7:00 a.m. - No alarm
goes off on Saturday, but my three daughters are up by now anyway, playing
nicely with each other—or yelling and fighting, depending on your definition of
“playing nicely.” I struggle out of bed while my wife, KJ, continues sleeping,
about the only day of the week she isn’t up early. I wash up and head
downstairs to turn on three important things: television, hot water kettle, and
oven. English Premier League soccer begins in a half hour, I need hot water for
French Press coffee, and the oven takes a half hour to get up to temperature. I
let the dog out onto the snowy backyard. When he barks at me from the back
door, I let him back in.
7:30 a.m. - With a
soccer game starting in the background, I grind coffee and make a carafe of
coffee, the official fuel of writers. The days are getting noticeably longer.
Beyond the window above the sink, I notice the sun is now peaking out from the
left side of the tree at the far side of the neighbor’s yard to the east. A
week ago, the morning sun was to the right of that tree. When the oven is
ready, I toss in a baking sheet of bacon, and hard boil a bunch of eggs in a
pot on the stove. Upstairs, the girls increase their volume. I toast a half
loaf of bread.
8:00 a.m. - Breakfast is
ready. My wife corrals our daughters downstairs, turns off the TV and pours
herself a coffee. Anyone want toast? Pass the eggs please. Do we have salt and
8:45 a.m. - Despite my
asking twice, the girls “forget” to clear their dishes, but they are getting
ready for their 9:00 a.m. group piano class, via Zoom. I pour the dredges of
lukewarm coffee from the French Press into my mug and down it quickly in a few
9:00 a.m. - The piano
class starts on time. The nine-year old and almost seven-year old have been
taking lessons longer, so they’re used to the drill. Their five-year old sister
has just started, so this is her first weekend group lesson. They sit three
aside at the piano in the living room, my wife’s laptop facing them from a
small table on one side of the piano. I grab my laptop, plop down on the couch,
in the living room but off camera, and open up my current writing project. With
one ear toward the out-of-tune piano, I try to concentrate on my own work. It’s
the best chance I’ll have all morning to write.
10:00 a.m. - The girls’
piano class is done. The eldest daughter rushes upstairs for two more Zoom
classes, jazz dance, followed immediately by a conditioning class. She’ll be on
her own laptop in her room until noon. The other two play haphazardly at the
piano, as if their lesson meant nothing, then run off to play on the trampoline
and gymnastics mat in their upstairs playroom. I keep working on my laptop, but
turn on the TV for the start of the second soccer game of the morning. Maybe
I’ll get to watch more than just a half hour of this one.
10:45 a.m. - Halftime in
the soccer game, and the dishes won’t do themselves. I take a break from
writing to load and run the dishwasher.
11:15 a.m. - I aim to
put in another forty-five minutes to an hour of writing, though, admittedly,
the game is still on in the background, and the internet is its own distracting
temptation. If I can’t gain traction in my writing, some Saturdays I’ll use
this time to submit poems to a literary magazine. I have a goal to get 100
rejections each year. I’ve had this goal for four or five years now. I’ve never
hit the target. Last year was the worst year by far in terms of my number of
submissions, so I’m determined this year to submit at least a couple times each
week. It’s February and already I’m behind schedule. Today I’m continuing to
work on one of several long-term projects in experimental poetry where I’m
working with strict constraints.
11:45 a.m. - My wife
enters the family room with a week’s worth of mail. We have a bad habit of
leaving it in a basket by the front door and dealing with it on the weekend.
Well, it’s the weekend. She tosses me three bills and a donation receipt. I
write checks and file the bills. My wife gathers materials for our two younger
daughters to start an art project in our first floor playroom (the room where
our previous owners had their dining room).
