My Poetry, Stolen Away
January 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
By Jacqueline Austin
My poetry had been stolen away and I needed to go on a journey to retrieve it.
I got into my car–a 2008 Toyota Camry. I was just about to put the car into reverse–I always put the car in reverse–when someone flung open the passenger door, and got in.
I couldn’t identify my unwanted companion. And the car broke down almost immediately. My unwanted companion followed me out of the car. Together, we walked, hand in unaffectionate hand, down a weedy treacherous slope, descending into the dark by the side of a roaring freeway. There was no path–just rocks, garbage and glass–and my unwanted companion’s feet kept skittering, trying not to slide.
Neither of us had phones and I began to resent my poetry for dragging me out like this, without warning, after abandoning me in the first place, which it had promised, when it arrived long ago, all at once, that it would never do. What did my poetry think I was–a clown, a fool? Did my poetry really expect me to believe it hadn’t gone willingly, happily whoring off with the first pretty face to come along? Who did my poetry think I was? Was I born yesterday?
My unwanted companion and I found ourselves just outside a small-town mall. The only unusual thing about it was its name, The Island Of Lost Boys–something to do with a Pep Boys which had once been there, but now wasn’t.
The only clothing store at The Island Of Lost Boys was a dilapidated suit shop for men and boys. Yellow plastic hung in both the windows, draped like aging skin; the suits within protected, like incubating illnesses, from sun and air.
Though The Suit Shoppe carried nothing I could wear, or ever would, even if I could, I ran inside. My clothes were shot. A fancy gray shark skin suit was the only thing which might fit me, and so I traded my unwanted companion for the suit. It always helps to be dressed in something sharp when it’s one’s turn to get up and speak, and what could be sharper than something young in shiny polyester, woven for a time, place and body that are not, and never could be, one’s own?
The suit was carefully packed into a box by a grinning salesman. It took me a while to climb back to my car, which now seemed to be parked not by the freeway, but in front of a suburban tract house, circa 1949. And by the time I got to the door, the box was no longer under my arm. Very vaguely I remembered another salesman smiling; he had put the box in a safe place for me while I continued to shop. And with a sinking heart I realized that this second salesman had definitely not been an employee of the store, or any store, and that I’d passively allowed the salesmen, one legitimate, one not, to steal my birthright–couldn’t my companion have been my poetry, but old?–without creating a scene.
The door was open. I walked inside, and, very upset, lay down.
Next thing I knew it was morning. I woke up going through my list of friends, ticking off where everyone would be in the next five years. This one would be rich. That one, dead. This one, drunk. That one, arguing bravely for her family. This other one, still at sea, as she’s been, ever since we met. Her boyfriend, working hard–he always works hard. No reason to look up from his work, in the next five years.
And as for me, I’d gone and let myself become irrelevant. That’s an awful thing to let happen to a friend of the heart. The key to knowing one’s poetry, at any age, is having a future. I must design the future I wish to have, and that includes recognizing my poetry, wherever I might find it, no matter the wrinkles on its feet, the shadow on its face, the shakiness in its dark and wizened hands.
Copyright 2013 by Jacqueline Austin. All rights reserved.