This year, I’ve attended Springfield Poets and Writers ( www.pwlf.com ) Poetry at Robbie’s Night — something like that, and coveting the appellation I apply to myself, the appellation of “poet,” and determined to earn it rather than retire on it, vowed several months ago to write at least one new poem to share at these events.
When it’s time to write a poem, when I have a REASON to write a poem, I don’t dread the process; I bathe in it. I come clean with it. Following the necessary revising and tweaking of the poem, I am refreshed and delighted to share it, even though not every poem is a “happy” poem better suited for a Second City production or the Spike Jones Band. Because half of any task is resolving to DO it and giving it maximum focus, most weeks I’ve written “le poeme du Robbie’s” the same day I share it in public for the first time. The poem here is an example of that.
I told a friend Sunday, I was thinking about writing a poem for Wednesday, but at the time I didn’t have a subject in mind; not a word. Late Tuesday, I began thinking of the process of poetry writing and love; the kind Bogey and Bacall had, Tracy and Hepburn, Mickey and Minnie. On Wednesday morning at my aviation museum ( www.aeroknow.com ) putting in a few hours before heading to my employer, The Granite Guy ( www.yourgraniteguy.ccom ) the movement of the poem and approach became clear. Soon after arriving at work (“WORK?!” — thank you “The Adventures of Dobie Gillis” and Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs). The first line was typed into a Word file about 12:45, and between first priority duties to “employer” (I consider myself lucky to be employed at all.) completed the poem a little after 2:00. I printed a first draft to keep. The rest of the afternoon, I revised it. The first two lines of the poem were almost the only two lines that were not revised at least a little bit.
When I introduced the poem I explained that the names of those mentioned are their real names. In the interest of not whipping up a big fuss, last names would not be revealed. As I slouch toward dust, slogging through my 60s having come up short of hopes in many ways, I’m writing more personal, confessional poems, getting a load off my chest, so to speak. It seems a more meaningful catharsis than changing the colors of my clothes.
My True Devotions
by Job Conger
I liked Linda
but not enough to ask her out to a movie.
A poem idea she left behind came in three words
but nothing worth putting to paper.
I liked Janet;
not enough to try to kiss her,
but enough to be near her with no great expectations.
The poem she inspired was worth
a phrase and a point of view. It was
scrawled in a rush on the back
of a grocery receipt I tucked into my shirt pocket.
I liked Carole and she liked me;
She came to me sometimes without even calling first;
just showed up on my front porch.
In winter, she warmed the sofa with me –
good times, breathless times!
The poem she left behind came to me
as I waited for the light to change;
caught up with me in the shower,
even in dreams it visited,
and took shape in pen put to a notebook.
I loved Mary Ann
and proved my love in my manners
and attention; affectionate ways over days, over years.
We reunited (and it felt so good) returning
sometimes, to share something deeper, I hoped.
But it was never deeper, and eventually we stopped
going through the motions,
because she did not love me.
When I wanted to write her lingering embryo poem
I returned to the three stanzas that I jotted on a lonely night;
stanzas destined never to emerge a complete composition.
It might have been, perhaps should have been
pushed out with a little more time in labor, contractions of the mind,
a child born from her whimsy and my devotion.
Penny, my companion after grad school,
gave me love and affection.
She gave me everything but a face I would want to see
in the morning at age 70, as I had appreciated it at 35.
I gave her everything but a shared name and forever.
The poem was stillborn and would never see daylight.
It lives in memory but only mine,
an opportunity denied the necessary communion
that transcends happy coincidence and becomes a prize.
I would have married Ellen
She was the shape and the name of a dream,
mature enough and so nice to my eyes
that if we had walked down the aisle . . .
. . . my life would have been complete
if shared only in the steps from the church to the car,
my destiny cut short by a lightning bolt or a wayfaring truck.
But my poem, this poem, emerges in the birthing
of a dream, from the passion, from the patient finessing,
the speed-bumps on some lines, some phrases,
burnished smooth with the attention, the love of the creator
who believes in the creation,
And so, on a Wednesday night in August,
the poem speaks, alive, a breathes memory and magic
a gift of true devotions from the past to the future,
and to the moment,
and to you.
– written 2:13 pm, Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Live long . . . . . . . . and proper.
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