October 29, 2006

4 new poems


It was never like anything you imagined
from a television familiarity with ERs
ORs and ICUs, never on schedule,
orderly just in the nick of time
but with a touch of humor, comic relief
always ready in the wings. For one thing
there was always too much noise
and damaged bodies gave off fluids
messy, even repulsive, if you didn’t know
what to expect. The four
times you were there you never got used
to the uproar, the loudspeaker,
doctors racing from cubicle to cubicle,
peripatetic police, harried nurses,
all in service to the temple of the body,
its personal soap, the one life to live
you were always so intent on throwing away.


Webster must have known big words hurt
less than the small venomous yellow jackets
of lesser ones that spoke their minds
and didn’t care who heard,
which is why in “perorate” you find
a synonym for “talk” and “circumlocution”
hides a way to walk around and around
what it is you want to say
so that when the wasps would sting
with his “Go away, Leave me alone!”
and you wish he had chosen to circumnavigate
your feelings, Webster’s Registered Word-nurse
springs to her duty: “Perambulate
from the domicile,” her gentle urge is, offering
aloe to a burn. “He is fugaciously recusant.”
It is not aloe you want, but no burn,
but the stinger is in and must be removed
and so you tweeze and lotion
with words of soft vowels, cushions,
no sharp edges or plosives, comforting yourself.
He comes around by evening, contrite
as you cook, puts his arms
around your trembling shoulders,
his chin in your neck, says the two short words
simple, peacemaking,
that are white moths fluttering
near your anger, taking that risk to say,
I’m sorry.


(With thanks to Billy Collins for the first 5 words)

The wires of the night carry soft voices
worried voices, voices thick with tears
that murmur If only... over and over.
They string the continent, connecting
1 am to 4 am souls of the dark night
when telephones ring only terrible news and heartbreak.

The wires of the night whisper I’m sorry, It’s too late,
I’m leaving, She’s dead,
through cold dark veins
of neither stars nor blood,
Beantown to Carson City, LA to Disney World.

No pinch or sting changes the stark facts
of the nighttime call, despair or grief--
something over at 3 am is still over in the morning.

The wires of the night are lonely, singing their songs
to sleeping birds, to time rushing east to west,
from then to now, what was before to what is after,
the living and the dead, the wires of the night.

The wires of the night sleep harmlessly,
humming dreams of charmed quarks, strange attractors
until the click of a phone after midnight
wakes them to the worst news
someone doesn’t want to hear.


A New Jersey beach rather, sun,
seaweeds braided with shells flung up
by the dirty ocean and a wedding
under a striped canopy, white and black.

“Love in the Sahara” is the title
of a poem by Mr. B. Collins.
I wonder what he made out of it.
Was his Sahara the real thing? His love?
In my poem a couple marries quickly
because horseflies unexpectedly interrupt
the loveliness and plunge them
into a marriage of more trials and errors
than either of them bargained for.
I do not know yet if I will let it survive.

I myself never married, never had a love
I could call “my love” in Jersey
let alone the Sahara. I’ve loved cats and books,
friends and family, but no love of my life
enraptured by heat and sand, never
never left me high and dry.

Posted by pamwagg at October 29, 2006 04:34 PM


Dear Pam,

Thanks so much for the poems. I'm only going to comment on the first two because I've read them aloud the most. And remember that I am no master of the English language, though hopefully some of my comments will shed some light on your poems and help you. My fingers' are crossed X.

On TO A REPEAT OFFENDER: Great title, drew me in right away and ties in nicely with the last two lines. I leave the poem with a sense of curiousity. Who is this offender? Is he or she being supervised by "peripatetic police" (I love the word choice here)? What is the injury? Why was he/she there four times? Who is the viewer/poet?
Why is he/she (Are you the one speaking to the offender?) speaking to her subject? What's the relationship? These questions are a wonderful response to the poem. To me, it means the poem lives. I think the never/always repetition works. I do get confused in the beginning of the poem. The author immediately gets inside the subject's (the offender's) head, saying that the hospital is not at all like the TV shows but which is which? Is it the hospital that is "never on schedule" but the TV shows that have the humorous orderlies "always ready in the wings"? I think the comparison could be clearer. Or maybe take the comparison out and stick with what the hospital is to the offender. I love the comparison between the frenetic energy of the hospital with "personal soap", everybody working so hard to help the ill, to clean and heal the ill. And does the offender's repeat injuries mean he/she is suicidal, intentional self-destructive and why? Hopefully some of these questions will help jog your ideas. I think you should keep working on this one. I enjoyed it greatly, especially reading it aloud.

On SESQUIPEDALIAN: I looked up the word in my Oxford Dictionary and the definition that seemed somewhat likely was "A person or thing a foot and a half high or long." But I couldn't correlate that with big or small words, or yellow jackets or the contrite man or the angry woman. So have I got the meaning wrong? This poem seems like two poems pulled together. I mean both parts are about words and their power, but one is about word analysis and comparisons with stinging insects and the other is about a couple who are starting to make up after a fight I think. In the couple who is it who says "Go away, Leave me alone!" Who does the stinging? Who is the "Word-nurse" who speaks so formally? Why the enjambement "Webster must have known big words hurt/less..."? Do they hurt? And if they don't hurt less why write "...says the two short words/simple, peacemaking,"--so you switch from short words that are like "venomous yellow jackets" to short words of peace. I know I'm not getting something here and I want to because, again, I think this poem is alive just not finished yet. And of course not, they're new!

Let me know if you like my thoughts, if they help and then I'll review the last two poems.

Kate :P

Posted by: Kate K. at October 31, 2006 06:10 PM

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