Friday, July 3, 2009

Doing circles in the squares

A few days ago my excellent friend Chad emailed me requesting a poem I wrote seven years ago, just before I left Houston for grad school in Boston. I brought it into my first workshop with Bill Knott; Chad was also in that class. He wanted to use it as inspiration for a goodbye bike ride around Boston; he's moving to Oklahoma soon.

I apparently didn't think enough of the poem to back it up when I switched computers a couple of years after that, so to find the poem I had to fire up my old laptop for the first time in about five years (it looked so small!) and search through the docs for the word "coasting," since that's the only word from the poem I could remember. I didn't recall the title (and I don't save my poem files by title anyway) or anything else about it really, aside from the occasion of biking wistfully around Houston. Since I never revised it or tried to publish it or anything, I was pretty sure I'd hate it, so I was pleasantly surprised to actually like it, and to realize my poetic stylings haven't really changed all that much. It's a little more sentimental than I'd permit myself to be now, and with more similes, and not as "wise-ass" as John put it, but I recognized a lot of "moves" I'd be as likely to pull now. Also, it was largely about my brother, which I didn't remember at all. My brother has kind of been one of the two or three major subjects of my poetry. After love and death.

A few lines/phrases I liked from the poem: "I bike around the blocks I know, saying hello and goodbye. It's early / morning, and the air is still waving // from yesterday's heat"; "A glitch in time"; "walking Berlin in his long coat and deep snow"; "the new adversity"; "like a good lie"; "The wind / blows the fountain all over my face // and the street" ... does that last one sound like bukake? Didn't make the connection when I wrote it.

I hope Chad doesn't have the opposite experience -- discovering it to be worse than he remembered.

We are 75-80% settled in the new place. We really liked our old apartment but this one has a lot to like too -- two balconies, lots of light, a big, clean kitchen, etc. Also, it's got French doors, between the living and dining rooms, which is threatening and appropriate. Some of my readers know I once had a run-in with a French door.

I need to make this blog the #1 result in Google for "the french exit"; right now it's on page 3 though I swear it was on page 1 a few days ago. Apparently it's a band, "for fans of Cat Power and PJ Harvey"; fuckers. (I mean the band, not CP and PJH. They're lovely.) They're kind of fucking my SEO here. Also, from Urban Dictionary I learned a connotation of "French exit" I wasn't familiar with, namely that it may entail skipping the check. Readers, I assure you, my FE's never involve said faux pas.

I'll post pics of the new place soon. Tomorrow, Kathy and Martin will be in town. Yay! Happy 4th.


  1. i like it (the poem)! flash of recognition for "The wind / blows the fountain all over my face" the line really puts you in the time and place and also somehow suggests the wonderful passivity that one can feel when all the ends are tied in the old place and all that's left is the trip itself ...

  2. trying not to reread my comment in light of the bukakke metaphor ...

  3. ha. passivity.

    I think Chad is going to put the whole poem on his blog at some point, FYI.

  4. Elisa,

    No disappointment here. The poem was better than I remembered it, and I remembered it fondly. I, too, was surprised to discover your brother hanging out there, but his presence makes the poem wistful in a good way. To me (and I'm happy to find you agree) the poem shows that you "had it" poetically way back when: like your best poems, this one doesn't feel presented or displayed to the reader; it feels "thought"--the lines read like thoughts that are happening simultaneous to the reading. I think perhaps your use of line break and especially fragments brings this about. I love it.

    Keep checking Oklachusetts in the days to come for the poem and my bike ride.

    Thanks again!

  5. Whoops. It's Chad, not Mama Reynolds. I guess I'm signed in with Emily's account.

  6. Thanks so much Chad, I'm really happy I was able to find it for you! xo

  7. can't make a french exit without a french door.