For me it was poetry.
He spent several days teaching us the ins and outs of poetry. He talked to us about rhythm and rhyming... and about a hundred other things, I'm sure. It was a long time ago, and I'm afraid in all of the years I've spent filling my brain with goodness this was, sadly, the only time I ever remember being taught anything about poetry. Well, he taught us and sent us off to write a poem, and then had us take turns reading our poems to the class.
I don't have the poem I wrote memorized in its entirety, but I do remember the first two lines...
I'm about to enter embarrassment territory, but it's all for the greater good... I promise.
There was a little deer
Standing next to a can of beer...
Hey, no laughing. I was in 5th grade for crying out loud.
The poem did improve along the way, and according to my teacher, my rhyming and rhythm were perfect. But we both knew that poetry wasn't my thing and that I wouldn't be earning a living writing greeting cards for Hallmark.
Since then I've always been fascinated with poetry. I just find it hard to understand. I think I've been conditioned in life to believe that every single thing, every single day, is a test. When in some ways it probably is, in other ways... like reading poetry, it isn't.
I had to remember that while reading Feasting at the Table of the Damned by Daniel Ames. His poetry wasn't a test for me. It was a chance for me to take a look inside myself and find a relationship with the imagery he put together with words. At times the book is filled with humor. At other times it is dark in its truthfulness. I could read about places that I've never been to and envision them in full detail with every word written in a poem. I found myself connecting and remembering some of the pain I have felt in my own life. Every word rang true to me. It was a beautiful tale about life. The good and the bad. Both, woven together as a reminder of how our choices, and unintended life circumstances, change us.
With permission from the author I would like to share with you a poem from Feasting at the Table of the Damned, that overwhelmed me the most, and even now, haunts me. It is titled, The Murdered Years. Perhaps its content resonates with me because of my employment with the District Attorney's Office where we prosecute cases caused by the most horrific of circumstances. This poem, this poem out of all the poems in this book, spoke the loudest. All of my feelings, and probably those of my coworkers and friends, can be found within these lines.
The Murdered Years
they are strewn from here to Tijuana
tossed into the dumpster
thrown from overpass
buried in the field of unknowing
their last moments were not pleasant
rich with strife and frothing
crushed by the hoary thumb of
kicked from the car during marital strife
passed out beneath the bar stool
while a friend rifles pockets for cash
and the bartender looks the other way
no detective has taken up the cold case
no pictures have been placed on milk cartons
they are gone and forgotten
the slaughter has slowed a bit
but the blood thirst is not fully slaked
a year goes for a walk and never returns
a year picked up a john, didn't come back
they are the kind of moments no one cares about
no relatives will put pressure on the authorities
Dan Ames is a poet living in DetroitFeasting at the Table of the Damned is his first book. You can learn more about him at http://poetdanielames.com/.