Sunday, January 14, 2018

Liner Notes: Two Poems in Willawaw Journal

Are there any sweeter words to a poet than “Please send me some poems,” spoken to you by a literary journal editor after a reading? Yep, pretty much nothing beats it, other than “Here’s your Pulitzer.” That’s how I happened to get two poems in the new online magazine Willawaw Journal, helmed by editors Rachel Barton (who spoke those words to me at the Springfield Poetry Series this past October) and Jade Rosina McCutcheon. I respect that in an editor, that thing where they go see the poet and inspect the goods, as it were, before committing to a purchase.

Here’s a link to the two poems, “My Ex, the Surgeon” and “Balloon Payment.”

“My Ex, the Surgeon” is about a real person. The entry point for the poem was the sound his knuckles made, that little crack, which I remember distinctly all these years later. We were both vegetarians at the time, and we cooked together a lot—usually meals of steamed artichokes, brown rice, and sautéed bean sprouts with mushrooms. I hate mushrooms, hate, hate, hate them*, but for some reason I liked the way he cooked them. Might have been all the butter. We cooked those foods so often that we called that a “standard dinner,” a joke we’ve had for years. (We’re still friends**.) Secret poetic-license fact: He isn’t actually a surgeon; he’s a mathematician.

“Balloon Payment” was originally written for the August Poetry Postcard Fest, which I’ve written a lot about on this blog. The poem is a direct reaction to the mortgage crisis, which some say peaked a few years ago but is really still reverberating. It’s also about the kind of hierarchy that's too common in the political landscape right now, the desire to always look down on someone else no matter how hard life has smacked you down. I usually try to write compassionately, but I was not feeling charitable that day; I was seeing close-up that bigotry and fearmongering reign in small houses as well as large ones. The one element in the poem that's not from that xenophobic landscape is the neighbor rigging his sailboat; that’s actually my very sweet neighbor Ron, who often unfurls the sail on his beautiful little wooden boat in his driveway when he’s cleaning and fixing it. The mast is a bit higher than his roofline, so it’s pretty spectacular. I see the boat out the kitchen window and think, “There's Ron, sailing again!”

* Is that a genetic thing, like cilantro? All mushrooms taste like dirt to me.

** I’m friends with a lot of my exes. Some people find that odd.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed both poems. Especially this bit -"The mice domesticate us." :-)