Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Poetry Bandit

I came across a quirky bit of news in the Charlestown, West Virginia Gazette the other day. It seems that in Morgantown an unknown bandit has been leaving poems on people’s porches and doorsteps in the middle of the night. Residents of Morgantown are a bit freaked out by some stranger being on their porch at the midnight hour, so naturally local police are stepping up patrols to catch the bard.

I find myself imagining who this person might be and why on earth they might start leaving poems on porches. Are they wooing someone? Are they a little crazy? Are they bored and lonely and trying to stir up some excitement?

I find it more likely that they are a lot like me. Awake at 3:00 in the morning with the excitement or worri

es of the next day heavy in their mind, restless because of the unrelenting heat and humidity of a Midwest summer, and eager to do something, anything that will make the endless wee morning hours seem worthwhile.

I rise up out of my bed husband sound asleep, as always, and throw on whatever pants I can find on the dark floor. I head first to my computer where I print up some favorite poems in large font on fancy paper, stuff my feet into some worn shoes and grab a flashlight before I head out the front door.

I close my midnight rendezvous with a couplet or two by Emily Dickenson for the high school math teacher. If anyone needs a bit of Emily Dickinson it would be him. Once started, I realize how hard it will be. I forgot the poem by Robert Frost that I think that lovesick teenager would enjoy, and I know that those newlyweds might enjoy a bit of Billy Collins. He always turns love on its head. I am the Santa Claus of poetry, and I am so sorry I cannot hit everyone’s porch. That must be Santa’s one true sadness. That he inevitably must forget someone.The flashlight of course is for reading poems before I slip onto a porch, one last bit of verse before I deliver my present. A bit of a love poem from ee cummings for the 50 something woman who wears her hair in a tight bun; my favorite Mary Oliver poem for a mother of 5 who always seems to be driving somewhere; a light hearted poem about a cocktail party for the older couple who read the New York Times. It is a fun adventure and I wonder about putting my own poems out this way. Is porch step a valid form of self-publishing?

As I am back in my bed and nodding off before having to awake in just a few sh

ort hours, I wonder how each person will feel when picking up their daily paper and they encounter a bit of verse. I imagine their lives changing with each important word. Wondering who or what brought them the magic. They will put it up on the refrigerator with a magnet and glance at it when they get out the cream for their coffee. Every day they will wonder, who was this poetry fairy? And how did she k

now me so well?

In my reverie, I am back in Morgantown. Can you hear the judge? “I am charging you with 7 counts of petty poetry leaving.”

“Guilty as charged your honor.”

The sentence?

I’d like to hear what readers think…

For now, I leave you with this poem which I got in the mail today:

by Don Paterson

I love all films that start with rain:
rain, braiding a windowpane
or darkening a hung-out dress
or streaming down her upturned face;

one big thundering downpour
right through the empty script and score
before the act, before the blame,
before the lens pulls through the frame

to where the woman sits alone
beside a silent telephone
or the dress lies ruined on the grass
or the girl walks off the overpass,

and all things flow out from that source
along their fatal watercourse.
However bad or overlong
such a film can do no wrong,

so when his native twang shows through
or when the boom dips into view
or when her speech starts to betray
its adaptation from the play,

I think to when we opened cold
on a starlit gutter, running gold
with the neon drugstore sign
and I'd read into its blazing line:

forget the ink, the milk, the blood—
all was washed clean with the flood
we rose up from the falling waters
the fallen rain's own sons and daughters

and none of this, none of this matters

Amy for the PGM

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