Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poetry Group / Workshop / "It's a Gun"






















Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA - & vocalist Mariah Carey


M. arrives late to class. Keeps his gun out of sight... English 101. I'm trying to do what I can with Strunk & White's Elements of Style.

Later I write something that turns out to be, well, a not very good poem. Yet I can't throw it away. Something about the the personality of the kid, his one good essay, the gun, the incident... keeps me going back. I work and re-work the material. But some scribblings are just that, "scribblings," little more than anecdotes. Here's my little anecdote:

IT'S A GUN

Sara's got on earphones.
I make out Mariah Carey
singing, I want you,
I need you,
don't leave me.

Class begins.
"Okay, Sara," I say,
"tune her out."
Never be alone at night,
if you're lonely, love will be there, Carey sings.

Sara turns it up loud, then takes off the phones.

M n' M, New Yorker,
walks in late,
begins yelling from his seat
at some guy at the door
who's shaking his fists,

but M n' M isn't leaving,
he's staying put, and his friend,
clearly pissed, won't let up. "Mutha..."
waves and yells he's been robbed,
wants his money back,

"Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah. Uh huh."
What are we on about today? I've got this
lesson plan. I mark the guy late.
"Cool it, cool it..."
I still don't know he's got a gun.

"Let's talk about this outside,"
and the other kid disappears
and M and I step outside
and I tell him to go home.
Actually, he's written this A+ essay

about "murder and bang bang,"
how home was a front stoop in Manhattan,
how he's here for his safety,
how he can't get used to "San-ty Cruz,"
he misses all that bad company.

"Teach," he says, "I'm not goin' home."

Now he's telling me to cool it.
"You don't know what I got," he saying.
He's right. I don't know. Then the police
are all around us; turns out
the room's barricaded. How did I know

Murder and bang bang. Mariah Carey singing
It's a gun, it's a gun.


"It's A Gun" reprinted from CALIFORNIA PART-TIMER, CCFT, AFL-CIO, Fall 1998, Vol. 10, No. 1.

CALIFORNIA PART-TIMER, CCFT, AFL-CIO, Fall 1998, Vol. 10, No. 1 "It's A Gun," poem.
Reprinted in CCFT (Santa Cruz/Monterey) Newsletter, Dec., 1998.


Friends make suggestions and I revise the thing and end up with something less, much less, than what I began with. In fact, I can't even remember what I began with. Only rage at the college for not leveling with me, how I had to learn about what really happened from a local newspaper.

So it's not the student or the gun I wanted to write about, but the way the incident was handled by the college. Murder and bang bang. Anyway, it's the student, it's the student who has the best lines.

* * *

• What does one get out of a poem? What do you take away? 

Ezra Pound says, “Only emotion endures...”

and, long-term, what's it all about anyway?

“God guard me from those thoughts
men think in the mind alone.

He that sings a lasting song

thinks in a marrow bone.”

--W. B. Yeats

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