Saturday, April 21, 2007

NaPoWriMo #18 and 19

Last night was Friday, and though I wrote my rough drafts, I blobbed out instead of posting, knowing the weekend was coming.

The prompt "root" made me think of the roots of trees in cemeteries, growing through concrete slabs and prising bones apart. Probably because I've written on the subject before - but I needed something new. So instead of writing about that, I started thinking about the roots of my poetry. Where does it come from? It seems that whenever I am where poets gather, there are people talking about their Irish Catholic childhood and the language of the liturgy, and how their poetry is nurtured in that language. It makes me feel a little lacking. Whatever another poet claims as the root of their love of language, seems to be something specific that I don't share:

Because I am neither Irish nor Catholic
I lack the language of liturgy.
Because I do not live in the country
I lack the language of nature.
Because we have different birds here
I lack the language of crows.
Because my city is a very small one,
I lack the language of the urban metropolis.
Because I am not indigenous
I lack the language of the land.
Because my people have been here
for only a few generations
I lack the language of history.
Because my family was happy
I lack the language of suffering
Because I spend my days with numbers
I lack language.
Where then will I find my poems?
I search the silence
and the spaces between.

The next prompt at Poetry Thursday was "fishing hole". For a moment, I was stumped. There are fishing holes in New Zealand, I suppose, but most of us grew up near the sea, so it's not a term that resonates. You don't refer to a "fishing hole" when that fishing hole is a large harbour. But then I just forgot about the "hole" part and wrote about "fishing", and what resulted took a turn that surprised me.


Moki Mick knew where to find fish
when everyone esle was coming ashore
empty-handed. At least,
that's what my mother said.
But what did we know?
The nearest we came to moki,
or anything else big enough to be edible
was the fish and chip shop on a Friday night,
carrying home newspaper wrapped parcels
of battered fillets. We spent our days
paddling in rock pools,
trying to catch cockabullies with our bare hands,
or fishing from the jetty where shoals of small fish
played around the wooden posts. The rough planks
were strewn with the crushed shells
of the mussels we pried off the rocks
to use for bait. Fish guts and blood
mingled with the red pools
of pohutukawa blossom.

But we weren't fishing that day,
Anne and I, when we went to the beach
full of bluster and bravado
for an early winter swim. And later
in the deserted changing sheds,
the stranger came in, older than my father,
younger than my grandfather, a little pudgy,
and he dropped his trousers to reveal it,
pale and flopping like the spotties we caught
from the jetty, and then he did himself up
and went away again,
and later when I went home and told my mum,
I wondered what all the fuss was about.


Anonymous said...

A wiener poem! I love it. It's so elegant and gorgeous ~ the poem, that is, not the wiener. I love all the slant rhyme in it (you know how I adore slant rhyme). I love the image of the blood and blossoms mingling. And yes, the end is unexpected, which is just great.

Catherine said...

Dana, the wiener was not in the least elegant and gorgeous - it was little and pathetic. I'm not sure about the beginning, maybe Moki Mick isn't really relevant to the poem. I'm still thinking about that.

Michael K. Althouse said...

The spaces between the silence. Or, perhaps it's the silence between the spaces. Hmmm... Just thinking out loud here - intriguing.

Michele sent me,


Pat said...

I recognise - as a writer - the inadequacy one can feel at not being Irish and having had a happy childhood even though in my case,we were 'working class', I'm sure you don't let it inhibit you. Everybody has their own unique experiences that can interest other people if it is well written. I enjoy poetry tho' I can'r write it.
Michele says hi!

Anonymous said...

When a step son of a friend got into college, he promptly decided he wanted to major in English and become a writer.

One year down the road, he declared to his parents "Thanks to you, I can't be a writer! I had a happy childhood!"

Hi from Michele.

Anonymous said...

Where you've listed all you 'lack' is poetry in and of itself.
Thank you for sharing.

Here via Michele today.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

My Dear Catherine...Werever you get your poetry from...It is Stunning! Very powerful. Very immediate and right to the solar plexis...You carry ALL that you need to, right inside you! Heart & Mind & Memory converrge, and you speak volumes! Keep on, 'Keeping On', my dear.