I met a poet yesterday. From our adjacent chairs at Starbucks we struck up an easy conversation and discovered we shared a passion for writing. I have the greatest admiration for poets. In order to tell you why, I must share a secret. Many years ago – many many years ago – I dabbled in poetry. We’re talking high school, here. I wrote a series of poems in a ratty old spiral-bound notebook, stashed it away in some corner, and forgot all about it. A year or so ago, when I was preparing to move from North Carolina to Florida, I came across this tattered old notebook. I stopped what I was doing and sat cross-legged on the floor, reading every one of those poems. None of them are very good; most of them are downright dark and morose. In fact one of them is titled “Suicide” and goes on for pages about war and politics and a plethora of other dark subjects.
In actuality, the poem has nothing to do with the act of committing suicide; it is a commentary about the time in which I was living, the Vietnam War era. And this is the major reason that I am so fascinated by poetry. A poem can be interpreted on so many levels. We may think have discerned its meaning, but the only person who truly knows the poem’s meaning is the author. It’s a special treat to meet an author and learn the true meaning of a poem. In this case my new poet acquaintance, Martin Galvin, described for me the background for his poem, “Passive Aggressive.” He was sitting in an airport terminal. Across the aisle sat a young woman with two young men seated on either side of her. “She was so obviously trying to impress one of these young men by regaling him with tales of her travels,” Martin explained. “But she used the word ‘like’ three times in every sentence.” His poem so clearly captures the essence of his experience:
by Martin Galvin
It’s like I just like have to kiss
a boy in every city where I am like at.
It’s just so totally like I do this. Kiss.
So I am like last year? in Florence?
Italy? So weird.
I mean totally it was like so weird
I hadn’t like kissed like one of them?
And I was so totally like bummed.
So I see this really like old man
at the airport and like it’s what
I do so I go totally up to him and like
kiss him and it was totally like weird.
He was like twenty-seven and his wife —
it was like Like. She was like
so passive aggressive. Like sulked.
I was just like. It was like I did it?
Like totally kept my kiss list going? Weird.
I love it!
The day I discovered my old notebook full of childish poems, I decided to take another crack at poetry. The following poem is the result. I’m brave enough to share it, but won’t tell you what it really means. I’d love to hear what you think it means:
by Barbara Ann Weibel
Pensive thoughts pervade my pre-dawn pilgrimage.
Thumb to middle finger in astral communication,
Trodding the well-known path with inward focus,
Slicing the clinging, swirling mists with every stride.
One mile, two, then three; the dune crested,
Bursting over the horizon, the sun rises quickly
Revealing rare turquoise waters beneath a pastel sky.
Deceptive calm sea belying wind and waves that,
With ease, have overnight swept away all human sign
But the clapboard sentinels lining its edge.
Apologetic footprints mar the smooth beach as
Toes sink into chill sand and wriggle in its graininess,
Waves recede and strain shoreward in the same breath,
Foamy spittle hungrily tongues the scalloped shore,
Watery fingers tendril up calves, sucking, laughing,
Come to me, come to me.
Content in serenity and solitude, thoughts turn outward.
Now seen, the sleek gray Porpoises playing offshore,
Now heard, the Gulls’ squawk with pitch and dive for food,
Now felt, the wave-polished fragments of shell underfoot,
Calmed by gratitude, my turbulent seas; Knowing
Acceptance is the key.