Sunday Poems XI

Last week I spent some time in an elementary school coaching students on reciting poems they’d memorized to be presented at a christmas concert. I’ve explained lots of metaphors about snow, the cold, and discussed how to present emotion. Eventually it always got through; kids are fast learners. There are things they’ve not thought of yet though: they’re not aware of how they appear to other people, and an emotional performance of this sort of work requires some coaching.

I get to go back this week to see if the work paid off, or if I’ll have to go over it all again. New sorts of work gives us new sorts of insights into the world. I’m happy that these kids are giving me their time to help me learn more about poetry.

Sometimes Sundays are mostly about being cold, tired, and trying to warm up. You eventually find a cup of coffee (after three cups of tea) which does the trick, even if the caffeine makes your extremities feel a little bit chilled. Reading a poem aloud to a friend is useful because you are reenacting the communication process of the poet writing to the reader. You translate the poem into a work of theatre through the process of recital. If there’s no one around, try reading a poem aloud. Communicate it to yourself. The more layers of interpretations you can provide to a work, the more interesting it will be to pull apart. As always, I’m here if you need to talk.


playing it safe

i)

i’m 21 and it’s a good day of the week.

i like when i’m listening to an album
and it gets to a bit where there’s complete silence.

i made carol a tape of tracks
which are almost completely silent
from music i like.

she thanks me for the christmas present
but tells me she doesn’t have a tape deck
“it’s 2015 stupid;
it’s 2015 stupid.”

ii)

a little too caffeinated,
i tried to stick a rolled up
plastic $10 bill up my ass
in a coffee shop washroom.

last night i met up with my friends
and we agreed under the moon
to try fighting.

our boots skittered around in the slush
no one wearing a jacket except todd
and carol’s black bra was a monster
clinging to her torso
under her white shirt
in the streetlights.

we almost had to leap out of the way
of a pick up truck
and someone dropped a beer
when they fell on their ass
and there was glass everywhere
but no one cut themselves.

last year for my birthday
everyone made shirts with my face on it
green shirts with a white face
and i dyed my hair from green to blue
a week later.

a crunchy feeling in my stomach.

one night we all chewed nicotine gum
and stared wired at a tv screen
as a middle aged man on screen
hit his niece in the face
with his gloved fist
until she stopped screaming.

“why did we just watch that,”
said carol in tears
and i touched my ankle to the side of her foot
and everyone hugged carol for a minute.

once todd opened a bag of potato chips
over my head and it was a vinegary shower
and someone (i don’t remember who)
licked the flavouring off my face.

iii)

deciding which clothing to wear in the morning
is something i have read about for years
from every sort of perspective.

it’s an important part of gendered behaviour
and it’s an important part of engendered behaviour.

i suggest that clothes are a force
that exerts a social power
like almost nothing.

everyone nods.

and the moon is up above
through the ceiling.

the beer i’m drinking tastes salty
and i tell carol
that my bottle is full of tears,
freshly cried.

she tries a sip
and has to agree.

iv)

we are trying to figure out
a new way to hold hands
and we have a handholding circle
so that you can try with two other people
at the same time.

someone suggests this might be
summoning spirits from beyond.

someone produces a long whistle with a crinkled mouth
cut off by someone else’s lips on theirs.


This post was originally written on December 13, 2015 for Latitude 53, while I was their Writer in Residence.