“Against Hesitation”

Make music of what you can.” — Charles Rafferty

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid, I perched in the gnarly apple tree in my backyard and scribbled my own adventures in a ruled notebook. In college I majored in English and journalism, but it took years before I found the courage (not to mention the income) I needed to begin a real writing career.

The long path that led me here was marked with detours and littered with excuses. The poem below is the wake-up call I needed 25 years ago — but Charles Rafferty hadn’t written it yet. Today I keep it in my back pocket and read it whenever I need a creative kick in the pants.

What dream would you launch if you had all the time in the world? Where would you travel if you knew the road was wide open? What’s fueling your hesitation? –CL

Against Hesitation
By Charles Rafferty

If you stare at it long enough
the mountain becomes unclimbable.
Tally it up. How much time have you spent
waiting for the soup to cool?
Icicles hang from January gutters
only as long as they can. Fingers pause
above piano keys for the chord
that will not form. Slam them down
I say. Make music of what you can.
Some people stop at the wrong corner
and waste a dozen years hoping
for directions. I can’t be them.
Tell every girl I’ve ever known
I’m coming to break her door down,
that my teeth will clench
the simple flower I only knew
not to give … Ah, how long did I stand
beneath the eaves believing the storm
would stop? It never did.
And there is lightning in me still.

Reprinted from A Less Fabulous Infinity, by Charles Rafferty (Louisiana Literature Press; 2006)

–Photo: detail from a mixed-media collage by Cindy La Ferle —

This post is part of a weekly series of poetry appreciation.  To read more, please click on “Poems to inspire” in the CATEGORIES column at right.  I welcome your recommendations, too.

16 thoughts on ““Against Hesitation”

  1. Cindy,
    What a powerful get off your butt kinda poem! I can see how it must have inspired to launch out and risk being a writer. And why you carry it in your back pocket. 🙂

    I am hesitating getting started on the next book. I have 2 that touch my heart equally (the Mary book and “Pockets of Peace” based on my columns through MWF. I want to do both at once and that is not possible, though each feel equally important. So once we get moved in (in 9 days!) I do plan to launch in. Thanks for the swift kick….

  2. Jan, I’ve been waiting for that Mary book, and I will keep “kicking” your butt until you get going on it! That said, I am stalled myself on the Wright house memoir. I’ve been procrastinating like crazy, re-decorating the house, moving furniture around … anything but work on the book. I need to re-read my own post today 😉

  3. I hope you don’t mind if I adopt this poem, Cindy. I love how it speaks to me and motivates me to move forward. I have wanted to be a writer since childhood. My parents though, urged me to get a career that supports me financially, and write after I have that established.
    Financially the time is right, now. We’ll see if I get anywhere with my writing or not, as there is so much I still need to learn about the process of writing itself. However, blogging is a lot of fun!

  4. Cindy, I see in your comments your contemplation of your Wright house memoir. What an intriguing idea … Do you suppose your puttering, re-decorating is a part of the writing, putting you in closer touch with the house before the words begin?

  5. Feeling blocked and blaaah, I chose to read my favorite blogs. Slouched over the keyboard I began reading your words and then Charles Rafferty’s poem.

    Neither zapped me. However, both inspired me to open the document languishing at the bottom of my screen and resume work on my article.

    Thank you Cindy for sharing your story and for sharing Charles Rafferty’s Against Hesitation.

  6. Thank you for this, Cindy. I was so fear-paralyzed I wouldn’t have made it past the first chapter of my book if my husband hadn’t occasionally kicked me out my cocoon. Now I know if I just keep writing the stories will make themselves up as I go.

    And still sometimes I hesitate…good to have a reminder.

  7. Cafe Pasadena: Here’s what I said in the post:
    “The poem below is the wake-up call I needed 25 years ago — but Charles Rafferty hadn’t written it yet.”
    So no, I hadn’t read it yet… 🙂

  8. Cindy, my prayers are with you as you help your mother through this time. When I was going through that chapter of life with my mother, I found that I learned much about myself.

    Thank you for sharing this poem with us. It reminds me of something Teddy Roosevelt said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

  9. Pingback: Certain Poems | flyingnotscreaming

  10. Hello – This morning while taking my walk, I passed a home on the hill behind me – and saw a red box with the word, “poems” on top in white letters… at first, I started to walk by – then I felt an urge to turn around, go back, open the box – and remove one of the poems. When I returned home, I read this poem by Charles Rafferty – beautiful imagery… Thank you, neighbor, for introducing me to Mr. Rafferty’s work!
    Would you have an email for Mr. Rafferty? I would like to post his poem on our blog with his permission. Thank you.

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