12:00 p.m. - Checks in
stamped envelopes and in a basket by the back door, I return to my laptop where
I half ignore the highlights of the soccer game. My eldest daughter’s last Zoom
meeting ends. She comes downstairs and immediately she complains that her
sisters are doing an art project without her, but quickly quiets down when she
12:30 p.m. - I pause my
work on the experimental poetry I’m working on. I’ve been working on it on and
off for several years now. It’s overwhelming in its size and scope—a book
length single poem—and the project is mentally taxing. I fear I’ll never finish
it, but, more so, I fear that once completed, no publisher will care to publish
it. In the kitchen, I clear the breakfast dishes my daughters “forgot,” and
make a second carafe of coffee. Back in the living room, a third consecutive
Premier League soccer game plays to no one.
12:45 p.m. - I check
email on my phone. One email announces an extension of the deadline to submit
to a poetry contest. Last year, I submitted the fifteen-dollar fee to that
contest and got my rejection about six months after they had published their
winning submission. I delete the email. The girls’ art project is, predictably,
a mess. My wife leads the cleanup and tells the girls to wash up for lunch. In
the cabinet above the toaster is a pillbox labeled “THE OLD MAN.” I refill each
box with the requisite pills, then take the Saturday pills.
1:00 p.m. - It’s the top
of the hour before we finally gather everyone in the kitchen for lunch. One
wants peanut butter and jelly. One wants a yogurt and can’t commit to what else
she wants. One just wants to dance in the kitchen, flailing around and risking
accidentally kicking someone else.
1:15 p.m. - The three
girls finalize their lunch orders and I hustle around the kitchen making what
1:30 p.m. - The girls
forget to clear their dishes again, and run upstairs. I remember I haven’t made
lunch for myself. I rectify the omission, and pour more coffee.
1:40 p.m. - There’s more
screaming upstairs. My wife is issuing consequences, separating them into
individual rooms and demanding quiet. I stare down at my lunch, a bowl of last
night’s leftover takeout: Lamb Korma, Chicken Pathia and jasmine rice.
1:50 p.m. - The house is
bustling. I leave dirty dishes in the sink and urge the girls to get ready to
leave. We’re all about to leave the house for the first time today.
2:00 p.m. - The eldest
daughter has an outdoor, masks on, playground play date. My wife drops her off,
a block away, then takes the middle daughter out for a special mommy-daughter
date of their own. That leaves me to host a special father-daughter play date
that our youngest is not thrilled about. In fact, she’s wildly angry that she
can’t spend time with Mommy instead. I let her cry it out for a few minutes and
check Twitter. I quickly confirm my hypothesis: that was a waste of time.
2:05 p.m. - My daughter
is still angry, though some of it is the skilled acting of a five-year old. I
close my laptop, find her at the kitchen table, and tickle her until morale
improves. Frankly, it’s a better use of my typing fingers than doomscrolling
2:15 p.m. - My
daughter’s finally dressed for the outdoors. We head outside.
2:30 p.m. - A beautiful
city park is two blocks away. My daughter plays by herself at the south
entrance, a waist-high stonewall that today serves as a fort, mountain and
playground slide. I sit to the side and let her imagination rule. Meanwhile, my
mind vacillates between my daughter’s fantasy world and the section of my
experimental poetry project I had been working on this morning. When she tires
of playing at the entrance wall, we build a snowman of misshapen snow, a poor
figure with a crooked twiggy smile, bark eyes, and tufts of dead pine needles
that are either pigtails or eyebrows, we can’t decide.
3:15 p.m. - She’s done
playing outside, so we walk back together, stopping periodically to make
snowballs to toss at each other. I land a couple near her boots. She’s more
determined for the kill; by the time we get home, she’s improved her aim to hit
the back of my jacket. Back inside the house, we line up our boots by the
radiator and hang up our other winter clothes. I can hear soccer game number
four playing on the TV in the living room. It’s scoreless for now.
3:45 p.m. - “Daddy, can
I have a snack?” She grabs a granola bar from the cupboard. I make hot
chocolate for her, a special treat. “Okay, today is a good day,” she
decides, “because I get to build a snowman and have hot chocolate.”
