Monday, April 5, 2010

Living With Poetry

I have somehow developed a reputation at work for being "organized", an adjective that I am always surprised to hear applied to myself. Someone once told me, "I imagine you have everything all together at home, as well", at which point I was torn between nodding somberly in duplicitous agreement, or laughing so hard that coffee came out of my nose. If they only knew...

Today's NaPoWrMo challenge #5 is to Make Your Poetry Personal. "Give poetry, as you write it, a name. Possibly a gender. And a personality." There is a split personality between Organized Me and...well, this poet I live with, who is frankly, not a great roommate, and a bit of a slob to boot.


Living with Poetry


For starters, she's not one
for washing her hair too often.
I've seen her wear nightgowns for dresses,
sometimes faintly stained
with a splash of last night's sherry.
She doesn't seem to mind.
She doesn't seem to mind
much of anything; she just gazes, mostly.
She's big on staring
for hours at one tiny thing, enraptured
by something you and I can't even see.
If I didn't know
better, I'd say she had a touch
of the autism. Or maybe
the Asperger's--she says things she shouldn't
all the time, then blinks
with slow and vague surprise at peoples' anger.

It's like she's never known what a clock is.
It's like she doesn't understand
the urgency of lists, that there are things
in this life that must be done, and done on time.
She has a reckless
disregard for money, buys pears and
costly olives, wildflowers, paint.
Never knows when rent is due.
Never knows the day of week,
or when it's time for the dentist,
or how much flour we have left for bread.
Apparently, she can't be bothered.
Admonishments, I've learned, are useless.

She'd rather listen
to the strange hum that only she can hear.
She'd rather sit there, scribbling away,
and staring out through
the far horizon of her mind,
unreachable by anything but
dragonflies and grass.

--Kristen McHenry

10 comments:

poemblaze said...

Fun answer to the prompt. Vivid!

Dale said...

:-) yes!

Frank Moraes said...

This sounds like Emily Dickinson as a drunk. I can't help but place the narrative in the Victorian period. Do people actually drink sherry anymore? And wear nightgowns? And what olives could possibly be considered costly--to someone today; in American; in a large metropolitan area; Seattle, for example. Yes, I'd say it was Emily, and a very romantic one at that. (Not that the two don't fit in my mind like NaCl; I still have a thing for the poor dead thing, despite the way she dressed.)

I have noticed what I would call a sub-sub-genre of poetry: the hapless friend. In such poems, the writer expresses exasperation at the friend just not getting it--whatever it may be. But the subtext is always that the writer wishes she didn't get it either. I would place this poem in this category, although the fact that it is written by and to the same person makes it more fun--much more.

So what you're really saying is that you like yourself just the way you are, and who cares what the wankers think. However, I can't help but feel there is a bit of self-delusion here. Organized, tidy people always think their physical environment is chaos. Having been in your apartment (albeit many years ago), I can state--with as much assurance as I can the kind of tea I drank this morning--that where you live is--by my criteria--very well organized. Do you manage to knock over a pile of books, papers, manuscripts, etc at least once per day? No? Sounds like a far more orderly place than mine. Even now, I can see that The Chicago Manual of Style (15th Edition) is about to fall off Going Nucular, taking Faust (the Kaufmann line-by-line translation) and The Thurber Carnival with it. (Why is the largest book always on top?) And perhaps Amusing Ourselves to Death will go too.

Wait...

I fixed it. It turned out there was a picture frame in there too. Damn it! Now I am going to have to do some organizing around here, but I guarantee that when I am finished, my work space will be a cave compared to your museum.

As for you probably thinking you are the modern Emily Dickinson, well, join the club. Every time I can't seem to feel good enough about a finished work to send it out (which is almost always), I feel like Ms. Dickinson. However, I think I dress much more like she did than you do.

bearlyaudible said...

As crystal as excellent is!

flaubert said...

Kristen,
This is excellent and what an enjoyable read.
Pamela

The Good Typist said...

Hey, Moraes!! Enough already!! I don't come over to your blog and accuse you of faking slobbish-ness! I have a THING I am trying CULTIVATE here, okay? And,I don't know if people drink sherry any more or not--I can't stand the stuff, myself. Also, have you seen the price on a jar of pitted Kalamatas lately? Not all of us city slickers can just go around snarfing up imported olives week after week, ya know.

SOL said...

I loved reading this!

Katharine Whitcomb said...

Great poem! The voice is so inviting!

Frank Moraes said...

Okay. Fine. I'll give you the olives.

But Slobbery? No. I currently have dirty laundry piled on top of research material on Shaw's views about As You Like It—which is fitting.

You do not want to get in a slob war with me! But you are welcome to wage one on my blog any time you want. My messes are massing.

irene said...

Kristen, I enjoyed this. I've seen this a bit in myself and in that son of mine.