Monday, October 27, 2014

What Came Up Last Weekend

You don't have a radio? the guard asks as he unlocks the room we'll use for the prison writing workshop.

He is alarmed when I say I don't want one and then rolls his eyes.

Well, keep the door open so we can hear you scream he says.

As I arrange the tables and chairs into a circle, I wonder what the hell I am doing there, what could possibly pull me away from a Saturday ripe for bike rides and fun and put me here in a room full of felons.

Of course, part of me knows that answer, and that answer is that I don't go alone, that I follow what it is I have to do. I just tend to forget and need a reminder, a clear refresher of values, once in while.

Now things get dicey because few listeners will follow my line of wondering. The line makes itself up as it goes along. It does not progress in a straight, logical, or even common sensical progression.

It is a musing on poetry -- not poetry as something studied in school or memorized for credit or discussed after a professional reading. (Full disclosure here: I am not a "poet." I don't carry that as a label, or identifying trait others can hang onto. I don't live to publish or make any money teaching the art. I am not even all that versed (so to speak) in the disciplines or forms of my muse.)

This is personal. It's organic. And I have no idea where it came from, though it likely has something to do with my mother. (You Freudians will like that.) So here we go.

Poetry connects me to the living world. It wakes me up. It lives in the details and follows the avocado pit as it rolls into the deepest recess of the kitchen, the narrow alley where dust mice hide from the broom, after the pit jumps off the counter. Poetry laughs as I bend and stoop in irritation to retrieve the errant pit. It delights in things not going according to plan, smiles when attention veers toward surprise.

Poetry follows me out to the prison. It takes a quiet seat in the workshops, is patient when words get lazy, but delighted when hard questions dodge easy answers. When Curly finds a sliver of moon and Cowboy claims that people in Yuma delight in gunfights and hangings.

Poetry comforts my anger, sets my sadness afloat on a running river, goads me into opening and action. It forgives my laziness but suffers nothing sloppy.

It sits on the handlebars of my bike when I ride to the mountain. It points out slanting light, water falls, shimmering fall colors. It hangs out in the space between breaths.

Poetry whispers that living is full of pain and joy.

I ask it about the bullies, the ignorant, aloof, and bullet-headed enemies of truth. Poetry just smiles in a way that tells me they are powerful, but no match for what endures. It says keep your mind open and quiet and focused. It says consider your work first, then take care of what needs care. There will always be things that need care.

But I am so tired, after all that fear and anger, I tell Poetry. That's OK Poetry says. It's what you learned. You can outgrow that.

No one will pay me to watch the leaves, to speak truth to power, or find what it is that sings in my heart.

Poetry smiles. And the smile says payment is more than money. Truth can be its own reward. Find that place to work from and the rest will follow.

Easy for you to say.

Yes.  And what have you got to lose?

A lot I think. The world as I know it I think.

And then I am alone. The traces of what made so much sense linger for a while, but fade as weekend turns to Monday, as responsibility and tasks wake and demand my time and attention.

Remember. Something says. Remember. 

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