Thursday, March 16, 2017


…I read six books in San Diego—well, either in San Diego, or else to and fro.
They were all quite good in their own way, except maybe the last one.  Perhaps I didn’t get the last one.  In fact, I know I didn’t get it, not like I should have.
The book in question was the latest issue of “Poetry,” a journal that has been around since the 60’s, or thereabout.
It’s a thin volume but very dense, especially the many pages of commentary at the end that made me feel quite stupid, both as a reader of poetry and as a writer of it.
The author spent a great deal of time instructing.  He talked a lot about “unknowing” and sighted various famous poets to underscore his points, such as:

-“I confess to a desire to forget knowing, especially when I sit down to work on a poem.” Mark Strand

-“I hardly knew what I was writing; I just knew that the words were right.”  Elizabeth Bishop

-“To me, poetry has a duty not to know what it thinks.” Alice Oswald

Most of it confused me.  Shouldn’t poetry know what it thinks?  Shouldn’t a writer know what she wants her poem to convey, at least in some respects?
It made me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. 
I certainly didn’t when I first started out, because back then everything I wrote rhymed, and they were pretty awful.

The first non-rhyming poem I wrote was a short little thing for a college girl I had a massive crush on:

Lady By The Sea

Beauty had never done as much,
nor the sea in all its wonder,
but you,
walking the beach barefoot and free,

I liked it all right, and she did, too, or so she said, promptly requesting another.
Her second poem was inspired by birth control. 
At eighteen, I was still terribly naïve and thought birth control was similar to aspirin—something easily obtained without forethought.  When a friend explained that this was not so, I was a little spun out. 
I know how sexist this is/was, but I thought you became attracted to someone, then very attracted to them, before plotting sexual escapades.  (Again, I realize how ignorant and chauvinistic this makes me look.)
I guess I was just jealous to think this girl could/would/might have had sex with some other boy that wasn’t me if I hadn’t stumbled into the picture.
Anyway, I wrote this, which I thought was bitter irony, but which she thought was a fun little piece meant to induce chuckling.

The Pill

Take a pill,
swallow it first,
then some water to
quench your thirst.
Hop in bed,
your pleasure be,
no need to worry,
you’re pregnant free!

I hope my poetry has improved, but I’m having doubts.  (Most writers I know are insecure about their craft.)

In San Diego, I came about this darling girl and wrote:


The child wearing a bug costume,
running through a maze
of waist-high hedges,
skipping and giggling,
this girl,
perhaps three or three and half,
she owns the sun
and sky and wonder
while the rest of the world waits,
desperately wanting her to own it as well,
if even just for a few days,
if even for a few brief moments
of unvarnished bliss.
Her laughter is an earthquake.
It rattles the thickest, tallest trees,
and plucked from their branches,
each leaf floats and free-falls,
for once unafraid of landing or death,
simply content to have witnessed,
by happenstance,
joy so pure and genuine.

At another point during the trip, I was transfixed by the ocean.  A lot was happening on the surface— streaming sailboats, cruise ships, ferries—but I saw the sea differently, and later, on the plane home, I wrote this:

Sea Sick

There is no threat of mutiny,
but then again, the sea
is capable of anything
when she is this blue,
this unhinged and misguided.
Look: even the gulls fly away.
Whales leap, trying to escape her embrace.
Clouds haven’t been seen in weeks.
And so she inhales and exhales,
shooting waves across her crest
in rippled, liquid curtains.
She opens her arms and swims,
treading water, face sun-scaled,
sweating algae and plankton
until that pale peace 
is stripped away.
Finally she holds her breath
and dives deep,
roaming the murky depths,
searching herself for evidence
of mistakes made, misplaced love,
the reason her life has become
so very vast yet devoid of meaning,
surrounded by beauty with
no one to share it.

I wrote other poems.  I’ll keep writing them.  Mine will never be all that clever.  You’ll be able to track what I’m trying to convey. 
They might not matter at all, and that might not be important.




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