Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ID, by DENISE DUHAMEL



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

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First Line: I'm having coffee at the last stop with amy
Last Line: Of the article advised, so you should paraphrase
Subject(s): Plath, Sylvia (1932-1963); Poetry & Poets


for Lexia

I'm having coffee at the Last Stop with Amy
who tells me about her teaching -
she teaches adjunct composition even though she has a PhD
just like my friend Page. Amy says her students at FIT
really love Sylvia Plath -
The moon sees nothing of this. She is bald and wild.
The line falls off her tongue like rain or salt,
something easy and helpful.
It's the day after Prairie Schooner has accepted "Superego"
(even though when I originally wrote it, it had the title
"The Other Day I Wrote This Poem Ego.") It was Amy's idea
to change the title - and I think she was right,
especially because it is a companion poem
to this other poem "Ego" and now to this poem "Id."

In the poem "Superego." I presented this moral,
or rather, this to-revise-or-not-to-revise dilemma:
should I go back to change the lines in which I can
only think of men who write about the moon?
Should I plug in Sylvia Plath's lines as if I knew them
without looking them up? As a poet, I just want my reader
to trust me. Would they believe I actually knew all those lines by heart?
I'd just been reading an article about memoir writing
which cautioned memoirists against using dialogue -
if you really want your reader to believe you,
you shouldn't use artifice, you shouldn't write,
Then Mommy said and launch into a paragraph of her exact words
since no one has a memory like that. Rather, the author
of the article advised, you should paraphrase.

I used to try to teach my composition students to paraphrase
when I taught at Baruch College, the same place where Page teaches now -
I'd give them a paragraph, but they'd just basically copy the whole thing
changing one or two words like "carry" to "lift up." Anyway, the truth is
I should have known those Plath lines, and as soon as Amy said them,
I did. I even remembered some other lines -
The moon is no door. It is a face in its own right,
White as a knuckle and terribly upset
There was a time when I was obsessed by Plath, so when Amy tells me
Meg Ryan has just bought the movie rights to tell Plath's story,
we both agree - "Bleck! What next? Ted Hughes played by Tom Hanks?"
But who knows, maybe Meg is obsessed with Plat like I was
when I went to Smith College and looked through Sylvia's papers
and the little hairs on my arms bristled with electricity
the same way they did when I saw my first dead body.
My eyes grew all moist and blurry when I saw her juvenilia,
her "Angel with Guitar" drawn in colored pencil, so sappy
a picture I knew she must have been happy when she drew it.
Maybe Meg Ryan will do a good job.

The picture was before any of Sylvia's poems.
My trip to Smith was before Sylvia's lines settled like dust bunnies
under the couch in my brain, before I'd lost Plath's moon that
drags the sea after it like a dark crime. I'm always forgetting
not only lines of poems, but names and phone numbers
and where I put my keys. I forget the facts of stories
I thought I knew. For example, the other night,
after I read another one of my poems
"The Difference between Pepsi and Pope" at a reading,
my friend Page came up to me and said,
"Hey, don't you remember? I was that cookie!"

(I'd referred to a poet whose job it was to dress up like a cookie in a mall.)
"Why did you turn me into a man?" she asked. The thing was
I was sure the person in the cookie costume was Michael Burkard
when I wrote the poem, so I made the cookie a he.
I didn't want to use Michael's real name
because I hadn't been in touch with him
in a long time and I thought maybe he wouldn't want
anyone to know about his cookie-dressing days.
Besides, it was such good material I thought
he might want to use it for a poem of his own.

But the real story, Page reminded me,
is that while she dressed up as a cookie in a mall in Maryland
to pass out free samples to shopping customers,
Michael would come by to visit her since he lived in the neighborhood.

All those years I had Michael's head on top
of a chocolate-chip-speckled body, but now I've corrected it
in my mind, now Page's head is there instead.
More than ever, I think it's about time Page get a really good job,
one with tenure and sabbaticals and even an expense account.
Maybe Amy could teach in the sister school and only have to go in
twice a week. I wish this poem could serve as a recommendation letter
for Page and Amy, or introductory letter for myself
since I adjunct as well. I wish the three of us had big jobs
with pension and dental plans. I first became aware
of Page when I read one of her poems
in Prairie Schooner in the mid-eighties. It was a great poem,
I read it over and over again, and it finally dawned on me
that she was the same Page whose mailbox "Delano" at Baruch
was right above mine. I wrote her a fan letter and we became friends.

At the reception for the reading,
Stephanie and Kathy (or Stephanie or Kathy) said Page

should change her name to Lexia, the name for a page on the web.
My friend Amy (with whom I'm sipping coffee
at the Last Stop, remember?) is explaining why she didn't make the reading.
I tell her friend Shira was there. Shira's blond hair
hung like a shiny shawl over her arm as she looked at the cookies
and wondered if she should have one. I opted for Chex Mix
and apple juice because I knew if I had sugar
my head would start racing even faster than it already was
talking to my friends who I hadn't seen since before Christmas.
Marcia's mother had Alzheimers, just like Nick's.
I was trying to set up Scott to run this reading series.
I'd just missed Mark's reading which made me feel bad.
I'd just met Kate Light and Johanna Keller. I'd just heard Pat Mangan
read for the first time. Stephanie asked him if he was related
to a famous Mangan and he was. I looked again at Shira's long hair
since I was getting my hair cut short the next week
and was starting to have serious doubts.

Someone turned the lights on and off, meaning the reception was over.
Someone came and took away the Chex Mix and picked up
the empty paper cups. Stephanie and I got our coats.
We were supposed to have traveled together to the West Village
since Stephanie was a reader that night as well, but we had missed each other
at the Lexington station where the N (my line) meets the 6
(the train Stephanie takes.) We were supposed to meet at the escalator,
but there are at least three escalators at that stop so I ran back and forth
between the ones I saw while Stephanie waited
at the only one she knew of (which was the one I couldn't find.)
Anyway, we both gave up after half an hour
and took the N then the 1 and met instead on Christopher Street.
We'd given up exactly at the same time, we'd talked to the same set
of policemen at Lexington Station. We just began walking

towards Barrow Street as thought it were unremarkable.
But it was pretty remarkable, the way the timing went,
the way we were probably on the same trains.

On the way home, we got off at Lexington again and found the escalator
where Stephanie had waited - there was actually a set,
one going up and one going down with a flight of stairs
in the middle. It was on the opposite side of one of the platforms
where I'd waited. I realize now, as this poem comes to a close,
that it's sort of New York School
the way I put in the names of my friends. When I told David
I was working on this, he said that I should
only use words that contain the letters "id," maybe even
put his name in the title, "(Dav)ID." Even though
he was only kidding, I considered
his idea for a minute -- then this sentence
would have instead read "Kidding considered idea."
I like language techniques and surrealist games, but the truth is
I'm always trying to say something, I'm always that earnest kid
with her hand up, with an idea the teacher
has to help her sputter out. I'm really sorry
I mixed Page up with Michael, even though Page
says she doesn't care. Amy's really sorry
she didn't make the reading because she's never heard Stephanie before
Did I mention Stephanie is a wiz at hypertext?
If I were one, too, there'd be these links to help you
get through "Id." For example, you'd click on the word Page
and it would take you back to the dedication.


Copyright Denise Duhamel.
http://www.unl.edu/schooner/psmain.htm
Prairie Schooner is a literary quarterly published since 1927 which
publishes original stories, poetry, essays, and reviews. Regularly cited in the
prize journals, the magazine is considered one of the most prestigious of the
campus-based literary journals.







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