Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 No comments
I'm a bit burned out on revisions after several days of long slog, so I thought for fun I'd dig out something completely different to blog about. A poem. An old poem written during my brief career in the MA English/Creative writing program at Michigan State, polished and published a few years later.

Not Quite Away

Yesterday
all my troubles seemed so far
across the street my best friend
or close enough stepped on her
gerbil squish
She was walking it on a leash
like a dog pretty dumb I think
probably she'd forgot everything else and
burst into Tomorrow
I love ya tomorrow you're
only a day
around the block
the Bartelli boys who like to stick
crawly things into people's lunches
bought the guts for 50 ¢ &
2 red rubber bands & a swirly
marble all stuffed into
her hand too late for me
to yell cooties she smiled toothy
and wiped scritch scratch
her bloody shoe in the grass

© 1996 About Such Things

As you might guess, I was experimenting on a number of fronts here: interpolating song lyrics, breathless stream-of-consciousness style, tone/subject dissonance and finally voice. You could say my choice was somewhat in reaction to the mop-pushing megalomaniac in my poetry class who loved to use allusions to the Gilgamesh epic, among other pretensions. Ugh. Being around him made me want to write real, to get past all the grad school trying-to-sound-important BS. What could be less important-sounding than some silly kid story? So that's what I did. I worked from of a true childhood tale a high school friend had shared about one of her neighbors who thought it would be fun to walk her hamster on a leash, then inadvertently killed it. I vaguely recall that money had been exchanged to use the rodent remains for some ghoulish purpose.

My initial inclination for telling this had been to take a knowing tone, looking on this scenario with adult eyes. But it felt entirely wrong. I realized that if I was going to be true to this story, I needed to enter into the child world--seeing the neighbor girl as the kid I imagined she was, impulsive and apt to burst into song. I mined memories for details, like what the truly evil kids did for fun. Instead of 30 pieces of silver, the beloved pet is sold off for kid treasures--the sorts of things I admired in my parents' desk drawers, on my siblings' closet floors. By using onomatopoetic words, I tried make the gore concrete but not sensationalized.

It's an interesting escape, to dip into your well of memories, to set cynicism aside and speak again as a child.

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