Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Royal Baby, a Good Poem, and a Rough Draft

Most people I know couldn't care less about a royal baby being born this Monday. And I basically feel the same. My uninformed opinion is that the royal family is whatever the media would like them to be, mostly a glamorous-celebrity / charity-spokesperson hybrid. They seem like nice people, but I'm not interested in what they're wearing or whose party they've attended. I would have forgotten a royal baby was being grown if I hadn't been working out in a gym with TVs dangling from the ceiling, or eating in diners with the local soft rock station tuned in above the tables. All I know is, the Duchess is really pretty, the Queen says funny things now and then, William has manners, and Harry has red hair.

I woke up yesterday a little earlier than usual and read the news. Every other article proclaimed the royal birth. (I had the same reaction as many people, especially Americans, I think: "Oh, they had a kid. That's so nice! Good for them. Will I be home in time for dinner tonight? Did I save that Excel spreadsheet I was working on? I wish I had a coffee pot on my nightstand.") All the other news, however, was the kind that reaches for your throat, squeezes your gut. A man had ridden a donkey loaded with explosives toward an Afghan security post, then detonated it himself.

Then I checked my email. I subscribe to Poem-a-Day, a service maintained by poets.org that drops a poem in your inbox every day of the year, and Karyna McGlynn, this gorgeous blonde I graduated from Seattle University with, was the author of that day's featured work. Here's a link to it. The poem was fresh and weird and that perfect combination of surreal yet completely sensible. I also loved how, in the blurb Poem-a-Day offers at the foot of the email, Karyna mentions that it's a poem she'd been "trying and failing to write" for some time. It reminded me that every poem is a draft, that no poem is permanent, poems are not people, and aren't we so much better off that way? Shouldn't we be able to play and say something serious at the same time?

I got out of bed and made it to campus a little over an hour before I had to teach my first class, and I decided to write a poem, any poem, that wasn't quite real but not quite unreal either. And the royal family seemed like the perfect subject. This morning, I realized that I so rarely post rough drafts on my blog anymore, and wouldn't it be nice if I threw a poem online, one that wasn't necessarily something I wanted to pursue, send to journals or magazines, but something to remind myself that I still write.


THE DAY AFTER THE BIRTH OF AN UNNAMED PRINCE

When the duchess gave birth
to a small donkey, the Queen had lemonade
brought up to the delivery suite. The nurses
marveled at her sense of humor.
Like God! they said, licking sugar
from their chilled glasses.
The foal weighed as much as a large sack
of flour and was just as easy to handle,
didn’t cry, took to the breast almost immediately.
The country rejoiced. We all did.
We shook our dinner-napkin flags,
poured champagne into mugs with painted donkeys
trotting around and around Buckingham
on a trail of red and white stars.
When the next morning’s news announced
some other donkey had been loaded
with explosives and detonated
near an Afghan security post, all of us
remembered how far we were from the desert.
We prayed for the soul of the far-away donkey,
his noble character, a cross burned down
with a man still living on top of it.
Then we waited by the television
for the hospital doors to swing open,
for the unnamed prince to wobble out
with the duke and duchess balanced on his back,
waving westward into the black eyes
of a thousand cameras.


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