Back in the day…I took a poetry class…


One of the last classes of my undergraduate career was Poetry. I liked poetry, but I enrolled in the class only because a ton of my journalism friends were taking it (and I needed an upper-level English class to graduate).

We, the journalism kids, were part of the English department (up until my senior year when we moved to a newly-created sub-set department, Communications). They, the English kids, hated us. We were beneath them, in their humble opinion. They scoffed at us as they quoted Shakespeare and William Blake, corrected copies of our student newspaper, and adjusted their monocle (ok, the last part is not true — for most of them). We had to take any and all English-classes (which was our minor) in number so as not to be picked off by the English peeps. (I started out as an English major, so they accepted me, but I had to help my friends).

Anyway, I ended up loving this class because the professor was the coolest cat ever. He was a hippy at heart but wore tweed to give the impression that he was a professional (we all knew the truth). The tweed was clearly from a thrift store (circa 1970). The class was also great because we didn’t just analyze poems, we wrote poems. We studied their style. We imitated the greats. The class inspired me to write and explore poetry as an art form instead of just random things I scratched in a notebook when my brain was out of control.

One poem that I wrote in this class always makes me smile. Our assignment was to imitate Frank O’Hara (style, format, and so on). The poem I wrote was based on a breezy, Spring day in 2004 out with my pup, Shadow, and I now will share it with you.

It is late afternoon in Hillsboro, a Saturday
three months before I graduate high school, the year
is 2004 and I go to take the garbage off at the city dump
because at 2:30 it closes and my job is to take
the garbage out in my gray pickup truck with my trusty dog

I push open the door and jump out into the beaming sun
and shut it behind me to keep Shadow in and walk slowly
to the back of the truck to pick up the mass of black bags
that are staring at me

I pick one up
and throw it into the smasher
without hesitation I pick up the next and do the same
I do the same until they are all gone
and I humor Lenny the garbage man (or at least that is what I call him)
who begins to talk to me about the hot weather, I listen and smile
and make my way back to leave

and strolling back I stop to pick up a lucky penny
and think to myself how great one cent is on this Saturday
and at my truck, I pull up the handle but it won’t budge
wondering I look to see Shadow who is locked inside my truck
with the air conditioner blasting

and I am outside wishing he had fingers to open the door
and I ask Lenny to borrow his phone
while peering in at the little black dog in the driver’s seat smiling
at me and Lenny and I couldn’t help but laugh

I wish, in 2004, I had a cell phone to capture this moment. Shadow’s face was dumbly smiling as I stood outside in the hot sun watching his floppy ears blow in the air conditioning. I love this poem, and I love this moment.

Thank you for reading!


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