Friday, March 25, 2011

Poetry Friday: Joining the Life Poetic

Be warned: this post is a commercial for the weekly online poetry book club run by Laura Purdie Salas and Susan Taylor Brown. It's not too late to be hooked. Each Wednesday, she and Susan are reading a short chapter from Sage Cohen's Writing the Life Poetic and inviting us to read along with them and write a draft of a poem to share with each other. It began here, with Laura's post about why we write and read poetry. This week, Susan hosts the conversation which flows from Wallace Stevens' 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (a poem I love, and yet poked at until it bled one Poetry Friday, see here. )

I haven't responded to this week's chapter yet because I was fiddling with last week's assignment, which was to observe someone you only know in passing. In my head, I called this assignment "Imagining a Life." And it lead me to what I'm sharing today, which is not a life imagined, but a poem that ran away with itself and became something else---perhaps a call for you to join us in writing poetry.

I used to know her name

She moved out;
her possessions---divans, taped rugs, 
lamps as long as lances---exiting

in stately procession from the maw
of her garage, whose walls thinned 
under the beat of the monster drum set

caged there when a family with a black-haired 
son moved in. His mates bumped up

in a van with scraped doors to whoop 
him out of bed at ten in the morning, 
sunny profanities pricking

holes in the bird song until he squared
his ass and backpack in the middle seat
for a gig twelve hours away.

Then, one morning, she's back,
parked boldly in the midline

of her driveway, renters gone, her dog arched 
over the front seat, paws on a lamp. 
Dark ovals shade her eyes as she emerges;

I lift my hand; Why, Burger, I could say 
to her dog, you've grown! But to her, 
who moved to Potomac Landing, 

I have nothing to shout; we fade;
I should've hopped in the battered 

van with the hooligans, tossed
my name out the busted window,
grafted it to the thigh of a song.
                         ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Poetry Friday is hosted today by the always wonderful Mary Lee at A Year of Reading.


  1. Beautiful, poignant, a little sad.

  2. Sara, there's so much I love here, so many words put together in surprising ways, and the journey back.

    And thanks for more inspiration for joining into Laura's and Susan's Wednesdays: I've read the posts, read the chapters, and think they feed into my writing, but would like to be a bit more direct!

  3. i had an apartment that overlooked the parking lot of a liquor store some years back and i would sit in my kitchen window in the dark and imagine the lives of all the people i saw. it never once occurred to me to write them down. but if i had, i'd like to think they'd read like this.

    most excellent.

  4. Your poem has made ME imagine her life. Why did she leave? Why did she come back?

  5. "I have nothing to shout; we fade; / I should've ..." A powerful turn to the poem. Thanks for posting this one. Beautifully written.

  6. Hey Sara, Thanks for the commercial:>)

    I love how you've stitched this up, condensed it so that it's bursting with image and nuance. That last line kills me, and it also makes me marvel at how physical your poetry is; body parts seem to make it into your poems on a regular basis. You make it seem possible for all things to have life, your poem about memorizing a poem and how it's like a tattoo (at least, that's how I remember it).

    And I want to know what has given this woman dark circles under her eyes.

    Just lovely--thanks for this!

  7. Lots to ponder here. "grafted to the thigh of a song" has my brain doing flips. I like how this poem takes a weird turn at the end, didn't see that coming at all.

  8. So sad! I love how you used familiarity with her dog to show how little you knew the woman herself.

    You've got me hooked on the book club. I ordered it and I am working on this week's poem in my head. Maybe it will post...? Thanks for getting my attention once again!


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