My debut novel originated from poems that were written as a catharsis, my own peculiar way of healing years of unanswered questions and unresolved angst over my mother’s mental illness. In my teaching years, I saw some of the best student poetry emanate out of some of the worst socio-economic and personal home lives you can imagine. My friend Carol Baldwin writes poetry when she gets stuck on her WIP, particularly when she needs to go deep into the emotions of a particular character. My point is, poetry can be very therapeutic, good for your mental health, and yes, even good for your writing.
Many people are hung up on the formality of what they think poetry is or should be. Take it from me. I have no formal poetry writing credentials to offer, but I know that deep down in my heart and or my gut there lies some emotion that can only be expressed in a rolling, unrhymed free form that I call poetry.
Recently I know too many friends or family members who are seriously ill. Some have already died. It happens to all of us. There is only one way I can truly get to the bottom of my depth of despair, and that is through poetry. It soothes me, and heals me, and clarifies the way forward.
I wrote this last summer, angered by the death march of a dear friend.
SUGAR CREEK RIDE
A rare July morn in Charlotte
fooled by blankets of grey clouds
or global mistakes into offering
cool mid-summer oxygen,
it can make you giddy
as in remission.
I long for a glimpse of the grey-blue heron
sailing down the black-water creek
more grey, the heron
than blue, more hidden
this morning, than not,
hidden like Jeanne’s killer.
The illusive vicious murderer
remains at large. It left
a Hansel and Gretel trail,
booby-trapped a network of intricate paths,
death traps disguised.
Specialists called in,
now hopelessly dismissed.
A splash of yellow flits across my path.
I swerve, as if old ladies on wobbling bikes
can mow down a young Oriole
on a July morning.
Would it be justice served,
a tumble-down spill into murky, tepid waters
for an old lady who’s dodged bullets
all these long years?
Is death by a meandering creek
any more just than an army of insidious cells
marching in rampant and unstoppable syncopation
through an innocent body?
Obviously the sleepy creek has better
things to do today, while a hell-bent sun
pronounces death to the wispy, cool morning.
I work up a sweat peddling back home,
embarrassed by the small price I pay
for these aging breaths,
the breaths I keep stealing
all the way home.