I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this morning. Unfortunately, my boss asked for his promotional postcard for my upcoming chapbook to be sent to the main library. So the impression was that I was being pushy since we received “multiple” postcards (I think really only the two unless she’s referring to the other branches as well).
Ah, sometimes the negativity bugs that crawl around work places–they just show up, no matter how good your intentions. The first question asked was why the library wasn’t getting donated, signed copies. I quipped (half-jokingly) that I didn’t write the book to just give it away. But I eventually assured her that copies were being bought and donated to all the branches and I would happily sign them. I just wanted my coworkers to know about it and share my joy.
Then she said that she didn’t “get today’s poetry.” I confess I was annoyed for a half second, expecting the old “but it doesn’t rhyme!” complaint. But then I thought, well, it’s really a fair, albeit broad statement. I mean, I’m not crazy about some poetry today either.
She and I don’t work together often, only once or twice a week when I am down at the main branch. And it occurred to me, what a great opportunity this was to talk about poetry! So I asked what she liked and she quoted the opening lines from “The Children’s Hour.” In response, I shared a recitation from memory, “Ask Me” by William Stafford, which she was surprised to discover she very much liked. “It’s beautiful, and it flows!”
I told her it was a favorite of mine, that the poet had died a few years back, and that he was one of my heroes. While my writing is not as brilliant as his, he was certainly an influence. I like to play with sound and line endings, to find a rhythm in the language that might not be expected, and often isn’t traditional. Then I pulled up the following poem, originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine. I told her this is a small sample of what’s in this chapbook, though there are some other more surreal pieces as well.
She looked over my shoulder at the screen as I read it aloud to her. She seemed to brighten even more and said she liked it. I’m hoping this was a step toward making a convert.
God, Dad, and Cars
I’m 8 years old, perched
on a headlight under the raised hood
of our white four-door Chevy,
which has somehow stranded us
at Uncle Bob’s farm.
But this isn’t like the time before,
in Canada, when we broke down
along a country road, far from home.
Across the back seat Crystal and I
had played cards with mom while you
paced, and raged how God must hate
you. I wondered, why you thought
He’d bother a little family like ours,
only on vacation. Wouldn’t He
have more important things to do?
No one home at the farm,
but you know where the tools are—
your hands gloved in grease.
You are in control, under sweat
and sun. I hold something in place
while you work. Afterwards,
when the engine cranks,
you thank me, slap me on the back.
“Thank God you were here,” your smile
wide and rare as the words you say:
“I couldn’t have done it without you.
I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine, August 2013