August 26, 2015
Frankly, it always seems a waste of time to think about life that way. Last year, however, while I was writing poems in response to weekly prompts as part of the “52” poetry group, I wrote a poem to the prompt, “So Near and Yet…”
If I recall correctly, the idea was to “think about something that nearly happened…” (I can’t verify because the prompts on the 52 site have been removed as its curator/founder Jo Bell compiles them into a book.)
Participating in 52, as I’ve written earlier, took me out of my comfort zone — both in method and subject matter. Several of the poems I wrote that year are more open and honest, at least in a self-referential way, than much of my earlier work. Almost I want to call them confessional.
In part this is because I rarely, if ever, write about myself in my poems. The prompts prompted that, but so did the honest and constructive feedback of the group. I felt safe to explore this other dimension and see where it took my work.
All of this leads me to my poem, “For T—,” which tells the story of an encounter that could have changed my life, but didn’t (or did it?). It’s not an incident about which I’m particularly proud.
And yet, as the material for a poem it worked in a strange way. At least my fellow 52ers felt so, as did the editors of the Yellow Chair Review, who published it in their latest issue.
Here is the poem:
I asked her to dance at a black tie dinner for Literacy.
She said she didn’t dance; I’d have to teach her.
Her friend, sitting next seat over, who later played
Hagrid in the Harry Potter films, cautioned,
“Be gentle with her now or you’ll be answering to me.”
She smiled when I bowed before taking her hand.
She was light on her feet and let me lead.
No one had moved her that way before,
so in control, she whispered in my ear.
And when the dance was over, I bowed again.
She thanked me, asked did I want to come
see her in “Hamlet” on Broadway? I did.
I brought flowers, met her backstage;
she came out with me; later, I put her in a cab.
“Do you fancy coming uptown?”
I demurred, made some excuse.
Perhaps another time, I suggested,
knowing there would be none.
(I’d no business being there in the first:
I was married; unhappily, but still.)
It couldn’t have ended well. No doubt,
we’d divorce after a few violent years.
She moving on to stage and screen;
me, the scapegoat in the press,
spilling popcorn on myself in the house seats.
–Scott Edward Anderson
To read the full Issue #3 of Yellow Chair Review, which has some fantastic poems by other poets from 52 and elsewhere, go here.
And you can read a selection of the poems from the 52 group in this Nine Arches Press book, here.