Sheila Welch 2nd draft, a Belle Waring exercise. "Baby Random" from New Poets of the 90’s (edited by Jack Myers & Roger Weingarten)
I wanted to do this exercise in order to try the technique of leaving 99% of the story out. The focus is on action; the narrative story telling. It is a 1st person persona narrator used as 3rd person, which is not something I normally do. The night we did this poem in Craft Class I wasn’t attracted to it, but was attracted to the Franz Wright poem "Certain Tall Buildings," which deals with very difficult material (suicide) in a very straightforward way, or so it seemed to me. The irony of this is that this is the opposite of what I am trying to focus on in my work right now, which is on being very clear about the technique I am using in order to prevent myself from going after material head-on without the protection of technique. This exercise also gives me the opportunity to generate a different, jazzier voice than I normally use and to help develop a confident narrative storytelling voice.
takes his flight of stairs with arms out
in a leap of faith and ends up on his bottom
landing face up with a bloody nose, his
cheek to cheek smile now styled in red,
bolder then before my newcomer tried to carry him down
and ended up with his head butting the banister, his arm
clutching round the rail.
Christ, The newcomer says, sitting on the step rubbing his hand.
Good thing you put that mattress down there. Is he dead?
One happy dead man if he is with a smile like that, I say.
Don’t sweat it, just let go a little quicker next time.
Joe D. is dragging anonymous into the bathroom
where it smells of piss and bad milk and
blood stained towels are bunched up under the sink,
we strip him and wash him before the stomach starts to
revolt, distended as it is like a pregnant woman,
his arms and legs muddied with purple and yellow bruises,
the skin so thin you can see the blood running through
his veins and we hold his head when it starts so he
don¹t do a Jimi or a Janis on us.
At my night job, we do house calls, the wee hour
welcome wagon Joe D. calls it. The clean-up crew,
cause the meds won’t take them drunk.
So we got anonymous dressed and sitting at the kitchen
table sipping sugar water from a spoon while Joe D.’s
emptying out bottles around the house.
I got friends at my day job that complain they can’t
handle confrontation and I¹m thinking of them when
anonymous starts convulsing, hitting the floor
like a sword fish on a boat deck flapping against
the cabinets and stove door till we hold him down,
he’s drooling and crying and shaking his head and
in the end I¹m holding him there on the floor saying
"it’s okay, it’s okay" like he was a baby in my arms.
And I believe that, but I’m thinking of these friends,
how I’m gonna get up in the morning to go to work
to pay the rent, get myself dressed and
drink my morning coffee and small talk about our
evenings and as sweet as this is on the floor
holding this guy, there on the floor,
we’re still anonymous I’m thinking,
we’re all still anonymous.
To Contributors page
To Of(f)course home page To Index of this issue.