I am writing like a mad person, working on what seems to be building (inexorably) toward a collection of poems about life in small towns.
Right now I am struggling with one piece, and working on a description of the head cashier at the supermarket where I worked part-time through high school, who fascinated and yet repelled me simultaneously. Her name was Shirley, she held her own with the overbearing male managers, and she was fearless. She seized upon whatever power she could in those days, it seems. I realize now how strong she really was.
So that’s my project for today. It is tentatively titled “Wearing Red.” I shall post it once I wrestle it to the ground.
Michelangelo said the work of art awaited him beneath the slab of marble, merely for him to uncover it. In my own small way I understand that as I write these days. The poem I know is possible waits patiently at the other side across a murky divide and with luck and patience maybe I can reach it, reveal it.
Here is one I wrote about a barbecue years ago in the small town where I lived.
A barbecue and swim after work had brought us together
around the campfire that summer evening,
An impromptu thing teenagers do best:
You bring the beer. I’ll bring the chips.
I watched her run up from the water laughing.
As I write this her name comes back to me: Yvonne.
Fresh from her swim she stood close to the fire
in her tiny yellow bikini
drying her waist-length sheet of onyx-colored hair with a towel.
She seemed so utterly assured of herself in the task at hand,
so composed for a young girl,
tossing her head languidly from side to side
then taking a large hounds tooth comb and slowly pulling it through
that glorious hair of hers.
She must have known we all followed her every move,
couldn’t help but know it by the silence
that had enveloped her ritual,
the flames casting an unreal glow on that hair,
that perfect form and face.
The men particularly stared in awe
at this goddess from Okinawa who’d ended up
in our backwater of all places,
in their midst.
I watched the men’s faces watching her,
knowing even at 16 I would never possess the audacity
that was Miss Yvonne Tsubone’s that night,
and for as long as it lasted,
that which comes from sheer and absolute physical beauty,
a calling card that says,
I am perfect just as I am:
what I am is