When I was in college, I was asked to help judge a high school poetry contest. I think it was mandatory for students in a certain grade to participate. At any rate, several of us read all the poems and gave them grades. The teacher than averaged the grades and awarded the student(s) with the highest grades the awards for best poem(s).
What I remember most about the contest is that virtually all the students wrote the same poem, which was something about how isolated and different they felt than all their classmates. The other (but far less common) theme was to quote music they particularly liked, like one poem that was nothing but lyrics by the Beatles.
It struck me – even though I was barely out of high school myself – that I had also felt very isolated and different in high school, but was more or less unaware that everyone else felt the same way. You would think feeling isolated and different could be a unifying force among those who feel that way, but if so, we hadn’t figured out how to make it work.
I have been asked why I typically write poems about everyday subjects, and the answer is because I’m an everyday kind of person. I encounter everyday things. I’m trying to be genuine and not original. I love it when people see or say something that is entirely obvious, but that only becomes obvious once it has been seen or said. I also like hearing about real lives and real feelings.
As I write this, I am in a parking lot between a K-Mart and a Burger King. I’m parked here because there is shade. So far today, I’ve worked out, taken a shower, played music at a church, and ate lunch with my wife, daughter, and grandson. I also went to work awhile, then came home and talked to my wife some about one of our other daughters. After that, I went out for a drive, and here I am.
But like many of you, a nondescript day like that is filled with thoughts of friends and family, and worries about people I’ve lost along the way, including the occasional suspicion that I am one of them.
The words we use, they play us foul;
We ask, but we do not receive
The consonant, or just-right vowel,
To make our sentence live, and breathe
The everything in everyday
That are the passing best of us:
We try to capture it in verse
With labors long and valorous
Yet many struggle to make known
Their open scars or secret sores,
And wind up next to Burger Kings
And soon-to-be-closed K-Mart stores
The day is beautiful and blue,
It’s cool here in this bit of shade;
And I’ll record these few, brief words
Before it all begins to fade
For high school kids who feel the pain
For lonely people everywhere
I hope you find some shade where you
Will always know