Once A Poet

I’m stunned.

After a – hell, I don’t know-  like a ten-year hiatus from writing poems, I actually wrote poetry today. It felt awkward at first, and insubstantial – like flexing the phantom tendons and imaginary bones of a hand that had long since been amputated. They were ghost poems.

Do they actually exist?

Here’s one (unedited, I might add. And not particularly good.)

STUMP POEM
The last remnants of stubbled skin
cling brutally to the side.
Grey torso –
grey flesh –
In the glare of the sun,
the memory of shade.
 
 

As I said, not particularly good, but it felt good. To write it I mean. And I didn’t start today with the intention of writing poetry. I wrote poetry because I was at a meeting.

A business meeting.

For work.

One of the best perks of working for an arts organization is that, every once in a while, you get to hang out with a bunch of artists. As many of you know, I work for an organization called Compas, which, among other things, schedules artist residencies and intensives in schools around the state of Minnesota. My colleagues are storytellers, poets, potters, accordion players, puppeteers, rappers, drummers, dancers, painters, actors, singers, spoken-word artists, and every other kind of art practitioner that I can’t even think of.

And they are wicked cool.

Anyway, we don’t get to see one another all that often, so I really look forward to our yearly business meeting as my one chance to say hi, drink coffee, gossip, swap stories and revel in the fact that I get to be associated with these folks.

We met out at Dodge Nature Center on an astonishingly beautiful morning. I parked far away on purpose just to give myself the opportunity to walk the trails and experience a moment of thick green and birdsong and bugsong and still ponds and damp, quiet breathing. We met in the education building, right next to the barns.

And after sitting in a meeting listening to the abysmal state of arts education in our state-

(did you know, for example, that there are districts that have removed all music instruction, from elementary to high school?)

(did you know that there are districts whose ENTIRE ARTISTIC CURRICULUM centers on a couple artist residencies?)

(did you know that there are districts who do not integrate the arts into their curriculum, despite the fact that the business world is desperate to find creative people who can think spatially and in interdisciplinary modes?)

But that was neither here nor there. In any case, when it was time for the break-out sessions, I was so filled with rage over the short-sightedness and mean-spiritedness when it comes to the arts, that I just couldn’t go to the grant writing workshop.

Instead I went to the nature poetry workshop. With Diego Vasquez – a terrific poet, a great teacher and a hell of a nice guy. He took us outside and charged us with writing poems. Short poems. About the things that surrounded us – dead things, living things. Things that move. Things that do not move. So, on this absolutely beautiful day, I wandered around and wrote short poems. And it felt REALLY good.

Like I-need-to-keep-doing-this-or-I-might-die good.

Here are some of my efforts, along with pictures of the things that inspired them. And I’m thinking that I shall have to continue writing poetry with my amputated poet muscles. I think I shall continue to write my phantoms – my inklings of the writer that I used to be. Because I kinda need to.

And perhaps I’ll post them on this blog.

Here are the poems:

PLOW POEM
 
Two seats
one horse.
 
Am I a tool
or a metaphor?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SHED POEM
Whitewashed slats let in the breeze.
A hail-knocked tin roof. 
A dark, windy, hiding-place.
 
 

SIGN POEM
All my life, I 
looked
for 
sign.
 
“THIS WAY!”
it said,
tilting towards the ground.
 
 
SILO POEM
 
I once had a dream that I drowned
under a crush of ripe grain.
 
The silo’s roof is a geometric bite 
on a pale blue sky.
 
I hold my breath and shiver.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
TURTLE POEM 
 
(for Leo)
 
Come
closer.
 
My mossy shell.
My bright eye.
 
Come
closer.
 
My spiked tail.
My waiting mouth.
 
Come
closer.
 
I’m in the mood for a snack.
And fingers are delicious.
 
 
 
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4 thoughts on “Once A Poet

  1. Unless you’ve read my book, you probably don’t know how I feel about snapping turtles. Be that as it may, I could totally relate. Loved the silo one too!
    And, personally, I feel as if your whole blog is poetry. There’s just a rhythm to the way you write.

  2. I actually JUST GOT my copy of your book from Wild Rumpus! I am fascinated by snapping turtles – and horrified. They are so fascinatingly grotesque – I’m terrified, and yet I can’t look away!

  3. I agree with Jo. Your writing style has a singingness to it, the way the words play out that reminds me of Free Jazz dressed up in a fancy suit and doing a good job of fooling the squares.

    After a very long week of dealing with big actresses, big egos, and missed deadlines–all over subtile changes to the face and skin–it was delightful to discover this post, and the next, on a cool Saturday morning with nothing better to do than cook bacon and read short nature poems.

    I was raised by an art teacher who later became an administrator. One could not breathe around her without knowing that arts programs are the single most effective way to increase knowledge in math, language, and science. There is lots of good solid data to support this notion, but it is difficult to sell to the squares because they think art is subversive. The fact that they are right doesn’t help.

    Thank you

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