[Scene] Jonathan on a tee box with Father and a just-met-playing-partner waiting for the fairway to clear. A glorious day in early spring. Greenness on the mend. Birds, breeze, basking—the works.
Just-met-playing partner: “So, Marvin, what do you do?”
Father: “I’m in banking.”
(Jonathan turns away, practices swing, been down this road before.)
JMPP: “Oh, OK. Marketing, mortgages . . . ?”
Father: “Senior management.”
JMPP: “Oh, OK, wow. Hard times, am I right?”
Father: “Understatement.” (smiles, takes practice swing)
Jonathan: (anxiously, subject-changingly, to the group ahead, but not loud enough for them to hear) “Come on guys, drop a ball, take a stroke, this ain’t the Master’s.”
JMPP: “So, Jonathan . . .”
JMPP: “What is it you do?”
(Silence, stammer at best)
Father: “He’s a writer.” (proud-ish, resigned-ish)
JMPP: “Oh yeah, great. What do you write?”
Jonathan: (wishing he was dead) “Oh, lots of things . . . stories and . . . (silence, stammer at best)
(JMPP nods, smiles, as if to say ‘yes? what else?’)
(Jonathan prays for death.)
JMPP: “Anything I might know?”
Jonathan: “Extreeeeeeemely unlikely.”
(JMPP proceeds to relay anecdote about this one time he was playing golf in Florida, must have been, I don’t know ten years ago, and he asked a fellow the same question . . . had the fellow written anything he might know, and the fellow said, “I don’t know, ever heard of Along Came a Spider?)
Jonathan and Father: (duly impressed): “Oooohhhh . . .”
(Father and JMPP drive tee-shots down the screws, center-cut; Jonathan shanks one into the wilderness. Laughs at himself. Seethes.)
Tomorrow is the first day of National Poetry Month. Don’t check your calendars, it’s fairly esoteric as compared with, say, Black History Month or Women’s History Month; nor is it as awesome as other commemorations with which it shares the month of April—i.e. Pets Are Wonderful Month, National Soyfoods Month, Fresh Florida Tomato Month. In fact, were I not a member of the Academy of American Poets (to be read: financial contributor to the promotion of famouser people), I imagine this particular awareness would be largely un-raised in the awareness sector of my consciousness. Be that as it mayn’t . . .
Esoteric or not, at least, for a month, I can be proud of what I do. As in:
Jonathan: “I write poetry, good sir, poesy if you please. What’s that? Like Dr. Seuss? No, sir, not like Dr. Seuss. Like Shakespeeyah, good, sah. Now prithee, get gone, thou contumelious knave.”
But there’s a pressing question here, (more than half) seriously, why am I hushed or forced to stammer when someone wants to know what I write? It’s bad enough not to have written about the comings and goings of a spider or whatever that book is about (and I guess it’s not that), but the kicker is that I spend most of my time writing purrtrey . . . WHAT’S THAT, YOU SAY? . . . purrertry. . . COME AGAIN, YOU WRITE WHAT? . . . POETRY! Ok? I write poetry. Yes, sure like Dr. Seuss. Exactly like Dr. Seuss. (With a noose. Give me a boost. Now let me loose.)
Fortunately I have friends and family (somewhere along the proud/ resigned continuum) who know that I write poetry. Some even like my work, even ask for more, even comment knowingly on its merits and short-comings. But within the world at large, I operate somewhere along the freak/ fruitcake continuum. Hence, my reluctance to avow my poetry, admit my poetness. Because within the world at large, poetry has gone the way of phones with cords and pre-post-modernism, of customer-service and fresh air. Unless you are, say, Billy Collins or Maya Angelou, or, if nothing else, someone who can point to their otherwise obscure name in the New Yorker, well . . . welcome aboard the freak/ fruitcake continuum.
I know I need to get better. I need to get over myself, my shame, my silence and stammering.
Tomorrow is the first day of National Poetry Month. Whereas, I acknowledge that pets are wonderful, I have none of my own. As for soyfoods and fresh, Florida tomatoes—I am indifferent but credulous of their appreciable qualities. So tomorrow, be aware—I am a poet. Poetry still has a pulse, it still has breath; and April is its upturned wrist, its cold, befogged mirror.