Sacrificing My Dignity, For Poetry

Today, I attended a free workshop presented by Sacrificial Poets, in partnership with CHPL‘s Living Libraries project.

I’ll confess now: I haven’t written poetry since high school, if you even count acrostic poems (I don’t), and even those were only produced under duress, for class assignments and the like…in fact, although I love libraries and think Sacrificial Poets is a pretty awesome organization, my primary motivation for going to today’s workshop was the FREE PIZZA.

(I’ve got maybe four dollars in my checking account right now; I’ll attend anything that involves free food.)

Found this in one of my old photo albums.

Which isn’t to say I didn’t EARN my pizza. To prove it, I’ll even transcribe my notes. Which are cringe-inducing.

Our 1st exercise was to write down 10 significant life events, unranked and in no particular order. Here are mine, apparently:

1. Lying in my crib, my favorite stuffed toy grows teeth and snarls at me.

2. At a hazy 2 or 3 y.o., I wander through a garden with grey stone steps, surrounded by grey stone walls; not a dream, but it might as well have been because I could never remember where it was, nor how to find it again.

3. Heard someone calling my name, late at night. Went searching for the source, no one in sight or sound.

4. Jealous of my Miss Piggy doll, I flush her down the toilet (unsuccessfully), so that I can have Kermit all to myself.

5. Orgasm, self-administered; in my mind, I compare it to a record spinning on a turntable.

6. Kissed a boy and was kissed by a boy–same night, not the same boy.

7. Even before he saw me, even before he touched me, I knew he would…was I hunter or prey?

8. Fish and chips!

9. Only I can have a one-night stand without the sex.

10. There’s no god to see it, but I want to clean the stained glass windows until they gleam like jewels.

Our next exercise was to come up with lists of concrete words in our areas of interest or expertise. Deciphering my scrawl, it looks as if I chose “books” and “nature,” which have to be the most vague and unhelpful categories I could have possibly chosen.

Needless to say, the word lists did not really help me with exercise number 3, which was to use the contents of exercises 1 and 2 to draft a poem.

I don’t know if this is a poem, but here’s what I scribbled:

There’s no Lord in this castle, this fortress anymore;
Long, long ago he rode off to war
And left a mess.
I crouch on the stone cold chessboard floor; I don’t kneel and pray for his return.
But I gaze, eyes glazed with tears, at the stained glass windows, smothered in smoke and grime, their saints obscured by cloaks of dust.
I want to reach up and brush the cobwebs from their robes.
They won’t flinch from, they won’t feel my fingers–
I’ll be so gentle, so reverent in my touch.
I’ll spit on my sleeve, wet my frayed cuff with my tongue like a cat grooming itself and then I’ll scrub in circles
Until their skin glows,
Until their faces shine,
Until their eyes sparkle,
Until the mountains and rivers and skies surrounding them glisten.
I’m not his child, but these are my people.
I must care for them (no one else will) in his absence,
which stretches to eternity.
I know he’s not coming back, because even when he was here, he never really was.
Still, the place was always immaculate, not a splinter of furniture out of place, the crossbeams braced against his sudden gusts of wrath,
The drapes dusted and drawn so that the neighbors
Couldn’t peer,
Couldn’t pry,
Couldn’t spy through the chinks and cracks in the crumbling masonry and discover the truth.
Perhaps that’s why the window glass stays streaked and cracked,
Why the colors have faded,
And why I won’t clean them after all.

And THAT’S why I don’t write poetry.

However, I also voted today, which, by my reckoning, should cancel out any crimes previously committed against the English language.

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