Sunday, April 19, 2009

Today's Poem-A-Day is simply too big and unwieldy to fit into the sidebar, so I'm placing it here, instead.


User's Guide to Physical Debilitation

by Paul Guest

Should the painful condition of irreversible paralysis
last longer than forever or at least until
your death by bowling ball or illegal lawn dart
or the culture of death, which really has it out
for whoever has seen better days
but still enjoys bruising marathons of bird watching,
you, or your beleaguered caregiver
stirring dark witch's brews of resentment
inside what had been her happy life,
should turn to page seven where you can learn,
assuming higher cognitive functions
were not pureed by your selfish misfortune,
how to leave the house for the first time in two years.
An important first step,
with apologies for the thoughtlessly thoughtless metaphor.
When not an outright impossibility
or form of neurological science fiction,
sexual congress will either be with
tourists in the kingdom of your tragedy,
performing an act of sadistic charity;
with the curious, for whom you will be beguilingly blank canvas;
or with someone blindly feeling their way
through an extended power outage
caused by summer storms you once thought romantic.
Page twelve instructs you how best
to be inspiring to Magnus next door
as he throws old Volkswagens into orbit
above Alberta. And to Betty
in her dark charm confiding a misery,
whatever it is, that to her seems equivalent to yours.
The curl of her hair that her finger knows
better and beyond what you will,
even in the hypothesis of heaven
when you sleep. This guide is intended
to prepare you for falling down
and declaring détente with gravity,
else you reach the inevitable end
of scaring small children by your presence alone.
Someone once said of crushing
helplessness: it is a good idea to avoid that.
We agree with that wisdom
but gleaming motorcycles are hard
to turn down or safely stop
at speeds which melt aluminum. Of special note
are sections regarding faith
healing, self-loathing, abstract hobbies
like theoretical spelunking and extreme atrophy,
and what to say to loved ones
who won't stop shrieking
at Christmas dinner. New to this edition
is an index of important terms
such as catheter, pain, blackout,
pathological deltoid obsession, escort service,
magnetic resonance imaging,
loss of friends due to superstitious fear,
and, of course, amputation
above the knee due to pernicious gangrene.
It is our hope that this guide
will be a valuable resource
during this long stretch of boredom and dread
and that it may be of some help,
however small, to cope with your new life
and the gradual, bittersweet loss
of every God damned thing you ever loved.


And there it sat, the transcribed poem, html duly adjusted, waiting for me to recover from reading it. This was one of those moments when I am struck anew by the power of poetry.

(And now for something completely different)

Yesterday I visited NaPoWriMo (Read Write Poem) and posted my flash poem* from the day before. It was based on the prompt "abide".



In the moments between

when we cannot feel the
warmth of your hand in mine, the
brush of skin on skin and

we are open to the world alone
unsafe exposed I know
that somewhere you are thinking

of me
knowing that I am
treasuring the memory

of you and we
abide in our love as in a
warm home in winter.

I like this exercise - look at the prompt; write the poem. *I know I'm using the term flash poem incorrectly - but I can't think what else to call it when you grab a prompt and quickly write a poem before you think too much about it and get wound up in your own head and never write anything at all.

But when I looked at the next prompt (it's over on the right at NaPoWriMo), it was wrangle. Wrangle? You can't be serious. No way am I trying to write a poem about wrangle. So I refreshed the page to get a new word. The new word was stink. I gave up. I was obviously destined to write a poem about something dreadful. I decided to use both words, and this is what I came up with:


He Rides the Rodeo

You wrangle helpless steers in the dust
of that ugly corral you love so much
and when you come to me swaggering
staggering drunk with pride
I recoil from abattoir stink
The smell of money you say
but it's not, I think
It's the smell of death
and the stench of hubris
rubbed with blood and sweat
until it shines and I see
myself reflected there
shimmering, like oiled water
breaking, disappearing.

It was only afterwards that I remembered there's more than one way to use wrangle. Never mind. It was very cathartic. ;>)


Anonymous said...

hehee, I love this, you did an awesome job on it!!

Sandra Leigh said...

Thanks, Kim. By the way, Amazon says my copy of The Unbreakable Child has made it to Richmond, B.C. - so I imagine I'll have it on Tuesday.

John Hayes said...

Those are some good writing tasks it seems at the November Writing site. Good to write off the cuff, & you've come up with some nice stuff in the process-- I liked the "abide" one quite well especially, & Like the "oiled water" image in "Wrangle."

The poem by Paul Guest is very powerful. All good stuff.

Sandra Leigh said...

Thank you, John. I know. The Paul Guest poem was chilling, wasn't it?

Blog Archive