Sunday, November 24, 2013

Everything Old is New Again

I was looking for a poem today.

It was the first poem that I ever wrote, or at least the first I can now remember having written.  It was nearly fully-formed in my head when I woke up one morning, and I remember the experience very clearly.  It was after I dropped out of college and after I moved out of my parents’ house, in that first non-familial dwelling where I lived with countless roommates whose faces were constantly changing.  The quality of light in my bedroom was strained: the sun had no doubt lightened the sky as best it could before actually emerging above the horizon, but there were also curtains to mute the brightness even further.  Everything in my room seemed to have a grainy quality, like a badly filmed movie.  I got up and grabbed one of my college notebooks, which I had not thrown away because there were still blank pages in them, and I wrote it all down.  I believe I had to make up part of it, so the last few verses aren’t nearly as good as the intial ones, which were a gift from my subconscious.  I can still recite the first two stanzas nearly perfectly, after all these years ...

But now I can’t find it.  I know I still have a copy; probably more than one.  I transcribed it several times, in different media.  (No doubt it exists on a few dead hard drives as well.)  At the very least, I should have the copy that I submitted for my poetry class, during my second tour of college, since I saved nearly everything I ever wrote for any of my writing classes: two semesters of fiction, two of non-fiction, one of poetry, and one of advanced writing.  My poetry professor said it reminded him of Poe’s poetry.  I said, thank you.  He said, that wasn’t a compliment.

I never cared much for poetry.  It’s dense, and difficult to parse.  Fiction has a flow to it; once you get properly cranking, you can just write it forever.  Or at least I can.  Poetry is more about agonizing over every word.  It’s spare, and exacting, and needs to communicate one thing while saying another.  If you’ve ever wondered if poetry is as difficult to write as it is to read, the answer is yes.

Oscar Wilde once said, “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.”  My poetry professor certainly believed that.  His attitude was, if you want to pour all your personal feelings out on paper and call it poetry, that’s fine.  But, as soon as you bring it into my classroom, you give me permission to tell you it’s crap.  He made at least one person in the class cry, that I recall.  I made sure that any emotions I tried to capture in my poetry weren’t my own.  Much safer that way.

While I couldn’t find my first poem, I did find the first poem I submitted for that class.  Rereading it, I suppose it isn’t terrible, though it certainly isn’t great either.  It was based on someone I’d met my first year back in school, and it was an attempt to capture a more complex emotion than just the simple one-word things we typically use in our everyday speech.  I don’t know how successful it was at that, but at least it recaptures that emotion for me, as I reread it.  But then I knew what I was trying to say in the first place, so it may not work as well for you.  But judge for yourself:

I am not in love.
I mean, he’s a sweet guy and all, but
it’s just a fling.
A brief encounter.
A few weeks of passion.
It’s just shallow.
You know?

I met him
where I work.
He comes in a lot.
The stale, smoky air,
the cool green felt,
the constant clack of the balls—
it has an undeniable attraction for some.
Like him.
I remember noticing him.
I liked the easy way he moved,
his long, blonde hair tucked under a hat
or a bandana.
His intense concentration,
his confident style:
he was like an artist at work.
He has good hands.

We never really spoke, he and I,
until that night.
I was drunk and he was drunk
and we were together
and he was intelligent
and witty
and charming.

And I was surprised.
I mean, a lot of guys wear their leather
and their long hair
and play their boyish games,
and they think they’re cool.
But they have no substance.
But he ...
he was different.
He is different.

What?  Yes, I know.
He has a girlfriend.
But she’s far away,
and it doesn’t really matter because
it’s just shallow.
You know?
Am I wrong?
Don’t sit there so quietly,
tell me what you think.
You won’t hurt my feelings.
It’s not like I love him.

The other night I was alone.
It was the first night I’ve spent along since
that first night.
But I didn’t miss him or anything.
I sat around, I did some homework,
different stuff.
And I dreamed ...
I dreamed I was a little girl
and I was standing in a field
and the field was full of beautiful flowers
and the sun was shining—
I remember how warm it felt on my skin—
and birds were singing ...
it was really pretty.
And off in the distance,
way far away,
was a tree.
It was the most perfect tree—
it was a maple,
with perfectly shaped green leaves
and strong, straight branches
that started close to the ground and went up
almost like a ladder.
It looked so cool and inviting,
and I wanted to climb it so badly,
so I started running
and I ran and I ran
and the tall grass whipped my legs
and the wind tugged at my hair
and I was going faster and faster
until everything around me was a blur of sound and motion
but that tree never moved.
It never came any closer.
It was exactly as far away
as it was before.
And when I woke up,
very suddenly,
I felt out of breath
and my legs ached.
Isn’t that odd?

