Last week we wrote about souvenirs. This week I’m thinking not about the tokens of remembrance kept on purpose, so much as about the chingaderas, little whatchamacallems, that stick to you whether you want to remember them or not:
The photo of the bygone-era fellow sitting hunched on a cardboard suitcase looking out at the most empty body of water you’ve ever known. The sky is cloudy over what I imagine to be the Salton Sea, which people will tell you is not empty at all, but rather full of salt and tilapia fish and hundreds of bird species living in the wetland.
The snippet of overheard conversation at the hair salon: “The drawer broke so she took it home to fix it.” The woman came into the salon in the afternoon bearing what looked like a box of cake. Or, at least, that’s what I wanted it to be. The marathon-training has been ramping up, and large boxes of cake are popping into my imagination a lot lately. I’m not proud to admit driving to the grocery store last Saturday specifically to buy three slices of bacon and a wedge of peach pie.
A cherry-sized blue rubber whale with a yellow flower behind its eye has found its way onto my desk. An eraser, the tiny creature has managed to erase from my memory its origins. On top of that, I fished out a pencil to use just so the whale would have a purpose. “The poet play upon the feet,” I’ve pencilled onto a nearby envelope. No idea what that originally meant, but now I conjure a colossal statue of Homer Simpson as Poseidon, with bespectacled folk laying down cards among his mossy toes. “Uno!” one of them shouts, knocking the trout-speckled Warby Parkers clean off her pale face.
Ready to give it a go? Give yourself a couple days or more to collect images, photographs, small objects, lines of poetry that you’ve written, passages from other writers’ work, morsels of overheard conversations. With your collection, sit down and lay out each thing around you. Use the things you’ve collected as the ingredients for a poem or nonfiction vignette. If Homer Simpson or sheet cake or the Salton Sea cross your pages as well, let me know.
*From Poets & Writers “The Time Is Now,” March 8, 2012