In his famous book On Writing, Stephen King says good writing takes two previously unrelated ideas that have come together and makes something new out of them. He says, “Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
Adrian Blevins, a poet who has won numerous awards and published more than a few books of poetry, came to Elon in the fall to give a reading and to work with a few of our writing classes. She also judged Elon’s annual Frederick Hartmann Poetry Contest. Adrian’s work is poetry of long lines, inclusive diction, many layers, heartbeats, pulses, and fearless transparency.
The poem below ended up winning third place in the contest (awarding me a $100 check, the first monetary award I’ve ever received for my writing!) , and Adrian work-shopped it along with a few other student poems in our Creative Writing Senior Seminar class. This poem was inspired by both King’s philosophy on unrelated ideas and Blevins’ powerful language and imagery.
This is the Heart
After Manos pours raki on the cut on my shin he asks if we can fuck
and he’s polite about it because he loves my long legs and casual sex, but his dark
Greek curls are not right today. Yes or not? vivacious Manos asks. I slide off
the black leather bar stool, wound stinging, I eat the last salted tomato slice on the counter
and that is my answer. This is the heart this is the culture, he says, and I think about food,
sex, and pleasure. But the overbearing crane restoring thousands of years of history
in the Parthenon’s pillars can’t be fixing anything, and what Manos thinks is my body
is actually a gutted, dirty reproductive system, an abdomen decorated with serrated scars–
I think about pain. A woman in northern Greece died yesterday from forty tumors
pressing on her spine: what made her a vertebrate was crushed by external masses,
and her family who had been traveling the world had months before let their passports expire
because staying still, they thought, could give her back reasons to keep breathing deeply.
Maybe the body is a positive source only when it wants to be, maybe what makes me female
is when my flushed pink flesh is allowed to breathe and knows how to say no. Sometimes,
ovaries become suicidal torsions, but damage doesn’t have to last forever, Cyparissus–
turning from accidental death, remorse turns tears to sap and things are less broken.
And at the crossroads of pain and pleasure, before soft pink crusts into blood-dried scars,
I can still slide off the stool and go feel how the birds can’t fly
if there isn’t someone, somewhere, laughing.