Given her outbursts earlier, before we went to the park, I have to take this as
a huge parenting win: she called today a good day. To her mug I add three large
marshmallows. I grab my laptop from the living room and sit down with it next
to her at the kitchen table. There are a couple other writing projects I’m
working on, so I consider my work on the large, experimental poetry project
done for now. I have an online weekly writing group on Tuesday evenings,
8:30-10:00 p.m. Aside from today, that’s the only predictable day of the week
where I know I have time to write. Over the last month or so, I had been using
each Tuesday’s three twenty-minute “writing sprints” to work on a chapbook of
aleatory poetry, but maybe I’ll return to the long, experimental project this
3:55 p.m. - My
daughter’s grabbed a spoon from the utensil drawer and after eating the marshmallows
first, she’s drinking the hot chocolate a spoonful at a time, slurping and
spilling it down her chin. She’s lost in the moment. Then she stops and looks
up. “I wonder what twenty plus twenty is,” she asks, to the universe if not to
me. I let her mind work it out, but I don’t answer. “Thirteen?” I shake my head
no. She returns to slurping the hot chocolate, unconcerned with the correct
4:05 p.m. - “I’m not
thirsty anymore. I’m all done with hot chocolate.” I look down into my
daughter’s mug. She’s consumed half of the hot chocolate, one spoonful at a
time. “Can you bring the mug up to the sink please?” She brings it up while in
a conversation with herself. I note that this is the first time all day any of
my children have followed directions regarding clearing dishes from the table.
4:10 p.m. - My wife and
our middle daughter pull up the driveway in the minivan. They come in through
the back door with bubble tea and “a box of donuts!” the middle daughter yells
in excitement. It’s from Donut Crazy, a specialty donut shop specializing in
over-the-top dessert donuts. Our middle daughter can’t wait to recount all the
places they went and the things they did on their “special date.” The two girls
share stories of what they did in each other’s absence.
4:20 p.m. - Our eldest
daughter comes home, walked by her friend and her friend’s mom. We vote on
whether to eat the donuts now or save them for dessert tonight. The vote is
unanimous. My wife opens the box.
4:35 p.m. - I remind our
eldest that she has a 4:30 zoom meeting with her classmate for an
extra-curricular project they’re working on. She shoves the last bite of the
donut in her mouth and runs upstairs.
4:40 p.m. - I grab my
laptop and settle back on the couch in the living room, but it’s short-lived.
My wife tells the two younger girls they can watch a movie. Our only TV is in
the living room. They run in, grab the remote, turn off the soccer five minutes
from the end of the game, and turn on Netflix. To no one’s surprise, they
choose a gymnastics movie. My wife mentions feeling a headache. After sixty
seconds, I take my laptop to the sunroom and close the French doors behind me.
4:50 p.m. - The doors
between the sunroom and the living room are closed, but I can still hear the
trite and awful dialogue. I flip through a random poetry book (SKY WRI TEI
NGS by Nasser Hussain, Coach House Books, 2018) on the bookshelf next to
me, read through about a dozen pages, then return to my laptop and give in to
the siren calls of social media and YouTube videos.
5:30 p.m. - I turn on
the oven and start to make dinner. Tonight it’s fairly simple: kielbasa and
vegetables, baked together on one sheet pan. When I’m in the kitchen—like when
I’m driving—I like to listen to podcasts. I listen to the end of the most
recent Penteract Press podcast, host Anthony Etherin’s interview with Luke
Bradford for the release of his new collection, Zoolalia. I had started
listening to this episode on Thursday, when I was in my car waiting to pick up
two daughters from gymnastics class. I first learned of Bradford when he and I
both had works published in the recent Penteract Press anthology, Myth &
Metamorphosis. It turns out he and I have what I consider very similar
style and tastes when it comes to experimental poetry and constraint writing.
