Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Baby

Well, as I was about to say yesterday . . . my first collection of poetry, self-published and called  Buried Above Ground, arrived at the house yesterday in 30, I must say, glorious copies. I'll never forget when that heavy box of ten author's copies of  Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia arrived 21 years ago, after I had labored probably about 10 years writing and researching. It was a feeling of what must be somewhat like giving birth and seeing the infant for the first time. Only this was a box of full-grown books. It was a feeling of satisfaction and pride that's hard to describe. I think I've pined for that feeling ever since.

So I got a twinge of that feeling again yesterday, and I confess I just sat with the slim, little volume in my hands and stared at it. It's glossy cover, the heft of it in my hand, the way it looks on a shelf, the way it smells. My baby. That's what it is. This collection of 76 poems. There's more of me spilled here in this little book than any ten history books I could write. And, honestly, there may not be any more history books, but I know for a fact there will be more poems, and who knows, maybe another collection.* I was struck when I was picking out poems for the book just how many of them seemed steeped in my New Orleans and south Louisiana childhood. I have no idea how or where these words, these ideas, come from. I sit at the screen and I type. I revise and rewrite and rearrange. And then I say it's done. Sometimes the words gush out like Spindletop, other times it's like chiseling marble. I've been telling myself that I'd be more authentic and maybe the damn poems would come easier if I wrote with one of my fountain pens on yellow legal pad--that's the way I did all my writing before computers. Enough. Here's one of the poems.

Things I’d Never Do

Now that kids are grown up
and gone
along with whatever brawn
allowed my extracting
the cork
from the Chianti
without my face purpling
to the same color,
the list of things I’d never do
seems to get longer,
pretty much in concert
with my expanding years
and corresponding shrinkage
in virtually
every meaningful category
of physicality
save the number
of required nocturnal urinations.

Just a few things
I’d never do:
take up mountain climbing ,
become an accountant
(which would suck
life’s blood from me
like a gigantic tick
even if I were twenty-six),

give up red beans and rice,
root for the Yankees,
wear anything lime green.

No, it’s come time
to mimic
my wandering dog, sniffing away
at whatever interests her
in the grass,
and rolling in whatever seems
especially savory.

*Oh, I'm always working on something history. Articles, sure, and a friend and I are working on a joint project, a biography of David Farragut, but that's a way off yet. But I know for a fact there will be more poems; there already are.

Update 1: In a couple of weeks or so, there will be a web site where you can find out more about the book and order a copy if you want. I'll put it up when I have it.
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