I’ve been ruminating on my post yesterday and, although I haven’t come to any fixed decision, feel like I can post works in progress and be within the letter of the “unpublished previous works” vibe I discussed. So I am posting a poem today.
I’ve gotten a bit intrigued by the idea of “found” poems where you use language from some other work to craft a poem. My problem is I’m drawn to work that already is poetic. For example, I’m currently reading The Names of the Stars by Pete Fromm, a nonfiction author whose work has been previously unknown to me. He is a breathtaking writer and there was a scene I read yesterday that I was particularly drawn to as poetry. Revisiting it today, I realized it couldn’t become a poem as it already was (although in prose form). So rather than use his language (partly for the concern that it would be too close to plagiarism), I took his concept and the urgency he conveyed and crafted something else, although it does still hold to the original topic of his piece (a drowning).
Here’s my latest work in progress.
The back of his t-shirt was missing
And his hands and back covered in scratches
Deeper gouges too like some crazed animal
had set upon him, eager to get at his bones.
Before the official report, I could see what
had happened, received the vision of the drowning.
They’d gone down to the Sandy, he and his wife
little girl in tow, down to the river where the eastsiders
flee when the day gets hot. This small band,
riverbait, aiming for coolness in the breezy bend.
The river slope is short, banks quickly to the deep,
ten drownings a year not uncommon. Bathers come
down to the river to pray for relief. Rash headed
teenagers, babushka’d Russian mothers, skinny dads in
white t-shirts. Toddlers in diapers. The undertow
lurks, turbulent, concealed.
His little girl had waded in, brought down by a
boat wake, wailing. The mother found purchase
on the mud then flailing, slips herself, slips past
the shelf, in deeper, nothing but the ice of glacier
beneath her feet, she’s screaming now, toddler forgotten,
nothing for it but to slice the air and water with
He’s in there too, half thrown the baby to someone
(anyone please) on shore, thrashing himself,
reaching toward her hand, now she’s climbing, climbing
on his back, grabbing, scratching, pulling him down,
he reaches a rock, turns to pull her in after, reaches.
Grasps the empty air.