At some point, I think everyone dreams of being a poet. It’s one of those classic romantic things that you’re supposed to like if you’re a lady and supposed to be good at if you want to get the ladies. Or maybe I’m still stuck in the 1800’s. I can’t tell anymore. In any case, I was that little dreamer who felt poetry coursing through his veins. I was that kid with the bright sparkle in his eye and the contempt for his own existence simmering just below the surface.
I remember the first time I tried to write a poem. I was in English class, and Mr. Noonan had us all create a poem using words cut from papers and magazines. To my own amusement, I discovered I liked the process. In time, I would start learning more about poetry along with more about the poets themselves. Fast forward some more and I pretty much assumed I was William Shakespeare’s long lost relative.
So, how could a shy kid like me in high school think that he’s a master poet? Simple. Poetry.Com
Y’see, I fell for this little scam they had going back then. You submit a poem to their site and they send you a letter or e-mail saying that your poetry blew them away and that it’s being put into a collection – which YOU CAN HAVE. If you buy it. And spend other money, too. On other stuff. Still – that first poem? I believed it. So I started sending out poems, writing whatever came to mind. Eventually I figured out that they would still send you the same letter even if you sent them a re-typed page from the phone book.
So, I was crushed. I still love poetry, but I’ve shied away from it after that humiliating first experience with the writing form. Sometimes, my prose still carries poetic imagery, but I don’t go too far with it. But those early poems I wrote? Those are still out there. and I read them from time to time. And now, just because I feel a little bit masochistic, I’m going to post those poems from the past here – in all their glory, so you can see what the poetry of an angsty guy in his early 20’s looks like.
THE LITTLE ACROBAT
She can do splits and somersaults.
Cartwheels too, and flips galore.
You’d be hard-pressed to find her faults
When she can do all this and more.
Tumbling, jumping, and leaping;
She is poetry in motion.
Practicing while the rest are sleeping,
Her moves fluid as the ocean.
Little acrobat, is this what you want?
They do not come to see your moves.
It’s the oddity you seem to flaunt
That drives the public out in droves.
Darkness all around,
Cobblestones on the ground,
A light, at the end.
The stone overhead
Appears to bend;
The masons long since dead.
Dew on the stone,
And the wind that moans
Through the dark passage
Whispers of Autumn
And the winter to come.
Their souls and stone are one.
The stonemasons live forever in their art.
And to us, the stonemasons their lives impart.
THE LITTLE GIRL AT THE FENCE
Little girl at the fence; what do you see?
“The eyes of the dead, peering back at me.”
What do you suppose they’d say if they’d speak?
“I do not know, though it could only be bleak.”
And why is that, little girl at the fence?
“The dead harbor no joy…only offense.
Their lives have been stolen. They have been judged.
I suppose they’d be out for their murderer’s blood.”
And how do you know they’ve been murdered, girl?
“In the end, sir, God murders us all.”
The lightest touch
A nexus of pleasure,
Dreams are made of this.
Wearily, he pushed open the door.
Creaking open, it revealed the expected emptiness beyond,
With only fragments of light reaching his sunken eyes,
Cutting through the darkness from the window,
The curtains swaying ghost-like in the breeze.
Lonely raindrops begin their suicidal leaps,
Spattering hollowly against the thick panes of glass,
Perhaps because they’d been hurt as he had.
The “tap, tapping” of the raindrops’ death reverberated
Through the empty apartment, just as her words
Had reverberated through his empty soul.
Closing the door, and engulfing himself in the non-light,
He walked heavily to the couch,
And threw himself on it wildly,
Breaking down…down to nothing…to his core.
He was alone in life now, just as he was alone
In this empty dwelling. It was just as well.
Through tear streaked vision that mimicked the wetted window panes,
He rolled his head in quiet agony, looking about the room,
Wishing that it didn’t have to be this way.
Pulling at the tangled mess that was his hair, he screamed.
The sound at first cracked, like a broken man’s plea for life,
And then rose…rose with the sound of countless others before him:
Abelard, Petrarch, Ariadne, they all wept and cried out for
A love that could never be theirs. Choking on his own salty sorrow,
He listened to the grumblings of the heavens as quick light flashed outside.
For a moment, the heavens drowned out his cries of pain,
But then, the rumbling of the thunder gave voice to his own
And it seemed as if he would burst,
His will shattered into a thousand pieces like his heart.
How much pain could an already-broken man take?
Walking slowly to the window, he was quiet once again,
His eyes reddened and vacant, and his hands trembling and bloodied.
He opened the window further, feeling each raindrop hit his skin.
Then, he looked to the sky and joined the suicidal raindrops,
And their descent from the pain.
I sit on the icy bench and watch.
I note to myself;
“They walk like zombies. They all do.”
As I see him hobble on the cobblestones,
Striking payphones with a malnutritioned fist
And then reaching his reeking fingers into the coin return.
He searches for change in one, two, three phones.
No luck there, so next he beats on the newspaper vending machine.
On all sides, he’s surrounded by towering, capitalist wealth.
Its shadows blanket us, and even I feel its chill
As I sit on the icy bench.
If I’m so cold, then how must it be for him?
And it’s only three pm.
His hat teeters on his head, not covering his ears.
I note to myself;
“They all wear their hats like that in the winter. They all do.”
My winter hat fits snug over my own ears,
And I tell myself he’s probably used to it.
He strolls off, and I follow out of morbid curiosity.
“Change! You got any change?”
He yells this at passerby. I feel guilty.
I have twenty dollars.
People ignore him. No, no change for you, mister.
We like you just the way you are
As you can see, not the best stuff ever. And it didn’t help that Poetry.Com inspired within me a false sense of artistic confidence. But the art of poetry is great if you can master it, and I admire anyone who can do so. Poetry seems sort of dead these days and nobody even ever talks about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – but I hope that changes at some point and this bastard child of the many forms of writing out there will be enjoyed once more by the masses. Poetry might not be my thing, but I’m glad I tried it out.