Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bug In The Car

Let’s talk about getting started. It’s never been much of a problem with me over the years. The ideas come from friends, family circumstances, pictures like the one of my Mother and I on the right, and many other places. I’m not telling you anything new here, in fact we have discussed this before. However, reading other writer’s poems is by far my best way of getting started. W. S. Merwin just knocks me out with his amazing, insightful poetry, and here’s a secret. I love women poets.

My collection of books has a majority of women poets, and there is one outstanding reason for that. They are so honest in their writing. They aren’t afraid to put words on paper, and to shed all outward shells, and dig down deep into the true meaning of what they feel.

Sharon Olds, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, and others. If you can read those poets and not have images floating around you, well, do something else because this writing life just isn’t your “thing.” And there are many others. I found a wonderful book at a sale called The Oxford Book Of Australian Women’s Verse, edited by Susan Lever. What wonderful poetry! I love to read poetry from different cultures because they bring images to me that I may have never discovered about my own culture.

So, you’ve read, and nothing is happening, and you’re on a trip or just going to work, and there it is, a poem floating around your car like a bug that’s flown in the window. I used to grab a pad of paper from my bag and try to stay on the road while I jotted down crucial words and lines. It’s just like an older version of texting while driving. DON’T DO IT! Now I pull over and jot it down, or better yet I have a small recorder I keep in my bag for just those times. Yes, when stopped at a light people look at you funny, but you can just mouth the words, “I’m a writer,” and they will shake their head and look the other way. Don’t let those bugs of verse get away. You’ll never have them again, and worse yet, they might just fly out and into another poet’s window.

Here’s a new poem. It appeared on a long drive, but I’ve revised it, and read it to my critique group, and now I’ll share it with you. I’m sorry to return to this theme, but I think this is the last poem on the subject. Well, you know how that is.

Funeral Clothes

After 6 hundred and 33 miles, and 2 years
a night time phone call put me on the road.
Her husband’s voice, strained, saying,
your mother has had an attack
and maybe you haven’t heard,
her mind is leaving a little each day.
You might want to come.

So in the growing light of a new day
I packed a duffel, and on the hanging bar
carefully chosen, I hung funeral clothes,
and hummed to myself
as I merged with others headed north.

Two days of mountain roads and city traffic
long minutes before knocking on the door,
then there she was, small, in a printed gown
plastic band still around her black and blue arm,
a little girl’s smile and a hesitant caress.

Hurry she said, settling on the couch
legs pulled under a tattered afghan,
then whispered, see, there’s Roy.
Black and white cowboys on the screen.
A young man she once knew as Leonard.

A moment alone,
and the question burning on my tongue.
Mother, do you know who I am?
And the answer,
I love it when he sings with Dale,
don’t you?

In the growing light of a new day, I stood in the hall
decided not to wake her
afraid of being a stranger in her room.
So I dressed in funeral clothes, and hummed to myself
until I merged with the others, headed south.

© Robert W. Kimsey 2009


  1. Hi Robert,
    Thanks for the reminder to just jot those items down...and I will think of you now every time a bug flies in my car window! What a great way to emphasize how quickly wonderful thoughts, subjects, and such come and go. Great blog! Janelle Marie

  2. I too, use a recorder now since I drove all the way from Atlanta one time building a poem in my mind and I was so afraid of losing it, I said it over and over for two hours until I could run into my house and write it all down.