Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Out of the Foundry

The other day I was checking in to the Borgata Casino and I found a $100 bill on the ground next to my foot. I took my time, but I bent down and picked it up. That was my third time finding money or chips in a casino. I have lost so many things at the Borgata that the security guards at the Lost and Found know me by name. I've lost Tempur Pedic pillows and contact lenses, iPods and Steelers jackets, even lost my Passport once. When I went to claim it, the guard asked me for ID, he didn't appear to be joking either. Almost all of the things I lost turned up, (except that pillow) but it didn't much matter as I'm not generally attached to material things, unless I'm obsessed with them, like I was with Tombo Super Pens for about 15 years. Until I lost my last one on the Jitney. The only thing I've ever lost that I regret not getting back was an opportunity. There was this telemarketer that called my house one night about 25 years ago while I was watching a baseball game. I gave her my usual telemarketer treatment, which is to respond with random non-sequiturs and assorted lines of poetry. They'd ask if I was interested in Time-Life's new books on the Viet Nam War and I'd say it all depends on how many pictures of purple giraffes there were on their desk, when they respond in confusion (which they usually did) I'd recite some line from Shakespeare or Gwendolyn Brooks or one of my own poems and after a few exchanges like this they would inevitably give up in frustration and let me go back to whatever I was doing. But one night this woman wasn't fazed, she asked was I interested, I told her I'd have to ask the green dwarf at the end of the hall, she told me to hurry up because she had to pee, when she asked me what he said, I replied "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun," she asked me if his hair was black wires, when I said "Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight", she told me not to go gently into that good night. At some point we both busted out laughing, it turned out that she was pretty well read and very, very quick. She had met her sales quota for the night, but she had to stay on the phone for another 40 minutes to look busy, so we talked, for an hour. The next night she called me back around the same time and we kicked it, this went on for about 2 months and eventually we agreed to meet. She lived and worked outside of Baltimore and as it turned out worked with some guys who knew of me (I was a pretty well known DJ at the time), she decided to come spend a weekend and I sent her a train ticket. On the last night before she was to come, at the end of our usual conversation I asked her to put one of the guys she worked with on the phone and I asked him what she looked like, he repeated the question out loud. Stupid, stupid poet. She snatched the phone out of his hand and started screaming at me "I can't believe you did that, I was all prepared to love you, no matter what, I was all prepared to love you. I thought you were different, but you're just like the rest of them" I tried to make amends, but she wasn't having it. As I found out later, she was drop dead gorgeous and for her whole life men had judged her and valued her based on her looks, I on the other hand had never seen her and yet clearly dug her based on who she was. Until I asked that question. She never came. I found out years later that my cousin Kevin was a mutual friend of the guys she worked with and that she had married the dude I had asked the question to. I always wonder what my life would have been like had I not suffered that one moment of insecurity (well, stupidity and insecurity combined). Paradise Lost? Perhaps. it took me a long time to get past that, to find some peace with what I'd done. Over the years I've found many, many things that I still have, one of them is a medallion in the shape of Africa I found on the subway in DC, another is a sense of myself as a survivor, an understanding that whatever happens can be a lesson. I also try to find (and celebrate) beauty everywhere I can, whether it be architecture, dance, music, sculpture, naked super models wearing only body paint, whatever. Aren't we all just the sum of all the things that we find? I am obviously very sensitive to beauty in language and listen for poetry in everyday speech, everywhere I go. I also look for it in everything I read, and sometimes I even find it. I give myself a writing (well, really revising) exercise, where I look for 'found poems' in everything I read. The rules are simple, you take an original text and can only delete words, you can't add anything, although you can change the ending of a word to keep it grammatically correct. Sometimes I post these poems here on my blog like this one, which caught my attention because to me 'Bertholletia' sounds like one of those old time southern women's names. I could just see Bertholletia in a fancy hat, fanning herself in church on Sunday while the preacher railed against the latest wickedness. I often will make poems out of my friends Facebook postings and leave them in the Comments. Every once in a while the poems I find are even worth keeping. If nothing else it's a great exercise to keep one's revision skills sharp. If you teach kids or beginning writers this is a great exercise to get them to revise, since they often don't think that their own poems are in need of any such thing. Here then is the latest poem (title is link to the source material) that I've found.

Found Poem

collected stones
and crystals,
black onyx.
Between Goth and Grunge,
the color of the stone
appealed. Black onyx,
the devil’s stone.
Healing and
defensive properties,
but also
sexual impulse.
I equated
to an impulse.
In a religious household,
you wake up and pray,
pray about the bathwater
before you bathe.
Pray the water clean.
my onyx wasn’t working,
I buried it
beneath an aspen tree.
Beneath the borrowed
full moon,
for a full week,
to neutralize
and cleanse it.
I buried the devil,
and then
I dug him.

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