The poem handout inspired me. It’s about a sense of place, but also about the location as a representation of everything that takes place there. Its imagery juxtaposes these comfortable associations we have of the country with disturbing memories of violence. There is a volta where you are told what the poem is not. Taking these cues, I decided to write a poem. Poetry is not really my forte, other than the occasional sonnet, but I wanted to experiment.
Where I Kissed Him
The stream gurgles near an old red covered bridge,
choking on fist-sized rocks and the bent ribs of rusted strollers
where the hands of eight o’clock smother the noise of rural highways
and mallards, green and speckled brown, fly out from rushes
Our clumsy Nikes trample rusted barbwire and grass
Ignore the sign with painted letters
meant for other, less brave boys: No Trespassing.
On muddy banks slip rubber soles as we cross the mossy threshold
floating canopy of soft green willows, finger fronds flecked rusty brown like the
freckles of blood on a hospital pillow at sunrise (if it rises) here I
wrote my first half-novel, devoured Hugo, Rimbaud, Shakespeare
while boys like him blew tops off mountains. But I loved this place I don’t know why
I brought him here. Except for this: when he looked at me
my head crammed so full of clouds it could’ve floated on his shoulder
he wore Carolina workboots, had a Kawasaki Ninja
and a fifth of southern comfort that made the trees spin with one gulp.
But this isn’t a gay stroke poem. This isn’t even a love story.
No lazy zippers, smoky glances, no initials carved in trees and I have
Never understood why Hamlet couldn’t love Ophelia
Just one kiss-
Just my face against the creekbank and the rushing sound of water.
Just the smell of dirt and blood and leaves. I don’t think I even screamed just-
knee on chest and arm on throat, a rock: then redness, blackness, nothing.
Streaming ribbons from my split skull, an illiterate Lavinia
But I have always turned to books and think,
“twil be stoic death for Brutus”.
He will leave for Penn State Friday. I serve my time for four more years,
outflanked by terrifying cornfields. I will never start ninth grade.
I will lay me down with willows, weave me wings from mallard feathers
carve empty hearts into my arm and wish
this bullshit stream were deeper.