I'm about to teach my Early Personal History
course again, where we read various memoirs
of childhood and the students write about
some aspect of their lives up to the age of 17.
Most of them write prose memoir directly, but
I'm open to any form, could be a play or a
series of poems or a movie script.
Most of my own poems are, in effect, memoir.
Here's one that has worked the same
material over the years, stretching the
details out at times, at other times
condensing...the latest try at a final
I never learned a merchant's trade
but dwelt instead as a favored guest
in the slow house of the words.
My laboring father lugged sacks of potatoes,
banana stalks heaved on either shoulder,
napped at the "Y," owned no car;
set me to shelling lima beans
from rotting pods, spoke to me
in all his hard life
maybe three or four times.
The children of workers, urged to get A's,
finish school with ink-stained fingers,
an early sensitivity lost,
those weekend days when I worked at our fruit store:
easeful melons, gorgeous eggplant,
before the words words words.
Labels: "words" poem