Alan: How we live seems normal to us, but not, apparently, to most. This poem sums it up – with a nod to Han Shan, whose own poems were found, after he vanished, on rocks and trees.
When you challenged the incumbent,
we were “hippies that ran around in the woods naked smoking dope.”
When you went downstate to read,
you overheard in the ladies’ room that you
“didn’t smell” the way she “thought you would.”
My father, tapping the inside wall
that was also the outside wall,
pronounced our situation “marginal.”
My mother fretted and fretted
until we finally got a phone,
although for a long time
it was under the stairs
in an unused house
ten miles off.
Still, we have been here over thirty years
together, living our poems,
painting them on rocks,
the bark of old trees,
in rain that blows in
from the east,
sun that blows in
from the west.
Nancy: “Enrichment,” or a day out of school, a better-than-school-buffet lunch and a folder full of handouts. Or perhaps, sometimes, a spark that lights a fire?
Eighteen Strangers Are Bused In To A Poetry Workshop
Her boyfriend’s twenty-five, she’s
ten years younger.
This is a poetry workshop, I only learn
about her two-year old (girl? boy?)
And we’re off to another town, another affair
of the heart.
The stories pour out in poems, a lot
of love, a lot (stifled, distanced) of anger.
It’s ok, I tell them. Be honest. You have
a right to that, poems are no place
To be polite.
The girls bounce off one another’s poems
as though they were trampolines.
They have so much to say.
The boys sit with their shoe soles up
and out, I see their faces
Distant, behind tread patterns and logos.
One of the girls leaves the trampoline,
she’s talking about guns.
Nobody has written about guns. The boys
come alive, feet back, heads forward.
Everyone talks at once.
About fights. About community (they don’t use
that word), about the towns
Where school buses are stoned after basketball games,
about the car full of kids
Trying to run down the soccer player.
About the kid who was shot. How he was
About grief, and fear.
I know that across the hall they’re hearing
about proofreading and punctuation.
It’s ok, I say, the hour is up
but remember, you have stories
For one another, you have the right
to write it as you see it.
I get a last word from the girl
with the child: a sigh,
“When I get home – it’s Friday –
by the time I get home,
Half of my class will already be drunk.”
“Eighteen Strangers Are Bused In To A Poetry Workshop” first appeared in Slow Dancer magazine.