So sad I’ve been not to be here at Pokey Mama that I couldn’t stand to look at the little tab on my Favorites bar with the mini PM staring forlornly at me from way out in cyberspace. If not now, when? she asks plaintively, or sometimes, when feeling bullish (in the Hemingway sense of the word) she thunders: Carpe diem! and then devolves into Robin Williams doing Billy Crystal: Seize something, for crying out loud—I’m dyin’ here.
The last time I managed to loose myself from the pegs of everyday and visit Pokey Mama I exhibited hubris. (I know, what else is new?) Not only did I malign a beloved children’s book (although judging from the response I got, perhaps more feared than loved) I also had the temerity to talk about balance in a way that suggested I, Pokey, was experiencing said state. That was a month ago. My, my, how time and the Jabberwock doth fly.
Maybe you never noticed, but the tiny subhead on my masthead includes the word worker. I chose this honorific as a nod to my socialist, union-loving, bohemian upbringing, but also as a tip of the hat toward parenting as a job, and a full-blown curtsy to those who parent and work outside the home as well.
We don’t much think of ourselves as workers anymore; it’s a term that belongs to a different time. It’s not just the blue-collar connotations (remember when we had blue-collar jobs?), it also has that American Dream tingle: a worker is engaged and productive, makes something and is part of something, a worker has a future.
Most of us who have a job in The Great Recession are feeling pretty damn lucky, and afraid. Those who don’t—just pretty damn afraid. But it’s like head lice—everywhere, and nobody wants to talk about it.
I found lice on my son this week. Fifty dollars, eight loads of laundry, endless vacuuming, a haircut and two hours of nitpicking later, we were in pretty good shape. Well, he was. This morning I woke up with a sinus headache so brutal I could barely open my eyes. I’m in bed now, writing this. I know it will make me feel better.
When I told people about the lice, they said, “Well, better lice than bedbugs.” Yep. And a big shout-out to Dow, Monsanto and Pfizer for that.
You may be wondering where this Pokey post is headed. Me, too. I’m feeling my way in the dark. But what I’m touching has something to do with the idea of making something. And how we got sold on the idea that it’s better to buy something than make something (the bigger the something the better the something) and the more sterile the place we have for our big somethings the safer we will be. And happy. We will be happy. (Remember the boy/man in The Giving Tree? I’m sad. I need more apples. I need more wood.)
As I move about in my theoretically middle-class orbit of work and school and work and email and not-enough-time-outside, what I’m missing most on planet pokey is this—following paths that possibly lead nowhere. Making mistakes. Making something from nothing. Making something worthless because it gives me pleasure. Acting stupid. Wasting time. Taking risks. And possibly my favorite: Making a Big Deal Out of Nothing.
The last time I brought a poem to my “critique” (AKA wine-drinking) group they really liked it, but nobody could say what it was “about.” Possibly it was about nothing, but I suspect it was about what I’m talking about now. The “triggering subject” (as Richard Hugo would say) was an email from a fancy literary mag with a call for poems to fit phone apps.
Write a poem that fits on a screen.
I chewed on this for a while, and talked to a friend about it and we took a walk. We weren’t going anywhere, just walking and talking. (See Big Deal Out of Nothing, above.) She said: You need to write a poem about that.
So every night before I fell asleep– because that’s the time I have now for silly frippery like writing poetry–I made the poem. Here is what I made:
Write a Poem that Fits
with thanks to KN
on a screen,
on a rose,
on a smooth, igneous stone.
Write a poem that dances
on its hind legs.
Write a poem that wants to make love
on a couch in a damp basement
with Stevie Wonder on. Don’t use the word
love. Don’t ever lie to the poem.
Write a poem shaped like a cloud
shaped like an elephant.
Write a poem in ivory.
Write a poem that’s rare, hunted, quarantined.
Write a poem like the headache you had
all last week until the weather broke.
Break the poem.
Write a poem that’s broken.
Fix the poem with cardboard, toothpicks and glue.
Make a frame for it, a little mat to stand on.
Write a poem that’s bored.
Write a poem that’s bored.
Write a poem that holds its breath
until it gets its way. Spoiled poem,
poem with no conscience, poem
Make the poem sorry. Make the poem
say your name in its sleep.
Put the poem in a low power state.
Its pixels are tired.
Pretend you’re too busy for the poem.
You never liked the poem. It never fit.
I hope that I won’t have to get sick again to find time to come back to Pokey Mama. But I don’t know—the money beast has me in its teeth.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
Thanks for sticking with me.