making breakfast


It is early morning and I'm up before the sun. A poem lives somewhere inside of me, and it's up to me to find it.

I want to tell you about writing A Poem Before Breakfast's the #1 question I get, week after week. And how I come up with a new one every morning, after 550+ days (and counting). The creative process is both spectacular and boring, so I hope you'll indulge a little sneak peek, behind the scenes story. (Pretty please? With sugar on top?).

Ok then. It goes a little something like this:


You wake up. No. Wait. It's before that. Way before that.


You finish dinner the night before. You think about tomorrow's poem for the slightest fraction of a second. But then you snuggle down on the couch with your husband and you forget everything. He asks about your day and you ask him about his, and maybe you drink a glass of wine. You've watched all of Black Mirror, so you both waffle between Forensic Files or Top Chef or maybe a PBS documentary.

You settle in for an hour or so. Or two, but who's judging? Soon you begin to feel a little tired, so he lets the dogs out while you head upstairs. As you fold three-day-old laundry, you remember your poem. You have no idea what you'll write. You briefly consider quitting, but think better of it. You wash your face, brush your teeth, and put on your pajamas. You step over sleeping dogs, plug in your cell phone, hop into bed and turn on the TV.


You find a scary movie you've seen a hundred times because you love falling asleep to scary movies you've seen a hundred times. You set the timer on the television for an hour, but you only need 30 minutes. And you turn on your phone and scroll. And scroll. And scroll a little more. You answer a few emails while Shelley Duvall bats beautiful brown eyes at Jack Nicholson in The Shining. You hop on and off Facebook. You read the news and are a combination of sad/angry/frustrated. You remember the poem as you fall asleep to the glow of the television. 


Your wake up in darkness and your brain feels like it has been submerged in warm gray water.

You stretch and yawn, which is a mistake: the dogs heard you and now you have exactly three minutes to let the big dog out or she'll pee on the floor. You pretend you're still asleep, but it doesn't work, and now you have one and half minutes until a wet floor. You throw the comforter off your body and the cool air wraps around your bare feet like an ice bath. You have no time for socks,  so you scoop the tiny dog in your arms and snap your fingers at the big dog.


You make your way downstairs by instinct, not by sight, and let the dogs outside. You're somewhat awake now, and you run upstairs to change into real clothes: jeans, a tee shirt, and a cardigan. You hear the dogs scratching at the back door, so you walk, doubletime, downstairs and let them in. You feed the dogs, then give the big dog her medicine, and you make coffee: Vietnamese coffee when you're feeling fancy, grocery store iced coffee when you're not, and a Starbucks run when you're feeling restless, lazy and in need of fresh air.

The coffee sits, and so do you.

Pencil and paper or blank computer screen.

You look out the window at the trees, then at the shadows on the floor. You love the way the sun peeks into the kitchen windows to say Good Morning. You know you are distracted, but you don't particularly care.

The dogs hear the school bus stop to pick up the neighbor kids and you get up to calm the barking dogs. You use words that would make a sailor blush, but dogs ignore you and bark until the Scary Yellow Thing drives away.

Again you sit. You search for words in your brain as if you were trying to find a pen at the bottom of your handbag.


You find the barest, transparent thread and you pull it. And then you write.


You stand up. Stretch. Sit down again. You look at the page, and murder a few of the weaker words, keep the strong ones. You show mercy when necessary, but are otherwise ruthless and cold. You are not sentimental and play no favorites.


Your poem baby is ready for her first day of school, so you format the poem in either Canva or Photofy. A few clicks, and you upload the finished product to Instagram.


You make and eat breakfast: maybe yogurt, or toast sometimes, English muffins every now and again. Cinnamon buns or croissants if the stars align. More coffee always. Your work is finished as the day begins. And the sun shines on us all.