Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just dug this out from a 1985 writing workshop

I was 20 when I wrote this.

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...and she felt a silence so complete and deadening that she would furtively pick the phone from its hook and hold it to her ear so she could hear the familiar annoying drone and thus prove herself still living. It was proof, which calmed her somewhat, but in her state of paranoia, she could imagine a voice suddenly emerging from the hum, first barely distinguishable from it but soon becoming clearer and louder yet without gaining any human characteristics and it would say her name with a quiet assurance and she would be forced to go with it, and, worse, to love it...

She told me this and I wanted suddenly just to hold her and tell her she was safe, that I would keep the ugly dead things from her -- I would kill them if need be, kill all the horrible things that couldn't comprehend such fragility, that strove to suck the life out of her and draw her into the void they inhabited. I wanted to grab Alan, and her mother and father, and scream into their worthless faces, scream until I had driven them crazy, driven them to see what they had mutilated in her with their carelessness and their useless remnants: her mother's stupid minks, her father's oil leases, her mother crawling naked on the floor, bits of glass still clinging to her bloody forearms, screaming for someone to please, please slit her throat; her father standing silently, poking the glass shards and her mother with the toe of his boot, saying calmly, "I would if I had the time." And the little brown-haired girl in her candy-striped pajamas, crouched in a ball by her door, ear pressed to the cold wood, drawn unwillingly, guiltily by the sound of glass shattering. The unadulterated waste of this 28-year-old whose own desk told her to die, who had to write "live" on her mirror with lipstick, like a reminder for something that shouldn't have to be remembered.

"What have they done to you?"

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And December 19, 1987, I wrote my first REAL poem (at age 22):

Devil Drives
(for Joan Crawford)

The darkness drives me far from where I must be
my knuckles bare in bone-white urgency
clutching the stringent moonlit wheel
that turns without swerving toward mercy

Roadside,
the sweat-stained fools of late
sip their beer and bet on
who I might be

There are roads running earthwise
undestined for divergence
stopped stone-cold in tracks that
vanish at some point

Such things I cannot flee:
the vortex forcing me
toward life without lights,
my name on each marquee,
the search for an existence
that didn't need to be proven

This haunted sky, the moon
I will outlast

Just ask the garden that once bloomed upright
near my back door, cut by my cold hand
and carted away in night's deadness
by babies oblivious to the pain of thorns

Ask it what prevails, the bloom or bane
of shears and let the silence be your reply, something
to live with, or not.

Bloody, I await what newness may arise,
fulfilled by a fury purely mine.

That is enough.

There is no leaving me.

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Many years later, post-grad school writing program, I sent the Joan Crawford poem, among others, to the Poet Laureate of England, Ted Hughes: In June 1997, he wrote back: "...I like your poems -- a real language, real inner momentum."

Whatever else happens to me in my life, whoever does or does not love me... I was/am a fucking good writer. Oh yeah, and Ted Hughes read, and liked, my poems. (Anybody else out there with a Poet-Laureate-of-England Stamp of Approval? OK then.)

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