5 September 2016
Fall semester is when I have the privilege of teaching Creative Writing, and this fall I have a full class of 20 students. To further one element of my teaching philosophy–that I am willing to model for students any writing I’m asking of them–I’m working on some poetry. My first piece, which I’ll post here, is a tribute to my much-loved Captain Basco, who died a year ago on July 31st. That I was able to even begin such a piece probably speaks to the healing that has taken place during the past year, but I’m nowhere near “over it.” If you’ve ever loved an animal, prepare yourself, fair warning.
It’s alright if you have to go
I said aloud so he would know
while petting his black-grey fur
once glossy as midnight
now dull as dust
We lay on the newly-carpeted floor
his small body stretched on its side
his breathing labored
Chuck showering, washing off the
nasty business he will take on
because I can’t
awaiting the call of the
Grim Reaper’s scythe,
reprieve from responsibility for
sweet Basco’s life
Did you hear me, I wonder
and kiss his soft muzzle
How serious his pain?
Can I do the right thing?
my heart screams:
It’s alright, I repeat
we’ll be okay (so I lied)
another soft touch along
ribs under flesh
not a puppy anymore
Then an arch of the back
eyes wide, mouth open
sudden, deliberate motion
one loud, strong, cry from
his small, damaged body
a tongue on the blanket
unnatural, flaccid, pale
Urine warms my hand
evidence of the living
vessel that housed his soul
New carpet soiled
with tears and excrement
of canine life expelled
and no recovery
from the unimaginable
of watching Basco die.
For the first time, I am teaching a creative writing class this semester. It’s a bit of a stretch for me, a teacher of composition and literature (if I count the honors seminar I teach at Helena College). As well as being a stretch, it’s also really a gift. I am able to read and think about writing in a way that I normally don’t or won’t, consigning creative writing to the category of “fun,” which often translates to “superfluous” in my busy life.
Part of my teaching philosophy demands that I “practice what I preach,” and never ask students to do work that I have not or would not do myself. Therefore, I’ve determined to share–at least as much as I’m able–in the writing tasks I’ve assigned to students in the class, and so I will be posting some of my poetry here. I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never claimed to be a poet, but neither have I claimed I was not one. I hope my readers will enjoy what I write, and I eagerly anticipate feedback.
Remembering, I hear the words “I do”
From that one day so many years ago
When I became the other part of you
And burned our love so deep our souls did glow.
And you took me to be your wedded wife
In health, in wealth, it mattered not that day
We couldn’t bear we part within this life
And promised we did mean what we did say.
The trials of life come often it is true
That many times we rail and curse our fate
Yet always I am glad to be with you
For God did grant me thus the perfect mate.
In time I know our love shall yet be more
As now our love is greater than before.
A mother’s grief, God bless you Mamie Till
Your precious boy plucked from your arms by fate
Though murdered by the ignorance of hate
His death could not your mother’s love make still
Retrieved the corpus, mutilated, killed
With tenderness and grace you bore the weight
Should God and all forever know the date
When Satan led those men to Emmett Till.
Then rising up his spirit would not stay
Nor covered up remain the heinous crime
America! Confess! Face your disgrace!
Forget not what has come to pass this day.
Condemned beyond the grave to spend all time
A mother’s son reminds us with his face.
Here’s a ridiculous poem I wrote many years ago. It’s silly, but I kind of like it.
‘Twas some nights before Christmas
and low and behold
I opened the fridge and was smothered
I had good intentions to make
but mold-covered cookies are
not good to eat.
So off to the bedroom
I flew in a fright
Not knowing what more
I could handle that night.
Then what to my wondering
eyes should appear?
But a drunk in the street
and eight, large Reineer deer.
The drunk how he staggered
his teeth, they were missing.
The Reineer deer charged him
The wind, it was hissing.
When suddenly what should my tired
but the poor drunk was swallowed
by my kitchen mold!
I jumped out my window and
landed so gay
on the back of a Reineer deer
up, up, away!
But up was not up for that
poor Reineer deer
’cause he was smashed flat
by my hefty rear.
Then as they all flew
far out of sight
not even one wished me
good cheer or good night!