Below is an excerpt from The Lost Daughter Collective. This particular section was written very early in the process of composing the book, when I was doing exercises to try to attune myself to loss. This particular exercise is the only one that made it into the final book, and it was written on a very rainy day at the Vermont Studio Center. I had read Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee in one sitting, took a break to breathe, then followed up with Donald Barthelme’s “Nothing: A Preliminary Account.” What happened afterward is this:
A DAUGHTER IS NOT dark clouds on a winter day.
A daughter is not the quilt that covers sick legs, a spoiled celebration.
A daughter is not a minor chord, nor the rope binding a pair of struggling feet.
A daughter is not an abandoned cup of tea gone cold, nor the paper links of a chain made by hands now grave.
A daughter is not an undeveloped photograph, nor the broken leg of an antique chair.
A daughter is not the spice rack, nor the sugar bowl, the driveway that ends before it meets the road.
A daughter is not a frail and failing sweater, the cracking paint on a wall behind which dark tasks are undertaken.
A daughter is not hot milk, nor the pavement, nor what we have come to understand as adventure.
A daughter is not a brave sun that dares to rise the morning after an important death, the craters of the moon or the stings of a wasp.
A daughter is not a weather catastrophe, fruit, or music.
A daughter is not a knife, nor a fingernail clipping; a daughter is not a satchel, nor a damp pair of underwear, nor a cutting board.
A daughter is not the stairs that lead to the cellar, nor your debt.
A daughter is not the lesson that less is more.
A daughter is not the act of winding, the wind, a healing wound or coils of wire wound round a neck.
A daughter is not a vehicle, soft glass, tomorrow.
A daughter is not gravity, nor the drawing of the blinds.
A daughter is not a son.
In a dark hollow in a wood at twilight, a daughter that was, is not.