Author: Sarah Smith Ducksworth
Each poem in this collection is a reflection upon the author’s personal life or is a response to her vicarious interactions in the lives of characters she has met in real life or in books. Through the critical lens of poetry, she has looked for deeper meanings inside those experiences. Though the writer ends with an understanding that her life has not been a “crystal stair,” alluding to the hardships the titular character in Langston Hughes’ Poem--“The Negro Mother”-- faced, the writer feels that these poems, all together, reflect her world view and personal Truth.
To Purchase No Crystal Stair
When I was in elementary school, my mother, who observed me constantly scribbling on paper, told me I should never write anything down that I would be embarrassed to have the world read. She gave me this warning back in the day when both manual and electric typewriters were primarily considered office equipment and there were no digital devices available for composing and sending messages through space. Moreover, the technology did not exist for desktop and portable computers which could store countless volumes of random thoughts. Back in those olden days, I was what you might call a stream of conscious writer, putting my ideas and fancies into notebooks. And, my mother perceived a danger in this.
As a child I did not realize that such eclectic and responsive writing could be classified as therapy. All I knew was that writing was for me a necessary extension of myself. I wrote about things I thought about—things that hurt my feelings, desires for revenge, wishes, and whatever else that made me tick. The same is true today. I write about things that trouble me, about fantasies that intrigue me, etc.; and, in the process, I exorcise demons and find ways to improve good and bad situations.
Of course, over the years, there have been times when the wrong people have gotten hold of some rant I’ve written and used it against me. The trouble my mother perceived so long ago has been proven time and time again as prophetic. And so, over time, I have become more careful in protecting my private thoughts. Still, the digital world has caused me a huge setback. The world-wide web, rife with hackers, has become my biggest challenge. Based on recent experience, I know first-hand that the internet is no place to vent.
Back in 2010, I went online and filled out a form posted by a self-proclaimed “ethics investigator.” I asked this expert about the ethics of a local prosecutor who would not assist me in finding out who was hacking my cell phone. I also invited comments from visitors to this “legal” website. In my post, I explained that there was a person who was remotely using up data on my phone and that this person had caused my cell phone, while it was lying dormant inside my pocketbook, to dial my landline phone.
Since that ethics question was posted in 2010, it has stayed prominently associated online with my name. Someone must be very interested in this post; yet, there has never been a response to my query, either from the ethics investigator or from one of his visitors. I felt hopeful when I first posted the question, but its staying power as an online item both puzzles and bothers me today.
Do I regret putting a sensitive question into the public sphere, which has the life span of dirt? The answer is yes. But, on the other hand, my life has been greatly enriched by the caveat my action provided. As result of my experience, I will consider the thin line between public and private communications when it comes to social media in the future.
Now, I face another consideration: Do I have to slash and burn my electronic diaries? After being hacked, I believe I should. Unfortunately, the loss of this private writing could translate into a loss of wisdom and hamper my growth as a writer. The only solution may be returning to pen and pad. But, even that may not work if someone really wants to get me and invades my home. Farfetched, you say?
When confronted with the choice of writing freely for emotional release or not writing things I don’t want to share, I have to choose writing anyway and taking the precaution to keep those ideas off the web.
Writers from the past and present support me in extolling the therapeutic value of writing to explore one’s own world view. Graham Greene conveyed the benefits of diary writing when he mused: “I wonder how all those who do not compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”