An Act of Desperation

It is Sunday evening as I type. Janet is calling me to make our little “pizzas” on flatbread that we are going to eat for supper — my first food of the day. I spent four hours working for the Census, getting a call at nearly the last minute to drive again to DeWitt to deliver the payroll. I shopped at Wal-Mart for Janet on the way home (taking an eternity to finally locate their tiny stock of tofu). And I worked in the yard, attempting to nurture the grass and slay the creeping charlie and other weeds in the back, spreading uphill from the totally unweeded strip of grass owned by the evil Gasser True Value, source of all weeds and wickedness in our neighborhood.

I started the day by uncovering our freeze-protected little plants, and finally the day is drawing to a close. I have no post to arrive on your screens as I (I hope) am out for my run in the darkness before morning of Monday. So I am going to search out some poem and tack it on here, and I will be done.

Here we go…

When I got my teaching certificate upon graduation from Iowa Wesleyan in 1975, you didnʼt have to renew the license for a decade. So, in 1984, I realized I had better take some summer classes for the necessary educational credits to recertify (evening classes were never an option for me with my schedule of play rehearsals through the year and speech contest practices). I took a course on literary theory at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, which I found interesting (and was the closest I came to the nonsensical modern approach to teaching undergraduates literature with little or no actual reading of literature but plenty of reading of literary critics and general principles/hypotheses of interpretation) and for which I wrote two papers, one a close reading of “Clay” from Joyceʼs Dubliners (which I have still not located but would like to post one day) and the other an explanation of post-structuralism. I think I had a second class at Ambrose, but I donʼt remember anything about it now, and perhaps I only took the theory course. I do remember driving down to the Quad Cities daily for about a month for the theory class.

Later that summer, over a long weekend, for which Janet joined me at a motel in Davenport, I took Poetry Writing at the Quad Cities Grad Center in Rock Island. For that course we had to submit in advance a selection of poems. I used several that have appeared in the blog, including “Sanctuary.” That one stands out because the instructor, a lovely young woman (I believe the first time I realized I was being taught by someone younger than myself), really adored that poem and made a huge deal about it in front of the class. Everyone also wondered at the fact that I submitted my poems in dot-matrix print (meaning I had used a computer, so rare and unusual in those days; now everyone scoffs to think I write anything at all in longhand, but then my fellow budding poets felt it would be impossible to create verse without pen in hand).

On the middle day of the course, we indulged in some creative writing drills, one of which asked each of us to provide a word. In fifteen minutes we each had to construct a poem using the words in the order they had been suggested (or possibly I just decided to do that to make the problem even more challenging) as the first or last words in the lines of our verse. Evidently there were eleven of us in the course.

So hereʼs my “creation,” notable for being the only one attempting, however slightly, a narrative, and the only one suggesting violence (for which I was mildly censured all around).

I think even the title dates from that afternoon.

The Spiral Road

Licking fissured lips, he cursed the sun’s impatience

and his own fool’s wisdom in that instant—ditching

his fellow dolts sporting in the new snow’s sudden fun.

With silent certainty those dozen brownclad furry Eskimos

descended from the tundra, performed their bloody work

and trashed the camp. Now arthritis grated in the hinge

of the left elbow—right knee, too—dreadful after the run

through deep unscattered snow, beneath the sky’s delight:

he’d fought kneedeep to the trees and on to the perimeter

of the valley, clawing up the frozen flinty cliff as high

as strength endured: enfossiled in the rock, a nautilus.

A poetry writing class assignment—the final words of each line in sequence were mandated.

I donʼt recall which word was my idea.

…And thereʼs a post created in the least time of anything I have placed here in the blog (at least since this year commenced). But I do have a post for today!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

One thought on “An Act of Desperation

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