I Want to Write Some Things

Amy R. Martin

I want to write a one-act play like I did when I was young. I had an ear for dialogue then—the hesitations, interruptions, digressions, non sequiturs—and I broke the fourth wall in the fourth grade, before I learned what breaking walls meant. I want to write a romance novel, like the one I typed on my mother’s vintage 1960s Smith-Corona Classic the summer after my sophomore year in high school: In one scene, a boy rescued a girl on a bolting horse, then pressed his hips against hers in a ramshackle barn while a thunderstorm raged, his jaw clenching while her fingertip arrested the progress of a raindrop slithering down his chest. (I don’t remember what happened to his shirt, but I do remember looking up the word “rivulet” in the dictionary.) I want to write a hard and clear poem about an ordinary thing. Once I wrote about a man I saw selling oranges out of a wooden crate on Thayer Street when I was hightailing it to class. He made me irrevocably sad, that man, alone as he was, without a customer or a book to pass the time. I want to write bittersweet micro-essays about breastfeeding zealots and inconvenient diaper changes and sleep training and room parenting and playground politics and the gendered division of labor in the home and the gerbil my daughter sat on in the bathtub then flung out the window to hide the evidence of her transgression. I want to write travel memoirs, too, recounting what it was like to—for example—ride shotgun in a Cessna above the African bush, my toes in the nose of the plane, next to a pilot hiding behind a five o’clock shadow and a pair of aviators while I fancied myself a modern-day Beryl Markham. But no. The tried-and-true words don’t come. My fail-safes are gone. My stories, suspended. I can only write, over and over again, either head-on or slant, about what he did to me, about what he did to us, because when I sit down to write, all I see is his head between her thighs, as it must have been, and my fingers shudder over the keys the way her body must have shuddered beneath his fingers, and I give up, give in, give over, because, I now know, my anguish must have its pound of story.

Amy R. Martin is a producer/screenwriter and essayist based in Vienna, Virginia. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama, Pithead Chapel, Hungry Ghost Magazine, and is forthcoming from Cleaver. She is Stage & Screen Editor at the Southern Review of Books. She has an MFA from the Queens University of Charlotte.

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