Medicene

A poem from a few years ago, though one I’ve revisited again and again.  Last year I attended a workshop at the Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference in Homer, AK and there was a fantastic session called, Borderlands: crossing genre lines and creating new forms which was taught by Eva Saulitis.  I brought “Medicene” to the workshop with the intention of re-working it and sharing it with the group.  The poem changed shape drastically during this workshop as did the poem “A Sudden Decision” which follows. 

Medicine

 

(inspired by “Adaptation” a film based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)

 

Last night, a man in a movie told me, “as a screenwriter you first have to identify your genre” and I want to know, does the same apply to writers less concerned with the screen?   did Shakespeare fashion himself a dramatist and perhaps scoff at the acclaim given him by poets everywhere whom heard their own voices become magic when singing sweet soliloquies in their sleep?

 

poets dreaming in mid-summer

beneath hot sheets-

 

I’m not usually one to ponder greatly things said by men in movies but this one

pressed the urgency of examining questions of genre because this film, as do all mind flexing  films, defied the very classification the characters

suggested we take

a closer look

at

 

what can be said about a movie about a screenwriter trying to adapt a book into a movie? our writer tells us, “the writer is telling about the first cell division on the first day of life on this planet and that the viewer’s existence is entirely dependent on that first adaptation.”

 

a writer, a mirror, endless sky and swamp

 

the        allusive             ghost                orchid

 

and what can be made of

these lines

my own drifting of form

from wide paragraphs of prose

            to staircase-shaped

                        cascading verse-like spells

 

do I fashion myself

a poet?

 

if a poem

can be salvaged

excavated

                        from the dusty ruins

of an abandoned short story

           then yes, I can

                        call myself a poet

and know that

my words

are a hardwood heart

hacked from the rotten bark jacket

of a mountain ash

                        fallen in a hillside creek

                        where

water washes away excess

                       

            II

 

            hardwood

scavenged from wet hillside forest

            taken home to dry

 

days later

            dry hardwood becomes

            ghost smoke

                        and hot air

                                    in a black iron box

redhotcoalfires

snap and swirl

                   soot smoke moat

                                   rolls cloudy

                                  round

                               writer’s

                        pen in hand castle

laid across paper bark

on the stone hearth of the stove

 

            III

 

But what about Bukowski? What genre better suits the telling of his

L.A. nightmare? His whores? His fuckmachines?

 

I’ve read his poems, stories, novels, my mind full of raw realism,

the pain of his living dead dreamers spitting dead end dreams

into bourbon bottles full of piss. 

 

I refuse to sort these images into files according to genre.  I have read the man’s words, words. 

 

perhaps Alexi’s work    is a better example of what I’m so fired up about

 

the first words I find on the cover of Alexi’s short story collection are poetry…

Tonto and the Lone Ranger, fistfight in Heaven

not just a title

but an invocation

 

what I want to know is

When Sherman Alexi applies for a job

what does he write down as his previous employment

Indian?  Poet?  Storyteller?

I call Alexi a medicine man

                                   making words, magic and medicine

 

the Movies got hold of

some of his words too

 

            made them into a film full of

Indians telling stories

            that some believe

                        and others turn their backs too

 

one Indian says to another, “Dammit Thomas, why are you always talking like a goddam medicine man?”

 

Thomas Builds a Fire talks like a medicine man because

WORDS ARE THE MEDICINE!

            One need not wrap such precious objects in junk called genre.

 

 

__

 

His was a sudden decision, though not hasty, as he took one step

across the line

dividing the world 

into hemispheres

poetry

and

prose

 

but when remembering his transcendent dance, such a simple two-step, he could only recall the colors in which his eyes painted the world, not the medium chosen, only the color.  

___

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