I think we sometimes have a tendency to forget why we do the things we do. That is, we become so routinized not only in the things we dislike — for example, our jobs, paying bills, grocery shopping — but we somehow manage to forget why we do those things we enjoy. Here I’m an Adjunct Professor teaching English Composition, and yet I’m so far removed from graduate school and poetry workshops that it’s easy to forget why I fell in love with poetry in the first place. I no longer have a circle of poets to bounce ideas off of. I don’t have constant contact with former poetry professors — poets themselves — who can read and provide instant feedback to my work. Nowadays I’m primarily my own writer, reader and editor. To an extent I suppose that’s okay. I mean, we learn our craft and at some point we need to work independently, developing our own voice and our own path. On the other hand, we don’t create in a vacuum. We need to recognize the world around us. We need the voices of other poets to remind us of what is being written, what is being read. Those writers who say they don’t read other writers, much like those musicians who say they don’t listen to music — fuck them! That’s an elitist, ridiculous, egomaniacal attitude. If you are a poet (or musician, or director, or actor, etc.) you are not the only poet. You are one of many. Do not forget where you come from. Do not forget why you do what you do.
With that, today’s poem is not one of my own, but a piece by one of my former instructors, Greg Glazner. I studied under Greg at the College of Santa Fe. He was the first of many poets to impact me on a one-to-one basis, in that he helped me to find my voice by exposing me to a myriad of other voices. In fact, I did a final project for Greg in which I wrote 10 poems in the style/voice of 10 different poets/schools of poetry. It was probably the most impactful exercise I’ve yet to do as a writer. It helped me to not only understand what those poets were doing, but to understand what I was doing. Greg’s first book, From the Iron Chair, won the Walt Whitman Award for poetry. You can listen to him read his poem “A Fine, Clean Gloss” from his second collection, Singularity. Today’s selection comes from his second book, and is what I consider to be one of his finest poems. And even though I’ve thanked Greg time and time again for his wisdom and inspiration, let this be yet another thank you to an amazing poet an all-around great person.
After the blue car grinding and bending itself
to stillness on its side,
after the boat jolting sidelong, resting finally against a pine,
after the ringing bolts and shear pins settling,
such a quiet as I thrashed toward them through the weeds,
in that interlude, a blankness overcame things.
Far off in the windshield, shattered glare
whited out the suffering faces. No one moaned.
Not even a wheel on the mangled trailer turned.
The radio’s guitar noise jerked faintly
in the interior, like an overstimulated nerve.
But when my brother, finally,
could raise his head through an open window,
squinting, his forehead bloodied a little in the sun,
then Nancy, arms first, lifted by the slender wrists,
and later as we huddled under an oak,
waving the traffic on,
a sufficiency in the light
rushed all over our faces and our clothes,
matted in Mike’s red hair
as it had been certain childhood mornings,
lustering white between his wife’s blue bruises.
It illuminated values in the simplest moves,
her thin fingers flexing, his high rasp of a laugh,
and for as long as we let it, just breathing,
it expanded into the tree lash, the waves of broomweed, and the blowing trash.
For half an hour we were stripped
of everything but clarity.
Even the defects of strangers were laid bare,
hands white on their steering wheels,
craining their faces toward us until grand forces
snapped them back into their lanes
and they diminished
into the rippling, silver heat pools
it is impossible to drink from, the vapor’s
clear distortion on the air.