Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hard Kisses

On a whim a couple years ago, I took a creative writing course at Solano Community College. The school was right next door to my subdivision. I could practically walk there. My youngest son was still in the womb, due any time soon, so this was my last chance at doing something with my relative free time. I didn't expect much. Boy was I surprised.

In many ways I will always be that small-town boy with a narrow mind. Prejudices creep in, guiding me in small ways. For instance, I used to despise the whole profession of psychology, and regarded anyone who saw a "shrink" as weak. Eventually, personal experience forced me to change my mind. The same prejudice kept me from reading a single line of poetry without dismissing it with a scoff. Dr. Laurie Duesing, my esteemed creative writing professor, blew those doors off the hinges.

Her class put me on the track I'm on today. If she had been anyone different, someone negatively critical for instance, I might not have continued.

Dr D, as her students affectionately call her, is an accomplished poet. She wrote a collection of poems that can be purchased at Amazon called Hard Kisses. I always return to the same piece, again and again. The poem is called Precision, which for me has many meanings. The obvious I will leave for your interpretation. For me, this poem is arrow sharp in delivering pain to my heart, as if for a moment I am behind her eyes feeling the loss of someone who lived fast and hard.

Precision
by Laurie Duesing

The day you flew in perfect arc
from your motorcycle was the same day
I broke the perfect formation of your women
at the railing, leaving behind
your grandmother and mother, to run
and jump the fence. The stop watch hanging
from my neck, suspended between gravity
and momentum, swung its perfect pendulum.
All our motion was brought to conclusion
by your broken body at rest
on the ground. Your breath never rose
to the oxygen placed on your face
and your heart never rallied
to the arms pressing your chest.
You wore the perfect clothes:
the ashy grey of death.

At the hospital they said your failure to survive
was complete. Though I never saw
the neck you perfectly broke or your body
cleanly draped by a sheet, I did see
your dead face bruising up at me
and for lack of something to touch,
I touched the stop watch
which had not died.
If any nurse or doctor had asked,
I could have told, exactly,
to the hundreths of seconds, how long
it had been since I'd seen you alive.

23 comments:

Chuck said...

Very moving I would have to say.

mr. schprock said...

Incredible poem, and very comprehensible on the first read-through (unlike a lot of poems).

Beth said...

I have to agree with Schprock. As always, he said it perfectly.

Flood said...

Two people did a search recently for Laurie Deusing and surfed to your interview (which was read).

I really think I could benefit from a class like this.

Toni Anderson said...

Great poem. Don't you love poets? Great people.

Sad though...

Amazing how one person can make you turn the way you were always meant to go. Brings to mind that Scot's saying, 'What's for ye, won't go by ye.'

magnetbabe said...

I love poetry. I was not feeling very moved by this poem until the bit at the end about the stopwatch. All of a sudden I got goosebumps and sharply drew my breath. That's the power of poetry. Thanks for sharing, I may try and read some more stuff by her.

Bernita said...

Yes.
You have said it.

Jaye Wells said...

Bam! That last line really brings the pain home.

Janie said...

Poetry is powerful. I am always amazed in how a person can take a few words and say so much.

That's good writing.

Very nice poem.

Scott said...

Chuck - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I agree.

Mr. Schprock - I know, very non-threatening and easy to read.

Beth - Ditto

Flood - I'm glad that I'm helping to spread the word. She deserves to be read.

Toni - Great saying, and I hope it's true.

Nat - That ending is amazing. It really grabs me too--every time.

Bernita - Glad you enjoyed it.

Jaye - I know, it's very moving.

Janie - Thanks for saying so.

Susie said...

Wow! The first time through I read the words. With the second reading I saw the images. Very powerful, thanks for sharing.

(visting from Bailey's place)

Writing Blind said...

I've read this poem somewhere before and loved it. I didn't realize this was the same poet. I'll have to go buy this book now. Thanks for posting this.

Jeff said...

Very powerful poem. Thanks for sharing. :)

Moni said...

Awesomely moving and universally grieved. Thanks for posting it. I love poetry I'll have to check out Hard Kisses.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Indeed.

A good poem

Scott said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed it as much as I did. I wonder how long she let that stopwatch go after that.

Ashynioki said...

I loved Dr D's class. Remember how some of the students got confused and thought her book was required reading? I still bought it, tho, and am very glad that I did. My favorite is the one about her sister, right after she had the mastectomy. It's the one the book was named after. It was excellent to learn from someone so obviously talented. She helped me un-learn some of the habits that high school writing forced me to develop, i.e. overwriting.

Miranda said...

I have the same prejudices you used to.
Psychology an new poetry tend to make me turn away. Maybe I'll also change my mind one day/

Claire said...

Amazing, precise in its wording too...Thanks for sharing it with us. I know I never would have found that on my own. I just don't read enough poetry

Scott said...

Monica - Nice to see you still around!! Dr. D. just retired from Solano and is moving away. I have her address if you ever want to drop a line. As for her poetry, she is amazing.

Miranda - Trick is finding the right pieces to read. Try her out.

Claire - Glad you enjoyed it. I'm not much for poetry either, but I really like her stuff.

Kathleen said...

Being a race fan, this really spoke to me, as I remember the races I've been to where we lost a driver. I have the same heavy feeling my chest and tears in my eyes as I think about them and revisit those horrific days.

Although I do like poetry, I find that most poetry doesn't speak to me, but this one definitely did. Don't get me wrong, I like poetry, but I'm not very good at discerning the hidden meaning that seems to be present in most of them.

The imagery of the stopwatch was especially meaningful to me.

Kathleen said...

Oh yeah, the psychology bit. The FF used to say quite pompously, "No member of my family is ever going to go to therapy." Yeah, right, jackass. The sad thing is that because of him, every member of my family should have gone to therapy, and seriously. Instead only two of us did and I'd say we're the most well-adjusted now. Everybody else just ignored or ran from the problems.

Jeff said...

this is exquisite. Very approachable on first pass, as was stated earlier. Such cogent and incisive words.