Day 12 of PoRecMo, Driving Me Up a Wall

A blue plaque on 10 Church Walk, where Pound s...

10 Church Walk, where Pound said Imagisme was born. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the end of day 12 for this year’s Poetry Month, and my personal recording challenge. The way my schedule is this weekend, I think I’ll just be really quick with the postings. More poetry, less commentary at least until Monday. Yeah, we’ll see how well I do with that commitment. In any case, it’s quite likely that we’ll slip past midnight by the time I am done editing and hit that publish button.

Since we didn’t do any recording at our local poetry gathering last night (Poetry Under the Paintings), and since Jody, the owner of the art Gallery where we meet (Faustina’s in Lewisburg, PA) requested it, I recorded this poem for tonight’s reading on the Dad Poet. It was written actually back in 1996 or 1997 for a workshop lead by the wonderful Penelope Austin, whom I will write more about this coming week. At that time she was professor at Lycoming College in Williamsport, and hosted poetry slams the first Monday of every month at a local bar. On the Mondays in between a group of us joined her workshop.

The idea for this piece was a was a spin off of Ezra Pound’s injunction to “Make it new.” We were to take a cliché and give it new life. That was all the instruction we were given, so I got to thinking about how people say the silliest things, like, “You literally drive me up a wall.” Yes, I’ve heard people say that. It’s supposed to be a figurative idea, someone who makes you so crazy that it is as if you are being driven up a wall, right? But I have heard people add that word “literally,” so I decided to explore what that would literally be like.

Cliché

You slam the door against my protests
as the automatic seat belt cruises down its track,
humming toward me, clicking into place.
Faster than my frantic thoughts you dive
behind the wheel. “Oh no, you don’t!”
I shout, scratching for the handle. I know
what’s coming; we’ve done this before.
But the locks are controlled on your side (I never liked
that feature). I beat my fist against
the window. The window—yes! No.
It’s jammed; your fingers on the buttons.
I slump back and hurl an exasperated glance.
You take it as your cue, smile and sink your shoe
down to the pedal. The world is jettisoned
behind us, an implosion of moving color,
swirling sound. Our living room blows by,
a cartoon blur. Coffee table, lamp and TV
stretch behind, disappearing with a snap.
Your favorite farmyard scene in gold leaf frame
accelerates to meet us. Whirling wheat
and blue-brushed sky expand and fill the windshield.
For once I fear we’ll burst the old
brown barn, and I press my hands
to the dashboard—their accustomed place—
bracing my body as the scream begins.
Then the jolt, that sudden nauseating lurch
as the car tilts back (I’ll never get used to it),
and rubber tires grip on flowered wallpaper.
You drive me up the wall, swift,
swallowed by black bucket seats.
That crack in the ceiling (where I have yet
to patch the plaster) swoops toward us like a hawk,
and I imagine, ever hopeful, that we’ll just slip
through this time, blast past
our cluttered attic to a new reality
above the quiet tree tops of our town. But
the thought cuts short in a crescendo
of wrenching metal and splintering beams
of wood and light, accentuated by the clatter
of a spinning hubcap on the hard-wood floor.

–by David J. Bauman, The Dad Poet

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15 thoughts on “Day 12 of PoRecMo, Driving Me Up a Wall

  1. Ahahahaha! This is SO much fun. I love all of it, especially how “rubber tires grip on flowered wallpaper.” And the whole beginning–the inevitability of being strapped in for this ride, the passenger helpless to prevent this speedy journey into cliche. But oh, have you made it new!

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  2. Good reading…I preferred to poem after hearing it read…I get confused between prose and poetry..what makes a thing cease to be short line prose…and become poetry ? k

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    • Well, you have a preference for a consistant metrical pattern. I don’t. At least not in all poems. Some of my poems are rhymed and metrical, while others are not. For me that sort of meter is a poetic device, but it is not the definition of poetry itself. But we’ve had that discussion before. You seemed happy to question me, but disinterested in my answers. That’s fine, of course, but it’s not conducive to having a discussion. This particular poem was written at a time when I was enthusiastically experimenting with line breaks. And they are broken where they break for reasons, not out of arbitrary chance. What’s more, those confusing-looking line breaks do assist me in the reading, though maybe not in a traditional way, or as in the school of the “breath” or pause. Line enjambment on unstressed syllables I know can be jarring, but you did like the reading, the cadence of which is actually guided by those line breaks, even if you don’t understand how.

      I guess it surprises me how you stick to this view of yours regarding traditional metrics, and poetry “that sings.” In my view poems need not be lyrical to distinguish themselves from prose. Granted, there is a lack in this piece even of the internal rhyme that I am fond of, but there is a good deal of alliteration and consonance. And that too is for a reason. Rhyme is more peaceful, whereas consonants bumping against each other do a better job of mirroring the conflict. I was having fun here with making the sounds of this poem very closely follow the sense of it, so this piece is by no means devoid of music.

      It’s just that the sounds are purposefully jarring, and the line breaks are nontraditional. I am not saying that you are a modernist, but I’ve seen your paintings, and I’ve watched your videos. It puzzles me that free-verse would be such an issue for you. I don’t see you as a fan of abstract modernism, but neither have I seen you as a formalist. You bend the conventions in many ways yourself.

      However, as I said, we’ve had this discussion before, and you rejected my views then, so I’ll not try to convert you to my way of thinking now. I confess it is tiring that you keep coming back to this theme, asking these questions when you seem to have no intention of listening to my responses. I realize that sounds harsh. I waited days here to respond to this one, but I think you need to hear what it’s like on this side of the comment box. So, instead of arguing with you I will ask you this question; what in heaven’s name is “short line prose?” I’ve never heard of it. When I write prose it is the width of the page that determines the length of the line. And while it doesn’t explain the phenomenon of what is called “prose poetry,” for my own work poetry is in the line. The lines measure out how the language is delivered and received. I know that bucks up against some tradition. But that doesn’t seem to bother you in other areas of your life and art.

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