As I mentally gird up for NaPoWriMo, I’ve been resisting poem prompts: gathering them, the idea of using them. But if I’m being realistic, I’m going to run out of ideas awfully fast in the course of writing a poem a day — I’ll need some help.
I don’t know why I’m reluctant to use prompts. My very first poem was an in-class assignment in 10th grade. And my teacher called me the Emily Dickinson of the class. The poem was rubbish, of course, but I like to think that he was complimenting me on my seriousness of intent.
That was the catalyst, what launched me from a reader to a writer. Without Mr. Miele, I would never have attempted it, thought it presumptuous of me to even dream of it. Little does he know what he unleashed!
I began submitting poems when I was 19. It seems shocking now. Need I even bother telling you that my very first rejection was from the New Yorker? Callow youth, yes, but I also wanted my very first to be a memorable one.
Then, my first acceptance came 5 years later. Looking back now, that poem is rubbish, too, but better than the earlier rubbish, rubbish for different reasons. I see growth. And I still have great affection for that poem, not only because it was my first published poem, but because of the nature of the poem itself — a passionate response to a passionate work of art.
So, in a departure from the norm here, and in the spirit of preparation for a month of shitty rough drafts (thank you, Anne Lamott), I’m going to share with you that first published poem of mine. I don’t plan to ever reprint it anywhere, ever, or even revise it. It stands as is, a small flawed monument to my young ambition, killed by its sincerity and immaturity, among other things. I’m okay with that…more or less. You have to start somewhere.
How moors I have never seen
call to me now, purple heather cruelly
lashed by bitter moaning winds
and the explosions of a darkened sky.
The storm, its force and passion,
The lightning, the tumult, the thundering air,
all are Heathcliff
all are Cathy.
Wet drops cool my skin, feverish
with the devouring wildness I have pulsed
within for days, seconds, centuries
intertwined, welded together
by impossible fire in a heartbeat.
Are we all, in our deepest being,
capable of such apocalyptic, beautiful love,
As we wrench from our mothers,
bloody ourselves in the effort to be,
are we delivered of the potential
to dwell in flame?
We would perish in the attempt.
But when I feel the howling
wind quicken in my veins,
I can’t help but long to exist
in all I’ve never known outside
the living pages of a book.
When I sleep, the land surrounds me,
the endless moors you wanted to escape,
and I fly up and over the cascading hills,
wildflowers undulating like whitecaps in the sea,
and only stop once reaching a chained garden gate,
and climbing over it, rush towards the shuttered
house beyond, the shuttered house that seems
to recoil from my gaze.
My arms flail at a window closed to me,
despair screaming, “Let me in!
I’ve come home!”
Black eyes stare through the glass,
and I see, as I must,
he does not know me.
But even though my entrance is
forever barred, not just forbidden,
but an impossible fire,
I would rather stand staring
into the blackness on the other side,
evidence of my futile will,
wildflowers grazing at my legs,
vengeful air pummeling my intrusion,
than ever leave.
Let its force suffocate me,
burn me to equal blackness–
I know I have no right–
but I would never leave.
(published in The Iconoclast, issue 42 — Thank you!)