This page contains:
- Drug use
1. Who is speaking?
—It could be me. I could be me. I could be Old Man Adams who sits outside Convenient every Saturday for one hour after church before walking home. I could be the cashier who does not like the way Old Man Adams smells when he buys his scratch-offs and then trades his winnings in for more scratch-offs and then has no more scratch-offs and then says hello to people entering and people exiting and then the bench is empty. I could be the cashier’s son wondering why Mom looks so sad. I could be you.
2. Where is the poem taking place?
—The obvious answer is a convenience store. But is it Convenient or a convenience store? If you are from here, you know the answer. If you are from there, you think about a hand at the bottom of a black ocean. The poem could take place there, but it does not.
3. What are the images?
—I consider the images left out of a poem written earlier today. Cataloged words from an anonymous writer. Glowing screen. Growing cock. Words like a squeezed trigger. Thin semen on a cold stomach. There is more but a bell is about to ring.
4. What is the structure of this poem?
—A house destroyed by children. Whale ribs on an empty beach. A form subverted. Why is chess a metaphor? Sometimes a game is only a game.
5. What happens in the poem? What’s the “story”?
—Old Man Adams could be the Story. Or the story is the prophet who rises at dawn, ignores the voice whispering in their right ear, eats a meal they do not want to eat, and when they cannot sleep, goes to the beach and crawls into the whale ribs. They listen to waves and think of lips. The story needs an ending.
6. What do you see in your mind’s eye?
—A child is told to read. To read in there. Not there. In their mind. The child is too wrong. Not too wrong. The child is too young. They need to read in their mouths. Lips opening. Fricatives. Diphthongs. A glottal stop. Eyes to brain to lips. The child will grow. They will be able to read inside their mind. But not yet.
(I try to remember when I stopped reading out loud. When I looked at a picture and looked at words and said them so only I could hear. Soon others stopped listening for my voice. Am I reading the words on the page? Am I changing words to what I want to read?)
(In my mind’s eye I see you reading this. In my mind’s eye I cannot see if you read this in your mouth or in your mind.)
7. What feelings are evoked?
—Oh. Oh, you think. This is flow. You read about writing flow yesterday. Or two days ago. It is still a pandemic and you are still a teacher and time is still something other than a grandfather clock chiming every 15 minutes and bonging every hour. What did your grandmothers think of time? Both at home. Both raising sons and daughters from their womb and from grandfather. Both making sure dinner was ready for grandfathers who kept time by factory whistles, by sweat, by eaten grandmother-made lunches, by swallowed beer. Ah, the mythical flow you would say to former creative writing students. Like you were a monk. Or a teacher in a movie. You often think how incredible it must feel to enter a state where the hoop swallows every ball that leaves your hand. You think this while clanking driveway jumpers. The lawn needs to be mowed.
8. What sounds in the poem emphasize the visuals, the feelings?
—I cannot remember the term for when a name is used as an adjective. Luciferian makes me think of this term I cannot remember. What is the fancy term for when you know something but cannot remember it? I cannot remember. I take a swallow of ginger ale. It fizzes in the bottle. There is more than dregs and lees remaining. I would trade my knowledge of the word lees for the term of which Luciferian is an example. But dregs I will keep.
9. What gives the poem its energy?
—The writer wants to expound their own virtues. They consider rambling on about the various hours of today and their complementary section. For example, sections 1-3: second half of Study Hall. Section 6: after dinner (Seafood Alfredo—Friday takeout). Etc. The writer thinks about going back to their roots. Sophomore year, high school. Intro to Creative Writing. Senior Tim who played the drums. Christine who they had a huge crush on and who was ridiculously out of their skinny whiteboy league. Their first Creative Writing teacher who opened their mind’s eye to poems. Writing on the stone steps of their school’s outdoor classroom. Listening to the Violent Femmes for the first time (tape borrowed from Christine—decades later the writer learns the phrase shooting your shot and thinks of her). But the writer accepts that the poem’s energy comes from Heather Sellers and however they obtained Heather Sellers’s book. Requested instructor copy? Obtained at a workshop? Bequeathed by a colleague? The writer does not know. The poem is a chalice raised to lips.
10. What makes you, the reader, interested in this poem?
—Well, this reader is not interested in the length of this poem. Or the shifting point of view. Or the necessity of an internet search to discover more about Heather Sellers. Or Old Man Adams or Aiden or Aaron or whatever it was. This reader would like to read less of Section 3. Perhaps none of Section 3? Are they sections? Is that the term? The reader wonders what to call the 10 sections or sub-poems or stanzas or what-have-you. The reader is not saying they are John Greenleaf Whittier and this poem is an 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. But oh writer, it is close. The reader is curious to know what the writer thought of the Violent Femmes (sneering disdain, the reader hopes). The reader is interested to learn more about Senior Tim. Seems like a cool guy.