I workshopped a poem that I've been dealing with for a year and a half. The poem, now called "Firsts,"originally "Some Summer Nights" (Aren't you glad I changed the title?), began from an excercise in which I took my own personal memories of a place and fused it with an experience I wished happened, or fantasized about.
My friends often get caught up in the belief that everything I write is somehow autobiographical. While I believe that personal experience impacts and gives a special color to poetry, it is not the only means by which to create a poem. In many of my poems, I try to explore another personality, another age, an emotion I'm unfamilar with or hate, like love for example.
"Firsts" had many images that I still remember vividly such as the goats, my neighbor, the canal. The canal was taken from a canal that run along the front of my primary school. There was a small passage way about the width of a single car garage that led into the school, but on either side of the passage was the canal. It was not half as romantic as the poem makes you believe either. In fact, it was disgusting. Nevertheless all theses images, without the poem, linger loosely in my memory as they're not connected to any significant or even memorable experience; they are merely there, parts of the scene, the brackdrop, of my childhood. "Firsts" however gives them a home experience, somewhere to live, even if only within an imagined experience.
When my house darkens and sounds settle,
I sneak out to meet him. I tread quickly to the fat-
trunked mango tree on the corner of our block.
It’s only three houses away. He is there, always
before me. “I thought you wouldn’t come,” crossing
his arms. Cocky doesn’t suit him. “Well, you
thought wrong.” It doesn’t suit me either. We kiss
a kiss that is scripted. We stop soon our bodies
too clammy to be romantic. “You want to swim?”
I nod and he reaches for my hand. He takes the lead,
I walk beside him. The neighborhood is hushed,
no vagabond dogs or passing cars. As we walk
dirt gets kicked up in our sandals. Mr. Fletcher’s
mama goat and kids are the only vigilants tonight.
They lay on their sides undisturbed by our passing.
We soon reach the canal. We start slowly,
sliding off our worn sandals. I cross my hands over
my belly grasping the ends of my shirt and swiftly
peel it off. My mother tells me not to wear bras to bed.
My shorts and panties go down together. He is
already in before I finish. “I’m going to be an Olympic
diver!” and I rush full in. “What Olympics? You need
skills for that,” he swims to the edge and climbs out.
He paces, the glow from the solitary streetlight
coloring his baby face orange, he looks for me in the water
and when he finds me, he grins wide cracking his knuckles
behind his back, “I’ll show you how it’s done girl.”
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