"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In which Steve waxes nostalgic

There is sometimes great profundity in the most mundane tasks. For example, last night I played a game of Solitaire.

I grew up in a family of card players and was a bit of a prodigy. One family story has it that at a parent-teacher conference, my mother was told, "Steve's a very bright boy. But it really doesn't matter in Kindergarten that a Jack is higher than a 10." We played Canasta and my hands were too small to hold all the cards, so I would spread them out on another chair under the table. I won fairly often; as the years passed, the games we would play would be the ones I didn't win all the time. Now, at family get-togethers, we eat and we play cards, always the games I don't do well, though I'm the only one who remembers that that was how the games evolved.

We had family dinners where no distractions were permitted, with one very notable exception: my mother would leave the radio on to hear the end of Minnesota Twins baseball games. To this day, I believe I could tell the difference in sound between Harmon Killebrew hitting a ball and anyone else. Meals got earlier by decade; first, my mother would listen to games while washing dishes and then, after. She would pass the time by playing solitaire while listening. As Alzheimer's ravaged her brain, she needed more and more help playing and eventually she ended up just watching me play her games for her. It became a ritual; one of the signs that her bedtime was approaching was that I'd be playing Solitaire. In the last stages of the disease, it no longer mattered what I did, day and night were the same to her, and I stopped playing.

Four years later, I felt like playing again, picked up a deck of cards and played Solitaire.

I won.
I used to write. When I was about 25, I burned everything I had written and put down my pen (yes, the dark ages before I had a computer on which to type). I met Lori when I was 33 and she was one of those rare creatures who read poetry; she knew I used to write poems for early girlfriends and I told her that she was too sophisticated to be fooled by childish scribblings. I'm thinking of writing again.

I Never Wrote Her Poetry

We were each others' second choices
Second chances
And I for one had profited by trade
So I accepted presents of too too-large shirts
And meals of unknown favorite foods
For she only called me the wrong name once
When angry, not in joy
And surprised me that she was still angry
That he had left so soon
And now that she too has gone away
There are no more presents
And no third choices
Just third acts without rhyme or reason.


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Why wouldn't you write if you enjoy it? I say go for it.

I myself rarely read poetry (unless you count certain song lyrics - not all, but some ... which I do).

But I think taking the time to think about the ways in which the words you set down interact - their collective rhythm; the sounds they make; the images they evoke; even the confusion they may occasion - is a worthy pursuit. Because I think most people have a hard enough time using words effectively in a strictly denotative manner and they tend to try to make up for that by using too many words ... or too few.

But poetry, I think, is more about connotation, and that's even harder to master because it's easy to slip into being obscure or gnomic.

So you have to focus yourself when you write poetry and even if no one ever sees the results, it can be a really good exercise in linguistic self-discipline.

nwgdc said...

I'm now afraid that in writing poetry in the past, I was likely being gnomic.
I didn't even KNOW gnomes wrote poetry.

What, no good?

Anonymous said...

Ah, Steve, you made me cry. You should definitely write more.

nwgdc said...

Oh yeah, and DEFINITELY write again.

Beth said...

Beautiful poem. Thanks for sharing and I hope you write more.

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

O, by the way, I can be poetical too:

I never would have read this post -
I don't think I could bear it -
If the title to it ended thus:
Not "...nostalgic" but "...his carrot".

sea legs girl said...
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sea legs girl said...
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sea legs girl said...

I love the poem. But your prose is also sometimes like poetry, too. I too grew up in a card-playing (Rummy, Double Solitaire and Bridge) family and in played with my grandma until the end. And the sound of the baseball hit over the radio (though it was the Brewers) is a beautiful memory for me, too. Thanks.

Sorry about the two deleted comments above!

SteveQ said...

Gavin, I stopped writing because it was a distancing thing; I was looking at life rather than living and making it up a little at that. Plus, there was no profit in it; to be a success in writing today means being awful at everything but salesmanship and I am an ousider, like Charles Bukowski (though nicer and more sober). No poetry should be written after the age of 40. Rimbaud knew when to quit; Wordsworth did not.

There's also the problem that those who read don't really understand and those who understand read only critically.
That "poem" was written extemporaneously; and it is not "good" in any conventional sense.