Thursday, October 9, 2014

You Turn the Radio Off So It's Clear That This is a Silent Treatment Not Comfortable Silence [poem]

You Turn the Radio Off So It's Clear That This is a Silent Treatment Not Comfortable Silence

Yesterday afternoon we were autumn’s adventurers.
We were out but behind a windshield
to watch the trees bloom their October glory.

I stick-shifted the winding tunnel,
ever-elevating, passing one lookout spot
then another ‘til we reached the top
and tilted the binoculars down. We made
a game of passing them back and forth,
picking some fickle speck – a bird
that could flit away, a particular sapling,
and challenging each other to find the same.

A few times, we each shouted I see it!
then described the scene to the last freckle
for proof.

In the motel room last night, your body
smelled like the underside of a leaf,
your limbs were a little starker,
and your hair frizzed, caught fire
as the television flickered colors.
I kissed every explosion on you –
your pierced ears, your fading tan lines,
the knock-elbow bruise reversing its way to green. 


Lord, I am depressed today! Seasonal Affective Disorder, is that you? Or have I depressed myself by writing today's poem? Because the story behind today's poem,  is that this is another fictionalized, character/setting poem -- I am not in a relationship right now, I have never driven a stick shift any further than a distance of 30 feet, I have not been to the mountains this month to see the leaves or  look through a pair of binoculars at birds (I don't even own a pair of binoculars) and I certainly have not been in a motel anytime recently kissing anyone's anything.

And that's depressing.

Like my other character-based poems, this one has a very clear speaker who definitely speaks in a more conversational way. Even though I tried to make this one less prosey and more poemy so I can continue to call myself a poet, I rarely write traditionally poemy, poem-voice poems, which I think of as a sort of elevated, incomprehensibly ethereally dictioned verse. I'm not much of an abstractionst. My mind boggles and stumbles. I need more straight-fowardness.

Unlike my other character/speaker based poems, what this one doesn't have is a specifically named character, like "Alba Gomez" and "Charles Goodwin" before it this month. And when you do that, when you don't name a character outside of yourself, especially in poetry, the reader(s)(multiple? one hopes? fat chance?) assume that the speaker is the poet. The reader assumes that I am sharing my own experiences.


I mean, I have been given, and have myself given, the silent treatment. I have seen the leaves turn. I've traveled up a mountain. I've been to motels. I've kissed.

Fodder exists. I have grist for the mill.

But this poem is not a personal experience for me, as it is written.

One of the poets I was introduced to in my MFA program at Queens is Pessoa. I instantly connected with him, a poet after my own heart. He was a bit of an introvert (ahem), who created characters, or alternative identities, and told their/his imagined lives through his fantastical poems.

I think I'm doing that.

I take a specific, minute real experience like washing a dish, or fixing a bowl of oatmeal to give me a detail to hold onto, then create an imagined life around it.

I'm in the poem in minute ways, rather than obvious ones.

I can do things with these poems, and I try to. I try to make people weep, or care, or think about their families.

I'm thinking about going back and giving a specific character, a name, in this poem, so that character rather than poet-as-speaker is clear, but I also like another thing this poem is right now, if you disconsider the poet: genderless.

In that way, it reminds me of another poem about lovers/love I wrote that was actually published in the premier issue of Wilde Magazine, a queer-focused literary journal named after Oscar Wilde. The editors remarked that they appreciated that the poem they accepted was without clearly defined gender.

Coincidentally, a post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed this morning from McSweeney's, a review of a collection by someone named Carl Adamshick, who apparently has "poetic personas" and a "refusal to dodge the difficult pathos of existence." So I need to go check him out.

Also, a final note about this poem. I was able to catch myself going astray when I first started writing - I scratched out part of the opening where I shamelessly, hokily caricatured hipsters - skinny jeans, organic coffee, pumpkin flavoring, the whole bit. 'Tis the autumnal, artisenal season. But I pulled back and made this poem about people, characters not caricatures, about love, and about the difficulty of love. I saved this poem from something that would've been terrible, and that felt good. It felt like developing a willpower (not to be lazy and to resist hokey-ness and caricature), and a muscle (crossing lines out takes that), and some more brain cells (to come up with something better).

This poem was written on October 9, 2014 as part of Tupelo Press's 30/30 Project

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