Today is the birthday of one of the greatest Okies who ever lived. Will Rogers, who was born Nov. 4, 1879, said, “It’s great to be great, but it’s greater to be human.”
In honor of Will, here is a poem that I wrote many years ago. It is based on a memory my gangy told me about when she would ride the train from Locust Grove to Tulsa to see a movie or to go shopping.
They were fifteen and smoked Lucky Strikes
on the train to Tulsa. Both wore their best dress.
Montie Jean’s was blue taffeta with lace
crocheted along the collar. She had to stand
or stroll to keep it from creasing at her hips.
She held Ann’s arm and they squeezed their heads out
one window and shouted into the spring
day at the flitting bright spots of bluebirds
and young men in the fields, checking the soil
to see if the seeds could be planted yet.
They waved to the men, and their smart curls held
in the wind and in the hot, cramped theater
where Will Rogers lassoed both their hearts and
Montie Jean, laughing, swallowed her mint gum.
As part of the celebration of the fall season, the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry will have a Tin Can Poem Drum Contest. Make a drum from a tin can and come drum it in a rhythm circle at Autumn Movement with us!
Bring your drum out for a contest at the museum:
Saturday, Sept. 26
Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry
Museum tours at 5:00, a drum workshop at 6:00, folk dancing at 7:00, and a drum circle at 8:00 are the events planned. Drums will be judged and prizes awarded at 6:45.
It was in this way,
She knew the tree
It was in this way.
Go ahead and believe
In what you will.
The path made
Is the one you chose.
It is in this way
That a life happens.
POEM LIFE premieres this Saturday night, March 21, at the VFW in Locust Grove. Here is another post about something you will experience in the show–the chance to have a personalized poem composed on the spot and taken home with you. If you follow ROMP or know the activities I get up to, you already know what poem-in-a-minute is about. You give me 3 words you like or want to see in a poem, and I type up a poem on the spot with those 3 words somewhere in it.
Instead of typing poems during the show, I will have a segment where I cassette-record 2-3 poems for people. Yes, I have moved up in the technology world–from manual typewriter to cassette recorder. It will be quicker to compose the poem and say it straight into a recorder, rather than to type it–though I’m a quick typer . . typist.
Over the years, as a poet, I have discovered my true calling not in the typical poetic endeavors of publishing poems, teaching them and holding poetry readings (all heroic endeavors) but in creating experiences of poetry for other people. That’s the strong teacher side in me coming out. My family has a long history of accomplished educators, and though I occasionally throw in the towel with teaching, I always come back to it in some way.
Poem Life and the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry itself have been ways for me to bring together the celebration of poetry with the facilitation of its practice in the lives of everyday people. Poems-in-a-Minute has been one way I’ve extended this philosophy of poetry as experience–having performed at many festivals and venues. Though I no longer strive to have my poetry published (other than on this website), I cannot not be a poet–a wise woman told me that once. I just want to be a poet for other people.
Come to the show, ya’ll!
There will be a $100 door prize drawing and other fun surprises.
He had meningitis as a baby
And almost died. It came
With horrible headaches
That he relieved by lying
In bed and rolling his head
Back and forth and repeating
Uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh
Until he fell asleep.
As children, we often went
With our dad into the woods
And listened to him name
The trees and the fox dens,
The place where moss
Would grow, the unrelieved
Smell of turtle flesh
Rotting in bleached shells.
Once on a trail ride,
My horse slipped and fell
And he jumped off his own
To . . . check on me? Save
Me? He was a tiny, sick baby.
He walked in the world
With me. He is my brother
And nothing will change that.
This is the 2nd post about a snippet from my one-woman poetry show POEM LIFE which premieres on Mar. 21.
One segment of the show describes the crime of Receiving Stolen Goods. Part of the segment includes a poem about my cousin. She used to write me long notes and draw mazes for me when we were in junior high. She had a hard life, abandoned by her mother then neglected and worse. She has lived in my psyche all of my life because I regret that I was not kinder to her. She died many years ago in a car accident in Oklahoma City.
This is one stanza from a long poem about her:
She smelled like urine when she was younger.
They said there was something wrong with her bladder.
She wanted to race me down our grandparents’ hill
and she would always win. She wrapped cheap paper dolls
in purple tissue for me one Christmas. I was embarrassed,
and she gave me things and she was alive.
I still have the 15-page note she wrote me when we were in 7th grade and another shorter one and one that I wrote to her that somehow made it into my grandmother’s things and I got back after she died. In the note, she mentions a Dickinson poem that I told her about and that she wrote out and we taped to the wall of her bedroom once when I stayed overnight with her. That poem always reminds me of her.
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!
How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!
Be kind, her life reminds me. Be kind.