Poetry is my first literary love. I’ve been reading and writing poetry for a long time, ever since my days as an overly emotional high schooler (when I preferred the poetry of Jim Morrison and Jim Carroll) and was scratching down my own rants in lines rather than paragraphs so I could call them poems. And unlike many “poets,” I actually read poetry. Even though in high school I preferred the counterculture writers of the 1960s and 1970s, I chose to write my senior thesis proving that Satan in Milton’s “Paradise Lost” fit the model of an Aristotelian tragic hero. In college, when I left backstage theater work to pursue an English degree, I discovered Blake and Whitman and Rimbaud and the Beats and . . . you get the picture.
But over the years the disillusioning process of submitting (and having most poems rejected) has gotten old. More recently I go through boom and bust periods with my poetry, periods when I write a few new poems and revise a few old ones and periods when I am only reading and teaching poems. Frankly, I’ve gotten to where I rarely send my poems anywhere, choosing not to swim in that slush-pile sea of finely tuned MFA graduates trying to build their resumés.
So I thought I’d try something different. I’ve got quite a few poems that were never published – some that are all scarred up from taking editorial beatings and others that have never left the house – and though I don’t necessarily think that these poems will put me up there with Auden or Neruda one day, I don’t think they are all that bad . . . so on periodic Tuesdays I’m going to post some of them here. This poem, “Prairie Mud,” was written in back in 2005; I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.
Prairie Mud: A Gardener’s Lament
My dirty boot kicks at the sharpshooter,
but nothing happens in this prairie mud.
The rain and sun have ossified this mass
of earth and made one plate of interwoven
flesh from veiny masses beneath Bermuda
grass and St. Augustine, tinged with the seeds
of dandelion, milkweed, clover, and further
down the dormant bulbs, all meshed together
to make one huge Alabama brick that must be
beaten and broken like a new mule if it will
ever be useful.