Thursday, August 22, 2013


With apologies to Hayden Carruth

Full moon tonight. I write
bemused because the true
light seems to want to hide
tonight deep beneath some
barrel – I would enjoy
this more perhaps if it
were easier than it
is turning out to be –
but still, the act of will
it takes to keep taking
one step, then another,
eventually brings us 
to… what, pray tell? Well, how
about this? A red horse
stands steaming, sweat streaming
in front of a saloon, while
the cowpoke who rode him
stamps into the saloon, 
slaps a gold piece onto
the bar and shouts, "Whiskey,
Barkeep!" Now I ask you,
where did this guy come from?
Does it matter whether
he gets his beer, or not?
What if, hiding deep in
the shadows at the back
of the bar another
man unholsters his gun,
walks up behind our friend,
puts the barrel into
the small of his back, and
pulls the trigger? Are you 
still with us? Or are you
already marshaling
your objections to the way
the plot is unfolding?
Perhaps you would rather
have had a raven-haired
beauty, his long lost love,
waiting for him, instead
of the guy with the gun?
And in the meantime, what
about the horse? To whom 
does he belong now? Who 
will take him home, put him
in a stall, brush him down,
give him hay and water?

 Process Reflection:

In a conversation today I made reference to a poem by Hayden Carruth entitled "An Outbreak of Hexasyllabics." The point I was making in conversation, following up on yesterday's post about scansion, is that sometimes when you don't know where to start you can just make up a game to play, or set up a set of constraints to work within, and see where that takes you. I had started an entirely different poem earlier in the evening, but it quickly became clear that that poem was going to take a much longer than one evening to develop, so I decided to set that aside and instead play around with the six syllable line for a while. This is very wet draft, and probably some of the lines don't scan right, but I did manage to write myself into a place I had not expected to get to. Which is sort of the point, and the habit of practice I try to encourage in students: adopt an experimentalist mindset. Try stuff and see what happens. That's how you surprise yourself. That's how you learn.

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