Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Spontaneous Poetry, Tuesday September 8th

From: Ron Self
Sent: Tuesday, September 08, 2009 11:30 AM
To: Keith Badowski
Subject: Re: Keith's chapbook plan

You asked for it. Here's your challenge: I just got back from the dentist. How about writing a poem using all of the following dentist-related terms without mentioning dentist or dental visit? Here are the terms: crown, cavity, brush, floss, filling, amalgam, and root canal. In other words, write a poem not about dentists or dental visits but somehow using the terminology of dentistry.

Beneath by Keith Badowski 9-08-2009

Deep down in the bowels of my basement
where I’ve stored the amalgam of all my dada,
there you will find a guitar strung with floss
which of course could never be tuned.

When last I ventured into the dark cavity
to find those soldier dolls armed with bouquets,
I fell like Jack and banged my crown, crawled up
cursing Ebay. Filling shelves, loading every nook

runs in our family. Uncle Gus saved spatulas
and shoeshine brushes, ketchup bottles
and army cots. No different really from
my penchant for implausibles like that turntable

needled with a cat’s tooth. The tongue
of my imagination keeps probing
that festering gap, for who can have
too many harmonica mobiles

or shoeboxes swaddled in Sunday comics
or lanyards stolen from the dresser-drawers
of school chums’ parents? Yet out of sight
needs not mean out of mind, as you, my spouse,

my kids, and even my parents (acting as if
you expect to outlive me), chide me to purge
the bins of bird call pipes, and pipe cleaner
cake toppers, to lance my hoard of Play-Doh

body-part molds, and once and for all to root
canal those insidious bags of belly
button lint I saved for posterity, a legacy
you’d trade in an instant for oral surgery.

This fondest hope I hereby bequeath
that when I’m dead and deeper, if not before,
you might creep down this decay of steps
perhaps to curettage all I have gathered

only to discover vast gaps, not crowding—
room enough to spare for your endless beneath,
room enough for a spiral tower (of all things)
composed of all our ancestor’s baby teeth.

Note: I combined Ron’s challenge with an assignment from Bonni Goldberg’s Room to Write: Daily Invitation to a Writer’s Life. The assignment appears on p. 115: Today describe your basement and probe its contents in writing. Pay attention to all your senses. Notice whether what you discover has symbolic potential.

I don’t actually have a basement, but I did have an Uncle Gus who collected a wide variety of oddities. The lanyard was pilfered from Billy Collins. The "Play-Doh body molds" were filched from Tim Healy. The "belly button lint" was robbed from my high school drama teacher Mr. Burgers. The "pipe cleaner cake toppers" were swiped from a Google search, as was the concept of a tower of teeth...but the one I saw on the net was repulsive, made of diseased human teeth.

The rest of the items are primarily mine. But it is actually hard to claim ownership of anything really. It is my opinion that the most basic form of art is collage. Our minds, our very imaginations are collections of various junk and treasures that seep in and become reconfigured within us.

1 comment:

TS said...

Awesome!! I will be enjoying this one for a while. Good to see you back in action, man. I really like the attributions you provide afterward, and I completely agree about the inability to claim pure ownership of these creations -- but your spirit of indebtedness creates a true circuit that in a sincere way makes it all yours, if that makes sense. (Word verification for this comment was "verse"; fancy that.)