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.