Member Monday: In the Gaps by Jennifer Phelps

Jennifer Phelps

Welcome back to Member Monday!  Please help me welcome my friend and talented writer, Jennifer Phelps.  Jennifer writes at Naked Notebook, an “online notebook” (the word “blog” just sounds so clunky!) featuring writing that is spontaneous and minimally edited (this is why it’s “naked” – get it?) Posts are transcribed directly from the pages of Jennifer’s wide-ruled spiral notebooks that she buys on sale for 70 cents and dutifully scrawls in before bed each night or upon arising in the morning (or, on a particularly good day, both).

In the Gaps

I’m focusing on living in the gaps. It’s been a little over two months since my mother died,and when she was sick everything was gaps. She was hanging in a gap as if suspended over a gorge, halfway between earth and sky. Nothing was clear-cut when Mom was dying, and oddly, that somehow made sense. As if that’s what dying is: slipping into the gap.

Here’s what I mean by gaps.  Recently I e-mailed a poem to someone. The poem was called “Trying to Raise the Dead” by Dorianne Laux, one of my favorite contemporary poets.  My reader replied, saying that he found the poem, like most poetry,  “cryptic.”  I have never been of the mind that Laux’s poetry is circumspect or obscure with a difficult-to-delineate meaning. This reader was hung up on the details. The narrator is at a house. “Whose house?” my reader demanded. She’s at a party and she doesn’t know the people that well. “Why is she there? Why doesn’t she know them?” She’s outside, and the others are inside, singing. “How come? Why doesn’t she go back inside with them?” (To this, I answered, “Maybe she was smoking a cigarette.”  Geesh.)

Poetry leaves gaps. I’m comfortable with them. Not the esoteric, overly academic puzzle poems people love to praise, probably because they figure something so convoluted must be intelligent. Laux’s poetry isn’t pretentious or overworked. It just leaves open space so that when I read it, I can make it mine.

My mother loved poetry, understood the gaps, was in her element in them, actually.  But she loved music more.  She used to say that music speaks to that for which there are no words. So does poetry, I say. Good poetry, anyway.

Now that Mom is gone, I’m left trying to articulate to people what made her special, what it is that I miss. What I miss is that she knew a deep truth. That knowing was her unique gift. I will miss her facility with gaps.

I suppose my mother can be found only in those spaces between things now.  Wherever, if anywhere, the essence of her exists, it is not on this physical plane. At least, this is what I tell myself so that I don’t keep looking here. I look there – in the gaps. I listen to song after song, read poem after poem, trying to find one that makes me feel just the right way. Makes me feel like she is still here.

A Note from the Webmaster: Writers Forum has the author’s permission to publish this work. The author retains full copyright ownership and protection. This work may not be reproduced or used in any way without the permission of the author.  If  you’re a member in good standing, please consider submitting a piece of your work to share.  Essays, poems, songs, articles and any other stand alone pieces are welcome.  To submit your piece, please e-mail it to webmaster, Alicia McCauley, at   Members featured here are guests in our Writers Forum house.  Treat them as such in the comments section and enjoy this beautiful thing we call writing.

5 thoughts on “Member Monday: In the Gaps by Jennifer Phelps

  1. Thanks for your heartfelt words and for featuring it, Alicia! The support of Writers Forum has been invaluable to my development as a writer. I’m really enjoying my journey into my “online notebook.” It’s something I have wanted to do for a long time, but I needed to get clear on how it aligned with the big picture of my writing goals before I could begin.

  2. I remember being where you are now, Jen, in 2006. My mom passed away after complications from an operation; it took five weeks. The waiting to see if she would recover was excruciating. Thank you for sharing from your heart which is where your mom will always be.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s