I’m excited to order his new book. Intuitively, I feel like we would get along
well, but the introvert in me bristles at the thought of reaching out to
someone else. Add contacting him to the long to-do list of items that have no
deadlines, and therefore aren’t completed quickly.
6:00 p.m. - Yup, still
takes a half hour for the oven to come to temperature. The oven probably needs
some form of deep cleaning. That’s on the long to-do list also. It’s been on
the list for months. The sheet pan goes in the oven.
6:20 p.m. - The podcast
ends. I check the oven. Looks like I need about ten more minutes. The terrible
gymnastics movie has finished but now, for some reason, the girls are watching
the promo to the same movie, followed by promos for other movies they think
they’re going to get to watch tonight. We generally have a
no-TV-during-the-week policy, but today seems to be a special aberration; the
girls have already watched more than we normally let them. They select a movie
they’ve already seen at least three times already and start to play it.
6:30 p.m. - “Dinner’s
ready!” Silence. “Girls?! Dinner’s ready!” Sigh. This only happens...every
single night. Sometimes they are all upstairs playing on the gymnastics mat,
ignoring us for as long as they can. Tonight, they’re zombies in front of their
movie, and yes, it’s about a dancer. I don’t understand the attraction. All I
know is the complaints I’m about to get as I grab the remote and turn off the
TV: “Aw, Daddy! What are you doing?” “Heyyyy!” and “Why did you turn it off?!”
I place the remote back in the basket behind the couch. “Dinner’s ready.”
6:35 p.m. - My wife
added a kale salad to our dinner. Something about balancing out those donuts we
had this afternoon.
7:00 p.m. - The girls
actually clear their plates after dinner. Another parenting win! We let them
finish the movie they started before dinner. Given that they’d only watched ten
minutes, that’s basically the whole movie. I work on a new writing project, and
get about 250 words in.
8:30 p.m. - Here’s where
every day falls apart. The movie finishes. The TV turns off. The girls begin
their sly dance, finagling and delaying and trying to eke out extra waking
minutes. It’s a slog to get three girls to brush teeth and hair, go potty, get in
jammies. Most nights their motivation is to earn a book. But movie nights are,
by default, “no book” nights, usually because it gets so late. Tonight’s no
exception. Our requests are rebuffed. Our demands are met with delays.
9:00 p.m. - The younger
two are finally in bed. I feel a headache. My wife tells me her headache is
worse than before.
9:15 p.m. - I yell down
the stairs for the dog to come up to the eldest’s room. He sleeps at the foot
of her bed. Finally we say goodnight to her.
9:20 p.m. - Back
downstairs, I’m exhausted and just want to go to bed. But Saturday night means
tomorrow’s Sunday and all winter long that means 9:00 a.m. ski lessons for the
girls at the mountain a half hour away. So we prep their ski bags, bind the
skis and put them in the minivan, and prepare lunches. Given the pandemic, the
girls get fully dressed—including ski boots—at home, and we will eat snacks and
lunch in the car.
9:45 p.m. - In the
living room again. I squeeze in fifteen minutes of writing while my wife works
on a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. We’re in the middle of watching Outlander,
season four, but neither of us wants to commit to an hour of television.
10:00 p.m. - The day’s
over. Upstairs to wash up and brush teeth, then a few minutes of a crossword
puzzle or a bedside book until we can no longer keep our eyes open. I plug
earbuds into my iPod, turn on a YouTube science channel, flip the screen upside
down and eventually drift off to sleep, listening to the host explain how
scientists think foxes may tap into Earth’s magnetic field to hunt mice hiding
Hill is an
experimental poet with an interest in writing with constraints. He has an MFA
in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and his work has appeared recently
in Cider Press Review, Atlas and Alice, and the Penteract Press anthology
Myth & Metamorphosis. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut with his
family who understand he writes poetry but aren't sure if his current projects