Sunday, April 12, 2015

Day 12 ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2015


Day Twelve. Headed home from AWP today, a four-hour drive with a van load of students. Good talk of literature and writing. Of craft and good books.

Maureen Thorson's NaPoWriMo prompt today is an exercise: "Describe in great detail your favorite room, place, meal, day, or person. You can do this in paragraph form. Now cut unnecessary words like articles and determiners (a, the, that) and anything that isn’t really necessary for content; leave mainly nouns, verbs, a few adjectives. Cut the lines where you see fit and, VOILA! A poem!"

Robert Lee Brewer's PAD prompt is, "write a damage poem. Since my baby brother is a storm chaser, my mind usually jumps straight to storm damage. However, there’s more than the physical damage created by things like hurricanes, trains, and war planes. There’s also the emotional and psychological damage we inflict, survive, and conceal. The bright side of any damage is that it can be transformed into a poem."

Alan worked today with a childhood memory, combining today's two prompts in a descriptive poem noting neighbors and how they dealt, in construction terms, with the damage of everyday life.

Shanty

Our neighbors made their ceilings cheap,
replacing damaged drywall, wet
from leaking roof, with cardboard cut
from old appliance boxes. I
could see the Kenmore logo through the paint.
They wired their house themselves,
replaced some copper line with plain
extension cords, and lived for years
a power surge away from bitter smoke
and red-rimmed, floating, flaky ash
behind replacement panes
of plexiglass hacksawed to fit.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

I also worked with something remembered from childhood. Here is my longish description to be trimmed into a poem.

We, the army of fifth-grade boys on Woodland Avenue, had an important territory to defend. Not our own street but Edgewood Lane, one short block away, a cul-de-sac tucked into the hoary, forested lands, the slope of Mount Sutro. Edgewood was a street of tall Victorian homes and angular modern blocks of concrete, standing together and next to one another, like a crazy crowd of crow’s nests and fairy-tale towers. The street was made up of maroon cobblestones, maybe a few cracked and broken but all holding together, like the road to Oz but brick red.

The prize, the treasure, for us kids was the ancient (to us) cherry trees that lined the lane. In the spring they flowered, a riotous pink and red like bewitched fairy warriors, every year, fought a glorious war against winter, a battle of life and aromatic music for us. Then each of those blooms — thousands of them — turned into a delicious, tart and tasty, fruit that, at least in our kids’ imaginations, was better than Bing or Maraschino or any kind of store-bought cherries. To the adults who lived on Edgewood, those cherries were probably just annoying fruit, windfall casualties, that would litter the concrete edging of the street, turning its gray a streaky dark red — which of course we thought was romantic and magical, as if the trees were bleeding tastefully and quaintly in our country, our Elfland.

We fifth-graders somehow got into our heads that some nearby kids — The Enemy! — just blocks away had planned and would stage an attack that summer to steal the cherries from our trees and gorge on them in whatever dark warrens, or basements, they used for hideouts. They would swoop in one bleak Saturday morning when the thick fog that rolled down from Sutro would hide their advance. Carrying baskets in which to hide their stolen booty. How dare they launch a turf war on our own ground! don’t think, I bet, we ever got as far as imagining something so practical as what containers those encroaching gangsters would bring. All we knew was that those monsters would somehow abscond with the hallowed cherries. Maybe they would have just gotten fistfuls of fruit and not basketloads, boatloads, whole shiploads! But even just one cherry taken by kids not from our neighborhood was unthinkable.

I remember drawing up a large map of Woodland; the next street over, Willard; from which Farnsworth jutted upward, a street that was actually a concrete stairway climbing up a wooded hill and topping out onto Edgewood. It was a war map, on an easel in my room. We plotted out guard stations and potential battlefields. Where Pete and Rett and everyone else would hide out, what kinds of devastating weapons each would bring: aluminum baseball bats and hard plastic wiffle bats, tree branches and grandfather walking sticks. We would descend like a biblical army of Zion, complete with the trumpets of Joshua, onto the unsuspecting trespassers and drive them off our land, away from our beloved cherry trees.

