Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Charles Goodwin Fixes Oatmeal for His Wife [poem]

Charles Goodwin Fixes Oatmeal for His Wife

Gets to where my bones wake up and ache,
so that’s my alarm now.
I let the puppy out into the yard,
Christopher’s puppy that he named Ranger,
a lab mix that gnaws on wood, on everything,
but my oldest girl folded it up in a blanket
and handed it to me three days after
they put her son next to his daddy
so I keep it. She’s lost her mind, left town.
She says I don’t know and I’m safe
more than anything when she calls
but I don’t believe her on either account.
I tell her we’ll be here when
she gets back but I don’t know about
the furniture and I laugh real careful,
sort of like a chuckle but she doesn’t
laugh, she asks me to take Ranger
with me when I go visit Christopher
and I tell her I will but I won’t
because I haven’t visited in weeks,
not since I saw the plastic flowers
and balloons people were putting on
the graves out there and got disgusted.
People can do better than that, or just
do nothing.  But me too, I’m just as sorry
because I heat the oats in the microwave
like the home nurse taught me instead
of on the stove like Patricia always done.
I tell Sheila how I put some sugar
and a little cinnamon in it, about how
her mother likes that, I can tell
because her eyes perk up and she opens
good for a wide bite, and on the other
end of the phone I hear Sheila get that
quiet she gets now, and then she says
the first thing she’s said about her son
since he's been gone.  He liked that, too.


I reckon some poetry purists might read this poem and have what my mama calls "a shit fit."

It's what I call a "prose poem." If it were a little bit longer and written in paragraph form rather than broken into lines, I might call it "flash fiction."

I have a master of fine arts degree in creative writing, and I'm not sure what the difference is, really. When does a prose poem stop being a prose poem and become flash fiction? It's a thinker.

In any case.

I have a couple more of those marbles I've mentioned rolling around yet in my mind, but they are very personal marbles, and I haven't quite felt like making them public via the 30/30 Project.

So, I went to one of my kinda odd standbys for creating poems - character. And situation.

It's been cold in the mornings lately. The kind of mornings that make you want to stay under the covers. The kind of mornings that could make your fingers and knees stiff, if you're older.

So my character came to me in the form of an older man, with stiff fingers and knees. I started thinking about what could get him out of bed. Duty. Obligation. Love. So he has a wife. A wife who needs him to get up to keep her going.

From there, I started adding in some other things that may be weighing on him, something to add a bit of complexity. A daughter appeared. A tragedy appeared.

When does a prose poem become flash fiction?

Not sure.

The dog in the poem I'm pretty sure came from a movie I watched recently on television thanks to my awesome antenna - Resurrection, a film made in 1980 starring Ellen Burstyn, who plays a woman that survives a car crash and becomes a miraculous healer. At the end of the movie, she offers a puppy to a little boy dying of cancer. The parents exchange glances. They don't expect their son to live much longer. I imagined, watching, the pull and tug of wanting some happiness for your son, yet the pain of collecting one more reminder, one more source of sorrow, to exist after his death.

I wasn't consciously thinking of that last scene when I wrote the poem, but when thinking about my process, my inspirations for this poem in anticipation of writing this post, I made the connection.
So, poemers, what do you think? Did I write a poem today? Or a story? Or both?

I wrote this poem on October 8, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project

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