Stephen Fuller *** Poetry, Essays

Into My Own — My Story as a Writer, an Interlude, 1988

A re-discovery awaited me when I opened my 1988 file of poetry: I got my first computer that year. This meant that poetry began a slow migration from the hand numbered sheets of looseleaf paper and mashed-metal spiral notebooks into pixels and modernity. The discovery that accompanied this re-discovery included many more poems than 1985-1987 combined, a treasure trove of my own work to process and learn about the young poet, and a wealth of ideas on what to do next with this specific project of self-reflection that might perhaps evolve it from the indulgent to something that will help young and/or new writers.

One idea involves sorting the poetry into themes that emerged over the course of this year. A first theme involved the movement from spiritual certainty to spiritual exploration. College when combined with my previous study of Gandhi and King opened my eyes to the depths and richness of other great religions and I began to see consistencies in the core teachings of love in faiths. This was both profound and confusing to me. With exploration comes doubt, and my spiritual writing reflected this:

Serpent
November 2, 1988

walk within wind

capture a breath in an ocean wave

the world’s spin is tilted

{thoughts are wild in a desert}

a lake swallows you

a hawk watches you

you entangle gig lines

{thoughts are wild in the desert}

On the sand lies a serpent
rattling
for a victim
-the silk crust crumbles in venom-

walk through wind

rushes through hair

a golden breeze

a serpent is wild in the desert
[the desert
in my mind]
venomous
dust
drifts

A second theme evolved from the righteousness I felt after studying the Vietnam War, the American Civil Rights Movement, the independence movement in India, and the fight for Indian rights in South Africa. Subjects such as the injustice of Apartheid and the moral absurdity of the Cold War found a stronger voice of anger in my words. I even wrote a poem about Perestroika:

Commentary: Perestroika (by Mikhail Gorbachev)
January 21, 1988

I look into your black eyes
In the picture
On the back of your
“New Thinking
for our country and the world”
I want to believe you fear our strength
I want to believe you believe in peace
But your eyes’ attention
Is to the left of the camera
But the picture is painted
Black and white
as history goes on
as before
“us and them”

Finally, the changes of 1988, in many ways more immediately impactful and long lasting, introduced a great deal of doubt onto those paths that had seemed so clear to me just the year prior. This self-doubt and insecurity found its way into my writing. As an example, a ‘sequel’ of sorts to Hey There Little Girl from 1987:

Hey There Growing Boy
April 11, 1988

Hey there growing boy
With the world in your eyes
Can you not see the world still spins
On an angled axis even as you sleep?
If you might let the oceans flow
The rivers in your eyes might run dry.

Just a simple smile,
Showing the once crooked and braced teeth
Will shine a light upon the lonely-
It is all you need;
It is all I ask for you.

Hey there growing boy
With confusion in your heart
Can you not see the hope and love,
Like the sun, in your eyes?
If you might let the eagle soar
The dreams in you might breathe the air.

Just a simple smile,
Showing the strained and stranded heart,
Will recapture all the water in dreams.
It is all you need;
It is all I ask for you.

Hey there growing boy…hey there
Watching the world and your soulmates grow
Can you not see they need to grow
Longing for you to grow with them?
If you might let the white rose die
The seed of the bush might blossom.

Just a soul smile
Showing the union of you with yourself
Will let the rose grow grand and glorious
A smile is all you need
All I ask for you…all I ask

Hey there growing boy
Watch the pollen fly
To fertilize the future
Let the wind blow
It is our nature
To grow in blistering winds

All I ask for you
[As me]
A soul smile will set me free to the wind
To fertilize the rose…
Hey there growing boy…hey there

So what to make of all this? The amount of poetry and the clear themes that have continued in some fashion over the years encourages me to settle in a little bit with 1988. So much changed following High School graduation and heading off to college, from the cognitive dissonance of joining the military through the Reserve Officer Training Corps to the emotional evolution of school-boy crushes into legitimate young heart ache to the world expanding experiences of meeting people from around the country and world who didn’t quite see the world the same as I had in my hometown in New Hampshire.

Each theme deserves reflection to understand how it became part of the narrative that continued in my story and writing. Additionally, I think it time to draw inspiration from my Dead Poet Mentor, Rilke, and write letters to the young man and perhaps even see if that young man wants to write back… see you next week.

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