jillypoet: mom trying to write

Each day I wish I had invented waterproof sticky notes (for shower inspiration) or pen-friendly diapers to get down all my quirky thoughts that I am sure are relevant and publishable. And so God (actually another writer-mommy) sent me The Blog.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaBloPoMo #1

As today, the first day of NaBloPoMo, strolled on, I became less and less sure about my decision to do this thing. I had to teach two classes tonight. I did housework and played with my daughter all day. I didn't feel like writing a poem. Didn't even feel like turning on my computer.

I came home to find my husband had borrowed my power supply for some big computer job he has cooking in the basement. That helped. We're both only children. We have that rivalry, that "my stuff, your stuff" thing going on (sometimes). I demanded my stuff back. Actually, I asked nicely. I NEED to write tonight, I told him.

Here's how I did it. I picked up a Mary Oliver book. Opened to a random poem, read the title "The Best I Could Do,"and the first few lines, and let my imagination do the rest. I was totally surprised at the poem that came out. Surprised, and actually pleased that I took the time to write a new one, instead of typing something from my journal, which is my plan for this month--to bring out of the darkness of my journals and yellow legal pads the poems I have written but never typed.

It is a first draft, except for a couple things. After I typed it as one long poem, I broke it into stanzas. I also tried something new (new for me), I used the first line as the title. Critique & comments, please!

The skin and ribs dog

sat alone on the stub of a hill
behind the neighbor’s pink house.
Wouldn’t you beg too if your owners
tethered you day and night
silver bowl bottoms gleaming
sunlight straight through to moonbeam,
behind a princess colored shack?

Stay the hell away from that dog,
my father warned,
as if the animal’s hunger,
his teeth baring desire for food
might wound me.
What did I know?
Eleven years old,
belly full of love notes
and eighth grade graduation gowns.
Daily, I snuck the poor dog scraps.
Nightly, I waited for dad
to ask about school,
about John Paul,
about the way my hair,
long enough, yesterday
to wrap twice around my middle,
today hung greedily at my throat.

Finally, one night he bit.
All yellow eyes and cold meatloaf,
growling through saliva born of starvation,
his canines sunk into my hand.
I told you not to feed that damn dog,
my father barked all the way to the hospital.

With gratitude I howled,
as the last stitch filled
the tooth size hole in my palm,
Thank you for letting me do this one thing
I wasn’t supposed to do.


Blogger polka dot witch said...

first, before i forget, i really like your plan to use the month to bring some of those yellow pad poems to light. it will make you feel great.

second, this is terrific and wonderful how quickly it seemed to come out of you.

i think that the narrator is happy to have dad's attention even if she's wounded and she's angry?

what do you think about this: remove most of the third line and go straight to "his owners tethered him day and night ..." then end the paragraph with something like "he begged me to do it." or "he needed me to do it" ... like you and he are in it together? of course the narrator may just think he wants her help and he may not really. it depends on your intent.

there may be a way to tighten up the four lines about the hair ... i like the "greedily at my throat" and also like the symbolism of a daughter cutting her hair off, but four lines seems like too much weight for that detail.

of course, i'm happy even when you leave them just as they spill out. they flow from image to image so nicely and naturally, so as usual, dont change too much. your initial instincts are terrific.

12:01 AM  
Blogger January said...

This is really lovely. I like the beauty and defiance of it.

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me what works particularly effectively is the juxtaposition of narrative & reflection, something that's a feature of poetic form & that in instances such as this communicates biographical anecdote supremely well.

7:43 PM  
Blogger jillypoet said...

I'm glad it worked. I have many stories like this that I would like to tell, but I am never sure how well it can be done in poetry and I'm not into memoir. Well, I am into memoir, I enjoy reading it, but I enjoy writing poetry. I'm always aware of trying to keep my poetry from veering toward confessional, or "diary" poetry. I want to tell a story in a poetic way.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Funny this, I have recently decided to go the autobiographical anecdotal route a little too........and I really enjoyed this write of yours (what's new?). So many great lines.

11:55 AM  

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