1. When people die they go to Heaven but
not necessarily for good, they have
to take some kind of test my Sunday School
teacher swears and if they pass they capture
Paradise but if the lose they go else
-where and that’s just the way it is at our
church anyway but then she adds that our
church is the right one so after class this
morning before I walked home I asked her
What about the church across the street–I
even have friends from regular school there
but she didn’t say a word, she just shook
her head slowly and that’s what must have re
-leased a big tear to roll down her left cheek
and splash the ground. Or was it the right one.
My third attempt tonight at a poem this is.
My first draft lasted ten lines, something
about a dog I never owned being
hit by a car I never heard last night
and limping as far as he could into
the front yard, where, next day, I discovered
him but didn’t disturb but brought his food
to him and Father’s leftover cornbread
soaked in buttermilk and then he went to
sleep–my dog, not Father. I don’t have one
–a dog, I mean. I do have a father,
or I did but he’s dead so do I still?
But in the poem I do, though it’s not much
of a poem, and he refused to take us
–my dog, I mean–to the vet because he
–my father, not the dog and not the vet
–didn’t want to blow money on a beast.
My second draft is about not being
able to write a thing tonight. And my
speaker has this work ethic which
he picked up from a poetaster at
Open University, to wit, write
something every day. Or night. He wouldn’t
–the speaker, not the teacher (not that he,
the teacher, couldn’t write–he could, he did
–but he shouldn’t have). He didn’t have it
but he couldn’t stop himself–his fingers
rolled up their sleeves anyway, so to speak,
and got down to it. And wrote a draft
about not being able to write one.
It ends with a doodle, a super
-hero captioned Captain Constipation,
and in the word balloon our hero screams,
in all caps, I can’t write a freaking thing.
Draft number three finds me up at midnight,
waiting for the one-to-four inches of
snow they swear on the evening news is bound
to come. The white stuff, they call it–really.
It will fall on the houses on the ground,
(continued / no stanza break)
they say–as for the houses in the sky,
no warnings have been issued. But the streets
will be slippery (the temperature
is dropping)–as slick, at least, as the air.
I’ll slide on it and know how a bird feels,
flying, and not just a penguin, which can’t,
though through water it will. I’ll shape snowballs
and throw them at my own front door and they’ll
shatter into stars and this is the start.