Wednesday, April 16

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10 comments
by Laurel Garver

Photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o at
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 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 gerbil guts for 50¢ &
2 red rubber balls & 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.

Muddy-Fingered Midnights, p. 20.

I wrote the initial draft of this piece for a poetry class in graduate school. 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. 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?

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 worldseeing 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 treasuresthe sorts of things I admired from my parents' desk drawers or my siblings' closet floors. By using onomatopoetic words, I tried make the gore concrete but not sensationalized.

The title, by the way, refers to the lyric snippets that in the original, both included the word "away." But in this context, when we're small, our world shrinks. Troubles are across the street. Tomorrow is just around the block. Not quite away.

If you've always wanted to try poetry, but don't know where to start, dip into your well of memories, and not just the shiny-happy ones. It's in the sandbox we discover some of the startling truths about life.

What lines or images strike you? How might you experiment with stream-of-consciousness or tone/subject dissonance?


  1. I LOVE this poem. I can so easily see it becoming a scene in a MG novel. You have captured the essence of a kid very well. And here's to thumbing our noses as pretentious megalomaniacs.

    Favorite line? ALL of it!

    1. Thanks! I've always wanted to attempt a novel in verse. There is some rich material here to build from.'re gotten my gears grinding.

  2. I'm with Bish -- there is a great voice in this that could easily grow into a novel.

    Hehe, love that the inspiration to go this route was inspired by a desire to quash snoootery.

    1. Thanks so much. I should write a poem about this guy. He was quite the bag of contradictions--a janitor who expressed every thought with SAT and GRE vocabulary.

  3. I really enjoyed the poem and it reminded me of a way I blended song lyrics with something I wrote years ago...hmmm gotta dust out the old stuff. #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from

    1. You can get some very interesting resonances happening with intertextuality. The songs chosen will flavor the work in terms of era and tone.

  4. Sometimes the most simple things are the most profound.

    1. Indeed, these small acts show that childhood isn't always innocent in ways that some posh-sounding lecture could not.

  5. I love the tone and pace and.....everything about this. It was so novel!

    1. Thanks so much. This experimental style was a huge leap from the kinds of things I had been writing at the time, so I'm thankful for the mop-pushing megalomaniac who stirred up the urge to try something the opposite of intellectual.