Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eating my words

Rocky Mountain Rat

Ah, the pleasure of the found snack. This chipmunk enjoying a bit of granola bar left behind by a messy hiker (I try to resist feeding the beggars, myself) reminds me of the time I found a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup (unopened) in the gutter while I was walking home from school. But now's not the time for that story.

Let's continue Poetry Tuesday with another peek into my (food-related) poetic past!

The backstory:
Before my thirtieth birthday I copied one of Tony's inspired ideas and sent friends an email with the suggestion they bring poems they'd written for me to my birthday celebration (or that they send poems by email, in the case of far-away friends) instead of giving other sorts of gifts. In my email, I included a list of thirty words I'd chosen for potential inclusion in those poems, inviting my friends to use any number of the words but hoping some would take the challenge to use all thirty in one epic work. I got some good pomes that year. I have some pretty great friends.

After I got home from receiving the struggled-over poems at my birthday "party" at a Korean BBQ joint, I thought it only fair that I use those same 30 words to write my own thank-you note poem to those who helped me celebrate. It was pretty hard -- much harder than writing the one I'd written for Tony's birthday. But I persevered.

Sidebar: Because of this site's theme, I will point out that three of my thirty words were potentially food/drink -- cocoa, sheep, and buzz (as in the fictional cola) -- but I was surprised by the additional food references I ended up with in the final thank-you poem.

The words were:
rasp, portent, dwindle, gloaming, buzz
phantom, button, veer, disorient, fog
noise, cocoa, rube, Cerberus, hank (or Hank)
sheep, spade, bundle, low, aluminum
luster, sieve, perforce, ever, France
are, lapse, rather, under, laser

Now comes the poem part.



I'm not the first to press the button of this number
and smell: something like portent, burnt toast
a buzz of age, warm cheese (from France?),
the low promise of lapse -- its sour scent of aluminum,
pee after a bundle of asparagus, sad and threatening,
the faded perfume of hands clasped with the past,
and dry with time.

OK, poor me. But, some of that is noise.
I mean, it's not like the world slips into
black and white
or grey or cocoa
or a sepia fog (at 30). I can't hear
that scrape of spade against my grave
just yet.
No laser dot of red pins me between the eyes.

Rather, I dwindle as I grow. The gloaming spreads
bruise purple between cattails on some shore,
a phantom of an edge horizon-deep and -wide.
I slog in mud, sometimes, to veer with sucking sounds
from orient to disorient and have few maps
and want for friends and sunny days.
And I can feel pretty damn sorry for myself.

But sometimes a hell-hound is just a dog
("His name's not Cerberus. It's Hank")
tied up outside the sandwich shop.
It's okay for you to pet him.
He's not guarding a thing.
And some milestones mark a journey to, not from,
or "historic point of interest" pull-out on the road.
And tonight, on my birthday, leaving some warm company so late,
cold-marching toward my sleep,
I walked over a rasp of ice under a scrape of sky,
mostly unwounded,
and thought of all the things that can come in thirty(+)
but are not scary,
like sheep and pastry
and words and friends and years.

Am I the rube who plays at carnivals, believing she could win?
If so, I ever win. My friends,
and here's the sappy part,
you are the clink of ring-toss made,
you are the grains of gold against my sieve.
You are the luster of
my many warming suns in Feb. and Mar.
I love you so, perforce,
because you'll maybe be (it's just a hunch)
my lights of dawn
at thirty one

and then some.

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