Sunday, June 03, 2012

Lost the hand but got a poem. (Updated)




FLUSH

At the table's
padded edge,
I study her face
as the cards,
fifty-two,
wait to reveal
our future,
oblivious to
the weight,
of placed wagers.
Their rhythmic chorus-
riffling, cutting,
entering and exiting
a dovetailing desire,
an unsettling sound,
one that cannot hint or
predict the
deck's secret details,
no tableside sign
of awaited outcomes.
I close my eyes
and imagine,
listen for the whisper
and swoosh
of a river
beyond the Turn.
This is chaos,
the run
of randomness.
Will a large Spade
bury what remains
of my hand ?
Only one gets
what they want.
The last card
appears.
And here,
where hearts
pump their deepest,
her skin that once
seemed silent
now bursts
into radiant bloom.

Almost out of nowhere, this has become the second most read poem on my Blog. Written as an exercise where I was trying to incorporate more gambling imagery into my work, I was OK with the way it turned out. Unlike a lot of other poems I can't recall doing a lot of revising or really thinking that much about the poem. I never bothered to copy the poem into my iTouch where I keep the poems I perform at readings and thus have never read it aloud. But looking at the page views I was stunned to see how often the poem was viewed. I won't lie, I can't figure out why that would be. But then again, the most popular poem I've written (48 Hours After You Left) was the same way, I thought it was OK, but I kept getting requests to publish it and it was posted frequently on the web by readers who liked it and even plagiarized by some 17 year old kid in NYC on his MySpace page. I read this poem as literal, where a guy is actually playing a hand of poker, but I suspect that others are reading it as an extended metaphor. That's the only thing that really makes sense to me. Problem is, although I understand conceptually how someone can read it as an extended metaphor, I can't. I'm wedded to my interpretation, even though I don't want to be. I'd love it if folk would chime in and help me figure this out. Still, it's an interesting phenomenon where poets are blind to the popularity of certain of their poems. T.S. Eliot was said to have been mightily vexed by the popularity of 'Prufrock' to the point where he wanted to decline requests to reprint it in anthologies. Anybody else have a similar story with one of their pieces?

Update: One of my favorite phrases to tell young writers is that "your brain is smarter than you are", which basically means one should learn to trust one's subconscious more to grow as a writer. Now this article explains that one of the primary reasons color vision evolved in primates was so that they could read the emotional reactions of others and the amount or lack of blood flow in the skin is a primary indicator. So this poem evidently speaks on a much more primal level than I even realized.

Until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon).

2 comments:

Alan said...

I think the only experience that comes close is my poem "The Champ" which I wrote for my brother, Drew, and niece, Anicia (she was a year-old when I wrote it).

It got published in Little Patuxent Review's Social Justice Issue. I've read that poem at the Stonecoast MFA program and had fellow students come up afterwards giving me insight into the poem I hadn't consider when I was writing and revising (thanks to Joy Harjo and Tim Seibles for helping me take the poem much further!).

A woman liked how my brother, who had gone through it with my parents, gets the reward of my niece not only saying his name first but also clinging to him as her hero.

I'm honored whenever I read the poem and people tell me something new about the poem. I was in Best Buy and a cashier, who was at the Little Patuxent Reading, said: "Oboo Drew, Oboo Drew." That was really cool!

It's being considered for a Pushcart nomination. I'm honored by that.

Joel Dias-Porter said...

Yo, that's a very cool story. The Best Buy thing is why I write, to touch someone like that.