucker

Carry around a magnifying glass all day and aim it at everything and nothing in particular. (No focus.) But what happens when it’s placed directly in the path of hot sunlight and purposefully aimed at dry leaves: they catch fire.

“If you chase two rabbits you will not catch either one.” — Gary Keller, author.

Slow down, Kim. Try not to be so scattered, I would tell myself. In the writing of my 2012 book “Under The Banana Moon,” I purposefully focused my lens; or my “turning point,” into creation.

It is true, writers can’t NOT write. Curse? No, rather a blessing.

Turning points have always been channeled into the creation of art and written works. Diaries and journaling are suppositories for emotional constipation! (I kept 17 of them growing up.) When my husband got a terminal illness in 1999, the timing was bad. But then there is never a correct time to hear someone has 5 years to live. My middle son was suffering with his own medical issues when we got the news about his father. My oldest son, a teenager, was battling anger, angst and apathy. My daughter, at 5, seemed too young, carefree and delighted with life to be burdened by crisis.

Crisis spares no one.

Eventually tears, shock, sadness, helplessness, and anger morphed into faith, patience, hope, acceptance and humor. But that was a slow percolation. Writing was a necessary ingredient in this process.

The following poem, “The Outlets,” was written in the early stages of his illness (Lou Gehrig’s Disease; or ALS). I was hyper-aware of the people around me who were suffering. This poem is about:

I. my older son, newly diagnosed with ASD, was immersed in a gnarly twilight zone between teen years and adulthood. He was hurting for his father and dealing with puberty too; as a person on the autistic spectrum. He cut himself a lot as an outlet for everything difficult inside him. We “got specialized help” for him. He’s a college graduate now and has a loving family. His scarred arms do computer savvy things and hold his daughters with care. He’s a FAR cry from the mixed up man-child that used to open gashes in his arms.

II. my middle son became uncharacteristically aggressive. His features were plumper; his expressions angrier, as a result of the steroids he was taking for his 20 hour sleeping spells, asthma attacks and the welt-like rash that would appear all over him out of nowhere. He was missing school a lot and the meds were changing his gentle spirit. He did heal, over time. He is now the gentle spirit in the family; a real wit like his siblings, and a wonderful and patient father.

III. “the young retired roofer”, my husband, whose ALS wasted his muscles.

IV. me, I lost a lot of weight — 85 pounds give or take. As caregiver, I was using the feeding tube, yangour wand (phlegm sucker), and breathing machine correctly (surprising myself, harshest critic) but I was doing so much that my identity fell off. It really did. It was as if it took a Lemming Leap. The person in its place was often told: “You look like hell.” To which I’d reply,

“I’m getting it all done.”

V. and finally Les — a friend of a friend who continued to create art (painting on tins) throughout his lung cancer ordeal, an activity which sustained him mentally and financially. He was full steam ahead — living, creating, with an eye on the present.

My sweet five year old is briefly mentioned in III. J.J. of this poem. She would go on to write an amazingly insightful chronicle of this crisis period in our lives. Everyone has stress. Everyone deals with stress and unplanned crises so differently. I wrote words in neat lines on a too-bright unreliable dinosaur of a desktop PC, sometimes at two in the morning. (It still had floppy disk capability, if that puts it in perspective.) The writing was my axis. In fact the book I mentioned earlier came of this writing period. The writing was interspersed with studies of Buddhism, the strengthening of the third eye. Writing lined things up neatly. It put my proverbial ducks in a row. It wasn’t a panacea, and in fact “The Outlets” isn’t even a great poem as far as poems go. (Editors’ Note: we beg to differ about the quality of this poem. *smile*)

The Outlets” serves as a mile marker on an unplanned journey that others shared. It was an intentionally aimed magnifying glass onto the computer page. The written words were the fire. The act of creating taught me that time, perseverance, patience and faith were the things that could extinguish its flame.

Read today’s poem, “The Outlets“.


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