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ON: procrastination by Meredith Grace Thompson


In the first of Meredith Grace Thompson’s ON_____ series, ‘ON: procrastination’ breaks bread with the writerly fate of procrastination, while musing on the distracting or affirmative chimes of the everyday and the process of coaxing a poem to life.

                                                                      > NEEDED:  1 poem, max 65 lines

> [deadline in 11 days]

> I begin to grow a sourdough starter in a jar that sits on top of the radiator, cushioned from the excessive heat by a dress I was given by an old employer who would bring me hand-me-downs whenever my clothing was not to her liking. The starter is like a temperamental house plant or a small pet. I feed it twice a day, feeling a twinge of guilt as I discard the old to make way for the new. I should be doing something with the old. Such a waste of flour. I think about the 1 pound which I have spent on that bag of flour and then I think about the proverbial landfill and how many amputated bits of my sourdough are floating through different landfills, forever? Well, not forever. It’s just flour and water so it will biodegrade—obviously—but can any air get into a landfill to allow biodegrading to occur? So maybe not obviously. Should I just be dumping it out the window instead? Would that be better? Are we all just dying, perched on a mountain of garbage?

> The starter swells throughout the day like the tide, reaching its peak and deflating into large bubbles and a lovely sour smell. I think I’m waiting too long to feed it because a clear liquid keeps forming in small pools on the surface. At first, I thought it was water, but I read somewhere it is hooch.

> I think about trying to drink it and then I think better of it better of it.

                                                                     > HAVE: 30 lines

> [deadline in 4 days]

> After seven days I try to make bread. The dough is too wet, and it clings to the edges of the counter as I try this weird slapping technique I saw in a youtube video. There are so many opinions about sourdough, I can’t keep them straight in my head and I think I am combining a few different methods, none of which seem to be working. I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I try to put more flower on the counter to compensate for the damp dough. I grab the flour bag with my dough encased hands and cover the bag in goopy handprints. There are bits of dough everywhere: on the overhang of the counter; on the cupboards above and below; on the toaster; on the ceramic bowl whose lid looks like a nest of eggs and whose contents remain a mystery to me—this is not my house.

> I get two satisfactory looking loaves into proofing baskets, cover them with towels. I let them proof in the fridge overnight. The baskets are larger than the cast iron pot I am baking the loaves in, and so the next morning when I dump the dough into the pot, the edges catch on the sides of the pot and the loaf looks kind of like Tie Fighter, with its wings pointing up _/

> I sit at the kitchen table and wait for the loaves to bake.  I should name the starter. It should have a name, I think. I watched Speed yesterday. I like Speed. I think I’ll name it Keanu.

> When the bread comes out of the oven, it is somehow burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. I pick apart the bits that can be saved, slathering them with butter and eating them quickly. I throw the rest away and feel deflated.          

                                                                     > HAVE: 12 lines

> [deadline in 3 days]

> I build a fire out of all the paper I wrote the beginnings of things on, and then I sit farther back because the heat on my face is too much. I listen to the rain and I make myself endless cups of tea. I can’t seem to move.

> I stare at Karl Ove Knausgaard’s The End as it sits on the foot of the sofa. I consider trying to read it again. I read the first hundred pages months and months ago. The book hasn’t moved since. A man I thought I loved, and I thought loved me first showed me Knausgaard and I thought he was brilliant. Now I’m not sure about any of it. It’s all gotten jumbled in my head. The cover of the book is staring back at me and my face feels hot with embarrassment. I consider pushing it into the fire but decide against it.

                                                                     > HAVE: 12 lines

> [deadline in 2 days]

> I practice my French on Duolingo where I learn how to identify une salade and deux femmes anglaises. I remember each word for a moment after the “ding” of the bell and then it slips out of my brain. I am not good at French. And I do not like not being good at things.

                                                                     > HAVE: 41 lines

> [deadline tomorrow]

> I listen to a podcast about politics. I hear the voices but don’t pay attention to the words. Something about a parliamentary vote and Jean-Claude Juncker but I can’t remember it moments later. I am trying to edit. I am trying to read and to notice if the comma I have placed is appropriately located. Should there be a comma there? Should commas even exist? What is my stance on punctuation? Should my poetry be punctuated? Should anything be punctuated ever?

                                                                     > HAVE: 37 lines

> [deadline in 20 minutes]

>  The doorbell rings but I don’t answer it. It isn’t for me—this isn’t my house. It keeps ringing. Maybe I should answer it. I can’t decide.

                                                                     > HAVE: 37 lines

                                                                      > its done


Text and Image: Meredith Grace Thompson


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