Week One: Memories
Preparing to write:
In your notebook, word processor, or wherever you are choosing to write your "assignments" for this community (for ease, I will just say notebook in the future), write a few words or phrases that correspond to each of the items in the list below. These are just for you, to refer back to in the next assignments.
1. Your earliest memory.
2. Building forts/treehouses/secret places as a child.
3. An incident that filled you with dread.
4. A time when you were really proud of someone close to you.
5. Your first crush.
6. Something you did as a child that was really dangerous.
7. Something that happened many years ago near a body of water.
8. A magical person in your childhood.
9. A childhood memory involving an animal.
10. A long trip in your parents' car.
Pick a memory from the list above that was a single incident, that can be told in a poem of no more than 35 lines. Concentrate on showing, rather than telling, opening the poem with action, rather than narration. Use vivid, expressive language, to keep the reader always eager to read the next line. In this poem, let the memory itself be the only structure, avoid the use of rhyme.
Choose another memory or story that cannot be summed up in one incident. Maybe it's something that happened multiple times, or somehow encompasses a large period of your life. Whatever larger story you want to tell, choose a specific moment that can be used to frame it. Include that anecdote both at the poem's opening and conclusion. You may wish to use the following poem for inspiration:The Tooth Fairy
They brushed a quarter with glue
and glitter, slipped in on bare
feet, and without waking me
painted rows of delicate gold
footprints on my sheets with a love
so quiet, I still can't hear it.
My mother must have been
a beauty then, sitting
at the kitchen table with him,
a warm breeze lifting her
embroidered curtains, waiting
for me to fall asleep.
It's harder to believe
they years that followed, the palms
curled into fists, a floor
of broken dishes, her chainsmoking
through long silences, him
punching holes in his walls.
I can still remember her print
dresses, his checkered taxi, the day
I found her in the closet
with a paring knife, the night
he kicked my sister in the ribs.
He lives alone in Oregon now, dying
slowly of a rare bone disease.
His face stippled gray, his ankles
clotted beneath wool socks.
She's a nurse on the graveyard shift.
Comes home mornings and calls me.
Drinks her dark beer and goes to bed.
And I still wonder how they did it, slipped
that quarter under my pillow, make those
Whenever I visit her, I ask again.
"I don't know," she says, rocking, closing
her eyes. "We were as surprised as you."
-- Dorianne Laux