On a private bulletin board from my old school there was a poetry challenge recently that prompted me to take on the feelings of an inanimate object. I was slightly fogged in with a cold at the time, but that’s no excuse. What came out was a mental mash-up of John Donne, Walt Whitman and a smattering of Victor Hugo as channeled by Carl Sandburg.
I am the butcher-block island
thoughts packed tight and condensed
end grain-up, butt-jointed
cut me all you want
I won’t flinch, I won’t talk
silent sentry, silent witness
to the appliance conspiracies
ten arms full of groceries, twenty
I can hold them all and more
no groaning from these boards
here, I am Jean Valjean!
do not blame me
for stubbed toes and bruised hips
I’ve been here all along
I am the butcher-block
Like I said. I wasn’t deliberately attempting “No man is an island” meets “I am the grass” when I started, and I actually said the words “here, I am Jean Valjean!” as I wrote them… while sitting at the butcher block island in my kitchen.
It’s a dangerous conclusion, but when I’m ill and my brain is fuzzy there seems to be less inhibitions and writing comes easier (provided I can sit up and focus). Sort of like the myth (or is it a canard?) that some writers did their best work while drunk. The last thing I want is a crutch that implies I need to be in a permanent state of illness to write! I do believe there is something to the idea that for a lot of artists and writers there is a deliberate attempt to reconnect with the free-spirited spontaneity of childhood. Tapping into that, that’s mastery.
“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Poetry Friday. It happens. This week the round-up is being hosted by Toby at The Writer’s Armchair.