He’ll be over again tonight.
I’ll be glad to see him,
even though I wonder
He’s going away for the summer.
He’s going to saty with his girlfriend.
And by the time he gets back,
I’ll be gone.
Didn’t I tell you?
I’m moving.
To Vermont.
It doesn’t really matter anyway—
it’s just shallow.
I hear him on the stairs now,
so you’ll excuse me.
The time we spend together won’t last long,
so it’s very special.
I treasure each moment.
But, in a way,
I’ll be glad when summer comes.
One can only take so much intimacy.
After all,
I am not in love.

From the condition of the copy I found, I suspect this was a first draft, so it might have gotten better; I can’t recall.  But it still has a certain quality that I like, despite the fact that it was written when I was young and foolish, and (to plagiarize They Might Be Giants) I feel old and foolish now.  It could have almost been a prose piece, but I think the linebreaks actually add something to the flow (or non-flow) of it that makes it more interesting than it would be if it were just written in paragraphs.  But of course I’m biased.

I’ll keep on looking for the original poem that I actually wanted to share with you.  Or maybe the rest of it will come back to me.  In the meantime, I revisited my cento from a few months ago and produced a key for the original references.  I was starting to feel bad about not crediting the original authors.  Plus it’ll save you some Googling, if you really wanted to know the sources.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Clock Ticks Life Away

The Mother took a brief (and well-earned) vacation this weekend, and I’ve also had a few lingering work issues to take care of, so there’s no post for you this week.  Too bad so sad for you.  Next week should be a bit lighter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Horror of Advancing Age

No time for a proper post, but I will leave you with a thought I had this weekend.

In general, I don’t feel old.  My beard is almost completely white, my oldest child is taller than I am (and has a moustache now), and, every time I stand up after sitting for any length of time, I have to crack my ankles before I can take a step.  Yeah, it’s true that I’m generally the oldest person on my tech team (although at my current job I suspect I have at least a fighting chance at “second oldest”).  And, yeah, I’m in many ways crotchety, creaky, grumpy, and falling apart.  But I’ve refused to grow up my whole life and I’m not really about to start now.

Still, every once in a while something sneaks up on me and catches me by surprise.  This weekend we watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which (if you haven’t seen it), is one of those very serious lives-of-high-school students movies, somewhat like The Breakfast Club, which is certainly one of my all-time favorite movies.  (Interesting side note: John Hughes wrote the original screenplay for Perks and was going to direct the film as his comeback, before his death kinda put a damper on that plan.)  This movie stars Hermione Granger and Percy Jackson, which is a pretty awesome combination, at least in the magical powers department.

Possibly because I re-watch Breakfast Club on a pretty regular basis, high school movies still seem relevant to me, no matter how old I get.  This is a pretty good one; I definitely recommend it.  The problems the kids have to deal with don’t seem trivial, but neither are they overblown.  And the acting is quite maginificent—I was especially impressed with Ezra Miller, who I only knew previously from his brief but appropriately disturbing turn in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

So it was by turns funny and touching, and I thorougly enjoyed it, and there were no problems at all ... except.  Except there’s this part where first Hermione, and then later Percy, stand up while riding in the back of a pickup which is going full speed through a tunnel.  You know, when Teen Wolf went “van surfing,” that didn’t bug me at all, but, man, I must be getting old, because the whole time I was watching this pickup thing I was so nervous that one of those damn kids was going to go tumbling out of the back of the truck and get smushed by a semi cruising along behind them or something.  At the very least it was a serious case of road rash waiting to happen.  I kept wanting to shout at the screen “sit down, you stupid kid! you’re going to break your fool neck!”

So ... yeah.  Getting a bit old, I guess.  As Twain says, “It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Genethlian Cartography

Today, I spent the time I normally would spend writing a blog post for you building a new Heroscape map.  If it makes you feel any better, it’s a really cool one: Avalanche, by Hero-X, from the now-demised Shadowlock site.  I have no idea whether it’ll be any good to actually play on, but I intend to find out, if the boys are willing.  The sprite helped.

So it’s a me-focussed weekend (mainly becuase my birthday is coming up).  Come back next week and perhaps I’ll have something more entertaining for you to look at.

On the off chance that you are a fellow ‘Scaper, and want to build this map for yourself, you can download the instructions here.