A Poem Has Resurfaced in the Midst of My Editing

I’m nearing the final stages of editing my new collection of poems, Playing House. In this long process, I’ve uncovered some old poems, essentially my personal back catalogue, some of which hasn’t been published yet. There are poems in here that are more than fifteen years old, and I’ve been examining them to see what can be revised and useful now, if anything.

One poem I’ve run across, which I love but probably cannot include in the book, was an exercise from a poetry workshop I took back in 2002 through Inprint in Houston. The teacher was Alan Ainsworth. He had everyone in the class come up with a line of blank verse, and then our homework was to arrange all those lines together into a poem. There must have been fourteen of us, because we ended up with a collection of extremely different sonnets.

I don’t remember which line I contributed. I actually don’t even remember if the poem I collated was truly all the lines from the class, or whether I ended up taking a few of the lines I especially loved and writing the rest of it myself. I do remember that all the resulting poems were wildly different, and that we enjoyed the exercise. It’s one I’m planning to use in my own classes this spring.

Anyway, since I’m not still in touch with any of the other poets in that workshop, I have no way to verify anything about this poem — assuming the others would even remember it. I remember it only because I have a hard copy of this poem in my archives.

So with the disclaimer that I don’t remember how much of the following poem I composed but I certainly did arrange it all, and with grateful acknowledgement of all who were in that class, including Alan, and a desire that any of them who might see this post come forward, here is the cleverly entitled “Exercise.” Enjoy.







Whisper to me in Urdu, “I know you”:
after we kiss, mildew falls from heaven
and the old silence suffocates the hills.
Turning from you, I decipher voices


like a sandy crust. In my mind, lazy,
thought collapsed upon thought in lines,
remembering the frayed pockets of ancient ships,
where I wrapped my legs around your wooden ones


while two lawyers watched from across the room,
leering over the table, grinning gin.
They swarm, these creatures of the night.
Ten years have passed since you finally left.


Now you enter again in a battered white van, senseless.
You should know better than to summon a holy scribe.




2 thoughts on “A Poem Has Resurfaced in the Midst of My Editing

    1. Yes, exactly. 🙂 I think I remember that some of them managed to be sonnets in the argument-form sense, even employing a dramatic turn. The initial idea for the assignment was, I believe, to make sonnets out of found lines. They weren’t sonnets in the sort of expected Petrarchan/Elizabethan/Spenserian outcomes because they generally didn’t use much rhyme and certainly not in those schemes, if I recall correctly. But there are so many other types with more forgiving rhyme schemes that I think some of the students may have managed some of those. It’s all pretty fuzzy in my memory — such a long time ago!


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