Welcome to the Buffaloe pen. Watch where you step. It gets pretty deep in here. Every now and then, I kick down the gate and run a few loops around town before they put me back inside.
I’m just another poet and writer of fiction trying to make sense of this mixed up world. Actually, my beautiful daughter talked me into this bloggity-blog thang. But she’s also a genius, so I take her advice quite seriously.
So, I was hoping to get a couple of people together to make this an interactive discussion about the struggles and joys of the creative world. Maybe we can network a little bit, share a few ideas, or just gripe about the fact that some politician’s hooker will get a book published before we make two pennies on something we’ve dripped our souls into for the last decade.
A little about me? I tend to root for the underdog, probably because of my Po-Girl background. I’ve been called a “working class” poet, but like most creative types, the minute you try to stick a label on me, I wiggle out from under your finger and do something totally different. Right now, I’m working on a poem in which I’m trying to form the sounds of the words into a mathematical equation. Just because I’m not a math person, and it’s hard as hell to do.
But I’ll start with a working class poem that got a big thumbs down in a poetry workshop. That’s why I love it. If a pimple faced guy in a beret looks down his nose at something, I’ll probably like it just to be ornery. A draft of the poem was published in Pemmican many moons ago by Robert Edwards, one of the nicest editors with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of corresponding.
The poem started one day when I was in the waiting room at the doctor’s office (yeah, I know…Flannery O’ would approve of the inspiration).
For some reason, complete strangers love to tell me the most intimate details of their lives. A lady named Veleetha was telling me about how she had been struggling a few years before when she was living in Detroit. She was working full time and raising children who were abandoned by various family members for the usual reasons, but she was too proud to go on public assistance. I instantly adored this woman.
Veleetha had kept it together for a while, but eventually she got too far behind, and they were evicted from their dumpy apartment. She kept saying, “They took it all…they took it all…Lord have mercy…they threw it on the street…they took every last damned thing…they took it all.”
There was a rhythm to her voice that was tragically poetic.
Veleetha had a beautiful little girl with her who had a head full of pig tails and big brown eyes. The little girl just sat quietly, looking up with those gorgeous, dark eyes. The next thing I know, I could hear the sounds of the city street…and Veleetha’s voice became the rhythm of a jump rope tapping on a sidewalk. The story had to be told from the little girl’s point of view, fashioned into a school yard chant with near rhyme end lines, a technique the beret wearing guy said was too “cutesy.”
When Veleetha found out I was studying poetry, she laughed and asked me if I’d write a poem about her ordeal. She was such a sweet lady. Happily, she was doing well by the time I met her, and two of her older children were college bound. I wish I knew where she is today.
They’ll have to drag my ass out
and throw it on the street, Auntie said.
And they did.
And the spring broke couch.
And the sunburst clock.
And the smiling pig tail pictures.
And the rust belly pots.
And the box of yellow letters.
And the almost dry socks.
And the black ceramic cross.
And the crooked dog lamp.
And the quilt. And the pillow.
And the rose bud sheets.
And the lard. And the cheese.
And the shoes worn down
into the shape of Auntie’s feet.
And the hot water bottle.
And the donated caps.
And the faded Jesus picture.
And the rat gnawed mats.
And the holey finger mittens.
And the glue crack plates.
And the curtains that smell stiff
as a sweet potato cake.
And the shiny penny jar.
And the church starchy clothes.
And the jelly drinking glasses.
And the winter thin coats.
And the red plastic forks.
And the brown bottom iron.
And the ancestors’ Bible
with the old, bent spine.
And the first place school ribbons
blew up into the trees.
And one cop said,
Looks like a Salvation Army
And the other cop said,
Ain’t you got no relatives
you can call?
And Auntie picked up her empty suitcase
and threw it at his head.
And me and my brothers sat there
in that growing pile of eyes,
we just sat there
in the flapping, scattered breeze.