Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Roses are red...

Confession:  For much of my early life, I hated poetry with the kind of passion most people reserve for serial killers, carpetbaggers, and haggis.

I hated everything about it: its forced rhymes, its subject matter (which always seemed to be either death or love or both); the hallowed tones and kid gloves with which my teachers seemed to treat it; the pretension of it all. I would have gladly destroyed the lot of it, if only to never have to hear another teacher gush about something that seemed so devoid of real life.  

Here's a link to the sort of poem that used to make me want to poke myself in the eye with a dagger.  Or six.  I apologize if it's anyone's personal favorite...

When I was done with high school, not long after, I fell in love.  With a man (whose name I now share) and with a poem he introduced me to.  I remember seeing it as the first poem that made me think to myself, "Hmmm...maybe this poetry stuff is not all gag-inducing."  I have posted it below in its entirety.

Charles Bukowski's "One for Old Snaggle-Tooth."

I know a woman
who keeps buying puzzles
pieces that finally fit
into some order.
she works it out
she solves all her
lives down by the sea
puts sugar out for the ants
and believes
in a better world.
her hair is white
she seldom combs it
her teeth are snaggled
and she wears loose shapeless
coveralls over a body most
women would wish they had.
for many years she irritated me
with what I consider her
eccentricities -
like soaking eggshells in water
(to feed the plants so that
they'd get calcium).
but finally when I think of her
and compare it to other lives
more dazzling, original
and beautiful
I realize that she has hurt fewer
people than anybody I know
(and by hurt I simply mean hurt).
she has had some terrible times,
times when maybe I should have
helped her more
for she is the mother of my only
and we were once great lovers,
but she has come through
like I said
she has hurt fewer people than
anybody I know,
and if you look at it like that,
she has created a better world.
she has won.

Frances, this poem is for


I read this poem now and tear up easily at its simple beauty--no fancy tricks, nothing to make you wonder what he really means, his obvious devotion to the object of his affection, his noticings of the little details that make her....her.  The ants and the sugar.  The eggshells.

Maybe I like it because it's so direct, and I feel that I myself tend to be direct.  Say what I mean and all that...

It also inspires me...I want to live my life harming no one, creating my own small and better world.   I often do not succeed.   But this poem makes me want to try.  And that's more than any of the poems I was subjected to in school ever did.  

Bonus material!  A "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon take on the poem I linked above. 


  1. Making a better world is a great thing, but a better world here is built off of things like kind, which can be disputed. I didn't fully understand the poem. I think that a lot about about people who devote their life to not hurting others and making the world that we must share a better place, although sometimes these people are looked at the incorrect way. I liked the poem, thanks for sharing!

  2. I used to dislike poems as well, until I read one that I truly appreciated. When I was young, I used to dislike books this way as well. I couldn't appreciate literature until I read a book I liked. Once I found more and more books I liked, I read more and more.