The planning proceeded apace for a few days, maybe one weekend, and then we just forgot. Always reliable, time passed, spring turned into summer, summer into autumn, but no invasion, no battles, no war, no damage to the fruit — just the cherries’ sweet small bodies falling off the trees and staining the land dark red, like they did every year, like I think they still must, to this day, a half century later, on enchanted Edgewood.

And now here's the poem "found" in the prose above. It's an erasure poem, no lineation. Combining both the NaPoWriMo and PAD prompts, as usual.

Every Year, War

We, the army of fifth-grade boys on Woodland Avenue, had an important territory to defend. Not our own street but Edgewood Lane, one short block away, a cul-de-sac tucked into the hoary, forested lands, the slope of Mount Sutro. Edgewood was a street of tall Victorian homes and and angular modern blocks of concrete, standing together and next to one another, like a crazy crowd of crow’s nests and fairy-tale towers. The street was made up of maroon cobblestones, maybe a few cracked and broken but all holding together, like the road to Oz but brick red.

The prize, the treasure, for us kids was the ancient (to us) cherry trees that lined the lane. In the spring they flowered, a riotous pink and red like bewitched fairy warriors, every year, fought a glorious war against winter, a battle of life and aromatic music for us. Then each of those blooms — thousands of them, turned into a delicious, tart and tasty, fruit that, at least in our kids’ imaginations, was better than Bing or Maraschino or any kind of store-bought cherries. To the adults who lived on Edgewood, those cherries were probably just annoying fruit, windfall casualties, that would litter the concrete edging of the street, turning its gray a streaky dark red — which of course we thought was romantic and magical, as if the trees were bleeding tastefully and quaintly in our country, our own Elfland.

We fifth-graders somehow got into our heads that some nearby kids —
The Enemy! — just blocks away had planned and would stage an attack that summer to steal the cherries from our trees and gorge on them in whatever dark warrens, or basements, they used for hideouts. They would swoop in one bleak Saturday morning when the thick fog that rolled down from Sutro would hide their advance. Carrying baskets in which to hide their stolen booty. How dare they launch a turf war on our own ground! I don’t think, I bet, we ever got as far as imagining something so practical as what containers those encroaching gangsters would bring. All we knew was that those monsters would somehow abscond with the hallowed cherries. Maybe they would have just gotten fistfuls of fruit and not basketloads, boatloads, whole shiploads! But even just one cherry taken by kids not from our neighborhood was unthinkable.

I remember drawing up a large map of Woodland; the next street over, Willard; from which Farnsworth jutted upward, a street that was actually a concrete stairway climbing up a wooded hill and topping out onto Edgewood.
It was a war map, on an easel in my room. We plotted out guard stations and potential battlefields. Where Pete and Rett and everyone else would hide out, what kinds of devastating weapons each would bring: aluminum baseball bats and hard plastic wiffle bats, tree branches and grandfather walking sticks. We would descend like a biblical army of Zion, complete with the trumpets of Joshua, onto the unsuspecting trespassers and drive them off our land, away from our beloved cherry trees.

The planning proceeded apace for a few days, maybe one weekend, and then we just forgot.
Always reliable, time passed, spring turned into summer, summer into autumn, but no invasion, no battles, no war, no damage to the fruit just the cherries’ sweet small bodies falling off the trees and staining the land dark red, like they did every year, like I think they still must, to this day, a half century later, on enchanted Edgewood.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Friends, won't you comment, please? Love to know what you're thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don't find the word "comments" in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   


NAPOWRIMO / PAD 2015 • Pick a day in April: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


3 comments:

Thomas Alan Holmes said...

Vince, I wonder what would happen if you were to go back to your original and consider the ideas of growth or natural cycles in the course of the erasure. Selective erasure to indicate a different theme would create a contrasting but related poem.

Vince Gotera said...

What a great idea! I'll have to give it a try. A colleague has a series of erasure poems from someone's long suicide note. An actual suicide note. Pretty powerful stuff. Thanks, Alan.

Vince Gotera said...

You know what, Alan, I tweaked the prose "original" a couple-three times to help the erasure poem along. It would be interesting to not have that option and just let a different erasure poem go go go with just what's already there. Hmmm.

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