I finished a wonderful month-long retreat at Headlands Center for the Arts, and I have one more poem to write for the collection. The absolute last poem in the book. While at Headlands, I did a Show & Tell, which entailed reading poems from dear Gerald and explaining the project, its evolution, and voicing the questions that were coming up for me as I created the work. I’ve been thinking about the role of patriarchy in our lives, and its attendant impact on how we are with ourselves and each other. Instantly, I’m ruminating on systems of oppression, war and violence, and the disconnection patriarchy leaves in its wake. More on that later . . .
Here is the poem “It’s one of those nights . . .” as it first appeared in my notebook (October 2012). (Note: None of the poems in dear Gerald have titles–the first line or complete sentence is bold. I decided to do that because I wanted each poem to function like a letter–and since the whole collection is called dear Gerald, there is no need to repeat dear Gerald over and over again. )
I first drafted this poem while riding the bus after an evening poetry class at Berkeley City College with Sharon Coleman. The poem is a both epistolary and an experimentation with the haibun form, which combines prose and haiku poetry. Aimee Nezhukumatathil writes about the haibun, in an essay, for Poetry.org:
Though Bashō coined the word haibun, the form as it is today existed in Japan as prefaces and mini-lyric essays even before the seventeenth century (when Bashō first popularized the form). After his famous journey to Mutsu, he crafted a sort of guideline to the form in order to plunge deeper into the aware (pronounced ah-WAR-ay) spirit of haiku. Thus, another important feature of the haibun is not simply to provide a writer a shape in which to jot mundane musings of landscape and travel but also to evoke that sense of aware—the quality of certain objects to evoke longing, sadness, or immediate sympathy.
Even though I don’t follow the rules, especially when it comes to the “haiku” as the final stanza, I do abide by that sense of “aware,” the longing–what is left behind and what is desired. For the poem below, I’m remembering the Rodney King riots when I was in middle school, 9/11 after graduating college, Civil Rights Movement and its legacy, and my ancestors who escaped slavery and formed a marooned colony in Venezuela. All these social movements, these movements toward change, these travels that were forced.
Here is the final version of “It’s one of those nights . . .”: