|In the best Robert Frost tradition, here's two poets trespassing on Palomar Mountain, 2009: "Whose woods these are, I think I know./His house is in the village though;/he will not see [us] stopping here to watch his woods...."|
He Laid Down
Our group of friends floated
back home, dancing into the kitchen.
I leapt up on the counter.
My lover, who was not yet, then,
lost his arm elbow-deep in
a produce box, feeling for limes.
He brought a handful up,
a long stray lemon.
They rolled all over the island.
Not-yet-lover slid a silver knife
from its block; brutally sheared
the green fruit into rondelles.
I was not watching, he had
his back to me when I heard another
friend cry out for him.
Neon blood hugged the knife, which
he laid down. His full hand quarantined
what lime was clean;
and he turned to offer me
his injury—surely an accident, although
he sure turned fast.
I remember a December afternoon when I got the feeling Kayla didn't want to write. She was a busy kid and had a lot going on. It was near the end of the semester. Her mom, Mary Ellen, had got us together for a writing session at The Pannikin in Del Mar, which was a classic melange of caffeine and print. Hot chocolate can do a lot, but it has its limits.
Simon Ortiz once told said that poetry is telling a story only the way you can tell it, so I told Kayla about the poet Jim Milner surviving the Cedar Fire a couple of months earlier. His wife Galen Blacklidge didn't make it out. Kayla listened, wrote and later read her poem at a fundraiser for Jim.
The worst thing in the world
Is stolen love
A sleepless night where you are
Overwhelmed with grief and gratitude
They sink you into the dark
Grief is desolate beauty
A crimson fire screaming itself hoarse
Its beauty is blinding
Its destruction is great
Charred skins of long oaks
Tended to for decades
Flutter past as you slouch down, sobbing
No leaves, the remaining are off the tree and toasted
They are still warm to the touch
|Kayla picks up the mic to read "Jim's Song" at a fundraiser for Jim Milner, 2003.|
Kayla wrote "Jim's Song" in the 7th grade.
This three-fer of Kayla is like watching a time-elapse movie of a flower reverse-bloom into a bud. The sprouting, planting and tilling had already been done by everyone who had ever read to Kayla, especially Mary Ellen. But if there was a moment when I thought Kayla was going to become a poet, it was during a conference when she was in 5th grade. She had written several poems that semester, and as I recall, she liked all of them better than "The Rock." It was an assignment. She didn't like the chant of "the rock," but I was drawn in to how she emerged from the rock again and again with idea after idea. Ordinarily, I would have suggested revising for sensory detail, but Kayla seemed past that. I think I advised her to cut some words and try some different line-breaks but retain the arc.
like a still locomotive,
dead on its rails
smooth and silent.
under shady trees like
squid ink covering a mass of ocean.
by himself, bored.
picks up the rock.
picked up and skipped
across water by
could not throw without
could not skip without
Unknown strengths of
tossing trains under
The poem was later published in a county-wide anthology of student poems. At the time I thought it was an excellent example of the process from invention through publication, the moment in conference when she revised being the essential step of making a piece of writing more of what it already was.
|Kayla gives me a copy of her first chapbook, 2002.|